• Tuesday , 21 November 2017

Affordable solutions for Huddle Spaces

Last month we looked at iFPD solutions for meeting rooms: customers have the option of duplicating their meeting room solutions in their huddle spaces, if space and budgets allow. If they don’t, other more compact and affordable solutions are available.

Futuresource Consulting unveiled a report in May that showed businesses using meeting rooms at a higher frequency than in the past. Despite the proven advantages to remote work, it appears that companies still have a need to mix with local employees and allow those meetings to find a way to the outside world on remote employees’ mobile devices.

The average weekly meeting room use Futuresource found, in its survey of respondents from France, Germany, the U.K., and the U.S., has risen by 50 percent since 2014. Respondents also indicated that 20 percent of its whole sample, intended to add new meeting spaces to their offices within the next few years.

Compact solutions

AV News has seen some impressive iFPD solutions for collaborative meeting rooms, some of which, including Microsoft Surface Hub and NEC’s Infinity Board, are available in smaller screen sizes more suited to Huddle Spaces. Google’s Jamboard is also an option for Huddle Spaces, but its 55” display, and (currently) limited mounting options, restrict its adoption in anything other than meeting rooms.

Conway Lee, president of marketing partner BenQ, explains: “Jamboard is the physical realisation of combining all the best features from G Suite, backed by the support of BenQ Corporation. The cutting-edge solution redefines meetings and team collaboration, creating a more team-oriented working environment.” Jamboard is a 4K UHD touch-enabled display that makes it easier for teams to engage and share ideas. Ideal for the Huddle Space or for collaborating with a remote team, via the integrated videoconferencing features, Jamboard is said to transform meetings into “engaging and effective experiences”.

“Jamboard puts Google apps and a whole host of interactive capabilities at users’ fingertips during a ‘jam’ session. They can draw, annotate, import and scribble on images and Google Docs, search the web, communicate with colleagues via Hangouts, and it’s all saved in the cloud. Users can sketch out plans in real time with teammates from across the globe via other Jamboards or the mobile and tablet apps.”

Jamboard comes in three colours – Carmine Red, Graphite Grey and Cobalt Blue – but, being designed to be mobile, the product is designed with a rather ungainly, non-height adjustable £1000 trolley. The good news for end-users is that the end-user price for the Jamboard itself is just under £4000.

But getting Jamboard to settle in the market is likely to be tougher than Google anticipates. Rivals in this compact iFPD space are currently being launched on an almost weekly basis. Enhancements to ViewSonic’s ViewBoard range have seen new Cast Content Sharing software complementing ViewBoard 2.1 Annotation Software. The new application enables 1080p content to be streamed from a user’s device directly onto a ViewBoard, either wirelessly or over a cable network. Recently, BenQ has a new range, starting at 55”, 4K UHD resolution of IFPs. These feature built-in EZWrite 4.0 annotation software and the ability to share and collaborate with the InstaQShare wireless solution.

Integrated systems

Competition is keeping Huddle Space technology affordable. Even Jamboard’s price might come as a surprise to some, since it performs most of the key huddle space functions – video calling, whiteboarding, presenting and resource sharing, albeit with a heavy reliance on G Suite. But, it is still a large lump in a small space. Luckily, there are other options, with some of them requiring a degree of hardware or software integration by the reseller.

In recent months, AV News has looked at a number of these. Some require the addition of a display (which can be as small as 32”); some need a camera for video calling; a small form factor PC, software or a subscription collaboration service for sharing with remote participants. Even so, these integrated solutions can be incredibly cost-effective, particularly when bought in multiples.

Let’s start with the Logitech products, which we are known to favour having presented Logitech Group Kit with an AV News Award in 2017. Since then, this product has been joined by the sub-£1000 MeetUp designed for small conference rooms and huddle rooms. With 4K optics and a super-wide 120-degree field of view, MeetUp makes every seat at the table clearly visible. With integrated audio optimised for Huddle Space acoustics, ensuring everyone can be heard as well as seen. Wall-mounted, for space-saving, and compatible with a variety of whiteboarding and shared presentation software, MeetUp offers a highly competitive and effective huddle space solution.

Google Jamboard: The Huddle Space technology of choice for millennials and others who choose to communicate with Emojis?

Sound purchase

Yamaha has announced the formation of a specialist division to handle its UC products. These now range from huddle space solutions, up to Skype for Business- powered meeting room models. The Yamaha CS-700 video sound collaboration system is specifically designed as an all-in-one unit for huddle rooms. It mounts under the display and very much looks like a soundbar.

The CS-700 combines ultra-wideband audio with high-quality video to fulfil video, audio, and collaboration requirements in one simple, wall-mounted system addressing all communication and collaboration requirements of the huddle room. Audio, video and screen sharing is accomplished through one USB cable.  The integrated remote management capability enables remote IT departments to monitor and manage their huddle room installations.

Due to the small size of Huddle Spaces, participants sit close to displays and cameras, in the past requiring panning of video cameras to see the whole room. The Yamaha CS-700 has a 120-degree ultra-wide angle camera captures all meeting participants in one field of view. The CS-700 camera covers 80% more area in the whole room, removing the hassle of panning and zooming cameras to see everybody in the room. The high pixel count of the CS-700 ensures that every expression is captured clearly for people up to 10 ft/3m from the camera.

The CS-700 features a beamforming microphone array that is said to pick up every word spoken in the room. A four-element speaker bar provides audio in the room, ensuring that every word spoken at the far end is heard. Combine that with the award-winning audio processing technology integrated in the CS-700 and it adds up to easy, natural conversations between meeting participants with clarity and intelligibility for all.

Just as we were going to press, Yamaha announced that its YVC-1000MS companion microphone and speaker product system passed Skype for Business Certification Version 3 tests.

AV heritage

A number of established AV brands have recognised the opportunity that Huddle Spaces represent, and have announced compact and cost-effective solutions to suit. We touched on Kramer’s VIA GO and Crestron’s SR last month. This month, we also include StarLeaf’s GTm range.

Kramer’s VIA GO offers iOS, Android, Chromebook, PC, and Mac users instant wireless connectivity with advanced presentation capabilities. The product features content streaming with mirrored images and stunning video playback and includes iOS, Windows and Android mirroring. VIA GO is easy and flexible to install with both built-in Wi-Fi and LAN connectivity and includes industry-leading 1024-bit encryption for secure use on the internal network.

Logitech’s MeetUp: surprisingly good quality from a super-compact wall-mounted Huddle Space solution.

This is one for the systems integrators who can not only configure the hardware but also the interface to the users’ precise requirements. Up to two participant screens can be displayed simultaneously on main screen. With iOS and Android mirroring, VIA GO has seamless integration with VIA Site Management (VSM) software and the VIA Pad

Crestron’s SR is described as ‘a powerful, professional solution built for Skype for Business which offers a simple-to-use, HD audio-visual experience which can be easily deployed and managed on the network’. It’s easy to join meetings, make calls and instantly share content locally and remotely, all from an elegant touch screen device. Some of its key features include a touch controller which manages the Skype Meeting; HDMI inputs and outputs; six USB ports to connect audio devices and a port to add an occupancy sensor for automation and room usage reporting. We like the look of this and the simplicity of the interface. By the way, the manufacturer’s SRP will be €2649.00 with the product available across Europe later in the Autumn 2017.

StarLeaf is also responding to client desire for compact units. The new GTm range aims to pack as many features as it can in a small space. Although meeting rooms may be rising in popularity, they are not necessarily rising in physical space. Companies strapped for space may need to fit a dozen or more people in the same space that could only be the same size as a small office. In that case, a compact microphone and speaker can keep out of the way of business operations and make the room feel larger than it ever had before.

StarLeaf’s GTm range delivers advanced business video conferencing features within a simple and intuitive user interface. For security, GTm has end-to-end encryption with secure connection at all times. It works with Active Directory and Exchange and allows user to capture, share and stream live notes from any whiteboarding surface to a preferred device. You can bring those long-distance colleagues right into your space, letting them see board notes live, marking up notes remotely. Users can share everything written or drawn in real time pairing perfectly with communication applications including Skype, Webex, or GoTo Meeting.

StarLeaf has announced the release of a dedicated Huddle Space model, the GTm 5140 Huddle. This provides users with a touchscreen controller, USB camera, and USB microphone to capture and transmit the voices of all members of a videoconference. It syncs with either a Microsoft Skype for Business server or Office 365 installation to take advantage of Microsoft’s video capabilities, StarLeaf CEO Mark Loney explains:

“Digital transformation at the desktop and the move to Microsoft’s UC platform is creating a huge and growing demand for professional quality video conferencing in all rooms throughout an enterprise. But the biggest requirement is for a hardware appliance for small team meeting spaces. We’ve developed the GTm Huddle to meet this need and, as with everything we do, we have kept it simple, so that our system just plugs straight in and users only have to press one button to call or join a conference.”

Brainstorming

 

StarLeaf has announced the release of a dedicated Huddle Space model, the GTm 5140 Huddle.

 

With the trend currently in favour of packing the capabilities of larger meeting rooms into smaller form factor devices – perhaps with smaller displays – is there not a case for solutions with yet lower cost with an edited set of capabilities? At the recent Sahara Showcase event, AV News saw the latest incarnation of eBeam technology – the eBeam SmartMarker. This is an ideal solution where you have a huddle space where two or three colleagues want to go offline to brainstorm a problem or sketch out an idea.

SmartMarker enables users to write, draw diagrams, or express themselves on any type of paper, automatically saving and syncing notes and drawings to an Android, iOS, Mac OS or Windows device. They can capture and store written notes, enhance them with additional content, and tag them for review. They can create illustrations, import backgrounds, draw and paint with multiple brushes, work in layers and export to Photoshop. SmartMarker Apps are integrated with Dropbox, Evernote and iCloud, allowing users to sync digital content in the cloud.

OK, so it doesn’t do everything, but for a price of around £900 just think of how many Huddle Spaces you can bring into your customer’s collaborative network?

 

eBeam SmartMarker: This is an ideal solution where two or three colleagues want to go offline to brainstorm a problem or sketch out an idea.

So, what exactly is a huddle space?

Huddle Space, Huddle Room or Huddle Zone? We’ve gone for Huddle Space, because it doesn’t have to be a ‘Room’ – it could be in a corridor, or in a covered terrace or the works canteen. To us, ‘Zone’ sounds too fixed – the trend in Huddle Space technology is towards compact, multi-function solutions which can quite easily be portable.

The Huddle Space has developed as a result of changes in working methods and technology. Location, today, is relatively unimportant – so long as the location has the capability to support the process of work. To that end, Huddle Space technology has become a feature of workspaces that support team working, or ‘collaboration’.

Proving these capabilities in a cost-effective manner at a time when the floor area per employee today is less than half what it was in 2010. Space efficiencies have led to a greater reliance on remote and mobile working, in tandem with open plan offices and ‘hot-desking’. Meeting with colleagues frequently requires more than just popping round to the next-door office. What has emerged is a greater reliance on meetings, either face-to-face or virtual, formal or informal.

Efficient use of meeting spaces depends on matching not only the size of the space to the requirement but also its capabilities and access to content resources. Being ‘on the grid’ is essential for both meeting rooms and Huddle Spaces. The distinguishing feature of the Huddle Space is that these not only provide a space where employees who work in open offices may go for brief meetings, but also an online hub for collaboration, contemplation, presentation and problem solving.

Demand for Huddle Spaces, according to Wainhouse Research, might total as many as 50 million installations globally. Typically, Huddle Spaces accommodate up to around six people and provide an informal space for ad hoc meetings. Technologies installed in these spaces usually supports the sharing of information between mobile devices. There is frequently a display as a focal point for viewing and sharing of content, audio and videoconferencing for collaboration with remote colleagues.

Because of the informal and ad hoc nature of Huddle Space meetings, the installed technology should easy and intuitive to use, with minimal set-up time – and no requirement for an AV technician. As the workplace and workforce continues to evolve, Huddle Spaces will play an increasingly important role, maximising the use of space to increase productivity, save time and reduce the spend on office facilities.

 

 

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