Automation in the Conference Room – Videoconferencing is Lost in the Shuffle

Companies who automated their conference rooms with control systems eliminating all the separate remotes are often disappointed with the automation.  Control Systems are potentially very good to implement, however programmers and A/V integrators are totally disconnected from those who will use the room and the automation.  These days the IT department is assigned to hire an A/V integrator to complete the automation.  Most IT people certainly understand technology, but more often than not they have no clue about audio visual technology and how their own people are going to use the conference room, let alone what is critical in a meeting.

 Here are two examples of the disconnect:  Article_91_Automation

A major medical facility in California needed to videoconference with a large conference center in Ohio.  This is a major conference whereby an expert speaker is addressing more than 100 attendees at the Ohio conference center.  The speaker needs to present Power Point during the presentation from California. The California medical facility has the videoconferencing equipment, CODEC that easily accommodates sharing Power Point with the audience.  This is an ITU, (International Telecommunications Union), standard — H.239 or Duo Video.  The snag appeared in the automation.  The A/V vendor did not program this standard feature  through the control system. Even though the videoconferencing CODEC accommodates sharing or collaboration from the computer, the control system blocked this ITU standard.   This is equivalent to blocking texting in a smart phone.

Here is another example.  A major law firm automated their main conference room.  This room is used often for board meetings, depositions, management meetings, formal business presentations and everything thing else you can imagine in a law firm.  An international manufacturer needed to present their business plan to the attorneys and an international Chamber of Commerce.  The presenters brought their own computer and were well prepared.  The conference table is a very long marble surfaced table.  It was easy enough to plug in their laptop – But this is where ease of use ended.  The IT department needed to be called to dismount the control panel from the charging unit.  After some fumbling on their part they succeeded in dismounting the control unit.  The second challenge was finding the control for the computer input to the flat panel display. This took the IT department another 5 or 10 awkward minutes finally getting the image on the screen.

Automation is supposed to make presenting simple in the conference room.  The internal IT people may or may not understand this, but that’s not the point.  The A/V integrator and programmer needs to make the central control interface so intuitive that anyone should be able to walk in the room with no training, pick up the control pad and do what they need to do – videoconference, audio conference, present from their computer, present from the in-house computer, adjust the lights, etc.  If the automation does not meet this standard it fails and should not have been implemented in the first place.

Here is one A/V integrator that gets it:

“The bottom line here is that complication means profitability for some A/V integrators.  This is unfortunate but true. The approach should be – if Grandma can use it then we know anyone can.  This should be the goal of every conference or presentation room design.  As an integrator we are all about the technology and the gadgets because that’s why we are in this business.  That said, at the end of the day if you can’t sit down and have a heart to heart business conversation with your clients and understand how they use a room, you are doing a disservice to your client.  We take pride in knowing that the value we bring to clients comes from productivity improvements not from how many “cool” screens we can build in a program. I don’t know about your integrator but I don’t want my team to be responsible for a roomful of attorneys billing out at $500+ per hour sitting around doing nothing!”Nancy Larker (President of S3 Technologies)

If the automation fails to do this there is either a total disconnect with the A/V integrator or an incompetent programmer was hired to program the control system.  Many smaller companies with no budget to automate are much happier because the videoconferencing remotes are as simple as a 90’s era flip cell phone. They can videoconference, audio conference and present from one remote.  Total automation in a small business with no budget means hiding the flat panel display remote —   Simple is sometimes the best option.   If you need to automate A/V integrators like S3 Technologies make a conference room usable because they take the time to meet with the clients using the room in the first place.

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