Business, IT/AV

The Nature Of Huddle Rooms

As enterprise users embrace the concept of smaller, simpler collaboration spaces, manufacturers and service providers continue to rush to the space with solutions optimized for their individual offerings, with the approach and complement of gear often varying wildly. Will generally accepted standards for huddle spaces emerge, or will we remain in the wild west for the foreseeable future?

It has become clear that the AV industry and most organizations have completely embraced the concept of the huddle room/huddle space: a simpler, smaller meeting environment that holds only a handful of people as they collaborate together. It seems as if every manufacturer in the industry is making or introducing a huddle room solution.

However, the similarities often end at that classification. Some solutions expect you to bring your PC/Mac/device to the room and connect it to peripherals that enhance the camera, display and/or sound. Other solutions offer complete systems for these smaller spaces, ones that don’t require any BYOD for conferencing and collaboration.

BYOD solutions are often simple and inexpensive, but they come with some baggage when users want to turn them from personal systems into small group systems. When users are expected to bring their own device for collaboration to a huddle room, it is assumed that they will have to plug a number of peripherals into it, such as that room’s camera, display, microphones, speakers, etc., and hope the driver(s) load OK, the screen resolution works, the wired or wireless network connection is solid and will support the needed bandwidth. And they have to hope that there is nothing else on the device that would impact video performance. That’s a lot of hoping for a mission-critical call.

Solutions using a PC that’s already in the room solve many of these problems, but create others. Who manages this shared device? Does your enterprise allow generic room login accounts for it? How do you get your data to it for sharing? These questions are all solvable, but not so easy or straightforward to answer in many organizations.

Then finally, some manufacturers offer complete product systems (not PC based) for these huddle room applications. These solutions can also have their own baggage, with some using subpar cameras or microphones, some lacking the required interoperability or management capabilities, and some having everything one could possibly need at a price tag far higher than the average for this application.

Should people be expected to bring their own devices to huddle rooms and use the simple convenience and flexibility of their own computer collaboration application (and run the risk of the hookup and/or network connection not going very well), or should organizations use products that provide a complete experience in such rooms, costing more but ensuring that everything that is needed is already there? We asked systems integrators, manufacturers, consultants and end users for their opinions, and received interesting and varied comments. Apparently, all our industry will be agreeing upon in the near term is that huddle rooms, whatever form of them you embrace, are the next big thing.

Read industry opinions in our Tablet Version, here.

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