By Jeremy Caldera

The AV in a conference room has traditionally been scary to use.  Many executives, teachers, and doctors that I have recently talked to rarely use their older AV systems.  Their reasoning is always similar; they are afraid it will not work or that it is too complex.  What is the fix to this?  All system designers should strive to find technologies which form simple solutions to create an exceptional experience.  Leonardo da Vinci said it best, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”   Let’s take a look at some technologies everyone should consider for their conference room:

  1. Wireless Collaboration – Look at that. Two buzz words we all love to hate.  In reality though, there has been attempts at all kinds of ways to get a laptop to show up on a display with no wires.  Some successful and some not.  DO NOT be discouraged as there is hope.  My two-favorite low cost and highly reliable solutions? Take a look at the VIA from Kramer Electronics or the Cynap from Wolfvision.
  2. Automatic Video Switching – Wow what a concept. This may seem basic but its effect on the experience is profound.  The idea that you plug a laptop into a cable and it automatically shows on the display without the need to press a touch panel button is one of my favorites.  Features that should also be considered in an auto switcher is built in scaling, HDBaseT transmission, and display control.  The Crestron HD-MD-400-C is my cost-effective auto switcher of choice for the conference room.
  3. Interactive Displays – This feature has only become readily available and cost effective in recent years with the reduction in cost and increase in size of flat panel displays. Some will feature just ability to have an electronic whiteboard but most will offer live annotation over sources such as a laptop.  Even some of the more advanced displays allow the users to save the annotations and notes for future reference as well as having a built-in operating system for use of basic applications like a document or PowerPoint viewer.  The go to display here?  That is a tough one to answer as I have seen and installed most.  So, let’s look at which offer the most bang for your buck.  In my humble opinion Newline, Christie, Samsung, and Panasonic all have a product offering to fit any need.
  4. USB Bridging – If you’re not a techie you may be asking, “What is USB Bridging?” Simply put it is the ability to connect a laptop via USB to the audiovisual system in the conference room allowing for a wide variety of tasks to be accomplished. Most commonly this is used to allow audio and video conferencing on a software based codec (Skype for Business, GoToMeeting, WebEx, or any other soft codec flavor of the month as my good friend Joey likes to say).  The bridge will transmit the video from your camera and audio from your microphone to the other participants on your call.  Some will also allow the video and audio from your laptop to be displayed and heard in the room without the need for additional cables such as an HDMI.  I feel the ability to connect a single USB cable to the laptop and having it all work without the need for installing special drivers is most important.  My preference has been the conference solution from QSC.  Yes, you heard correctly, QSC.  The audio and amplifier company you know and love has been, for several years now, moving into the conference space with a variety of products.  Most notably is their USB bridging capability.  When paired with their new HD pan/tilt/zoom camera and DSP offering full acoustic echo cancellation, any conference room becomes a powerful and easy to use tool for your business.
  5. Room Scheduling – What is room scheduling you ask? In today’s enterprise environment meeting rooms are in high demand.  Small scheduling panels placed on the outside of an entry door will become a tool you didn’t realize you couldn’t live without.  Most panels will allow for easy mounting and include visible red and green lights which can be seen down a hallway indicating if the room is occupied or not.  Some panels require proprietary software however most will now easily integrate directly with Exchange, Office 365 and, Google Calendar.  See current availability, future availability, and book the room straight from the panel.  Some manufacturers will even allow for integration with enterprise control and analytic systems for clients with multiple spaces.  Crestron, Extron, AMX, and many others will offer this solution.  I have even seen iPads in a custom mount running a scheduling application.  The possibilities are endless and the return on investment becomes obvious very quickly.

The conference room has seen tremendous advancements in audiovisual technology in recent years.  From voice recognition to cloud based services, AV technology is ever changing.  Moving away from the complex and scary to the user friendly simple solution is what everyone should be focused on.  Even if the back end is complex and scary to the average person, the end user of these audiovisual systems should always have an exceptional experience and see their technology as a business tool.  Remember, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” – Arthur C. Clarke

Posted with permission from Jeremy Caldera/IAS Technology. 

Jeremy headshot

Jeremy Caldera is the Chief Executive Officer at IAS Technology. He is a part of the elite group of dual certified CTS-D and CTS-I holders. Along with being a member of the InfoComm University faculty, he is an instructor in the Acoustics department at Columbia College Chicago where he developed the Audiovisual System Design curriculum. He sits as the current Chair of the InfoComm CTS Certification Steering Committee, is a part of the InfoComm International governance as a member of the Leadership Search Committee (LSC), and moderates the revision of the InfoComm Standard for Audiovisual Documentation and Coordination Processes. Jeremy was recently awarded the 2016 InfoComm Educator of the Year Award, 2015 Infocomm Young AV Professional Award, and named a Top 40 Influencer Under 40 by CI Magazine.

Find out more about Jeremy on LinkedIn as well as on Twitter @jeremy_caldera.