Collaboration technologies are making their way into many organizations as executives realize the benefits collaboration can bring to their organization. In many cases, there is a need to connect groups of people in a collaborative room environment; whether it’s to encourage collaboration on documents or other deliverables, video conference with remote teams, or hold a training session for new hires or policy updates.

They myriad of choices between the technology, room layouts, furniture and more can become overwhelming; especially for organizations designing a collaboration environment for the first time. Here are a few tips to help navigate through the process.

When determine what types of technology the room needs, an organization must first decide what the room will be used for. The majority of functions fall into three categories:

Connecting People
Video conferencing is often used to connect remote teams and the technology typically depends on the size of the room and number of participants. For smaller groups, a single camera with manual pan/tilt/zoom functionality can be adjusted to capture the entire room. Larger groups, however, may need the ability to automatically switch between a panned-out room view and a zoomed-in view of the active speaker. In this case, dual cameras are necessary. In some cases, panoramic room or lifelike views of room participants are needed.  Multiple cameras that capture images from left, right, and center segments are used to create the immersive telepresence feel.

Presenting Content
The ability to present content is standard in almost any collaboration room. When utilizing content sharing during a video conference; it may be necessary to have dual monitors as one is dedicated to viewing remote participants while the other is dedicated to viewing content. In rooms where video conferencing is not needed, a PowerPoint or training video can be displayed with a projector and screen. In some cases, teams may need to create, modify and annotate documents instead of simply displaying them. Interactive whiteboards allow teams to brainstorm ideas or markup documents then send the changes directly to a computer.

Interactive Collaboration
Some environments require the ability to display and collaborate on complex data. This includes high-resolution images, such as blueprints or product designs, where granular detail is necessary. This also includes the ability to display and control data from multiples sources simultaneous. For example, when designing a new product the prototype from one participant’s laptop can be displayed at the same time target markets and product messaging is displayed from another participant’s tablet. Video feeds can also be integrated so remote participants can view, display and control content from their location.

Once an organization determines the key functionalities of the room; they can begin reaching out to audio visual integrators to help select the technology that best fits the room’s requirements. The integrator can then begin designing the collaboration environment that will meet the organization’s collaboration needs.

Audio Visual integrated environments such as boardrooms, huddle rooms, classrooms, and more offer an incredible array of technology that can be easily controlled by a single user. However, as easy as these rooms can be, and as important of a business tool they are, sometimes things just don’t go very well. It may be that the room was setup poorly, without proper attention being paid to acoustics, lighting and the overall integration of the disparate technologies installed. It may also be that the room is getting older and technology is beginning to fail.

Setting up a conference room for the weekly sales meeting shouldn’t be a chore. Here are five indicators that it may be time to call in an experienced AV integrator to get things back on track:

  1. When you walk into the conference room you’ve grown accustom to pulling down the shades and taping a large piece of white paper over the back window. If you don’t do this the video conferencing system shows a body and a glowing head that no one on the other side can make out. Most likely, when the room was designed no one paid attention to the overall lighting of the room; and controls for the shades were not integrated into the control panel.
  2. The room has a touch control interface but when you push the option for video conference, the TV starts showing CNN Headline News. You are then forced to manually change the input options on your displays to get the video conference going. The equipment in the room was most likely changed around without updating the control programming to offset the new technology.
  3. A video call manages to connect but the participants on the far end of the conference room table either have to yell across the table or someone has to pass the microphone down in order for the other side to hear. The furniture in the room was most likely rearranged and a larger table was brought in, however microphone quantity and placement was not updated.
  4. Displaying content on a local screen (such as a presentation) requires users to run a cable across the table, under 3 chairs, and over a large plant in order to reach their laptop.  At least one time per meeting someone trips over the cable, pulls the content, nearly damages the laptop and almost breaks an ankle. Cables were not properly run through the wall conduit and no one has checked to see if it can be redone.
  5. The displays flicker when they are turned on unless they are hit on the side a few times and every so often you have to unplug them for 30 seconds and plug them back in. Most likely, the displays are old and beginning to fail but are no longer covered under a maintenance or warranty plan.

An audio visual integrated room is like a living, breathing entity; it requires care and consideration not only during the initial design phase, but throughout its life. If you are experiencing any of the above issues or some other annoyance, the room itself could be hampering your organization’s productivity. Seek out an experienced audio visual integrator who can update your room into a collaborative powerhouse, allowing you to focus on the business at hand while the technology to fades into the background.

Today at the Visual Communications Industry Group Annual Expo, IVCi unveiled its comprehensive suite of distance learning solutions. Combining the best of Audio Visual Integration, Video Conferencing, and cloud services, these solutions enable educational institutions to extend the reach of education far outside of the classroom. IVCi is exhibiting at booth #201. If you are out at the show, come by and take a look! We are also showcasing our new UC Room solution.

Additional Resources:

IVCi Distance Learning Solutions Press Release

UC Group Systems

 

Technology can be quite fickle; it’s amazing and life-saving when it works but frustrating and downright annoying when it doesn’t. Whether the unit isn’t powering on, sound isn’t coming out of the speakers or the display is flashing some cryptic message; a support technician is just a phone call away to troubleshoot and diagnose the issue.

The day of a help desk technician usually starts with a cup of coffee and a review of the ticketing queue. First up, are any new tickets that have been submitted and a quick review of the issues customers are having. Then, a review of previously open tickets and any action immediate items that need to be completed. For example, has tracking information been received and a replacement part been shipped out from the manufacturer? If so, details of when to except the shipment will be forwarded to the customer.

After any high priority issues have been addressed, it is time to outline a schedule for the day’s tasks. This includes initial troubleshooting for customers who have recently opened a ticket, providing status updates for previously opened tickets, as well as, scheduling test calls, coordinating onsite visits and partnering with manufacturers. Of course, the day doesn’t always go as planned since support calls come in throughout the day and require immediate attention.

During initial troubleshooting there are a few key items to check; while they may seem obvious they’re often overlooked. First, is the system plugged in and turned on. The cleaning crew could have easily knocked the plug out of the wall or an inexperienced video user could have turned the codec off not knowing any better. Second, shut down the system completely and then reboot. Many technical issues; from computers to smartphones to video conferencing equipment, can be resolved by a simple reboot. Sometimes a system just needs to reload its operating system.

If the technical issue is more advanced, a video test call may be scheduled to obtain more information about the issue. These calls help identify the issue by isolating the problem. For example, Vincent Carroll, Technical Support Representative, recalls a particular instance where a customer was reporting an echo in the room. During the video test call, he asked the customer to walk around the room to identify where the echo was coming from. It turns out that someone had turned up the speakers on the display in addition to the ceiling speakers creating the echo. The customer simply muted the display speakers and the echo was eliminated.

As with any technology, video conferencing and audio visual implementations need to be properly supported and maintained. It is important to work with a provider who has the expertise and resources to provide needed support no matter the day, time, or situation that occurs. The help desk technician is the first line of defense to ensure the ongoing successful usage of collaboration technology.

The proliferation of unified communications solutions, such as Microsoft Lync, Cisco Jabber and IBM Sametime, has extended collaboration to employees around the world. These solutions offer many advantages, including ease of use and enhanced mobility; however, they also present a few key challenges including moving the UC experience from the desktop into the conference room.

Trying to connect a team of local participants with remote participants can be difficult using a desktop video solution. Crowding around a colleague’s PC gets extremely uncomfortable, not to mention it deteriorates the audio and visual quality of the meeting. On the other hand, having each participant join individually can become overwhelming and push the limits of cloud video bridging solutions.

After hearing these issues, our engineering team created a unique solution to easily bring unified communications to the conference room. UC Group systems are configurable, PC-based solutions that allow an organization to extend their desktop video client into a conference room setting. Anything from screen sharing to video conferencing can be accomplished with the click of a button.

Video is obtained through a PC card located in the display or from a local laptop or PC connection and displayed on the screen. Essentially, end users would connect to a video call in the same way and with the same application they would use on their computer. Then participants partake in a video conference with audio and visual quality similar to that of a traditional video conference room.

Enhanced mobility features allow end-users to connect their laptop and wheel the cart between rooms. As a result, any conference room can become a video-enabled room! Plus, with easy content display options, UC Group systems can double as presentation rooms when video is not in use. Additional features include:

  • Power management capabilities that automatically turn the display on and off
  • Fixed or pan/tilt/zoom camera to accommodate smaller or larger groups
  • Table or ceiling microphones for enhanced audio
  • Cisco WebEx integration for webinars or other web conferences
  • Connect up to 25 software or hardware video systems with Multipoint Experience

The UC Room and UC Mobile are platform agnostic and can run on any software video client including Microsoft Lync, Cisco Jabber, Polycom CMA/m100, Skype and Google Video Chat. These solutions enhance an organization’s UC platform or consumer video solution by accommodating larger groups and allowing participants to reap the benefits of a traditional video conferencing room without significant upfront investments.