AV Technology Europe
September / October 2019 avtechnologyeurope.com
AV ON A BUDGET: MEETING ROOM ESSENTIALS A BEGINNER'S GUIDE TO CORPORATE VIDEO HOW TO CHOOSE THE BEST COLLABORATION TOOLS INTERVIEW: GINA SANSIVERO, AQAV MEET YOUR AV MANAGER: CHURCH HOUSE WESTMINSTER
VR MEANS BUSINESS
"It's a sight to behold..." VR is transforming how enterprises unlock innovation. The world's first VR CAVE meeting room takes this to the next level September / October 2019
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September / October 2019
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Jo Ruddock, Group Editor
RIDING THE WAVE So, firstly, a confession. Back in my previous life as managing editor of Installation magazine and various other titles in what was then the NewBay portfolio, I wasn’t a huge fan of the ‘Women in’ organisations that seemed to proliferate around five years or so ago. As one of the few women working on those brands at the time, I was often nominated to attend but rarely saw much value in them. Yes, they were a good networking opportunity, but in terms of career value or what you actually learnt that would help you as a woman in tech, they seemed pretty limited. Fast forward a few years and I recently attended my first Women in AV event for some time, and what a difference. At the summer extravaganza it was amazing to see people from all across the industry come together to share their stories. From truly personal tales from organisers Abigail Brown and Toni Moss to stories of overcoming adversity and taking risks to progress, the event proved a useful forum to start conversations and learn from others. Pat Deeley also gave a humourous speech detailing her 50-year career, highlighting the multiple examples of sexism she had to battle to continue to achieve. And that’s perhaps where I see most value in this organisation.
During the networking sessions I spoke to several talented, ambitious and passionate female AV professionals and it was shocking to hear how they’d had to battle multiple examples of sexist behaviour and language to progress. It seems amazing that in 2019 we’re still having these conversations – and that sexist behaviour still seems to be acceptable in some organisations. To see how happy they were to have found Women in AV, to have a support network, somewhere to share their experiences and somewhere to speak to others who have been through similar situations was clearly of genuine benefit to them. What was also particularly encouraging was that this event marked the highest male attendance for a WAVE gathering – something that everyone viewed as a positive development. Yes, it’s great to have events focused on enhancing the gender diversity of the AV industry, but men should be a part of that too, and WAVE is helping this to happen. On a similar note, I’m proud to announce that AV Technology Europe is sponsoring the next AVIXA Diversity Council event. Taking place on 9 October, the event will focus on making connections, sharing motivational stories and coming together as an AV community. Places are limited so sign up now at bit.ly/2Nogl1K.
September / October
Cover Photo Courtesy of Ehrhardt + Partner Group (EPG)
FEATURE: AV ON A BUDGET David Davies delves into the world of corporate AV to discover what constitutes essential tech and what’s a nice to have for those on a tighter budget
Poplar’s David Ripert on the growing influence of VR in training applications
MEET YOUR AV MANAGER Bradley Hill, Church House
THE BIG INTERVIEW Following the recent announcement of a strategic partnership with the AV User Group, we speak to Gina Sansivero, executive director of AQAV, to find out more
HOW TO Considering taking the leap into corporate video production? Our beginner’s guide will help you identify the skills and equipment you’ll need to embrace
Regulars September / October 2019
FEATURE: VR IN BUSINESS No longer just a gimminck, VR is making huge inroads in the corporate world proving to be a useful tool in everything from sales and marketing to design
CASE STUDIES Inside the world’s first VR CAVE meeting room at EPG, and behind the scenes as the University of Manchester live streams graduation ceremonies in Ultra HD
06 Industry Insights 42 Tech Guide
TOP TIPS macom MD Christian Bozeat shares his advice for selecting and implementing the best collaboration tools to meet your needs
MEET YOUR INTEGRATOR: CINOS Technical director Steve Franklin talks unified communications, environmental awareness and what the future holds for this global integrator
48 Battle of the Brands 54 Getting to Know You 5
The value of VR/AR in training scenarios David Ripert highlights how VR is already transforming the training experience and explains how this is only going to grow in the future
ne of the key benefits of AR/VR in an enterprise environment is the value it offers in training. Traditional training methods are expensive and they’re not scalable. Take the public service sector, for example. If you think about firefighters, police officers, NHS staff and the like, they have to train in real, potentially dangerous, environments that have been built, almost like movie sets. If you train them in the virtual environment through VR/AR, however, you don’t have to physically recreate spaces, which means you don’t need to spend money building them, nor do you need to dedicate the same space to them. Similarly, in the private corporate environment AR/VR has numerous benefits. In the field of HR, for example, it is starting to be used to simulate interviews, or to prepare for difficult conversations that you might have to have with someone in a corporate environment, such as laying someone off. If you were to recreate this physically, you’d need an actor and you’d need professionals to come in to your office each time that training takes place. Whereas if you do it virtually, all you have to do is put on the headset and follow along on the simulation. Not only is there less initial outlay, but ROI is also higher because you’re able to scale it out with more people able to be trained without having to travel to a specific training location. So what are the key considerations for an organisation that’s thinking of implementing VR? Firstly, it’s important to answer a number
of questions: what is your environment? What’s your sector? How can VR solve some of the issues or challenges that you might face? It can’t just be a gimmick. Some people want to adopt VR because it’s innovative. There’s no point in thinking ‘Oh, I’m going to look at VR because it sounds really cool, and I’m going to embrace that because it’ll make me look good in my organisation’. Business benefit The healthcare industry, for example, can clearly demonstrate a business benefit when it comes to investing in AR/VR. Traditionally, healthcare education has involved students behind a glass wall, looking at an operating room; they can’t hear what’s going on, nor can they really see in the operating room because there will be surgeons all around. In terms of numbers you’d perhaps have six students observing at any one time, so it’s not a good way to train people at scale. By implementing VR at universities, students can access a VR recreation of that surgery that has been shot with a 360° camera above the operating room, they can hear everything with 360° audio and they can essentially interact with interactive VR. Adopting this method has been shown to increase effectiveness and knowledge retention because people will remember more when they’ve actually tried something visually, rather than just read it in a book. The second consideration is whether you already have an idea of how you would approach the production of that simulation and whether you know what content
would be in that simulation, because that’s going to affect the cost. If you already have a spec of what you want delivered it could be a lot cheaper to execute. So, to use another example, in a factory, I might want to train my staff to work on a machine and learn through VR/AR how to do that. If I already have a script of what people are supposed to do, because I’ve already taught them in person, then it might be easier to get that over to a studio or an agency to produce a VR piece of software. Whereas if I come to a studio or agency and I have no idea what the simulation should look like, then you’re looking at costs that are way higher. The next step is to look at whether you have assets to provide – if you’re producing VR/AR it’s pretty intense on having to create 3D environments. So, going back to the healthcare example, if I’m creating a mock-up surgery in VR, I’m going to have to create a wholly virtual body of a person and a virtual
operating room. This means having to create everything as 3D models, which can be quite expensive. However, if you already have CAD files, for example, you can provide these and that will lower the cost a lot because whoever is going to produce your software, they’re going to use a lot of these models. The next aspect to consider is your budget for content. This can vary dramatically depending on complexity, interactivity and the length of the experience. If you’re looking to overlay AR information on top of a mobile screen using a mobile phone or tablet, you can do that pretty cheaply and affordably, starting at around £10,000, all the way up to hundreds of thousands of pounds if it’s a very complex environment. If you want to create content for a piece of eyewear, such as a HoloLens or Magic Leap, it’s going to be a lot more expensive because there are not many developers that know how to develop for these.
The future VR/AR in the enterprise is only going to grow; the applications are humongous, from industrial design to sales and marketing, and we’re already seeing mass adoption for training. The use of AR in guiding is also really interesting because you can do it live as well. So now you can have someone wearing a VR headset with cameras and you can have someone else in a remote location and they will be able to visualise what the user sees through the headset. Not only will they be able to speak to the user and guide them, but they’ll also be able to draw in that spatial environment and that data will be overlaid on the user’s glasses. Furthermore, if you add artificial intelligence and machine learning on top of that, now you’re getting headsets that can overlay AR, intelligently based on what the environment is made of? Let’s say you have a warehouse that has been rebuilt virtually in the cloud so you already have a replica of the environment in 3D. You can get machine
learning and AI to help overlay data such as navigation or to show you where packages are. It can be done intelligently and guide humans for a better performance. All of this has already been done, but the greatest blocker has been bandwidth as this is such rich data. As we’re now moving into the 5G era we have this convergence of access to 5G, access to artificial intelligence, and then AR/VR. This coming together will allow for so much richer types of experiences. A few years from now, the cities around us are going to be painted with data. Not only navigation, but also as you walk around, the restaurant facade will have the menu overlay on top or you’ll be guided to the next discount within the supermarket. 5G, AI and AR will start helping you elevate your environment. And that’s a couple years from now. David Ripert is CEO of Poplar and chapter president - London for the VR/AR Association www.poplar.studio
Using digital signage to improve communications Michael Daskalopoulos discusses the growing trend towards integrating digital signage functionality into AV equipment and the benefits this is bringing
inding new ways to create more open and transparent communications is becoming increasingly important with business and education leadership. Digital signage is already considered an easy solution for disseminating information but is typically confined to high-traffic spaces such as lobbies, and cafeterias. Today, smart corporations and educational institutes are looking to leverage the digital displays found in their meeting spaces to foster a culture of transparency and continue to create a unique experience for employees, students and guests. Meeting spaces have, like signage, undergone a transformation in recent years. High-capacity conference rooms with poor utilisation are giving way to more numerous but smaller huddle rooms. These are typically equipped with displays for local and remote collaboration and are often visible from the outside when not in use. These huddle room displays provide new opportunities to communicate to room users and passers-by alike when rooms are idle and maximise the return-on-investment for the room equipment. One of the difficulties of digital signage in huddle rooms is the integration of separate signage players and room AV equipment. A typical huddle room will have a wired or wireless input switcher for users to connect their equipment to the display. As input switching is not typically handled inside displays but in external switching equipment, additional inputs ultimately add cost to huddle rooms that adds up quickly when large numbers of rooms are present. Another concern is the lack of available space for additional equipment even when inputs are available. When functionally integrating the signage player, additional care must be taken
to ensure the settings of the player’s outputs and display controls such as RS-232 work in conjunction with the room’s switcher, room control systems and administrative monitoring, again increasing design and deployment costs. A key design decision in deploying digital signage is the type of signage player to be used. These are split into native signage players and more generic HTML5 players. Although virtually all digital signage has HTML5 display components similar to desktop web browsers, generic HTML5 signage players are more often embedded devices such as NUCs and embedded appliances. Whether generic or native, the signage player is almost invariably a single-purpose device whose administration will be separate from the room AV equipment. In the pro-AV space, a trend of integrating digital signage functionality into AV equipment is emerging. Most equipment in the pro-AV industry that supports signage does so using generic HTML5. However, while generic HTML5 signage is not as capable as some dedicated signage players with native platform
support, most signage platforms support generic HTML5. This makes them useful for achieving the goal of broader digital signage reach. The advantages of a digital signage player integrated inside a properly-managed wireless presentation device or switcher can address all the integration concerns previously stated – input switching, space, control, functional integration and administrative monitoring. Per-room installation costs are reduced, and room deployment becomes faster and easier and rooms can be managed from a central location. Ultimately, the specific choice of wireless collaboration equipment with digital signage functionality will depend on the organisation, the AV integrator and the platforms to be supported. As the integration of digital signage becomes more ubiquitous in AV equipment, the support of platform-specific signage applications will become more prevalent and provide additional levels of control and monitoring of digital signage engagement with target audiences. Room analytics combined with digital signage will provide better targeting of signage at audiences. Integrated digital signage will provide additional revenue streams for signage platform providers more than signage player manufacturers, but the digital signage industry will derive additional growth opportunities from the extended reach of signage into corporate and education meeting spaces. The future of digital signage in meeting spaces is bright, and platform providers need to continue to engage with AV equipment manufacturers to capitalise on these new opportunities. Michael Daskalopoulos is director, strategic platform technology, ScreenBeam
Android: a smarter approach to ROI for digital displays Tim de Ruiter explains the key areas to focus on when investing in digital signage and displays, and why it’s important to think long term
hether in a public venue, a corporate boardroom or a hotel guest room, there are many features to consider when specifying digital signage and professional display solutions. As well as picture quality and connectivity, in today’s economic environment, return on investment is becoming a key requirement. Recent figures from AVIXA show that investment in AV reached record levels in 2019, topping $247 billion globally. By 2024, that number is forecast to rise above $325 billion. But while the market is in undeniably good health, for many companies and organisations budgets will remain tight. It’s therefore imperative for decision makers, AV and IT managers et al, to ensure their investments cover all bases. Quality and functionality need to work for the immediate need, and into the future as well. In today’s market, connectivity plays a major role in any discussion when it comes to AV, and displays are no different. One question that’s often asked when comparing AV products that, on the face of things, are similar in design, is why choose a digital display or pro TV with Android? An Android-based operating system, though, offers many features and benefits – both to the businesses operating and maintaining the displays and, ultimately, to their customers and end users. Enter Android System on Chip 2015 saw a gear shift in the smart TV marketplace, with many major manufacturers bringing new levels of connectivity to their mid- to high-end consumer TV offering. With first development roots spanning as far back as
the early 1980s, the cost and efficacy of smart technology had stabilised and demand was growing, making it a viable development for the wider marketplace. Recognising this demand, the product team at Philips Professional Display Solutions (Philips PDS) had started working on a new back-end system for its displays, researching all development options to ensure a technology that would deliver on picture quality, performance, connectivity, data security and reducing cost of ownership. Android has clear benefits for software developers in the AV arena, which in turn deliver advantages for installers and integrators, as well as end users. An open source platform, with a valuable and, conveniently, free Software Development Kit (SDK) that assists developers with knowledge sharing and access to a superior technology framework, Android does not require developers to pay additionally for licences or royalties and development can be fast and efficient. For AV software developers, the nature of the Android SoC offers the ability to bring a hybrid approach to developing software for Philips’ professional displays. This includes the opportunity to add native apps that can then benefit from the more proactive security and performance upgrades of the platform itself. For integrators and installers, the Android SoC gives clear business advantages, including reduction of costs and simplified installation. Apps are updated in the background, allowing up-to-date user experiences without the need for extended licences or implementation.
The use of Android is also advantageous for end users, delivering a tried and trusted, recognised experience. And with so many software developers working with Android, it immediately offers a wider choice of apps and greater flexibility, bringing efficiencies that deliver reduced cost of ownership. What’s more, with the ability to run native apps with native playback using Open Graphics Library, image quality and display performance are consistently outstanding. SoC into the future Since its implementation into the arena in 2015, the Philips SoC has received a number of updates – it is available on all Philips PDS displays, with most recent product introductions featuring Dual Quad Core/ Octa Core and Android 7.1. When it comes to true 24/7 business application, device security and control, the Philips Android SoC will be a winner well into the future. Tim de Ruiter is business manager EMEA for Philips Professional Display Solutions
Quality matters Following the recent news that AQAV has agreed a strategic partnership with the AV User Group, Jo Ruddock caught up with Gina Sansivero, executive director of the organisation, to find out more
Tell us a bit about the Association. AQAV (The Association for Quality in Audiovisual Technology) is a non-profit 501(c)(3) corporation, located in Mineola, NY, that is dedicated to improving the operational art of designing and installing audiovisual technology. Founded by AV industry veteran Mario Maltese it is the first and only independent organisation providing training and certification to all stakeholders in the audiovisual industry to ensure adherence to a systems design and installation standard. This standard, the AV9000, provides tools and guidelines about conformance and consistency for AV companies and is reviewed periodically for inclusion
of new technologies and communications. AQAV is supported by AV trade organisations, integrators, manufacturers and specifiers, and has been awarded the Seal of Transparency by GuideStar. And tell me a bit about your background. I’m currently the VP of marketing and corporate communications at AtlasIED. I have over 13 years’ experience working within the audiovisual industry and I very much believe in giving back to an industry that has helped me mature professionally. I’m also on the board of directors for CCUMC, NSCA’s Education Foundation and executive director at AQAV; a member of AVIXA; a regional group
leader for the NYC and Boston AVIXA Women’s Councils; and a proud volunteer for NSCA Ignite! Why should end users look for integrators that are AV9000 compliant? Integrators that are AV9000 compliant offer end users higher quality installations, less time on the worksite, fewer (or no!) change orders/defects and faster commissioning. Overall, AV9000-compliant integrators come in on time and on budget. Additionally, because AV9000 is a standard, integrators who are compliant are able to replicate and scale quality design and installation across buildings or campuses for consistent quality throughout the world. What does certification involve and how many companies are currently AV9000 compliant? AV9000 compliance is in its infancy. Whereas the process is simple it is not easy. To apply for AV9000 compliance, a company needs to establish, implement and maintain a quality policy. They need to submit six projects for audit that have been conducted and completed by a CQT and CQD, provide customer acknowledgements and a list of all test equipment used. These requirements are required for each company location. We currently have one
September / October 2019
company, Vistacom in Allentown, PA, that has its AV9000 compliance, and we have approximately 10 companies that are in the process of creating their quality policy and working towards filing for their compliance. In order to be AV9000 certified, a company must also submit their company’s ISO9000 certificate. You also offer membership for technology managers. What benefits does this bring? When technology managers understand compliance, it is easier for them to hold their integrator partners accountable to the standard and to consistent quality work. Additionally, many audiovisual departments in key vertical markets are taking a lot of their standards development, design and system maintenance in house. Understanding the AQAV standards allows them to develop a comprehensive and strong standard while also being able to maintain quality systems in their complex environments.
Gina Sansivero: “I very much believe in giving back to an industry that has helped me mature professinally”
How important do you think standards are generally across the AV industry? I’ll leave this to Mario – he said it best. “Quality is the indisputable cure for poor profits, dissatisfied clients, and poor morale in this industry. If we can
THE BIG INTERVIEW
AQAV classess enable members to get hands-on with equipment
address these issues of quality, customers will be delighted and AV professionals will feel good about what they do. That’s the message.” How big an issue do you think poor quality is in the industry and what can be done to improve this? Rapid advancement in AV technology has resulted in more product knowledge than ever before, which merely underscores the need for fundamental education in the operational art. AVIXA has addressed only individual training, not the requisite quality management of the AV companies performing the services. With AV technology moving from the eclectic to the mainstream of our corporate
and educational cultures, the cost of technology exceeds $80 billion and is steadily growing worldwide. The estimates of the cost of poor quality, defects, lost hours, rework, etc exceed $15 billion. You recently announced a partnership with the AV User Group. What was the thinking behind that? AQAV’s educational tracks will offer AV User Group members the knowledge and understanding of how to ensure consistent quality of the systems that they design, install or otherwise maintain. AQAV is convinced that AV User Group members, when trained, will see immediate results related to greater efficiency and cost savings in systems design
THE BIG INTERVIEW and installation, documentation with which to easily train staff and users, and the ability to hold service providers accountable, consistently. The motivation to form this partnership was to not just support the end user with training of this type but to raise standards within the industry. Do you have plans for any other partnerships or global expansion? Yes! The AV User Group partnership extends to their members in Scotland and London as well as the US groups. Other partnerships we are currently cultivating would continue that expansion and allow us to bring AQAV training and certification to top-tier systems integrators. We have some pretty exciting projects and programmes in the works! What does the future hold for AQAV? AQAV will continue to develop training and certifications programmes that help consultants, integrators and technology managers consistently perform to the highest quality standards. We will also update our existing courses to ensure that, as technology changes, the trainings provide the most relevant content for our members. We have subject matter experts who are volunteers and board members. We are restructuring some of our organisationâ€™s committees to utilise these experts in ways that will strengthen AQAV for the long-term and will help grow the association in very manageable and strategic ways. Through the changes we will make sure that we stay true to, and amplify, our mission; AQAVÂ is dedicated to improvingÂ the operational art of designing and installing audiovisual technology.
September / October 2019
Meeting room AV: essentials and emerging technologies The meeting room or huddle space is a cornerstone of todayâ€™s pro-install industry. But which AV elements are indispensable to the creation of a successful space, and what are the new technologies that will shape the future of this sector, asks David Davies?
FEATURE: AV ON A BUDGET
he corporate market has constituted one of the undisputed success stories in professional AV for the best part of two decades. Enabling businesses of all shapes and sizes to deliver increasingly formidable audio and video to staff and visitors, the trend has arguably reached its apex to date with the kind of conference facility installation whose AV infrastructure easily equals – or even surpasses – that of a well-specified theatre or concert hall. But although large-scale projects like this are always welcome, it is smaller endeavours – often involving one or more meeting/huddle rooms in a single facility or multiple buildings – that tend to comprise the bulk of installers’ work in the corporate environment. Where once an aging overhead projector and the human voice might have been deemed sufficient, now it is much more common for meeting rooms to include most, if not all, of the following elements: high-resolution displays and projectors, collaborative software and related tools, video conferencing, wired and/or wireless audio, integrated networks and some form of overall control system. Everyone who spoke to AV Technology Europe for this article said that the corporate market was in a good-to-strong position when it comes to new AV investments. Budgets are frequently an issue, but there was no sense that they were facing additional pressure at this time – although with a no-deal Brexit looking increasingly likely at the time of writing (August), whether that will continue to be the case for much longer in the UK remains to be seen. Great expectations? Depending on the type of company involved, the AV requirements of a meeting room can vary significantly even within the realm of one organisation. So it’s to be expected that companies’ priorities and concerns at the inception of a project are far from being uniform. Shure is a company whose roots may reside in the music side of pro-audio, but which has become increasingly active in the corporate market, not least
“Digital signage adds another progressive element to the contemporary office by providing an active and dynamically updated form of communication” Colin Farqhuar, Exterity
with sales of wireless microphone systems such as Microflex Complete Wireless into meeting spaces and auditoriums. The manufacturer also continues to collaborate in this market with ‘video-first’ communications supplier Zoom Video Communications; June 2019 brought the news that Shure had become Zoom Rooms Certified for several key audio-conferencing solutions. According to Shure’s senior director for integrated systems sales in Western Europe, Rob Smith, meeting room priorities “can vary enormously [and include] budgets, RoI, longevity, supportability and ease of deployment. Scalability is a particular concern and request of SMEs, who generally start with one or two rooms then want to be able to add to the system two or three years down the line. The long-term viability of a product [is therefore a priority consideration].” AV systems integrator CDEC is most closely identified with the education market, but after a drive to expand its interests in recent years the corporate business now accounts for about 20% of its turnover. Recent projects have encompassed everything from small meeting spaces to large conference facilities, but although client requirements may differ considerably, the core CDEC philosophy is pretty universal. “We tend to outline our expertise about the latest technologies, in particular AV over IP, and the benefits that these can bring [for corporate installations],” says CDEC managing director Toni Moss. “Clients may have a fixed idea about what they want at the start of the project, but by the time we have worked with them they will often have changed their view a bit so that it looks more towards the future [in terms of the equipment used].” The company does not have a preferred list of brands, opting instead to use the most appropriate products on a project-by-project basis. Budgets can “often be on the leaner side, although coming from education that’s certainly something we are familiar with”, says Moss. “So there is an obligation to be creative [with our system designs and specification processes], and in fact that can be quite beneficial.” Core competences: audio So what are the essential elements of a small to medium-sized meeting room, and which can be potentially set to one side if budgets are more limited? Well, on the audio side, you would be hard-pressed to find many companies who didn’t want the flexibility afforded by wireless as well as wired microphones, for general meeting room contributions as well as specific presentations. Ceiling or wall-speakers may well be favoured over free-standing PA units, if only for aesthetic reasons,
while a standalone DSP system may be required depending on the specifics of the room and the extent to which its applications vary. Not surprisingly, solutions that can combine one or more audio needs have proven popular in a sector where space is frequently at a premium. According to Shure’s Smith: “A focus for us is ease of installation and innovative new solutions that take away the need for third-party products. For example, it should be possible to install the [Shure networked ceiling array microphone platform] Microflex Advance MXA910 with IntelliMix into a 10 x 10sqm room and not have any set-up requirements, which means install costs go down. We’ve also launched a new firmware version that adds enhanced IntelliMix DSP functionality to the MXA910, which can remove the need for an external DSP, improving overall costs and saving installation time.” In conjunction with the aforementioned core components, there is a continuing increase of interest in being IP-capable. “Everything is heading towards structured cable – IP-based solutions
September / October 2019
– connecting to an AV or corporate network. This is why all of our core systems integration products have IP-based functionality.” When it comes to the likely impact of some emerging audio technologies on the meeting room environment, Smith says: “We’ve seen a huge amount of interest in voice lift systems, basically down to the practicality of not having to pass a microphone around in large corporate meeting environments, particularly if it’s a multi-use space, with the microphones in the ceiling being used for voice reinforcement.” As for immersive audio and other technologies now frequently bracketed under the ‘Next Generation Audio’ banner, “it’s a requirement of bigger projects that comes up from time to time. Personally, I don’t think it’s an application that will come into huddle spaces in the very near future. However, every now and then there’s an interesting project that requests it, and when it’s done well it’s very impressive.” Meanwhile, there are logistical and practical benefits of achieving more seamless integration between audio
Shure’s Microflex Advance MXA910 Ceiling Array Microphone was recently chosen for KPMG’s U-Collaborate space in Canary Wharf
FEATURE: AV ON A BUDGET and video systems – not to mention reduced expense because of the more simplified installation requirements. With Shure now an accredited partner of Zoom, “all our core systems work seamlessly with their software. For example, hitting mute in the Zoom App will dynamically mute the connected Shure microphones. It’s a lot of work between Shure and Zoom engineers, but ultimately gives the end-user a more efficient and effective system. “In addition, clients purchasing the approved Zoom/Shure package can rest assured that it will work seamlessly and perform brilliantly, along with making the job easier for IT professionals specifying rooms and the integrator installing the system.” Core competences: video and collaboration As part of the Sahara Presentation Systems Group, Sahara AV has been distributing AV solutions and software to markets including education, health and corporate for more than four decades. Chris Southern, who oversees enterprise sales at Sahara AV, says that large-format displays are now a cornerstone of many meeting room projects. “There has been a dramatic change over the past few years in that the price of large-format displays has come down substantially [at the same time that] their quality has continued to improve,” he says. Interest levels in these displays – generally highresolution, including a rising demand for UHD – continues to grow, but Southern is certainly aware of some companies that “make the error of trying to buy standard screens [from high street retailers] and then just stick them on the wall. We always make the point that the warranty may be invalidated as soon as it’s out of the box, although the display may be so cheap that they will just replace it [when it goes wrong]. For many reasons it’s not our policy to advise this approach…!” Meanwhile, interactive and collaborative solutions are becoming increasingly de rigeur for even the smaller scale projects. Sahara continues to enjoy success with its Clevertouch interactive displays, which can offer up to 20 simultaneous points of touch, 4K resolution, wireless connectivity and access to device mirroring – the overall objective being to enable teams to collaborate “instantly and in real-time”. Generally speaking, tools to facilitate “both in-room and out-of-room collaboration” are frequently perceived as being essential for new spaces and refurbishments. “Collaboration is a very big part of the workplace now,” says Southern, not least because with its ability to involve external participants and cut down on travel there is tremendous potential for long-term cost savings.
Southern adds: “One of the biggest issues that any financial director will have to deal with is the expenses bill, which is often [substantially accrued] from travel. Even if a company can use its collaboration suite to take one out of five meetings off the road they can expect a very good RoI as far as the kit is concerned.” Core competences: IP video and digital signage Exterity’s extensive range of IP video and digital signage solutions have long made the company a mainstay of the corporate world. Current trends in meeting room specification have been informed by some longer-term developments, implies Exterity CEO Colin Farquhar, not least in the way that the digital era has revolutionised how corporate and financial organisations communicate with employees, visitors and customers, and this has had a significant impact on how boardrooms and meeting rooms are designed. “[Hence] it goes without saying that video conferencing – a market set to grow to well over $6 billion by the end of 2020 [source: Synergy Research, January 2019] – is a crucial tool for the majority of meeting spaces, enabling employees working from remote locations to connect with workers who are in the office.” But the versatility and quick-turnarounds expected of many meeting spaces are giving rise to some other functional needs. In an era when “remote working, informal working spaces and co-working centres” are becoming more commonplace, there is “increasing pressure on meeting rooms and boardrooms. This is due to employees needing them to connect with colleagues scattered across multiple time zones and locations, host confidential meetings, or to simply find a quiet area to work and meet with someone one-to-one, resulting in an increase in more casual huddle spaces.” While standard tools such as Outlook can provide room booking and availability checking functionality, there is a move towards “digital signage and room booking tools being installed outside meeting rooms”, adds Farquhar. “This enables casual drop-ins or taking advantage of passing by an empty room, being able to see for how long it’s free, and with some applications booking at the door on the fly. Digital signage therefore adds another progressive element to the contemporary office by providing an active and dynamically updated form of communication.” With digital signage there is also “the ability to stream high-quality video” – an aspect that is proving attractive to corporate clients [see Case Study].
FEATURE: AV ON A BUDGET Future influences Farquhar says that Exterity continues to evolve its product portfolio “in line with our customers’ expectations, with development driven to an extent by specific customer feature requests. He adds: “Our combined digital signage and IPTV product, ArtioSign, was designed to empower organisations to create, manage and display eye-catching communications in offices and other business settings, enabling live TV and video to be incorporated into impactful screens that inform, communicate and engage staff and visitors around the company.” And the development of visual systems in meeting rooms per se continues to evolve. Farquhar highlights integration of social media feeds into digital signage used with meeting rooms, and although he feels “we’re quite a way off from seeing mass adoption of VR and AR technologies in corporate facilities”, use of another new technology – 4K – is becoming more widespread. “More and
more corporate organisations are utilising technologies that allow them to deliver highdefinition video to screens around their offices,” he says. The overall pictures that emerges of AV for meeting rooms is inevitably one of contrasts. At one end of the corporate (and budgetary) scale a high-resolution, large-format screen is likely to represent the greatest single investment by a company in terms of their meeting room AV. More sophisticated collaborative tools and room booking technologies may not be affordable – or indeed required. At the other end of the scale, interactive and collaborative tools to assist local and remote collaboration, as well as extensive wireless audio capabilities, are more frequently requested. Underpinning the undoubted success of this sector in pro-AV over the past decade is the admirable ability that both vendors and integrators have demonstrated in catering to the complete spectrum of these requirements.
CASE STUDY IP VIDEO BRINGS ‘MORE AGILE WORKING’ TO LIFE SCIENCES COMPANY As part of a revamp of its UK headquarters in Reading intended to ‘help bring about a cultural change and encourage a more agile way of working’, life sciences company Bayer AG recently invested in an extensive IP video system from Exterity. Systems integrator Focus 21 undertook a technology transformation encompassing four floors of the Bayer building and including 60 meeting rooms, presentation suites and collaborative working spaces – all now combining integrated AV technologies. The system incorporates Exterity dual TV gateways, H.264 encoders and media players, used to stream world news to displays in meeting rooms, reception and waiting areas. The solution is also in use in the staff restaurant, which doubles as a large town hall space for quarterly employee meetings, while sports channels are delivered to screens in the staff games area. The Exterity system also delivers BayerHub digital signage, which includes company updates, RSS feeds, event information and an intranet feed to displays throughout the office. Exterity CEO Colin Farquhar commented: “Bayer UK headquarters now boasts a wide-range of AV/IT technology to increase employee engagement and improve overall business operations, and video is a key part of this. IP video is both flexible and scalable, and can distribute content to any connected device on the IP network. New TV and video sources and users can be added anywhere there is a network connection, so it’s easy to extend the system.”
Bank of China (Hong Kong) decided to implement an Exterity IP video solution to facilitate the live streaming of financial channels in HD during a refurb of its HQ
A beginner’s guide to corporate video The popularity of video only seems to keep growing but making the leap into producing corporate videos can be daunting. Jo Ruddock highlights some key tips to consider before you begin
ccording to digital marketing agency Hubspot, 81% of businesses use video as a marketing tool – up from 63% in 2018. However, video can be used for much more than this, offering the opportunity to inform and engage employees, stakeholders, customers and potential customers via webinars, product videos, corporate interviews, vlogs and more. There are, however, still barriers when it comes to video production, with budget, time and perceived complexity the biggest factors cited as holding back many companies. While this is, of course, understandable, the good news is that producing regular video content for
both internal and external audiences doesn’t have to be expensive or time consuming. Here are a few tips to follow to get the most out of your resource. Repurpose existing content If you’re just starting out with corporate video, begin by looking at the assets you already have available. Do you have images on your social channels that can be used to create a product video or photos from a recent event that can illustrate a management interview? Repurposing photos and videos you will save you a lot of time on the production side.
VIDEO IN NUMBERS
1 million minutes of video crossing the internet per second by 2020 Source: Cisco
of executives say they would rather watch a video than read text Source: Wordstream
how many more views social media posts with video have compared with those that don’t include video Source: HubSpot
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Use existing tools As well as using existing content, it could also be worth beginning your journey into video production by using tools that you’re already familiar with. Not only will this save money, it’ll also save time as you won’t have to learn any new techniques. For example, shoot videos on your smartphone rather than investing in high-end cameras. Note that while this will work for posts intended for social media or quick how-to videos, it isn’t recommended for high-quality content such as a director video.
like a product profile or Q&A; executive addresses and the like will be significantly longer than this but if you know your audience you should be able to time it correctly. Either way, make sure the content is accurate, compelling and informative. If you’re still unsure, spend some time on YouTube and find examples you’d like to emulate. Consider shooting angles throughout; close-ups work well for product shots, whereas wider shots are best during interactions between people or on the surrounding area.
Explore free software Learning to use professional editing software can be time consuming so take a look at the free offerings that are available. For example, Animoto provides simple drag-and-drop templates that remove much of the complexity of video production. Other options include Shortcut which works for Linux, Windows and Mac OS X, or iMovie, which is likely to already be installed on your Mac. There are numerous free tutorials available online for all of these tools.
Time to edit Once you’re happy with the raw material, it’s time to download the video from your device to your laptop and begin the editing process. Hopefully you’ll have chosen and spent time learning your preffered editing software by this point so it’s time to put those skills into action. Work though all the raw footage to identify the best shots and content elements – consider everything at this stage, including clarity of speech, facial expression and any background activity. You can use your software to bring these elements together, fine tune them and add any extra details such as music or animations. As with all content, make sure you always abide by copyright laws. One final tip: before you export your final video, take a minute to watch it on a variety of devices – tablets, phones, laptops – to make sure it works on different platforms. And that’s it. Corporate video brings many advantages to a business and it doesn’t have to be costly or time consuming, so what are you waiting for?
Plan ahead Of course, free equipment is only going to get you so far, so it’s important to prioritise the professional equipment you need to progress your video production. To do this you’ll need to have a clear plan in mind of the kind of videos you want to produce and the budget available for any investments. It’s also worth considering timescales; technology moves rapidly and cameras in particular tend to decrease in value quickly. With that in mind it may be worth renting cameras and buying items such as microphones, mounts and tripods which tend to have longer lifespans. Also, when it comes to microphones, remember how crucial these are to getting your message across. Videos aren’t just about image quality, what is being said needs to be heard for the content to have any value so don’t scrimp in this area. Start shooting Now it’s time for the fun part. Shooting highquality video can be quite complex so it’s important to prepare in detail for each video. Make sure scripts have been drafted and everyone who will be on camera is clear about their role. Also include any visuals or additional audio elements that will appear in the final cut in the script. As a guide, it’s recommended that business videos are less than two minutes in length if it’s something
VIDEO ESSENTIALS To begin shooting corporate video, you’ll need the following pieces of equipment: • Digital video camera • Tripod • External microphone • Extra batteries and recording media • Video lights and light reflectors • Laptop • Video editing software
FEATURE: VR IN BUSINESS
Igloo Vision enabled the Vodafone Foundation to immerse over 500 guests in 360° animations and videos to communicate the foundation’s history
Becoming increasingly real
That which was once the stuff of science fiction – like a portable device that would enable its user to communicate with anyone, anywhere – has a habit of becoming an everyday reality. Ian McMurray finds out how an example of that phenomenon is rapidly infiltrating major organisations
FEATURE: VR IN BUSINESS
f you know that a warp drive won’t function without a dilithium crystal, and that diseases can be simply diagnosed with a tricorder, you’ll certainly be familiar with the concept of a holodeck. A holodeck was virtual reality pretty much before any of us had even heard of virtual reality. For those not in the know: the holodeck was a key feature of the USS Enterprise of Star Trek fame, boldly going where no man has gone before, that created an imaginary world in which crew members could experience, and interact with, ‘real’ things and events. It could be used for recreation – or for work. Fast forward some 30 years, and powerful – and increasingly affordable – headsets such as the Oculus Quest are enabling new forms of immersive entertainment, creating a compelling (and occasionally disturbing and disorientating) alternative reality. Potential “One of the biggest misconceptions about VR is that it is just used for leisure activities like gaming,” points out Andrew Hug, vice president, SE EMEA at Poly (previously Polycom). “It has huge potential in the workplace.” So what are the corporate applications for virtual reality? “If a corporation utilises technology from a laptop to a security terminal, then VR represents a medium to effectively and procedurally train employees on a virtual version, where they can do no damage and learn by their mistakes,” says Frank Reynolds, European marketing manager at Antycip Simulation. “If they have buildings with emergency regulations, or simply a large building that requires familiarity for navigation, then a virtual replica can help provide training. Security can also be an area for VR; we know that a large bank in London, for example, uses a virtual twin of its building for threat analysis tied in with its real security systems, and disaster planning scenarios for fire and so on. “Ultimately, VR can be used to tackle almost any topic you consider to be important to your organisation – from training, to design and data reviews, to communications such as virtual town halls to a sales and marketing tool.” Sales tool Sales and marketing as an application for VR is frequently mentioned. It’s one that’s applicable to many organisations – like Logitech. Jonathan Tracey, director of sales enablement, Logitech Video Collaboration, says: “As our video collaboration team has grown, so has the size and breadth of the solutions that we’re selling. With a broad portfolio of products, it’s now more complex to bring a complete demo kit onsite. To overcome this challenge,
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we’re in the process of developing a virtual reality product catalogue. This will feature, in VR, all our solutions in different room configurations, which can be individually explored by a customer. Our plan is to share these pre-loaded headsets with our customers so they can browse in their own time and explore the product range ‘in person’.” “VR also provides some great advantages that allow us to do things that we couldn’t do in person,” Tracey adds. “For example, we’re able to lay visualisations over a room layout, showing a customer the coverage area of expansion mics. We can also put the viewer inside the lens of the conference camera they are demoing, so they can test the difference between a 90° FOV and 120° FOV camera. And, as a sales tool, the headsets are able to provide us with analytics on what solutions our customers were most interested in, so we can be more focused in our follow up conversations.” Dave Elliott, business development manager at Holovis, has another example of how VR can support sales. “Within the automotive industry for example,” he says, “the same data sets that are used to review and amend the design can be utilised by customers in showrooms to sit in and experience virtual vehicles, customise the interior and exterior before placing their order. This is useful when vehicles are in production but haven’t made it to the showrooms yet, speeding up the buying cycle.” Reducing hidden costs Also high on the list are education and training. “I see VR as advantageous for educational applications in any form and shape, ranging from corporate training to student learning and research in schools, universities and medical facilities,” notes Dr Gregory Mirsky, product manager at Atlona. “VR is especially useful in
Top to bottom: Andrew Hug, Poly; Colin Yellowley, Igloo Vision; and Dave Elliott, Holovis
VR: AT LEAST AS GOOD AS WE EXPECTED A recent report by Capgemini reveals that enterprises are using AR and VR technologies to enhance their business operations. The report found that 82% of companies currently implementing AR/VR say the benefits are either meeting or exceeding their expectations. The report found that 50% of enterprises currently not implementing AR and VR will start exploring immersive technologies for their business operations within the next three years. These include using AR to remotely access real-time help from experts on a wearable or handheld device, and VR to train employees. Some 46% of companies believe the technology will become mainstream in their organisations within the next three years, while a further 38% think it will become mainstream in their organisations in the next three to five years.
VR IN BUSINESS applications where real-time environments and situations are challenging to reproduce in a real-world setup.” “VR training apps can help to reduce some of the hidden costs of employee training, such as employee time, travel, facilities, materials and equipment. Another plus for VR training is that costly, difficult or otherwiseimpossible scenarios and simulations become within reach,” echoes Sol Rogers, CEO and founder of REWIND. Igloo Vision’s managing director, Colin Yellowley, has seen numerous corporate installations. “An Igloo has been used by wastewater company Lanes Group to ‘gamify’ its training programme, which has proved more effective than a traditional classroom setting,” he says. “Lendlease has used its VRoom to help speed up processes across departments including projects, sales, safety and design. The Vodafone Foundation recently used a 21-metre dome to host its 25th anniversary of charitable giving. Welsh Water told us that its use of VR technology paid for itself on the first large scheme, and there are over 50 schemes coming through the process.”
Virtual reality plays a key part in BAE Systems’ new Aerospace Academy to provide training for apprentices and graduates Credit: BAE Systems
HOW TO SUCCEED WITH VR Igloo Vision has recently released a white paper exploring how clients can ensure installations meet their potential. The key success factors, the company says, include: n Great content, straight out-of-the-box n A solution to an existing problem n Senior-level evangelists n A commitment to training n Working with talented and experienced content creators n A cadre of internal power users n A long-term content strategy n A commitment to multiple use cases n Formal integration into workflows n A prominent location
Hardware challenges It seems, then, that there is a growing realisation that VR can be extraordinarily useful – but, in hardware terms, are we there yet? Few audiovisual applications demand more of the supporting technology than VR does. In the case of room-sized virtual environments, projectors play a key role. “For the high-end virtual rooms that Antycip works on,” explains Reynolds, “the move to shared dynamic multiple points of view by the leading projector manufacturers is a big step forward. It provides users with the benefits of multiple points of view that head mounted display – HMD – users have, without the isolation and, by comparison, lower resolution of HMDs.” That’s something Digital Projection has been working on, as the company’s EMEA sales and marketing manager Dirk Siedle explains. “From our perspective, the introduction of Multiview technology with our INSIGHT 4K HFR 360 gives users the option to install caves or power walls that truly offer additional benefit for working in 3D with teams,” he explains. “Up to six users get their correct perspective rendered in 3D and therefore have, at any given time, the correct 3D image visible to them – whereas in the past there was only one person tracked and everybody else did not get their correct perspective, which meant that team work in VR/3D was not really possible.” There’s also the need for the background infrastructure to support very high resolution, high frame rate video at zero latency – the latter two being
VR IN BUSINESS especially important if the nausea that is occasionally associated with VR is to be avoided. Industry first At InfoComm, Atlona demonstrated what it said was an industry first. “Using our OmniStream AV encoders, decoders and USB over IP adapters, the demonstration proved how OmniStream can support VR-specific 2,160 x 1,200 resolutions, working at 233 million pixels per second and with a 90Hz refresh rate,” recalls Mirsky. “The takeaway is that OmniStream’s core benefits around bandwidth efficiency and low-latency distribution apply to the very advanced requirements of managing VR environments over IP networks.” And then, there’s HMD technology. “Improvements in lens and panel technology have given us hardware that has superb visual quality,” notes Rogers. “Take the HP Reverb for example, with a staggering 2,160 x 2,160 panel per eye, a 114° field of view, inside-out tracking and lightweight design. It delivers across the board and tackles some of the pain points associated with VR solutions.” By comparison, the Oculus Quest favoured by gamers offers only around half that level of resolution. Holovis’s Elliott acknowledges the strides are being made – but also points out the potential for confusion. “While significant leaps have been made in the VR space regarding the hardware, image quality and hand tracking, we often find that customers are looking for an AR solution when they describe their intent behind the solution being scoped,” he points out. “The advances in this area have been huge in the last six months with hardware getting sleeker and the quality of images that can be overlaid on to the real world and interacted with really advancing.”
Top to bottom: Dirk Siedle, Digital Projection; Frank Reynolds, Antycip Simulation; Greg Mirsky, Atlona; Jonathan Tracey, Logitech; Sol Rogers, REWIND
Misconceptions There are many misconceptions about VR. It’s not, as Elliott points out, the same as AR. It doesn’t always have to mean wearing a headset. It isn’t necessarily expensive. It won’t deliver new information – it will only make existing information more accessible, more engaging and more meaningful. Most important, perhaps, is the perception that VR is only about leisure and entertainment. As Yellowley points out: the world’s most prominent business consultancies think otherwise. “Recently, we’ve seen a wave of interest in Shared VR from consulting and advisory clients – like PwC, EY and Accenture – who have been installing our technology and/or referring us to their clients,” he notes. “This suggests that VR is no longer being viewed as a fad or a novelty, but as a valuable enterprise tool that can help businesses to work faster, smarter and safer than ever before.”
He has an ally in Rogers. “VR has been around for a long time, but the early iterations were expensive and cumbersome,” he says. “Now, as VR is becoming more accessible and reliable, it is being rapidly adopted across a whole range of industries – from architecture to tourism. In the current climate of constant technological advancement and economic uncertainty, organisations need to find new ways to drive efficiency, and VR is working. It is already revolutionising workflows and saving businesses money by improving processes.” Watching with interest It becomes clear, in talking to the industry – long regarded as something of a specialist niche – that forward-looking organisations of all types are keeping a close eye on developments in VR because of the potentially transformational benefits it offers. Those developments are ongoing – and it’s not just end users who are watching with interest. Today, for example, VR isn’t widely found in the traditional collaborative communication/huddle room market – but that’s not to say it never will be. “VR will bring learning and training processes to life as it makes them highly interactive,” believes Hug. “Collaboration and development of new ideas will be heightened thanks to contextual and visual representations of what could be. At Poly, we look forward to the enhanced human-first communication that VR will bring. We are asking ‘what’s next?’ – not ‘what if?’” When it comes to VR, it seems as if increasing numbers of CEOs will be echoing the immortal words of Captain Jean-Luc Picard: “Make it so.”
KEY LEARNING POINTS n Adoption of VR in major organisations is already more advanced than you might think n ‘Mainstream’ applications include training/ education and sales n Users are reporting real benefits in terms of cost-saving and improved safety n Hardware functionality is increasing to keep up with the specific demands of VR n VR can be expected to make further inroads into a broad range of end-user environments
How to choose and apply collaboration tools Digitisation in collaboration can be complex, but it can also lead to significant business benefits, according to Christian Bozeat, MD of macom GmbH (UK) Ltd
he changes in Industry 4.0 are demanding ever more collaboration within offices, across project teams and between departments – within companies as well as cross-company. More and more often, collaboration becomes a real challenge. Schedules are getting tighter, the result of individual and agile working methods demanding numerous iterations at short turnarounds. Additionally, in more and more project teams members are spread around the world. These teams often do not have the same tools on hand and work at completely different times. These factors pose challenges to Industry 4.0. The solution can be found in the guise of digitalisation, which is still too opaque for many people: digital and interactive AV technology, so-called
collaboration tools, are supposed to provide the solution, but this political campaign for ‘digitisation’ can bring disenchantment instead of alleviating the problem. Clients believe that conventional solutions are no longer sufficient, the necessary installations are too complex and do not obtain the expected return on investment, and the entire IT and AV technology is too confusing. This disenchantment is due to a number of factors but generally starts with a lack of a strategic approach without thorough requirement analysis. What forms of collaboration already exist? To determine which collaborative and media solutions provide the most added value for your specific requirements, you must first clarify how
HOW TO your company is going to work collaboratively. We distinguish four dimensions of collaboration: First dimension The tools for the first dimension are well known and omnipresent. Presentation tools such as paper, whiteboards, images and the like can be used to assist and demonstrate. These presentation tools will remain important elements of collaboration, but this does not mean that they are not able to undergo a technical evolution. For example, more and more so-called ‘Tabletops’, – screens embedded into tables whose content can be manipulated by multi-touch – are used. Content takes one step towards becoming interactive. Collaboration rooms that only use tools of the first dimension are found today in the form of meeting corners or basic meeting or huddle rooms. These rooms are increasingly not meeting modern requirements, and tools of other dimensions are needed. Second dimension Most of the best-known second-dimension tools are web-based. In addition to telephony, often over the internet as voice over IP, instant messaging systems are of great importance. These differ from email systems, a fourth-dimension tool, in the ‘push’ technology, or real-time notification or chats. Some smaller files can also be exchanged via these systems. Currently, most of the collaboration spaces are of the second dimension. In these spaces we find a display with a connection for a laptop, which is used to share the presentation with colleagues abroad – often via Skype or other web conferencing tools. However, these spaces are also frequently hitting a brick wall. Third dimension Collaboration tools of the third dimension function more as co-ordination tools than as collaboration tools. They are also usually incorporated in tools of the fourth dimension. For example, digital bulletin boards or even interactive digital signage solutions are now available, which can also be used for other dimensions due to their networked functionality. By contrast, the fourth dimension is by far the most extensive, and includes more tools than all the other dimensions together. The key to their great importance lies on the internet. The internet has allowed a multitude of new collaboration possibilities that almost everyone in their working routine has to deal with. The collaboration room often shifts from the conference room to the
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individual workstation. Confidential documents can be sent to numerous recipients around the world in real time. However this does mean that the recipients generally still read the message later to suit their timings. Fourth dimension Workplaces with blogs and software tools like Sharepoint and Teams are taking one step further into the fourth dimension. The collaboration within these internet/team focused forums is happening constantly. It doesn’t matter how large the team is, how far it is spread or when they are working. Alterations are always visible in real time for all participants, and processes, decisions and changes can be retraced and commented on. Everybody receives the information to suit their individual planning.
The importance of strategic planning It is clear that digital collaboration in Industry 4.0 means more frequent working with colleagues all around the globe and in different timezones. The focus of AV collaboration tools is shifting away from the first and second to the fourth dimension and further towards a unified system for all use cases. Providing unified systems includes the challenges of AV design and, importantly, includes the strategic planning for AV and IT. In the past the biggest issues in system design were items such as the light output of a specific projector or the size of a screen. Modern collaboration solutions require many more farreaching decisions to be made. What bandwidths are available in the corporate network? Are there plans to expand the network? How’s the network infrastructure in the rooms, is data stored locally or is a cloud used? How does the system behave in terms of scalability, is the software capable of doing so? Is the IT managed in-house or by a service provider? If it is currently in house, is it worth outsourcing with the integration of the system? Whereto? Which devices are used by the users, are they unified or is there a BYOD policy? What is the support process in place for the hardware? Is it sufficient? How is it structured now systems are business critical? The complexity of digitisation in collaboration should not be underestimated. However, you also should not underestimate the potential increased productivity and profit it can produce if deployed correctly. We see the currently prevalent problems as being the birth pains of a new age, for a fourth industrial revolution. With Industry 4.0, we anticipate disruptive changes in every area, from automated manufacturing to personnel planning.
To boldly go... Ehrhardt + Partner Group (EPG) has opened the world’s first VR CAVE meeting room, or ‘holodeck’, creating an immersive space to showcase ideas without the need for headsets or glasses. Jo Ruddock finds out more
stablished in 1987, EPG has delivered supply chain execution solutions to more than 1,100 global customers. As a company that prides itself on its innovation, it is often at the forefront of technology and has used VR for some time. The CAVE meeting room takes this to the next level, however. EPG’s 7m x 7m holodeck, which seats up to 12 people, uses multiple projectors to relay a wide variety of visual content onto four walls and the table top. This means that the room can now be used for anything from 360-degree simulations and immersive corporate presentations to realistic visualisations of the company’s logistical processes
– all without the use of any VR headsets or glasses. “EPG has used VR to our advantage for some time, primarily with VR glasses to help us in the field of logistics planning and consulting,” explains Dennis Kunz, EPG’s director of marketing. “Our target for the new building was to build up VR warehouse and logistics projects that could be used without wearing glasses. We conducted a great deal of research online regarding VR CAVE solutions and Viscon immediately grabbed our attention with its track record of special and unique projects.” “It all began for us back in March 2017,” says Inga Mölders, sales manager for integrator Viscon. “EPG came to us with the idea to build a ‘holodeck’
CASE STUDY that could serve as a showroom, a meeting space and a 3D engineering/construction virtual CAVE. To equip a single space so that it could perform all of these tasks was not going to be easy but, after many internal discussions, we were able to pitch our idea in the autumn of that year.” The main objective for the holodeck was to create a level of immersion that would allow users to have discussions with direct reference to realistic representations of actual situations. This, in turn, would help them to plan new and more effective solutions for their customers. Mölders continues: “The main challenge was that we were one of the smallest components in a brand-new building. Our systems require a lot of structural planning, especially in terms of lighting, climate and the nature of the projection surface. Luckily, we had the chance to have personal discussions with all project leaders from the different trades associated with the building’s construction long before they began.” Viscon decided to involve VIOSO as its main partner on the project, primarily on the strength of its visualisation software solutions. CEO and founder of VIOSO, Benjamin Fritsch, says: “VIOSO Anyblend was chosen to create the overall unique projection space with blending, warping and eye-point correction, which was particularly needed for its flexibility. Elsewhere,
Wings VIOSO acted a media server across multiple sites to distribute content, control layouts and convert videos in real time. We also decided to control the lighting and projectors using AVIO.” The entire system was to be contained within an individual ‘media cube’, which was especially designed with the holodeck in mind. No limits For Fritsch, one of the main factors was to identify the correct technology to use without limiting usage for the client. “In this case, we needed the power of multiple PCs to run the ‘construction space’ within the holodeck, as well as needing the simple flexibility of just being able to show a video across the room or feeding multiple different sources. We installed powerful multi-client media servers in combination with a complex capture and control architecture. Multiple tools were used to create this immersive experience.” He continues: “Technology-wise, the challenge was to create a sense of immersion in a cube-shaped room without the use of any special head-tracing systems. We found some clever ways to wrap around the projection in the corners and implemented filters to convert 360-degree videos to the different sites.” “Using software from VIOSO throughout this project gave both Viscon and the customer a great deal of security, especially in future software
The CAVE meeting room can be used for everything from corporate presentations to 360-degree simulations
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support,” adds Mölders. “The software is a lot easier to use than it first appears, to the point where the customer can understand the functionality and workspace very quickly. For this reason, the hardware in our projects becomes less important, because the software should be able to handle whatever is thrown at it.” Viscon decided to use four Barco F50 WQXGA (2,560 x 1,600px) units to cover the holodeck – one for each wall – and a single Panasonic Laser
“I think the holodeck project was one that provided a great deal of challenges as it evolved, but the finished product is a sight to behold” Benjamin Fritsch, VIOSO
WUXGA (1,920 x 1,200px) to cover the table surface. This impressive visual arsenal was complemented by a 5.1 surround Genelec audio system. “Being an independent system integrator is great for us, as it gives us the freedom to choose the most suitable partners for each individual project,” says Mölders. “We are very happy to have VIOSO as our server and software partner on the EPG holodeck. Using the whole software package from VIOSO has given the customer (and us) security, especially in future software support.” Fritsch agrees: “I think the holodeck project was one that provided a great deal of challenges as it evolved, but the finished product is a sight to behold. We are very grateful to work with both Viscon and EPG, and we will continue to work alongside them to ensure our technology is being used to its fullest potential. Seeing the holodeck’s continuous usage today makes us very proud.”
Full stream ahead After being one of the first universities to produce content in HD, University of Manchester has continued this legacy of innovation by live streaming graduation ceremonies in Ultra HD
fter three or more years of hard work, it’s no surprise that students want to share their graduation celebrations with their friends and family. For the University of Manchester, which has a student population hailing from 160 countries, live streaming graduations across the globe has provided a fantastic opportunity for relatives to participate from wherever they are. Twice a year, the university’s Media Services team delivers live coverage of more than 40 ceremonies in the summer and 25 in the winter which are streamed via the university’s YouTube channel. For the most recent set of graduations, the team took on the challenge of not only producing its coverage, but also streaming in Ultra HD. Media production co-ordinator, Scott O’Neil, explains more about the solution the team selected to help them deliver to such a high standard. “Media Services is a central support team for the entire university and our work is incredibly varied; from producing content to supplement lectures and distance learning in our in-house studio facilities, to travelling with research teams all over the world to capture their work, as well as producing promotional videos to attract the next generation of students. “Naturally, working for such a prestigious institution, high production values are crucial. But, of course, we always have to be mindful of budgets and making sure all of the equipment is working as hard as it possibly can. “The university’s graduation ceremonies have always been a keystone in our production calendar. Ten years ago, we were one of the first universities to produce content in HD, and we’ve taken incremental steps towards Ultra HD. That has meant considering a live video solution that can handle the higher resolution workflow with minimal delay, and can also deliver consistently throughout the two full weeks [of ceremonies]. “All of the ceremonies take place in Whitworth Hall, a
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grade II listed, wooden-panelled, neo Gothic building that seats up to 600 people. Even then, space is at a premium, so we also have an overspill area set up with monitors showing the live feed from inside the hall.” “It’s always tricky to design and implement AV setup in older buildings and it can require some clever thinking. One advantage we do have is the mezzanine level above the main stage. This is where we located our broadcast gallery, streaming desk and a top down camera position covering the speakers on stage. “We also have a raised podium position to the side of the stage, which houses two more manned camera positions. These do the heavy lifting during the ceremony, capturing the moment each student walks up to collect their degree and reactions from the audience. Our fourth camera is positioned at the back of the hall, which gives us a nice wide angle shot. “We use B4 optics on three out of four camera positions, and use the Atem Camera Control for our CCU to manage colour. “We made the decision to use optical fibre, which helps reduce cabling around the venue, while maintaining a stable pathway for Ultra HD signal transmission as well as talkback, tally and comms through to the broadcast gallery. “The team produces a live mix for YouTube using a purpose-built portable production unit based on an Atem 4 M/E Broadcast Studio 4K and Atem 1 M/E Advanced Panel. The streams follow a similar editorial structure and we book-end each one with some of our pre-recorded promotional videos about the university. “As well as the Ultra HD stream, we also create copies of the final program mix using the Blackmagic Duplicator 4K, which we then make available to parents and family. Previously we would head back to the studio, create a DVD edit for each of the ceremonies, so the process was really intensive. The SD cards have proven incredibly popular.”
THE TECH GUIDE
A selection of some of the latest AV products and solutions now available to the market
Optoma Product type: Ultra-short-throw projector Target market: Retail, corporate, education What does it do? The 5000-lumen full HD 1080p ZH500UST features a media player and office viewer functionality built-in, meaning presentations can be played without the need for a laptop or PC. There is also a signage mode for automatic content playback. The installation flexibility of the projector is suited to areas with restricted access – such as shop windows or retail displays. Supporting 24/7 operation and versatile orientation, including portrait mode and downward projection, the ZH500UST also has four corner adjustment enabling users to individually warp each corner of the image to create a perfectly square image. This is ideal for image stacking, uneven walls or where projector placement is awkward and needs to be installed at an angle. What’s new? Optoma claims that the ZH500UST is its lightest and brightest DuraCore laser ultra-short-throw projector. It is also the lightest projector in its category, weighing 5.7kg it can be ceiling mounted less than half a metre away from a wall or shop window to project an image size of over 100in (254cm). Perfect for? Retail, digital signage and complex installations that need lights-on projection. Available: Now More info at: www.optoma.co.uk
Product type: Vocal mic Target market: Live events What does it do? The 2028 has been designed to provide the same sound as the handheld 4018 VL. It has also been optimised, like the 4018, for the live stage but at a lower price point. What’s new? The 2028 features a new fixed-position capsule, as well as a specially designed shock-mount and pop filter. It exhibits a supercardioid polar pattern with uniform off-axis response. This gives the microphone a very high-gain-before-feedback and makes it easier to handle bleed from other instruments in close proximity. With the expected wear-and-tear that comes with live performances, both the outer grille and the inner pop filter of the 2028 can be detached and rinsed. The 2028 is offered in three variants; a wired XLR with handle and two wireless mic configurations that are compatible with the industry’s most widely used wireless microphone systems. Perfect for? All types of vocals, from indie artists to international touring singers. Available: Now More info at: www.dpamicrophones.com
TECH GUIDE Annotation PRO
PixelFLEX Product type: LED video Target market: Rental/staging What does it do? According to PixelFLEX, FLEXUltra XT offers unparalleled design potential for any live production with its ultra-highresolution pixel pitch options, all-in-one optional ground support system and the impact-resistant PixelShield protective technology. What’s new? With each panel designed in a 16:9 ratio, FLEXUltra LED is available in 1.5mm, 1.9mm and 2.5mm pixel pitch options. Additionally, the front serviceable modules make it easy to keep each panel looking its best, and the easy Z-Axis adjustments guarantee a seamless screen. Utilising magnetic connections and auto-locks, the FLEXUltra XT turns vertical rigging into a one-person job, and the optional ground support system is complete with built-in levels and self-leveling footers. Perfect for? Any live production Available: Now More info at: www.pixelflexled.com
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Product type: Annotation system Target market: AV and broadcast What does it do? Annotation PRO is William AV’s next-generation annotation system designed for the professional AV and broadcast markets. With the enhanced broadcast graphics capabilities of the NVIDA processor, the Annotation PRO provides graphical annotation overlays that are designed to provide brilliant detail, crisp colours and sharp images. What’s new? The Annotation PRO is built on a NVIDA Pascal GPU system architecture with 256 NVIDIA CUDA cores, and can deliver real-time video processing with less than two frames of latency. The embedded software application runs on a Linux OS and offers upgrade possibilities that are unavailable in a hardware-based FPGA or ASIC solutions. With two digital video inputs, a HDMI and USB 3.0 video, and PIP (Picture-In-Picture) capabilities, the system can be configured to support many different dual video output viewing configurations such as near-end/far-end video, people and content, judge and defendant, and so on. The USB 3.0 can also be configured for video capture applications. Perfect for? Anyone who wants to add annotation to their professional 4K video designs Available: Now More info at: www.williamsav.com
NEC Display Solutions Europe Product type: LCD laser projector Target market: Education, corporate, visitor attractions, retail What does it do? NEC’s new PA703UL laser projector has been engineered for organisations that need reliable, high-performance projection, especially in hard-to-reach areas such as ceilings. What’s new? With a completely sealed light engine and filter-free operation, the PA703UL requires no lamp replacement and significantly less-frequent cleaning, eliminating device downtime and saving significant costs over its lifetime. Billed as an ‘install and forget’ projector, it also ensures stable picture quality, with colour reproduction and brightness output unaffected by incoming dust. The device features hassle-free remote adjustment with a wide range of interchangeable lenses, motorised lens shift, focus and zoom for fast and simple set-up without the need for physical access. Perfect for? University auditoriums, corporate conferencing rooms, museum installations, amusement parks and digital signage applications Available: Now More info at: www.nec-display-solutions.com
Product type: Enterprise room solution Target market: Corporate What does it do? Teamline gives enterprise users all they need to join Microsoft Teams, Skype for Business, Cisco Webex, Zoom, BlueJeans and StarLeaf meetings all from one agnostic meeting room solution built for Microsoft UC. What’s new? MultiJoin transforms any Teamlineequipped meeting room into a platform-agnostic collaboration space. This gives users a direct and easy way to join Microsoft Teams, Skype for Business, Cisco Webex, Zoom, BlueJeans and StarLeaf meetings. The announcement by Microsoft that it will end of life Skype for Business Online in 2021 requires the enterprise to migrate to Microsoft Teams or to reconsider its options. This raises the question of what to do about meeting rooms. By delivering an agnostic meeting room system the enterprise can transition from Skype for Business at its own pace, without impacting users, ripping out meeting room systems or increasing costs. Perfect for? Organisations migrating to Microsoft teams and other platforms Available: Now More info at: www.teamline.com
LOGITECH ROOM SOLUTIONS FOR GOOGLE MEET Mark Childerhouse, sales director at Pioneer Group, espouses the usability benefits of this range of Google Meet solutions
What environments do you typically install Logitech Room Solutions for Google Meet? This is the perfect meeting or huddle room product for businesses using the Google 365 platform. It’s the most advanced of the Google Meet solutions for the meeting space so far and its available in small, medium and large configurations. Using different infrastructure options the Logitech Room Solutions for Google Meet come preconfigured with a Google-approved Chromebox, a Logitech conferencecam, a Chromebox mount with cable retention, and the Logitech Tap touch controller. Why do you specify this product over competitor offerings? This is a product from Logitech with direct collaboration from Google. It’s been created by two of the world’s foremost technology companies who are continuously developing the future of videoconferencing. If you use Google Meet, then this will be a seamless experience for your meeting, which is as intuitive on your device, as it is on your desktop.
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What are the most impressive elements of its feature set? The star component of the suite is the Rally Camera. It features a 4K sensor and PTZ, plus USB connectivity to ensure it’s compatible with every leading videoconferencing software platform with no additional software required. It also uses the Logitech RightSight camera control, which automatically moves and adjusts the lens to frame participants regardless of the room size, as well as Logitech RightLight technology to optimise light balance. The camera can be used on its own as an independent USB camera or integrated with a range of Rally accessories, such as microphone pods, wall speakers, mounting kits and a clever cable management solution. Bundled together to make the perfect out-of-the-box solutions for small, medium and large meeting rooms, the Room Solution can connect to your call at a single touch. What elements of the feature set make your job easier? Systems arrive ready for installation, so
our teams can quickly configure bundles and do multiple rooms on site in a day. The fact that the previous Logitech and Google products are similar in their controls will help users to quickly familiarise themselves. The products are also designed for the Google Meet ecosystem, which easily integrate into the existing IT backbone. If an updated version of this product was to be released, what upgrades would you like to see? These products are perfectly crafted for how people choose to collaborate now. As most meetings are between two people with remote participants, its set-up is easy and quick to use preventing wasted time at the start of the meeting. The area which will develop rapidly will be the software elements of the product, which will reflect the development of the consumer market in audio and picture quality.
BATTLE OF THE BRANDS
Sounds good Conferencing mics have come a long way in a few years, offering a more intuitive and high-quality experience than previously. We take a look at some of the latest offerings on the market
When it comes to conference rooms and meeting spaces, audio quality and intelligibility is key. Poor audio quality can make meetings more inefficient, increase participant fatigue and create a negative impression of your business to those on the far end of the call. Of course there’s no one size fits all when it comes to finding a microphone that
Company: Audio-Technica Solution: ATUC-IR Sell it to us: The ATUC-IR’s infrared design ensures that signals are confined within the walls of the conference space and can be employed in situations where limitations exist on the use of wired systems, such as in historic buildings. In detail: Suitable for large meetings, this Hybrid Infrared Conference System offers high digital audio quality and features an in-built feedback suppressor. Enhanced IR transmission is secure and tap-proof, ensuring the spoken work does not leave the room – making it suitable for environments where confidentiality is paramount. The ATUC-IRCU hybrid control unit supports up to 300 discussion units (200 wireless and 100 wired). In conjunction
works for you. Aspects such as room shape and size, seating arrangements and architectural features like hard, reverberant surfaces will all have a major impact on how your room sounds and should be taken into account when deciding on the best mic for your needs. Below are just a few of the options currently on the market.
with the ATUC-50CU control unit, it can accommodate large meetings with up to 500 discussion units (200 wireless and 300 wired). Two multi-function buttons on each discussion unit can be shared by two speakers sitting next to each other, or reconfigured for use by the meeting’s chairperson. Participants can be organised into groups with eight customisable LED colours on each discussion unit. It’s also useful for ad hoc meetings as each portable discussion unit can be moved freely whenever needed. Hot-swappable rechargeable batteries give power for up to 13 hours of uninterrupted operation. The compact IR transceiver blends discreetly with walls or ceilings, while extra transceivers can be added to boost range in larger meeting rooms. Available: Now
BATTLE OF THE BRANDS Company: Televic Solution: Confidea T Sell it to us: Designed to be simple to use and install, Confidea T is a family of 10 tabletop units that can be used to provide everything from simple discussion to voting and simultaneous interpretation. A single device can also be used to cover two participants, making them a cost-effective choice. In detail: Designed for both mobile and permanent installations, Confidea T is a scalable table conferencing mic system. Featuring RFID for authentication and identification, it also means the system knows exactly who is seated where, expanding the possibilities in applications with electronic voting or free seating. Devices also feature Pixus Conference Network Technology, which is said to offer high performance, security and redundancy in mission-critical applications. Available: Now
Company: Sennheiser Solution: TeamConnect Ceiling 2 Sell it to us: According to Sennheiser, a single TeamConnect Ceiling 2 can capture a talker’s voice easily within a radius of up to 60sqm, providing improved audio quality for voice and video conferences thanks to its automatic adaptive beamforming technology. In detail: Available flush mounted, ceiling mounted or suspended, TeamConnect Ceiling 2 offers Power-over-Ethernet (PoE) to simplify integration of the ceiling microphone, while an open media control protocol (API) enables individual adjustments. TeamConnect Ceiling 2 uses the latest Audinate chip set to make the day-to-day business of IT managers even easier. The ceiling microphone is fully compatible with the Dante Domain Manager and the microphone can be connected via analogue or digital Dante audio outputs to any conference system. Price and availability: £4,030 – available now
Company: Vaddio Solution: TableMIC Sell it to us: The new TableMIC microphone is designed to deliver professional quality for conferencing. Engineered to reduce distracting noises that arise in the conference room, the TableMIC’s solid metal base construction, acoustical fabric wrap and padded rubber feet diminish table vibration noise that other table microphones might experience. In detail: The top of the TableMIC features a capacitive touch control surface for silent operation.The ability to enable and disable button functionality during configuration can further simplify the user’s videoconferencing experience. With full 360-degree coverage from three unidirectional condenser microphone elements, a single TableMIC is said to provide coverage for most meeting rooms. Each of the three elements in the microphone is equipped with integrated echo cancellation and Digital Signal Processing, including equalisation, filtering and automatic gain control. Available: Now September / October 2019
MEET YOUR INTEGRATOR:
Cinos Jo Ruddock catches up with Steve Franklin, technical director at Cinos, to talk UC and environmental awareness Tell us about Cinos Cinos Limited is an audiovisual integration specialist that has been delivering projects, products and services into all verticals since 2007. The projects we deliver range from equipment supply through to complex integrated systems and fully managed service contracts. From command and control networks, video recording systems and IPTV to video streaming and multimedia distribution, Cinos designs, engineers and project manages customer deployments. Additionally, our regional offices in Europe, North America and Asia allow us to deliver the same high standards on a global scale. You recently folded your UC arm into the core business. What was the thinking behind this? The merger acknowledges the market’s need for IT and AV convergence at the customer level, where AV
assets are increasingly purchased as part of the complete IT solution. We estimate that, with our customer base, we’re now seeing about 85% of procurement of AV sitting with IT as opposed to facilities. Three years ago, this was 50%. We’re adjusting our business to suit our customers’ procurement narrative and the time is right to unite our two specialist teams. What trends are you seeing in the UC sector? Over the past few years we’ve seen a shift from multi-channel to omni-channel in the customer experience sector. Many organisations are looking for a single platform to manage various disparate technologies – as well as the ongoing consumerisation of unified communications (UC). Cloud, in particular Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) has taken centre stage and this is largely being driven by team-based collaboration. Increasingly customers are looking to move straight to a cloud-based service or are being giving guidance to utilise the cloud wherever possible. This naturally steers people towards UCaaS. What we are seeing though is that cloud doesn’t suit everyone, and can create silos of technology, for example messaging, telephony and video can become disjointed. At Cinos
MEET YOUR INTEGRATOR we’re very much of the mindset in building bridges not islands, especially when it comes to collaboration which is all about bringing people together. We’re also seeing a rapid increase in automation, especially in the contact centre market. Businesses are looking to differentiate themselves based on the excellent service they offer to their customers, and the contact centre is their vehicle to deliver that. Automation through AI and chatbot integration, as well as predictive analytics is creating a more proactive environment rather than one that simply reacts to customer demand. Video is evolving too. From the traditional meeting rooms video continues to spill over into huddle spaces and breakout areas. The usage of video is changing too, from real-time meetings to recording, editing and sharing video content on an on-demand basis. Together with the growth in digital signage this creates a powerful combination that enables users to develop their own content, schedule and then manage how and where it is displayed. And are there any technologies that you’re particularly excited about? In our industry we always see new and emerging technologies come onto the market. In recent years the move to IP-based technologies has been a particularly exciting development – enabling what was traditionally complex video and audio routing to be more available and accessible today. There are also opportunities around the merging of AV and UC technologies. From small huddle spaces and breakout areas to auditoriums and lecture halls, there is an opportunity to create truly unique environments that allow staff to concentrate on getting work done rather than worrying about technology challenges. What projects are you particularly proud of? We’re very proud of our strong heritage in the UK public sector, in particular healthcare. We’ve provided communications systems and managed services to several NHS Trusts and acute hospitals – where communications are absolutely vital and down time is simply not an option. Most recently Cinos completed work at the new Royal Papworth Hospital building in Cambridge. Here we designed and installed a new UC platform comprising approximately 2,000 endpoints, across the main hospital and back-office building. Integrations were the key to success, with our service connecting to four separate communications platforms and acting as the central hub, bridging together all of these technologies.
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Cinos seems to have strong ethical and environmental programmes. Tell me a bit about what you’re doing here and why. Cinos is continually striving to reduce our impact on the environment. From consistently assessing our own performance as a business to ensuring the products and solutions we deliver are environmentally friendly, we are always looking for ways to reduce our carbon footprint. As part of this commitment, we are actively working with the National Forest with a goal of planting 2,019 trees in 2019. We genuinely believe by applying small, positive changes we can make a big difference for everyone. Are you facing any specific challenges in the industry? Many organisations stipulate a ‘cloud-first’ strategy, however they aren’t always clear about how and when they want to utilise the cloud – meaning they can often find themselves steering towards a purely UCaaS solution. Our approach is to work with our customers to understand what the driver behind cloud is and how it fits the organisation’s goals. Only then can we help them consume cloud in a way which fits operationally and strategically.
“We’re adjusting our business to suit our customers’ procurement narrative” Steve Franklin
OF AV PROCUREMENT NOW SITS WITH IT AS OPPOSED TO FACILITIES
What are some of the biggest mistakes made by end users when it comes to AV? Cost cutting and not looking at the bigger picture; this includes failing to factor in security and data protection safety nets, as well as assuming that home-based solutions are easily transferable to office environments and not considering the scalability of solutions. Finally, what are Cinos’ plans for the future? The merger represents an exciting time for Cinos, now and in the future. The rapid convergence of networked audiovisual technologies means that AV and IT departments are inevitably moving closer to one another, audiovisual assets are fast becoming IT assets, sharing mutual infrastructure and resources. Our plan is to create more integrations and continue our ethos of building bridges between technology. Whether that is simply bringing customer communications platforms together or helping them devise new ways of working via collaboration-enabled business processes. We will continue to help organisations in the ongoing struggle to provide superior service to their customers. To utilise automation and AI, and to bring true omni-channel and interact intelligently with their customers in a way which suits them.
CINOS Established: 2007 Head office: Surrey, UK Market reach: Global, with offices across the UK, Ireland, the US and Singapore Website: www.cinos.net
MEET YOUR AV MANAGER:
The impressive domed 519sqm Assembly Room can hold up to 600 guests
A hidden gem in the centre of London, Grade II-listed Church House offers a unique event space as well as a fascinating history. Jo Ruddock caught up with AV manager Bradley Hill
Let’s start with a bit of background on Church House. Church House is located in the centre of London, in Dean’s Yard; we have wonderful views over Westminster Abbey and it’s a very tranquil corner of London even though we’re in the heart of Westminster. Originally Church House was built in commemoration of the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria but before World War II it was designed and rebuilt by architect Sir Herbert Baker. During World War II it served as a home for the Houses of Parliament and we hosted the first UN Security Council meeting here. The conference venue itself opened in 1990 and we’ve got 19 event spaces. The largest is the Assembly Hall, a circular room that can hold up to
600 people in a theatre style, and then we have 18 other very versatile spaces. We do a lot of conferences, AGMs, awards dinners, exhibitions and so on. Does the shape of the Assembly Hall make it more of a challenge for the AV setup? Not really, we’ve built a lot of the infrastructure into the building. The challenge sometimes is that you can’t really re-orientate the room. With a rectangular room some people go portrait and some people go landscape, you can’t do that in a circular room. The massive advantage that we have, though, is that the room has seven doors, so it works incredibly well for events like fashion shows. The main Assembly Hall still gets used for the Church of England Synod,
MEET YOUR AV MANAGER so before electronic voting they used to go out of the doors and manually get counted. Now even the Church of England uses an electronic voting system, but we still have all these doors and an internal corridor around it. Between 1941 and 1944 it was used as the Houses of Parliament and House of Lords, even Churchill had an office upstairs, although I gather he didn’t quite like the place because he wasn’t allowed to smoke. How big is the AV team? It’s me plus four other people, so quite niche. I came here about 18 months ago and I just find the space phenomenal. And what about your client base, is there anyone you work with regularly? Our main business is political parties. Recently we’ve been working closely with the Brexit Party, we’ve had the People’s Vote come in here a lot and we’ve had the French Brexit, which was quite entertaining. They booked it for the 29 March and sang the British national anthem at 11 ‘o’ clock, followed by the French anthem when the UK should have been leaving the EU. A lot of government departments come here too, including the Department for International Trade, Cabinet Office, Department for Education. Where we need to grow our business is on the corporate side; that’s my background. Can you describe a typical day? We’re very similar to a hotel. Hotels will book a room from say 8am until 5pm, then they’ll book dinner from 6.30pm until midnight, so the change around gets quite intense. The advantage that I have is I can set up a room with all the technology for that dinner more or less at the same time I do a conference because I just change the lighting states. I think the quickest turnaround I’ve done is 40 minutes and that’s taking it from a standard conference to a quite lavish dinner. A typical day we could probably have 15-20 events happening throughout the building. I do bring in freelancers as we are quite a small team. But when we say we’ve got 19 meeting rooms, four of them can hold 20 people so the support is pretty simple. You may have an event from 9am until 1pm then they’ll go off to another room and do something from 2-6pm, so the rooms are utilised a lot. I do train my guys a lot and my last two employees had never been in the industry before. It was a gamble that I took – they both studied at university doing events and sound and they were more on the technical side, they used to work for a supplier. So I
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thought if you can deal with the fault finding on AV equipment you should be able to actually make it work properly, and quite honestly over the past year they’ve been my best people. I came into the AV industry 23 years ago, I used to be an estate agent. There was a mis-sent fax to the estate agents’ office and the company was looking for people; I’d been in estate agency for 10 years and I hated it. I rang them to let them know the fax had been mis-sent and they asked if anyone there was interested so I read the description and said ‘yes, I am’. In this industry, for me, you don’t really have to have an official qualification, it’s attitude and people who enjoy doing the job. OK, the hours can be quite stressful, clients can be demanding but the end product, it’s entertaining and it’s great, and my guys learn day by day. Do you think hiring from outside of the industry is going to become more common? I look at it in two ways. If you’re a production company or a lighting company and you’re dealing with very large events, conferences, festivals, etc, you do need specialised staff. Nowadays, at Church House we can do full-on events or small, intimate 20 people in a room events. Sometimes if you do a big event it’s going to be 70% technical ability, 30% client handling, and that’s where I come in as I deal with the clients. But if you’re dealing with a small meeting room it’s 70% client handling, 30% technical, because technical is quite simple. So it’s getting that balance of someone who you can put in front of a CEO or director who you feel can converse with them politely. There are good people out there but you have to whittle it down to find someone who’s interested in one minute doing a conference about the price of coffee and the next minute doing the PinkNews Awards. You have to have the boring with the exciting, some people like the boring and some like the exciting, but again it’s about finding that happy medium. Have you standardised your rooms when it comes to the technology within them? A basic room will have a built-in LED screen and a pretty simple conference phone. Bigger rooms will have a mobile PA system, and the main rooms will have state-of-the-art projection. The Assembly Hall has a 6m-wide screen, laser projectors, an Avolites Arena lighting desk that we can control 360 moving heads on. At the moment I’m about 338 short. We have a brilliant switcher that does 4K, and our projectors are 4K, and we have a [NewTek] Tricaster
MEET YOUR AV MANAGER so we can stream everything via the internet – we have built-in cameras. I get a budget every year to upgrade and improve. Now I spend it wisely, on things that give us a return and are practical, not things that just look good. We’re really up to date on our equipment. We use digital mics, all encrypted, so you can’t get any external break-ins – a lot of the government departments like that. I can put as much as I can in the building but I try to make it look sympathetic. AV should be seen when it’s needed and not seen when it’s not needed. We are respectful with the building – it’s owned by the Church of England, it’s basically their HQ. We use about 25% of it, the other 75% is still offices within the corporation. It’s such a flexible space though. We can put bands in there. A lot of venues these days have noise restrictions in place; we did a test recently and we got it up to 110dB and you couldn’t hear anything externally, so as a venue it’s great. We also have in-house caterers so I’m now talking with the chef to see how technology can work with food. You get people coming in with dry ice and it all looks fancy. We have UV lighting here so we’re trying to come up with a dessert that glows a little bit. It’s utilising the caterers and the technology. We’ve had clients where instead of having a menu on the table, we’ve recorded the chef and he talks you through your meal – it’s just doing things slightly differently because we can.
The Hoare Memorial Hall played host to the House of Commons during World War II
CHURCH HOUSE WESTMINSTER IN NUMBERS Rooms: 19 Capacity of largest room: 600 Capacity of smallest room: 6 AV team members: 5 Number of events hosted each year: Over 800
Do you think clients now expect more from their events then maybe a few years ago? That’s a good question. Like everything from my side it’s about understanding the client, what they want to do and how they want to achieve it; coming up with ideas for them. Regarding the other team around me, the event co-ordinators, floor manager and the like, they’re the ones focused on creating a client experience here. We pride ourselves on when clients come back and say ‘that was phenomenal’. We are more personal than a lot of other venues, we spend time getting to know the client and I always try to bring a technician into a client meeting so they get a feel for what the client wants and they can come up with ideas. We’re here to try to make an event memorable. Are there any pieces of AV kit you particularly enjoy working with or you’d like to have at the venue? Lighting does so much to an event. It gives you an experience. I’ve used modern day lighting, I’ve even bought back lasers on some occasions; they can do wonders. It’s fun, especially when you do an awards.
GETTING TO KNOW YOU
Getting to Know: John Storey, director of R&D, Datapath
Tell me a bit about your background. I began my career at the research labs of Kodak, working in a small, and at the time radical, digital imaging department. That gave me a great appreciation of what high-quality imaging really means, and inadvertently taught me to be continually aware of the impact new technologies can have on businesses and markets! I have since worked in areas such as virtual reality and some of the earliest desktop video, with some fun interludes that took me back to my physics roots, such as assisting in the development of holographic displays and LED illumination modules for projectors. I joined Datapath in 2003 as a hardware engineer and have been involved in helping to define their product strategy for some time. Do you expect demand for ever-greater resolution images to continue, and is 8K part of your roadmap? Yes, 8K will make its way into high-end applications, and will likely trigger completely new use cases. It would be short-sighted to consider 8K as simply 4K with four times the pixels! I also believe that 8K will definitively seal the debate about video distribution. My bet is on high bandwidth IP-based networking and we are ensuring that our own VoIP solutions are well prepared. Of course, very high resolutions are not new to Datapath; for example, our latest video wall products are able to support six times the resolution of an 8K signal. That’s almost a 200 million-pixel Windows 10 desktop! Reducing environmental impact is a major consideration for many end users these days. How is this affecting product development at Datapath? Great question. As a manufacturer, we aim to build
the most effective and efficient products, which includes minimum power consumption for our hardware. As an example, our next generation graphics solution will halve the power requirement while providing considerably higher performance. For a 24/7 application, that can mean a big difference. It also has the advantage of minimising the cooling requirements and hence the operational noise. More needs to be done, however, and as an industry we must all play a part. Even small initiatives such as Datapath holding more stock in more locations can make a big impact on the CO2 footprint of our global export market, by allowing us more scope to use sea shipments rather than air-freight to replenish stocks. Outside of work how do you like to spend your time? My enduring love of a good image does not stop at the office door. I am an enthusiastic art lover and tend to gravitate to galleries wherever I find myself. I am also an amateur artist and have recently decided that if creating art on an iPad is good enough for David Hockney, it’s good enough for me! It is remarkably liberating to know you can undo that particularly over-exuberant watercolour daub with a flick of the finger, and it also means I can take my ‘art supplies’ with me wherever I go. I have several sketches of the lights of the RAI on rain-soaked streets during ISE, or the palm trees at InfoComm to prove it! Finally, tell us something about yourself that may surprise people… I have always been engaged in the practical side of product development, so it always surprises me that I have 13 patents to my name! I have been fortunate to have been involved in some really interesting developments over the years, from image processing to holography and VR head tracking.
VR Means Business. "It's a sight to behold..." VR is transforming how enterprises unlock innovation. The world's first VR CAVE meeting room...
Published on Sep 13, 2019
VR Means Business. "It's a sight to behold..." VR is transforming how enterprises unlock innovation. The world's first VR CAVE meeting room...