In a report released a few months ago by AVIXA, “audio advances,” “future displays,” and “IT and the cloud” were listed among the top technology trends that are driving growth in the industry.
Based upon what I’ve seen in my experience working with enterprises doing video-based collaboration in increasingly popular huddle spaces and small-room conferencing venues, I couldn’t agree more.
After more than 20 years working inside aerospace, defense, satellite-communication, semiconductor and telecommunication companies, I’ve witnessed firsthand the trends driving the adoption of video collaboration. I’ve also observed what’s driving the creation of transformational solutions that meet the needs of a new crop of participants, including millennials, in non-traditional meeting venues in which people use cloud collaboration to work better, together, in real time.
Let’s explore some of these trends to gain greater understanding….
Trend #1: More People Understanding The Importance Of Audio
In the AV industry, many new entrants are making incremental improvements to video, but relatively few entrants have made significant improvements to audio. As compared to video systems, less attention and expertise have been focused on audio capabilities and improvements. But things appear to be changing.
Increasingly, people are dedicating more care and time to audio, as they understand the critical business importance of being able to hear more clearly and simply communicate better. However, making audio devices work well together as a cohesive system can be quite complicated, given that there are so many parameters and variables. Easy integration of key audio components and peripherals is key.
Although the industry is working toward this, it’s taking a long time. So, still, the best way to offer a seamless experience to consultants, integrators and end users is for manufacturers to supply the key parts of the solution value chain—microphones and digital signal processing to video components—so it all can be controlled and work together seamlessly.
As businesses increasingly rely on remote collaboration, it is more important than ever that they have access to the best technology so as to provide a seamless, integrated, high-quality audio experience. Users have come to expect that videoconferencing will be easy to use, with simple operation in a wide variety of rooms; moreover, as regards audio, anything less than crystal-clear full duplex is now unacceptable.
Many customers have a laundry list of audio requirements, which can include all or some of the following (in no particular order): unobtrusive, yet full 360-degree, microphone coverage; systems optimized for speech intelligibility with near-zero latency; a synchronized audio network; expandability; shielding against radio frequency interference (RFI); and a wide dynamic range with a high signal-to-noise ratio.
Things don’t end there, though. Most customers expect fast, easy installation and integration of audio equipment with any videoconferencing and collaboration system, within any environment. Fortunately, the latest professional-grade collaboration systems can deliver.
Trend #2: Lifelike Video Collaboration Is Becoming The Standard
In addition to improvements being made to audio technology, lifelike video collaboration is becoming the standard in boardrooms, conference rooms and telemedicine facilities, as well as in huddle spaces and small meeting rooms all over the globe. With competitive pricing and improvements in resolution, it’s a whole new world.
Notably, this isn’t just limited to screens, though. The world of cameras is changing, too. Smart, high-resolution cameras for video-based collaboration are becoming more affordable and much more common. Cameras such as these can reliably identify people in the room, and they’re powerful enough to zoom in on individual speakers independently.
It’s also worth noting that cameras designed for small spaces have become equally as important as the sophisticated “flagship” cameras for large spaces. Specialized cameras for huddle spaces and small meeting rooms satisfy a significant, fast-growing demand in the market because of their ability to meet budgets and satisfy performance expectations for smaller settings.
Trend #3: Virtualization, Cloud-Based Services And AV As A Service (AVaaS)
Another trend is related to virtual project workspaces. The traditional workplace hierarchy, in which individuals are assigned to specific functions, is rapidly fading. Today’s workplace, by contrast, is made up of dynamic teams, each organized around a specific goal or project.
Although the number of teams in the workplace might have substantially increased, today’s workplace solutions have not kept up. Most collaboration tools are still organized around meetings, rather than teams and projects. That means the documents, minutes and recordings created in a meeting about a specific project end up in one place, whereas all the other documents, emails and instant messages not created in that meeting—but that are still related to the same project—end up somewhere else.
Think of all the ways you communicate and collaborate with your team members on a specific project. They probably include the following: emails, instant messages and chats, videoconferences, face-to-face meetings, whiteboarding and annotation, meeting minutes, document and screen sharing, and real-time document editing and coauthoring. Imagine if you could keep those conversations going, no matter where you were and no matter what device you were using.
Team collaboration tools are the next step in the evolution of unified communications (UC). They let you both perform and store all your project-related content in the same place, and they help you move your collaboration beyond just messaging your team members back and forth.
The desire to exchange content and ideas via email is being replaced by team communication within dedicated channels. Content is added, viewed and saved there, and conversations happen there in public and private channels that users can freely create. Users can work together one on one, or in groups of hundreds, with integrated file sharing, searchable archives and user-presence information. They can connect with colleagues and contacts, via audio and video, with intuitive collaboration tools. Users can meet immediately or schedule a meeting to access a full suite of collaboration features, which might include file sharing, whiteboarding, annotation, chat and meeting minutes. Channels are searchable, organized by topic and, typically, accessible from anywhere.
Platforms like Slack, Microsoft Teams and COLLABORATE Space are helping to drive demand for these capabilities, and workplace teams are quickly growing to depend on them.
Workers are integrating video-based collaboration on a more casual and common basis, and they’re growing accustomed to bring-your-own-device (BYOD) collaboration solutions, within the channels they build, which introduce other complexities. Those complexities relate to location, workspace size and the ability to choose your own conferencing application. Issues like these pose new challenges across the industry, as all of us work to make video-based collaboration more simple and seamless than ever before.
As always, AV integrators, consultants and other practitioners will be there, on the front lines, helping customers do new things and “make the magic happen.” However, the growing desire for simplicity, along with the popularity of BYOD-centered, video-based collaboration, with its need for support across all room sizes and venue types, could create a widening gap between what customers expect and what most manufacturers can deliver. AV professionals have to supply integrated solutions that are well suited for any application, at any time, in any meeting space—large rooms, small rooms, on the road, etc.
AV integrators, consultants and other practitioners who work with the latest products will offer the best solutions. By using new technologies to help their customers enjoy the benefits, features and capabilities of the most advanced video collaboration systems, and thus serving remote workers and enterprise-wide teams alike, their outlook will remain rosy.