Audio, Business

Industry POV: Remote Conferencing In The COVID-19 Era

Touchless audio solutions are becoming increasingly important.

Humans thrive on collaboration and meaningful exchanges—whether at work, at school, or in social settings. As many organizations have found in recent months, a socially distanced world can really hamper the collaboration that energizes teams, inspires students and drives results.

As hybrid office and education environments—those composed of a mix of inperson and remote individuals—become the norm, AV and IT teams can still foster the interactions and collaboration that are critical to success. This can be achieved by embracing recent advances in conferencing technology. Most notable among these is touchless audio.

Socially Distant Solutions

Following protocols for cleanliness and social distancing has become a permanent concern for all organizations that have office space, as well as for education facilities. AV professionals face a unique challenge, as classrooms and meeting rooms have always been high-touch, close-contact environments in which people innocently share equipment like speakerphones and headsets. In light of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), such innocuous behavior is subject to a lot of scrutiny. The good news is that IT and AV professionals will not have to add AVequipment sterilization to their regular duties. A new trend in the market toward touchless audio is helping position the AV
industry for this new normal. Now more than ever, there are myriad products, as well as software upgrades, that can make the transition back to in-person environments safe and seamless.

Beamforming-microphone technology is one of the latest innovations that will prove increasingly valuable in a world grappling with COVID-19. To maintain social distancing in a collaborative environment in which some participants join in person, whereas others participate virtually, microphones equipped with this technology will automatically track whoever is speaking within a space. This helps to capture the speech on a conference call effectively. With this technology, there’s no need to “pass
the mic”; audio is crystal clear for remote participants, even as those who are in person remain safely socially distanced.

Audio Interoperability

A recent report from LoopUp found that, on average, meeting participants spend 15 minutes per conference call troubleshooting technical difficulties, dealing with audio dropouts or focusing on other distractions. Almost everyone can relate to this everyday nuisance. What we might not realize, however, is that it can add up to a lot of wasted productivity, lost time and even lost revenue for corporations.

Although COVID-19 fast-tracked the transition to remote learning and working, the trend is here to stay. Most organizations will probably continue to allow participants to join meetings and classes from home. Accordingly, AV and IT professionals should make certain that their audio equipment is compatible across various popular videoconferencing platforms, such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams and other platforms that organizations regularly use. It’s necessary, and even fiscally responsible, to enable productive conferencing by ensuring hardware and software interoperability early on.

BYOD

Achieving touchless audio can be quite easy even without implementing any new hardware. Software—in particular, mobile apps—is a great way to facilitate remote conferencing, maintain social distancing and ensure reliable audio. AV and IT teams should embrace the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) trend in education and workplace environments to allow collaboration over Wi-Fi. To minimize the need to share devices and to ease social distancing in lecture halls or during seminars, schools, in particular, can enable topof-the-line audio streaming via secure apps on students’ smartphones.

During AV installs, audio is not prioritized a lot of the time; instead, it plays second fiddle to other conferencing elements. But, with COVID-19 effectively having turned how school and work operate on their head, audio can no longer be an afterthought. Now, more than ever before, high-quality audio can make or break the end user’s overall experience. Remote conferencing audio might make the difference in a student getting a good grade or a businessperson’s sales pitch being successful.

As businesses and schools continue to reopen and adapt to COVID-19, audio will continue to be the primary interface for hybrid classes and socially distant meetings. As such, AV and IT pros must embrace new technologies and innovations to ensure that their organizations can benefit from high-quality, touchless audio solutions.

To read more from Sound & Communications, click here.

Sound & Communications: March 2021 Digital Edition
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