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- La Scala
The Art of Technology
1385 Boundary Road, Vancouver BC
t: 604.606.1888 | f:604.606.1838
Tag Archives: Video Conferencing
The AV system was designed to provide the ideal collaborative solution for your team. Perfectly aligned to cast its laser image onto the projection screen while centered exactly on the custom ceiling tile, the projector would descend on a scissor lift at the touch of a button. The equipment order had been placed and the trades were meticulously scheduled. And then, well into the project; a request was made to change the room’s prominent light fixture and consequently, its location. Its new position would place it directly in front of the projector’s path. It may not sound like a complex issue but repositioning the projector may require either a short or long-throw lens be added, or a longer scissor-lift be specified. The electrical drop may also need to be relocated along with moving any other affected ceiling features. Audio visual systems are integral to any collaborative space and changes to a room’s walls, ceiling, flooring, lighting or furnishings may have a ripple effect that could result in costly change orders and extend your project’s timeline.
Typical video conferencing-enabled spaces will feature either a flat panel display, videowall matrix or projection system, along with microphones, speakers, AV equipment and room control device such as a pop-up touch panel. These elements are all part of an expertly engineered system, each with precise locations carefully documented. If, for example, a change is made replacing the specified 2-pedestal boardroom table with an extended 3-pedestal table, additional in-ceiling speakers or microphones may be required. Placement of these components will likely affect adjacent ceiling features including fire sprinklers, HVAC, occupancy sensors and lighting fixtures. Switching from 2 to 3 pedestals also shifts the locations of the floor boxes for power and connectivity. While these issues can be resolved through collaborative redesign and coordination with other trades, they will certainly impact the project’s timeline and budget.
Change orders of furniture, audio visual systems, electrical and more happen and for a variety of reasons. Custom items may encounter unforeseen delays. Furniture specified months earlier may be discontinued or the designer or client may have requested a change. Regardless of the circumstances, collaboration among stakeholders at the onset of change is the key to successful project outcomes.
The environment and infrastructure requirements for today’s remote workforce
According to a recent survey by Randstad, non-traditional workers (freelance, flex, remote employees) make up 30% of Canada’s workforce with 85% of them projecting a rise over the next 5 years. Similarly, projections estimate that by 2020 mobile workers will account for nearly three quarters (72.3%) of the total U.S. workforce. Mobile devices and simple, yet sophisticated, collaborative tools have enabled today’s workforce to effectively work from anywhere – an airplane, a hotel room or a well-appointed home office. Remote work is a boon to productivity and can lead to higher efficiency and lower turnover. Not only does it attract younger workers (Millennials highly value flexibility and technology), it keeps older workers in the workforce longer. So, the benefits are many but establishing a remote environment that represents the employer’s brand while providing a productive, collaborative space for the employee requires more than simply plugging in a laptop.
The first step is to define the space. The design will be driven by the type of work performed, the equipment required and the available spaces within the home. The room should be a space separate from daily living areas, free from distractions that could potentially interfere with work or interrupt calls or video conferencing. It will need to offer adequate storage and easy accessibility to the home network.
- Color – Furnishings and walls should be ergonomically pleasing and conducive to extended use. Opt for neutral tones or soft, muted shades such as periwinkle blue, avoiding harsh, dark or vivid shades. Choose a matte finish over reflective glossy sheens. Wallpapers and fabric wallcoverings with subtle, non-reflective designs also work well.
- Backdrop – Consider the background when video conferencing. Keep the space clear of clutter and personal affects. Portable pop-up screens (plain or imprinted with the company logo), elegant room dividers and organized bookcases provide a professional backdrop and element of privacy.
- Acoustics – Create a quiet space. Carpeting, area rugs and upholstered furnishings help to manage reverberant noise. Acoustic treatments, including custom wall panels, also aid in noise absorption.
- Lighting – The more natural the lighting, the better the overall experience. Take advantage of natural sunlight by positioning the desk to face the window, avoiding shadows while on camera. For harsh, direct sunlight, add motorized window shades, available in various light-filtering, non-reflective weaves. If the room’s design is not conducive to proper desk placement and the light source is behind you, blackout shades can be added to properly control the light levels. Ceiling fans with lights create a strobing effect on camera and should be turned off. An integrated home automation system provides agile control of lighting, window shades, ceiling fans and HVAC, ideal for the working from home.
A secure, stable and robust network connection is essential for reliable network connectivity and a quality conferencing experience. Hardwired broadband is recommended over wireless when possible. Also important to consider is the number of users in the home that are competing for bandwidth.
Based on network capability and hardware compatibility, there are numerous platforms available for seamless collaboration. Implementing a few tools that enhance audio and video will afford an even better experience.
- Audio – Conferencing requires 2-way audio and can be problematic without the right equipment as devices can produce distortion and echo. Rather than relying on the laptop’s built-in speaker and microphone, opt for an external echo-cancelling speaker with mic for clear communication. In a reverberant environment, a headphone with built-in microphone will filter distracting background noise.
- Video – A high-performing, properly positioned camera is critical for effective collaboration. Invest in a high-quality auxiliary unit rather than using the built-in camera that restricts control and image resolution. The camera should be placed where the user is focused, just above the monitor’s content for a near-to-natural experience. This will simulate “looking” into the camera. Common mistakes include mounting the camera below the screen which produces an unnatural angle or mounting it on a monitor other than the one hosting the content, showing you looking away from the camera.
Evaluate the quality of the experience by conducting trial runs. Most platforms offer the ability to record your meeting, giving you the opportunity to view the meeting as if on the far side. Record sessions using various scenarios – both while the room is quiet and when things from across the house are “active” – pets, HVAC, dishwasher, etc. Type on the keyboard to gauge the sound level of keyclicks, assess how the background looks and adjust camera position and lighting to simulate a face-to-face meeting.
The “agile workforce is coming!”
Getting started requires thoughtful design and know-how, but it’s an investment that will be realized through effective collaboration and increased productivity for years to come. As experts in both the technologies and design aspects of this rich, residential/professional hybrid environment, LaScala can help you with the infrastructure and hardware requirements and work with your interior design professional to create the ideal remote workplace.
9 Ways Tech companies Can Accommodate Millennial Workers, Randstad Interim Inc. [CA]
Workforce 2025: The Future of the World of Work, Randstad Interim Inc. [CA]
Today’s mobile workforce: any time, any place, The Telegraph
American Workplace Changing at a Dizzying Pace, Gallup News
How to Design the Ideal Home Office, Entrepreneur
10 Best Jobs for Americans Over 65, The Fiscal Times
As 2017 draws to a close, so does the availability of funds allocated for 2017 spending. The New Year brings opportunities to upgrade existing infrastructure, increase productivity through updated collaborative technologies and promote your brand through dynamic lobby displays and improvements to client-facing spaces.
By purchasing equipment now that will be implemented into your 2018 projects you’ll be able to take advantage of the additional funding while stretching the capabilities of next year’s budget. We can help you and your team strategize, aligning your technology systems with your vision and overall budget. Here are some items for consideration:
Does your system provide connectivity for today’s digital devices? Users have an expectation of utilizing a meeting space with plug-and-play technologies. Transitioning from outdated analog to digital capabilities is paramount to ensure this functionality. Does your system, for example, have connectivity for wireless, HDMI and mini display port?
Meeting spaces that are easier to use and more collaborative increase user adoption which, in turn, results in faster decision-making and greater productivity. In the trending open-office environment, huddle spaces offer a focused, collaborative meeting space for small group presentations and ad hoc meetings. Interactive collaborative displays, robust cameras that are soft codec-enabled (Skype for Business, Bluejeans, etc.), and wireless presentation connectivity promote efficient, productive meetings in these spaces.
Traditional conference rooms with audio and video-conferencing capabilities would benefit from these enhancements as well as an automated control system. Lighting scenes and motorized shades can also be integrated into the room’s control for an improved user experience. If your room features an older projection system, an upgrade to a laser projector would offer a more engaging presentation along with a significantly lower total cost of ownership (TCO).
Your lobby/reception area is your first opportunity to engage your customers or prospective employees and convey your brand. Dynamic digital signage can enforce your branding, promote your products and services and inform dwellers of important information and events. Innovative meeting spaces in these client areas make a lasting impression.
Hands-on Experience Centers are a great way to engage clients through various interactive displays and immersive technologies. Architectural features in these environments are accentuated by inspired mosaic displays and exceptionally designed lighting for the ultimate customer experience.
Sound Management & Speech Privacy
Proven to increase worker productivity in today’s open office environments, sound masking eliminates noise distractions. It also adds privacy of enclosed meeting and office spaces from common areas, rendering speech unintelligible.
Acoustics are another noise control solution providing barriers and sound absorption that lessen overall noise levels and reduce reverberation from hard surfaces. This increases intelligibility in desired areas and provides a more comfortable working environment. There are numerous ways to address acoustic control. LaScala can provide consultation and recommend the appropriate solution for your space.
If you’ve done a great job at controlling your budget throughout the year and find yourself with a surplus, consider an investment in technology that will help grow your business, increase efficiency and foster an innovative and collaborative environment for your employees. Give us a call to strategize ways to put your remaining budget to work for you in 2018 and for years to come.
It’s a basic expectation really. You want to walk into a meeting room, easily connect your laptop, and make a presentation. And you can. Your conference room or huddle room system can be a simple plug-and-present; a wireless solution or one that is controlled by your smartphone. But, like all good designs, great outcomes depend on great input. While any of those solutions may be an effective presentation system, if it doesn’t suit the needs of the user, it will fall short of expectation. An effective presentation system is not as much about the technology as it is the user experience. A few simple questions will uncover the right solution for you and your team.
Define and Design
The first step in designing a system is to define the desired user experience for all users. The right solution will depend on:
- Who will be using the system? Will it be a defined group or will the room be open to visitors or personnel from other offices?
- What is their experience level?
- What are your company’s workflows?
- Are you wanting teleconferencing, video conferencing, content sharing, whiteboarding?
- Is there a company standard such as Skype for Business?
- What is the desired interface? Minimal interaction, single-button press or plug-n-play? Do you want to avoid the use of small, uninstalled units such as a hand-held remote control that may disappear in a huddle room?
- Will users be mobile – on smart phones or tablets? And how many connections are anticipated?
- Do you want the system to detect user mobile phones, syncing the system based on the room’s scheduled calendar event?
- Are you wanting to create a standardized solution that will be replicated across the enterprise?
Let’s Be Clear
In this era of rapidly evolving technologies, new acronyms and terminologies abound. VC, VTC, VMR and UC, for example, can mean a variety of things depending on who you’re talking to. One person’s definition of video conferencing may mean a traditional conference room setting with dual-screen monitors and sophisticated cameras that track movement, displaying far side participants as well as shared content. Another may be imagining a video call in the cloud with a completely remote or mobile staff. Collaboration is another term that requires a clear definition. To some it means simple screen sharing via Webex or Go-to-Meeting while others imagine a fully interactive experience that allows wireless sharing of multiple PCs or collaborative whiteboarding.
Wired, Wireless and your IT Department
Wireless presentations from a laptop, tablet or mobile phone (Bring Your Own Device) can offer seamless, convenient connectivity to the shared display, but not all IT departments allow this accessibility due to network security. Several solutions on the market today offer point-to-point connectivity, enabling connectivity via a self-contained Wi-Fi without being on your network. Some companies require heightened security measures, restricting wireless and providing only a secure wired solution.
Designed to Scale
Your communications, conferencing and presentation systems are a strategy, not a trend. Be sure your system is based on your needs and desired outcomes and not the latest solution offering by a particular manufacturer. It should take into account your potential for future needs and growth and provide the required scalability. As you add spaces and staff, standardizing on a solution that can be replicated throughout the building or across the campus is a clear cost advantage. Not only will it save in design and installation costs, but users will be more likely to adopt and use the technology in the room if they are already familiar with it. Savings are also realized on employee training.
Scalability needs to support technology needs as well. A well thought out strategy and design will provide IT infrastructure to support growth over the next 5 years or more. Network and data requirements, multiple VLANs and robust Wi-Fi can be implemented now, along with conduit and pre-wire for future expansion.
The solution drives the best possible outcome. Partner with an AV/IT professional to create huddle spaces, meeting rooms and board rooms that are efficient, effective and impactful, for your users and for your bottom line.
PC Magazine’s “The Best Video Conferencing Software of 2017”