AV Technology Europe
November/December 2018 avtechnologyeurope.com
AVIXA CELEBRATES FIRST YEAR ANNIVERSARY THE EVOLUTION OF VIDEO CONFERENCING STRICTLY OFF LIMITS: AVTE GOES DANCING ROOM SCHEDULING MADE SIMPLE SPECIAL REPORT: MENTAL HEALTH RICOH GETS SERIOUS ABOUT AV
AV BRINGS NEW LIFE TO FUNERAL SERVICES "Anything you'd see in a modern office, Or meeting room can be found here" AV reinvents the funeral experience for mourners at Mount Jerome crematorium in Dublin (...and leaves its competitors in its wake)
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Michael Garwood, Editor
ANOTHER ONE BITES THE DUST
ello and welcome to the final issue of AVTE for 2018. It’s been a great year and we’re ending it with a bang. Through the next 70-plus pages, we’ve put together an incredibly mixed bag of interesting, insightful and at times surprising content, all written exclusively for you – the end user – to enjoy and hopefully learn a thing or two. Highlights include an interview with Ricoh, discussing how the tech-giant plans to become a leading player in the UK and European AV market for the first time, plus how it’s adopting a rather unique approach to market, which not everyone will be happy about. We also spoke with AVIXA’s (jet lagged) CEO, David Labuskes, who was celebrating AVIXA’s first year anniversary since re-branding from InfoComm. As you can see from our front cover, we also took a look at how an AV upgrade at Mount Jerome Cemetery and Crematorium in Dublin is using tech you’d typically find in a meeting room to help streamline its funeral services, create a more personable experience for those in attendance and – from a business level – help to differentiate itself from its rivals. Beyond that, we take a look at meeting room scheduling technology and the benefits (not all of them obvious) it can provide when booking that all important meeting room (the days of empty booked out rooms could be over). Alongside that, we also take a look at the evolution of video conferencing (did you know the first public video call was in 1936?). Plus we’ve a special bumper feature on what it takes to create the BBC’s Saturday night juggernaut, Strictly Come Dancing, having received an access all areas tour and pass to Elstree Studios. I said it was a mixed bag.
Healthy body healthy mind However arguably the most important article featured in these pages – and possibly the most important thing you read today – isn’t specifically related to the AV industry at all. In a special report, we look at the subject of mental health at work. The discussion around the topic has become less taboo in recent times, but from our conversations with various mental health charities and experts, it’s clear there is still work to be done when it comes to the workplace. Incredibly, it’s estimated that 15 in every 100 people at work are struggling with their mental health. Think about that for a second. Have a look around. Could you spot the signs of someone struggling with their mental health? Would you know how to approach the subject with them or what help to provide? Does your company even take the matter seriously, thinking (wrongly) it’s not relevant? Could someone’s poor mental health even be your fault? Thankfully, the number of companies requesting training and advice to tackle such matters is increasing. Sadly however, many of those companies do so in response to incidents – sometimes fatal – from within their own workforce. Did you know the biggest killer of men aged between 18-45 is suicide? Do you have a culture that encourages people to speak up, or suffer in silence? Financially the impact to UK businesses is estimated to be around £42 billion a year as a result of staff being unfit to work, absent or leaving (sometimes sacked). Can you afford to ignore it? We explore ways to help businesses not only help their employees, but also themselves. Peoples futures could depend on it. Thanks for your continued support. Enjoy! Michael Garwood
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A NEW OLD FACE IN AV
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Exclusive: Ricoh reveals its plans for a major assault on the UK and European AV market, playing the unique role of both manufacturer and integrator for end users
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IN FOCUS: SCHEDULING
Meetings – every business has them, but booking and managing a meeting room can be a chaotic and frustrating experience. But it doesn’t have to be. We explore how
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COVER STORY: AVTE speaks to Dublin’s Mount Jerome crematorium and cemetery to learn how AV is helping to transform funeral experiences for mourners and leaving its competitors in its wake
IT’S OK, NOT TO BE OK: In a break from our usual AV coverage, we take a look at the crucial role, responsibility and need for businesses to monitor and manage the mental health of their employees
AVIXA, ONE YEAR ON: On the anniversary of AVIXA’s historic re-brand from InfoComm, its CEO David Labuskes reviews the year that was, plus previews its plans to further enhance support to the AV industry in 2019
STRICTLY OFF LIMITS: Armed with an access all areas back stage pass, AVTE waltzed into Elstree Studios for a behind the scenes tech tour of BBC’s headline Saturday night live TV show, Strictly Come Dancing
6 Industry Insights 46 Magnificent Seven
52 Eye on Recruitment 53 Tech Guide 5
AUTOMATED COLLABORATION Artificial intelligence has real-world potential in unified communications for enterprise
responsibilities and giving them time to rtificial intelligence (AI) is a broadly brainstorm. In addition, AI is making strides in improving used term to define machines that audio conferencing quality. With new capabilities, can continue to learn and improve audio processing technology can learn what audio their algorithms without human data is unwanted in an audio stream, such as input. Perhaps the most commonly background noise, detect it when it occurs, and recognised example is virtual assistant devices such eliminate it from the conversation. This ensures a as Alexa, which is now able to understand 90 per clear, accurate, and productive conference without cent of the conversation around it. AI is even distractions and disruptions. responsible for the computation happening behind As algorithms continue to be refined, AI-based the scenes within Salesforce, Facebook, Google, audio and video technology will and other online platforms. In be able to further their ability 2017, businesses spent $12.5 to learn and understand the billion on AI systems, and nuances of human language for analysts expect that number “AI will provide improved voice-to-text will grow by 54.4 per cent many automated applications. In meeting through 2020. That’s because benefits for applications, headway is new programming techniques, being made in this area, algorithms, and computational collaboration. This already allowing conferencing systems languages are allowing includes AI to identify speakers and their computers to cross new thresholds in self learning and assistants that can voices through voice imprint technology. Now the AI self-teaching, driving new start meetings” assistants in these systems can innovations with untold take notes and transcribe the potential, especially within conversation, eliminating the enterprise collaboration. need for human-based services. Currently, AI will provide Plus, it can deliver the transcription with vital many automated benefits for collaboration. This information highlighted and create a list of action includes AI assistants that can start meetings, mute items for participants. This represents a valuable, microphones, reset the system when the conference more cost-efficient content stream for companies concludes, and schedule future meetings. Participants never have to touch a button for and improves productivity. these tasks. This not only simplifies and There are a lot of industry predictions about AI, streamlines the collaboration process, but it also some of which are more realistic than others. In eliminates the hassle of training participants on the coming year it’s expected that more than 10 how to operate various devices and applications per cent of IT department’s customer service staff while allowing them to focus on their primary will be devoted to writing scripts for robots. These Writtn by Phil Marechal, vice president, product management and business development, Yamaha UC
scripts will allow businesses to automate the more mundane parts of customer service, leaving AI machines, rather than humans, to handle simple
“In the future, AI will make it even easier to have meetings where every component is automoated and participants never have to lift a finger to start, manage or end a meeting” tasks such as travel reservations, banking, and more. Another example is teaching how to connect a new user to a collaboration meeting with a computer and AI can help guide the user without human intervention. In the future, AI will make it even easier to have meetings where every component is automated
and participants never have to lift a finger to start, manage or end a meeting. Virtual reality will also be part of this development, providing participants with the capability to insert 3D objects such as products, spreadsheets, or even dynamic, real-time data into the meeting video stream and analyse them in new, deeper ways. The companies that are able to harness the power of machine learning data in order to create a more natural interaction with people over time and distance will ultimately create a richer, more collaborative experience. We live in very complicated information structures. AI isn’t going to address every component of a meeting perfectly, but the tradeoff is an algorithm that gives users a fairly high calculation that, in most instances, a human couldn’t replicate each and every time. Currently, that means that companies can use the technology to address and improve their long-term IT and collaboration needs. When it comes to improving the user experience and opening up new business opportunities, the industry is only at the beginning of the imagination of what AI could accomplish.
BASIC VIDEO CONFERENCING IS SO 2018 Look ahead to see why businesses who embrace multi-stream content collaboration will prosper
or many of us inside the decisions and create problems for teams further communications technology industry, down the road. we’re at the point now where video calls Yet there is a larger confluence of events driving are the norm. Setting aside how many a shift in the way teams work productively ‘video muters’ treat video calls as an together. These trends are pushing leaders to audio bridge, there’s a larger issue to consider, one re-examine how their workforce is equipped to where the perception of videoconferencing optimise performance and engagement. The generally sucks (as noted recently at Wired). While notions these leaders have about what videoconferencing excels at connecting people, it’s videoconferencing is, and the needs it fulfils, will still an underperforming tool for collaborating and evolve in 2019. getting real work done. We can see and hear each other, however we still seem to struggle when it 1. The exponential growth of data comes to sharing and seeing The volume of data accessible to us has outstripped our each other’s work. According to HBR, the ability to effectively present “Now’s the time to and manage it, especially in number of data sources that think beyond basic meetings. Maps, analytics, typical organisations use for making decisions can range social media, and both video conferencing from five to more than 15. structured and unstructured and build towards data must all be considered In a typical meeting, more advanced collaborators will bring at least when decisions need to be one piece of data to the table. made and work needs to get solutions to enable Most video conferencing done. Instead of presenting more effective ways data slide by slide, we need to solutions, however, will limit how much content can be visualise data side by side so of working” we can more easily compare, shared to a single stream from a single device. cross-reference, and consider Software platforms like our options. Zoom and Skype (see page 46) follow the model of sharing one person’s connected device at a time, 2. The multi-location workforce as do standards-based room endpoints from The workforce is increasingly more mobile and makers like Cisco and Polycom. Collaborative more distributed. The most effective organisations workflows are hobbled as people are forced to bring teams together based on their ability to pass the ball (or dongle). This process is inefficient contribute to a project or situation, and not based at best, but the technical hurdles and meeting on their location. Global teams need the ability to interruptions can also actively discourage people work together like they’re in the same room. This from sharing. This can lead to uninformed means sharing content virtually should be as easy
Written by David King, VP product strategy, Oblong Industries
as sharing content around a table. Virtual meetings should allow everyone to share what they need to share, when they need to share so collaboration flows at the speed of conversation. 3. The millennial wave Today, 40 per cent of the workforce is made up of millennials. Within 10 years the number will rise to 75 per cent. This generation of digital natives is not bound by the limitations of traditional workplace paradigms. If they’re not able to contribute to a meeting, they’ll disengage. If the technology provided is having issues, they’ll find alternatives. If they’re bored in the workplace environment, they’ll go elsewhere. They need collaboration technologies that are
truly intuitive, exhilarating, and enabling. They need technology that works easily every time and use their preferred device from anywhere. Now’s the time to think beyond basic videoconferencing and build towards more advanced solutions to enable more effective and agile ways of working. The video teleconferencing systems proliferating in meeting rooms may be getting good use, but there is clear room for improvement. Your most critical meetings are exactly the wrong time to force people to take turns to share knowledge. With multi-stream collaboration and a great UI, meetings flow more naturally, insights are surfaced more seamlessly, and collaborators are more engaged.
“If they’re not able to contribute to a meeting, they’ll disengage”
DON’T LET THE AV DOMINATE THE DISCUSSION
Reliability key to maximising meetings
nvesting in an AV conferencing solution is a but will often have no idea how to fix the problem, major undertaking for enterprises, and yet while at the far end, the listener will be no matter how much is spent on the latest concentrating so much on trying to decipher software and hardware, user uptake can still individual words, they’ll miss the overall point of be slow. This is often because of recurring the call. issues with sound and image quality, the Now let’s turn that scenario on its head; the perception that setup time is too long, and users initial call with a potential client is scheduled, the being wary of technology that they feel will hinder, pitch is fine-tuned and the user is confident that rather than help, them do their jobs. the AV conferencing equipment will work without Indeed, we’ve all been in the situation where having to call in tech support. Immediately, that’s we’ve tried to make an AV conference call only to one less thing to worry about in what can be a experience interrupted audio stressful situation. The call and poor image quality. On a begins and the conversation is call with a colleague this is immediate, natural and “Their experience frustrating, but when interactive – the talker’s voice communicating with clients or is able to come through with should be intuitive, pitching to potential new all of its power and reliable and clients, the effect can be much conversation can flow. productive to the more serious and give a lasting This is the effect of having poor impression of a company. the right technology: it point where they It can be hard to overcome empowers talkers as they enjoy AV calls and see know that they can be heard these perceptions of AV conferencing calls as hindering and they won’t have to repeat true value in them productivity but, with the right key points or speak in an over other means of technology, getting buy in from unnatural way in order to be colleagues and increasing user understood. And this is a communication” uptake is a natural outcome. crucial point about technology: Imagine a scenario where a it needs to work with users, colleague has managed to not against them. Users schedule a call with a potential new client they’ve shouldn’t have to focus on employing good been chasing for months. Now imagine the call microphone technique, or wonder whether they’ll starts and is immediately plagued by low-quality still be heard if they decide to present from a audio meaning neither side is able to fully central display rather than at a table, close to a understand what the other is saying. In this mic. Their experience should be intuitive, reliable situation it’s impossible to be fully engaged with and productive to the point where they enjoy AV what is being said. The talker will almost certainly calls and see true value in them over other means be aware that they are not coming across clearly of communication. Once an organisation reaches
Written by James Hill, Shure UK director, integrated systems sales
this level of AV conferencing, not only will clients have a better impression of your business, but employees will be able to perform better and focus on winning those new clients. The best technology is so effective and so unobtrusive that those using it simply don’t have to think about it, they just understand that it works. It’s here that ceiling arrays such as the Shure Microflex Advance MXA910 can have a major impact on user experience, enabling users to talk, move and act naturally without having to accommodate the technology around them,
meaning the focus is entirely on the talker’s voice. This simplicity for the user in turn increases uptake, a key marker of success in any AV install. In the end, good corporate communication is about enabling your voice to be heard and ensuring other people perceive you in a positive manner. If you want the full impact of your company’s message to be heard by customers, employees, suppliers, partners and peers then you need to pay attention to audio and invest in a positive user experience. www.shure.com
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The Visionaries Choice 01/03/2018 10:46
AV BREATHES NEW LIFE INTO THE FUNERAL EXPERIENCE Mount Jerome crematorium in Dublin is helping mourners – wherever they may be in the world – to celebrate the lives of people they’ve lost using a mix of AV technology that wouldn’t look out of place in a corporate boardroom
s Benjamin Franklin famously wrote in 1789, in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes. And whilst the latter has the potential to be sidestepped (Google, Vodafone, Facebook we’re looking at you), the former is (for now at least), sadly inevitable. With over 55.3 million people dying every year (equivalent to 151,600 per day), human burials and cremations – as crude and as insensitive as it might sound out loud – provides some significant business opportunities. And like any business, there is competition and a need to differentiate. That’s where AV steps in. Based in Harrold’s Cross, located on the Southside of Dublin is Mount Jerome Cemetery and Crematorium. With a history dating back to 1836 and more than 220,000 funerals and 24,000 cremations under its belt, the
<Above: One of three AV upgraded chapels
<Above left: A wide angled camera to provide real time, live streaming of services via Skype
venue – which has three separate chapels – is viewed as one of the most advanced and forward thinking of its kind in Ireland when it comes to utilising modern technology. Whilst retaining a traditional, comfortable and respectful environment, the technology found in each of the chapels (Victorian, Garden and Angels) could have been lifted straight out of any modern office meeting room – with displays and functionality for professional video calling, audio (including speakers, microphones), music and video streaming and lighting – all controlled and programmed ahead of and during services (more on this shortly). The vision behind the project comes from its proprietor Alan Massey, who wanted to harness the use of AV technology to enhance the experience of its services to 200,000 plus people that visit its chapels each year. The upgrade process began in 2012, with Massey working alongside George Groom, who died in 2016. Since then Niall Duggan, technical division manager at integration specialist firm McKeon Group has lead the upgrade.
FEELING THE HEAT In 2014, Mount Jerome became the first Irish crematorium in Ireland to invest in a brand new heating system that allows it to recycle waste heat from the cremation process to heat its crematorium buildings. The move sees water heated and then passed through pipes for underfloor heating. The recycled heat helps to create a warm and welcoming environment at the crematorium. The entire process can be controlled and managed using a Crestron touchpanel. In addition, the installation of a new Crestron-controlled LED lighting system allows the owners to monitor energy-usage, while ensuring that lighting pre-sets automatically switch off the lights when the venue is unoccupied or not in use.
“George started this journey and I was brought in to finish it, so he deserves huge credit,” explained Duggan. “Mount Jerome is a unique case. The perception for most people when thinking about a crematorium is likely to conjure up memories or images of a rather cold, sad and sombre environment. For many venues, that’s probably a fair description. But for Mount Jerome, that couldn’t be more different. Alan’s [Massey] vision was to help provide a warm and respectful environment with the functionality to turn a sad situation into a more joyous one and celebrate the life of the deceased. “Anything that you would see in a modern workplace or office meeting or board room, he’s put it into the chapel so that he can give his clients any option that they want.” Prior to joining McKeon Group in 2015, Duggan had spent eight years with Crestron, whose technology plays a prominent and dominant role in achieving Alan’s ambitions and satisfying the needs of the 200,000 plus visitors attending its various services each year. Bringing it to life Each chapel includes a 65-inch display – located behind the alters and positioned next to where the coffin is placed. Eight-inch cabinet speakers (12 in main chapel) and pendent variants also feature prominently in each venue to provide a professional PA system and a consistent high quality audio experience throughout. “It started off small, with a TV behind the coffin behind the altar,” said Duggan. “From a TV behind the alter, it then turned into something much bigger. The TV part is not anything hugely new or unique. Many people will have visited a crematorium before and seen a display in the room. It’s the add ons and what you can’t see that make this a more unique experience.” To achieve that unique experience, each chapel is fitted with a Crestron Digital Media Presentation System (DMPS) which allows for the presentation of music, video and images in varying formats provided or suggested by visitors (friends and family) to be played and displayed during a service. Using Crestron AirMedia, guests can bring visuals (photos,
videos) housed on their on their own device (mobile, tablet) and connect directly to the system wirelesly. All images are scaled automatically to fit the presentation screen, removing the risk of unflattering stretched out visuals. For those that have attended a funeral, music often plays a personable role before (walking in), during and after a service (curtains closing and departure). Traditionally, tracks would be selected and played from either a CD or from a USB stick attached to a computer. However, families are now able to select their own tracks (ahead of the funeral), which are then found, selected and streamed via an iTunes account. “It sounds simple, but it can make a big difference to friends and families,” said Duggan. “It’s an extra service that just makes things a bit more special.” To facilitate this, each chapel uses a Crestron streaming music player and Digital Signal Processor (DSP). The DSP allows for the processing, mixing and routing of all audio sources including microphones, organs. All welcome Live streaming and Skype Video Conferencing is also available, allowing those who cannot physically attend a funeral the ability to view proceedings or even say a few words via the two cameras installed on site. Two cameras are set up, a wide angle at the back of the room and one attached to the display facing the audience, whilst the audio feed from the room is fed through to ensure the highest possible quality. “During the booking, the families of the deceased will be asked if they have any relatives abroad or anyone that would like to attend but can’t for whatever reason,” explained Duggan. “They will request their Skype address and the ushers in the chapel will then invite them to join a Skype call around 20 minutes before the service begins and check to make sure they can hear and see everything. “Alan then took it another step and added the option for the person on the end of the Skype call to be put onto the big screen behind the altar so that they can (if they choose to) address those in the audience or say a few words.” He continued: “I recently attended a funeral at Mount Jerome, so I got to see things from the other side. My sister is living in Seattle and couldn’t make it back. so, instead she was able to Skype in and see and experience the whole service from her computer. It’s a great option to have.” Massey added: “Families love how easy it is for them to host funerals on Skype and to have a remote family member address the congregation.”
<Above: Out of sight - the chapels are crammed with AV technology, but remain hidden from view
Standing room only In addition, in the event of a funeral being oversubscribed each of the three chapels has an outdoor speaker, and for very large funerals, the service can be streamed (powered by a Crestron Digital Graphics Engine 200) into its onsite coffee shop, which includes a 40 inch touch screen display and an additional viewpoint of proceedings.” All aspects of the funeral service are controlled and managed using a Crestron TSW 750 touch panel – primarily through a selection of pre-programmed ‘scenes’. Operators can select from a variety of scenes to automatically alter the lighting, open or close the coffin curtain and adjust the HVAC (Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning - see box out). The pre-set scenes are designed to make the funeral service run with ease and minimise the risk of human error, with scenes suited to different stages of the service, for example ‘Chapel Ready’ and ‘Service Complete’. “At the height, Mount Jerome can do 16-20 services a day, so it’s essential that everything is able to be prepared and ready to go to avoid delays or any awkward disruptions or error during a service,” explained Duggan, wrapping up. “At the end of the day it’s a business and Alan has invested heavily in it to give his clients the best experience possible in the circumstances and to stand above the rest. He’s achieved just that.” In memory of George Groom
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THE BIG INTERVIEW
RICOH: A New Old Face in AV Let battle commence: Ricoh readies its armoury for a major assault on the UK and European AV market for the first time – and it’s not here just to make up the numbers
ur ambition is to become the biggest AV manufacturer in the world.” As opening statements for interviews go, this was as a bold as it was surprising. But for Oscar Mellegers, who has been with Ricoh for over 13 years – its head of marketing since 2016 – there was not a hint of doubt nor regret over such a statement to a reporter armed with a notepad and recorder. In such a competitive market place, this is no easy feat and something many more established AV brands may potentially even dismiss outright as PR. After all, Ricoh is a brand – by its own recognition – that’s “not best known” for its AV business. It’s one thing to talk the talk (many have and failed), but it’s another thing to walk it. But Ricoh – headquartered in Tokyo – doesn’t make such statements lightly, Mellegers explained. With a history dating back to 1936, it has long established itself as one of the largest and most successful electronics companies on the planet for office equipment – namely printers, photocopiers and fax machines.
Figuratively speaking Its numbers are worth noting. It has more staff than can fill Wembley Stadium, topping 108,000 based across US, Europe (18,000), Middle East, Africa, Asia, Pacific and China. Financially, it saw sales top $18.6 billion in its most recent results and – according to Mellegers – has around 1.3 million customers, including many of those listed on the Fortune Global 500. “We’re extremely strong and successful in the corporate office segment,” explained Mellegers. “That’s our focus and our heartland for the products we create. As our customers have grown and evolved, so has the technology and needs within their office environments. As a business, we’ve had to lead that change and adapt
“We’re absolutely not here to make up the numbers. We have an enormous existing customer base to tap into, so the opportunities are immediately available” 17
THE BIG INTERVIEW
accordingly. The days of just selling them something (box shifting) are largely gone.” He continued: “Throughout the last decade, the analogue device has become digital and then it’s become network connected. The change has
MINI CASE STUDY: Orange French telecom and internet provider Orange teamed up with Ricoh to develop an interactive in-store self-help solution, that allows its 269 million customers diagnose and repair faults with their broadband. The “easy to use” touchscreen kiosks have been deployed in 480 stores in France and have seen returns and exchanges of its Livebox ADSL routers reduced by around 70 per cent, saving significant sums of money and enhancing customer satisfaction levels. Ricoh managed the deployment programme for Orange by installing Livebox service kiosks at 305 locations over a four-month period, with a further 175 Livebox service kiosks, ordered by Orange for phase two of the project.
MINI CASE STUDY: Mitsubishi Electric When Mitsubishi Electric moved headquarters, it needed a solution to optimise its print and communications infrastructure, and strengthen security across all its regional offices. Ricoh achieved this by installing Interactive Whiteboards (IWBs), allowing for ‘seamless’ collaboration and the sharing of content between employees across multiple sites. With security a key concern, Ricoh modified the IWB firmware to support a secure card-based authentication system – the same system used for its printers. Swiping their ID card at an IWB, Mitsubishi Electric’s employees can quickly initiate secure meetings with colleagues. They can share information on screen, annotate documents and save them as searchable PDFs. To protect confidentiality, the documents may only be printed or saved to email by the initiator. Ricoh’s IWB technology has transformed collaborative communication at Mitsubishi Electric. Improving the flow of information and ideas allows the business to respond faster to opportunities. And, with less time wasted on travel, Mitsubishi Electric’s employees can work more efficiently.
resulted in us forming much closer and deeper relationships with our customers and we now spend a lot of time on their premises. We felt we could offer so much more.” More to offer That process of offering “much more” started around five years ago when Ricoh decided it would extend its portfolio by entering the AV market. Sticking to its roots, the focus was and remains primarily aimed at providing (manufacturing) products and solutions for use in office environments. The three core strings to its bow currently include; video conferencing, projection and interactive whiteboards (see box outs). “We see it as a natural evolution of the company,” explained Mellegers. “It certainly wasn’t a sudden decision and isn’t something we’d enter unless we felt we could make a positive impact. It started with the creation of our IT infrastructure services, which has grown into a very significant business. If you bridge the IT side and our strength in imaging, then AV fits very well in there. “We’re absolutely not here to make up the numbers. We have an enormous existing customer base to tap into, so the opportunities are immediately available.” Closer to end users The infrastructure for an AV push into the UK and Europe is now in place and has more than 200 people dedicated staff in its AV teams located in offices across Europe. Of its 1.3 million global customers, around 144,000 of them are SMBs located in Europe, with Ricoh now actively engaging with many of them about its AV propositions. But Ricoh wants to do things slightly differently to the traditional roots to market approach. It is, as described by Mellegers, “more than just a manufacturer” and offers something “unique” and “different” to its competitors. For Ricoh is equipped to play the role of both manufacturer and integrator, taking the largely unprecedented step of side-stepping (but not dismissing) the supply channel altogether and offering an all-in service to the end user. By establishing direct relationships for larger SMB accounts (typically multinational, multisite), Ricoh is able to provide a truly end to end service, starting from the consultation process, the design, deployment and after sale service with the customer.
THE BIG INTERVIEW
“Yes, we are a manufacturer, but we really are much, much more than that,” said Mellegers. “We are a manufacturer but we are an AV integrator as well, which is a unique proposition but something we’ve seen a lot of success with across our other business areas.” He continued: “The feedback we receive from our
A quick overview of its products…
Projectors The first Ricoh projectors were launched to the market four years ago, with the company now establishing a portfolio of 14 different lines, ranging from pick-up portables to sizeable 12,000 lumens models for larger spaces. Its entry to the market was an ultra short throw UHD laser projector hailed then as the most lightweight and portable projector of its kind. The projector, which has evolved and is still available today, can be positioned 11.9cm from the wall and can project vertically to the size of 80 inches without a mount. “We have a mixed line up, so we have DLP projectors, we’re now launching 3LCD projectors, we have lamp, laser and LED, so we have a very mixed variety to help suit the different requirements and preferences from the market.”
Ricoh Whiteboards As with the projectors, the first Ricoh interactive whiteboards arrived close to five years ago, beginning life as a dedicated corporate focused 55 inch model. Today, it has a lineup starting from 22 inch to 55, 65, 75 and 84. A number of new models are coming soon,
multinational customers using this model is extremely positive. Many love having a single point of contact, local billing, local resources, the finance options that we offer. That’s all very easily organised through us. Some [companies] feel by working with a mixture of different partners that there is a greater risk of falling on some problems or confusion as to
including updating its 84 inch to an 86 inch and a new 32 inch interactive display. All can be configured to meet a customer’s specific needs, such as locked or open should a customer want to apply their own corporate policy in terms of security. “We have a wide portfolio to suit and meet the needs of a wide variety of different environments. We are mainly corporate focused, which is different to most of where the majority of interactive display manufacturers come from. We started focused on corporate and that’s why, in a way, we feel we have an edge over some of the other competitors who have begun to simplify their dedicated education solutions and create a dedicated corporate version.”
Video conferencing Ricoh now has a broad range of video conferencing hardware and solution services, with the P3500M (pictured) its current standout offering. Adapted from its original model released in 2015 (P3500), the device is aimed at providing a simple, portable plug and play solution for up to six people. Foldable to the size of a laptop, the WiFi connected device features a retractive arm which includes a 125 degree camera. It’s connected to a platform offered by Ricoh called UCS, but is also compatible with other market offerings, thanks to a partnership with Videxio. The device can be used by connecting to any connected device (phone, tablet, laptop, interactive display or even a projector). “It is ideal for group video conference in corporate environments and suits any size of organisation. The device is also a scalable solution at minimal initial investment and zero infrastructure cost, thanks to the cloud-based collaboration platform and overall low total cost of ownership.”
THE BIG INTERVIEW
Mellegers explained. “That’s why one of the messages we want to land is that we are extremely flexible as to how we work with our channel partners and we believe there is always a balance that can be found.”
>Ricoh’s London office
Corporate Headquarters Ricoh Co., Ltd. (Tokyo, Japan)
Regional Headquarters Americas Ricoh USA, Inc. (Malvern, U.S.A) Europe/Middle East/Africa Ricoh Europe PLC (London, UK) Asia/Pacific/China
RICOH IN NUMBERS Consolidated: 222 companies
Staff: 108,195 (as of June)
who is responsible and who is not.” He added: “Ricoh is a newbie on the AV side, that’s fair to say. But we have a big machine that knows how to deal with customer requirements and the type of international deployments which, for our direct business is our sweet spot. We’ve been working hard behind the scenes building the infrastructure and we’re now confident in telling the world about it.” Building relationships But that’s not to say Ricoh doesn’t value the channel. Far from it. Mellegers noted Ricoh works with “thousands” of channel partners and that around 25 per cent of Ricoh’s revenues comes from this area, making it a “hugely valuable” and “important” part of its business. Many of the services offered to its direct partners can also now be offered through the channel. These include (but not limited to), ongoing support, training and even bespoke customisation of its products if specific needs are required (such as security). In the UK and Europe, it has a long standing relationship with Tech Data Maverick for its traditional portfolio, which is being extended to include AV. It also has vendor agreements with “all leading players” in the AV space, including the likes of Barco, Crestron, LG, Samsung. Mellegers acknowledged there are a few sceptics over its direct and indirect approach, but insists it’s not trying to step on anyone’s toes. “It’s fair to say the traditional AV integrator community has been a little hesitant as they’re not used to a partner that goes direct as well,”
So, why Ricoh? Whilst the infrastructure may be tried and tested, there is of course the small matter of its products and appeal to the market. Ricoh may be a known and respected market leader for printing equipment, but in AV it’s – as previously labelled by Mellegers – still seen as something of a “newbie”. So, why would a company switch its existing tried, tested and trusted products to Ricoh? Mellegers acknowledges that establishing trust in its brand and products will take time, but he and the company are confident its legacy and indeed its principles for quality will see it stand tall amongst its competitors and resonate well with end users. Indeed, for some end users, Ricoh’s tech and services are already firmly embedded and providing almost immediate and significant financial benefits (see Mini Case studies). “Within this line of business, we are obviously part of the Ricoh Group and we stay true to the core of what is in our DNA,” said Mellegers. “What we are known for today, predominantly from our printing business, is our reliability. Our products and solutions coming out of Japan by far overachieve all market requirements in terms of technical specifications. Quality assurance is way above and beyond the legal standard. “Ricoh also has a very strong track record in creating new and innovative solutions in different lines of business and we plan to do the same also here in AV. We have some amazing Ricoh solutions today and in our pipeline for the future.” He concluded: “We have work place consultants, solution architects, dedicated project management teams, insight engineers and we have service delivery managers. We analyse, we design based on the insights and requirements from a company and then we manage the project by implementing the solution and then we support it. “We also have the reach, which I believe that not many other companies can match, so it’s more about us organising ourselves internally and getting the confidence from the market to make this happen. It will not happen overnight, but we are coming from a position of strength.”
AVIXA: ONE YEAR ON
“Together, we can change the way people experience the world”
AVIXA: THE GAMBLE HAS PAID OFF One year on from InfoComm’s surprise metamorphosis into AVIXA, AVTE sat down with its CEO, Dave Labuskes and senior director, Sean Wargo, for an update on its progress and to discuss its ever-evolving efforts to drive the industry forward
loved being the CEO of InfoComm, but the job and opportunity of being the CEO of AVIXA is so much more exciting,” radiated David (Dave) Labuskes as we sat down for our meeting – the green glow of London’s Hyde Park coming through the window. “It’s been a busy year,” he added. “What day is it, again?” Of course he was joking, but he’d be forgiven if he wasn’t. For Labuskes’ body clock had certainly taken a battering in the build up to our meeting in London, with business visits to China, Australia, India, Mexico all taking place in the immediate
weeks before. Just a few hours previously he’d been in Munich having held a meeting with ISE chief Mike Blackman, before experiencing the pleasures of the Munich Beer Festival. (He briefly displayed us a delightful picture of the two of them dressed in traditional lederhosens on his mobile – but we promised not to mention that). “I can’t really call it jet lag anymore, it’s probably best described as idiocy,” he joked, polishing off a strong coffee. “There’s a side of it that’s a blessing and a side that’s challenging.” However, a challenge is something he nor his AVIXA team are afraid of embracing. Indeed, the
AVIXA: ONE YEAR ON
investing in a new fancy logo and having a new coat of paint on its office walls. The business and its role was changing. The new name, like the organisation, had to represent, as he explained back in 2017, “something more” for the industry and the members it serves across 680 different countries. “Lots of companies rebrand to try and create an illusion of investing in change,” said Labuskes. “But in truth, it’s none of that and simply satisfying someone’s ego in having a new logo. I refused to be part of that.”
past 12 months have, he confesses, been some of the most important and intense of his six year tenure at the organisation, so far. Fittingly, the day of our meeting marked the one year anniversary since Labuskes stood on stage at IBC, Amsterdam (September 13, 2017) announcing that InfoComm International – a brand that had existed since 2005, was being rebranded to AVIXA. “It was the most nerve-racking day of my career,” he reminisced. “What if everybody hated it? Or what would have been worse was, what if nobody
Adding value and experience AVIXA – or ‘Audio Visual and Integrated Experience Association’ to give its full title – wanted, perhaps almost felt obligated, to take a greater responsibility for supporting and spearheading growth of the AV industry. And by industry we’re talking across all levels; manufacturers, systems integrators, dealers, distributors, consultants, programmers, rental and staging companies, technology managers, IT professionals, content producers, multimedia professionals and – key to its strategy – end users. The opportunities have never been greater or more clear. Investment in AV has never been higher as businesses increasingly turn to technology to help enhance the experience within their own specific vertical, whether it be for staff, their customers or indeed both.
AVIXA has more than 8,000 members, including manufacturers, systems integrators, dealers and distributors, consultants, programmers, rental and staging companies, technology managers, IT professionals, content producers, and multimedia professionals from more than 80 countries. cared and just shrugged their shoulders. We as an association were making an all-in bet. How do you undo something like that if no one wanted it?” Thankfully, 12 months on, all of those previous dark fears and anxieties proved to be entirely unfounded, with AVIXA continuing to go from strength to strength – adding close to 3,000 members during this period – and its impact on the market being felt on greater and broader scale. Building blocks So what’s changed? The switch (as Labuskes made explicitly clear) was not a vanity project and simply
According to financial forecasts, the AV industry will be worth approximately $180 billion by the close of this year (2018), and expected to rise to $230 billion by the end of 2023. Whilst AVIXA – which remains an entirely not-for-profit organisation – is not directly involved in the buying and selling of any products, it sees its role is to help provide the industry (collectively and individually) with the market intelligence, insight and training it requires to help ensure its potential is achieved and felt across the planet. “We see ourselves as providing two purposes,” explained Labuskes. “One is to be the hub of the
AVIXA: ONE YEAR ON
FOCUS OF AVIXA • Help grow the market by showing end users the value of AV • Create new strands of content that focus on the AV experience • Open the doors for more people to feel like they belong in the AV community • Develop greater market intelligence that helps you grow your AV business professional community and two, to be a catalyst for market growth. We as an industry association can’t grow the market, it’s the participants in the supply chain and the buyers who will grow the market, so we’re very clearly focussed on being a catalyst for that reaction to take place, but not participating in the reaction.” He added, laughing: “We’d love to say that if AVIXA goes away, the industry is gonna disappear.“ Of course that’s not true, but we see ourselves as having a responsibility to support it and those within it at every level. We’re doing that.” Experience is everything As mentioned, the key to AVIXA’s refreshed strategy is centred around its focus on supporting, building relationships and communicating with the end user market (decision makers) to help keep them informed and to understand the benefits surrounding AV. “Together, we can change the way people experience the world,” said Labuskes, echoing the company’s slogan displayed on many of its marketing materials. It sounds a bit PR, but the sentiment is undeniably accurate. “When you think of experience, it normally involves some sort of AV technology and solution.” To support this, AVIXA has been investing heavily (time and resource) in conducting significant research on specific vertical markets to produce detailed analysis reports, case studies, whitepapers and so on. These are able to highlight how AV is being deployed and the results they’re helping comparable businesses to achieve. Focus areas to date since relaunching as AVIXA have looked at AV in financial services, higher education, sports entertainment, hospitality, retail and transportation – all of which are available through its website. The focus for 2019 has not yet been announced. “It’s a big world and we could easily spend
$100m on this effort every year in the US intelligently,” said Labuskes. “We don’t have $100m, so we’ve had to be very specific in our targets and choosing which verticals. “When you talk about an integrated experience for a hotel or a brand manager in a retail chain, or a sports entertainment venue, when you’re talking fan experience, shopper experience, guest experience, retail entertainment – you’re engaging with them in an area that’s critical to their success and potentially their future.” Driving engagement Leading this drive is Sean Wargo, who was brought in at the time of the rebrand and serving as senior director, market intelligence. Sitting beside Labuskes, Wargo explained that the research provides AVIXA (and by extension the whole industry) with a 360 degree view of a specific vertical. And its research goes deep. For example, analysis from a recent retail report saw Wargo and his team waiting outside retail stores to speak with customers as they exited, questioning them on their experiences related to the AV; did they notice it, what impact (if any) did it have on their experience or buying decisions? “Our role is being able to provide valuable content to our members – content, such as a research reports on how technology is serving a particular vertical market, or the challenges it’s facing, a whitepaper case study, videos highlighting
AVIXA: What’s in a name? Labuskes explains the meaning behind Audio Visual and Integrated Experience Association “First, AV is who we are. Not IT, not even a subset of IT. Audio and video are the proud building blocks of everything this industry is about. It was true in 1939 when we were founded, and it’s true today. Second, IX is what we create. Experiences require a combination of technologies, factoring in the right content and space, integrated together to achieve a desired outcome, whether it’s rich communication, entertainment, deep understanding, or some other outcome enabled by integrated AV. Third, we are uniquely an Association, representing a thriving industry that operates in a dynamic and growing marketplace for AV solutions. The final A in AVIXA underscores our status as the hub of an industry, and as a catalyst for market growth in a way that for-profit companies can never be.
AVIXA: ONE YEAR ON
the end user. InfoComm was and remains a fantastic brand for our shows and we will continue to invest in those, but it wasn’t an engaging brand for, say, a CMO of a hotel brand. When I talk about AV integrated experiences and emphasise that we’re a not-for-profit organisation and we’re not trying to sell them something, immediately I have a more receptive audience than what I did previously.”
> AVIXA is increasing its presence at major trade shows and events all over the world
1939: Formed as National Association of Visual Education Dealers 1949: Become
National AudioVisual Association (NAVA) after merging with the Allied NonTheatrical Film Association
1983: NAVA changed its name to the International Communications Industries Association 2005: Rebranded as InfoComm International 2017: Rebranded as AVIXA
some of the opportunities in these places,” explained Wargo. Extending upon that, AVIXA is able to gain valuable insight from the retailers themselves, helping to understand their needs, their challenges and their drivers – information that can potentially be used to help form future products and solutions. “On one hand, it’s teaching businesses about ways they can improve their business through AV,” noted Labuskes. “On the other, it’s helping the industry ensure it’s able to fulfil those expectations and desires from the customer – even influencing future product roadmaps.” But it’s not all through downloadable or digital content. AVIXA is also now taking a more active approach in communicating with the market – adopting a more consultative approach by putting itself directly in front of end users, speaking in a non technical language about AV, either on a one-to-one level, or through its own specialty organised events or guest speaking at others to help the market better understand the opportunities that are available to them. “We highlight and demonstrate the possibilities that AV can provide,” said Wargo. “That’s a starting point for a conversation, so there can be a hand off. We would never say this is what you need to deploy from an AVIXA stand point. We’d say this is what has been done and that they can then talk to a true integrator and installer and go from there.” Labuskes adds: “I’m not standing at the front saying here’s the value of AV. We’re creating panels of, say, practitioners who have invested in AV and having those people tell their story. That’s enormously valuable and much more engaging for
Vertical approach Educating integrators on new trends and demands being seen in the market is also crucial to ensure they’re well equipped to handle (or offer recommendations) the demands being asked of them. This can be achieved through not only insight, but through accredited and certified CTS training courses provided by AVIXA – certification that breeds expertise but also trust. Training typically covers installation, design, technology management, live events, networking and technology, project management and business development. Wargo adds: “The worst thing that could happen is you get someone (a business owner) incredibly excited to the point they’re going to change their business model, create what they believe will create an exceptional experience and kick all their competitors to the kerb - only for the supply chain channel not to deliver effectively. That would be a disaster. So, we feel a sense of obligation to assist our professionals in the community to not only understand the outcomes that are needed, but then to have the knowledge, the education, the certifications and the reliance on industry best practices and standards to actually be able to deliver on the promise.” Geographic expansion Another key push for AVIXA in 2018 and going into the new year and beyond, is its geographical coverage and support to wider markets. With AVIXA’s origins in the US, the focus for its work (research, reports etc) has primarily been more localised, with a smaller focus in EMEA. But that’s changing. Labuskes revealed that he’s been in deep discussions around investment to help further enhance its presence and expand its relevance for markets outside of the US. He revealed in the past year, AVIXA has added five members of staff (taking headcount above 160), with a growing number (over 10) located
AVIXA: ONE YEAR ON
internationally, building closer ties and understanding of the local market place. Today, AVIXA hosts events all around the world, spanning Asia, Europe, Latin America, Middle East and Africa, Oceania, the US and Canada. One of the fastest growing areas for AV investment is coming from EMEA and ASIA regions. Appetite from the industry in those regions to attend its show has certainly been strong. For example, AVIXA has recently (September) hosted its first InfoComm trade show in Chengdu (Western China), which saw attendance numbers hit 8,000, smashing its original 3,000 expectation. AVIXA will be continuing its assault on China in May (2019), with InfoComm making its debut in Hong Kong. Labuskes also revealed he had recently returned from the sixth edition of InfoComm India, which had seen a 29 per cent rise in attendees, topping close to 10,000 for the first time. “The industry is reaching an inflection point in that region [India],” said Labuskes. “They’re really moving from start up to true commercial AV professionals and we’re helping them along their journey through standards and research. We need to continue to expand our focus on the emerging and developing and rapidly growing markets in order to be a true global industry. The numbers we’re seeing are hugely encouraging.” He added that the knock on impact of supporting regions such as India and China will ultimately benefit organisations with a global presence from an AV professional perspective. “Honestly, I think it’s critical for North America for us to do that,” he added. “Most of the consumers, the large buyers of AV are now global organisations. So, if you’re doing the HQ for an organisation in London, they may have an office in New York, Sydney, Delhi and so on. They will want to replicate the functionality they have for their staff in all their locations. In order to do that, we have to develop and reinforce the channel in all those areas.” Lost in translation Expanding upon this further, another major investment from AVIXA is in ensuring that regional translations for its reports are available to help those to those that want to read it – maximisng its reach and potential. Labuskes revealed that a significant number of dollars will be spent next year (2019) to create the mechanism to dynamically translate content that’s
> InfoComm events remain a key part of AVIXA’s strategy to help promote, educate and enhance market knowledge
being produced. All content is provided in English, with a significant amount of translation into German, Spanish and Portuguese, but more needs to be done. “We talk wonderfully about all the whitepapers we produce,” said Labuskes. “We’re producing them in English, which is relevant for a fairly broad share of the global market but is completely irrelevant to many of those in China and is largely irrelevant in places like Chile, Peru and Mexico. The people that need to learn the most from AVIXA and from an education perspective don’t speak English. Many aren’t literate, so we need to help try and support that.” But it’s not simply a case of translating existing text, with regional variations crucial in order to maximise value. Wargo continued the discussion on the topic. “Translation helps get you exposure to broad themes, but a white paper needs to be localised. If you need to give examples that are pertinent to that market, that’s a much bigger and longer-range challenge. At the very least, having content available that’s talking about the bigger picture and providing training material to get started is a first step, but expanding on that is important.” Labuskes concluded: “We’ve achieved a lot in our first year, but this is an ever evolving journey. We were 10 per cent along the journey when we announced the new brand, we’re probably 25-30 per cent along the journey a year on. I am so excited about our future.”
IN FOCUS: SCHEDULING
Taking (some of) the Misery Out of Meeting
Meetings are a necessary evil of organisational life – and trying to arrange them can be hugely frustrating. Ian McMurray looks at the background that has seen meeting room scheduling systems become increasingly commonplace, and we look at eight of the most popular solutions > Above: Crestron displays helping staff see clealry when meeting rooms are available or not
hat we do hate meetings is largely undisputed. It’s estimated that we spend around 35 per cent of our working time in them. 67 per cent of meetings are deemed to have failed in their objectives (if they had any to start with…). More than 90 pEr cent of us do something else in meetings, like checking email. (And, apparently, close to 40 per cent of us admit to having fallen asleep in them.) And: if the meeting room equipment doesn’t work like it’s supposed to? A recent study by Barco found that nine in ten office workers experience seriously elevated stress levels when dealing with troublesome technology. The inexorable rise of the huddle room – with its emphasis on impromptu, informal collaboration –
has perhaps caused us to lose focus on the fact that formal, scheduled meetings continue to be the lifeblood of many organisations. It’s perhaps also true that, with mobile or remote workers making up an increasingly large part of the workforce – resulting in increasing numbers of conference calls – we’ve lost sight of how many meetings still take place in the physical, rather than virtual, world. Easier over time Scheduling meetings has unquestionably become easier over time. Where once, it was possible to spend hours trying to get consensus from colleagues on their availability for a meeting – which inevitably meant the meeting would take place far further in the future than was desirable - the advent of shared www.avtechnologyeurope.com
IN FOCUS: SCHEDULING
calendars in corporate systems such as Microsoft Outlook or Google G Suite has been somewhat transformative. Everyone’s availability is just a few clicks away – in theory, at least. Both systems also allow the creation of meeting room calendars too, availability of which can similarly be ascertained – and a date/time blocked out. But still… A walk through the corridors of any large headquarters will invariably find meeting rooms that have allegedly been booked – but are unoccupied. Further along, there’s a heated discussion taking place about who reserved a room. Further along still, the printed sign on the meeting room door indicates it’s in use – but there’s no-one home. And, round the corner, a small group of people are anxiously peering into each meeting room in the hope of finding one spare. You may even stumble across a lost soul – new to the organisation, perhaps – already late for an important meeting in a room THEY can’t find. (That’s the stuff of nightmares…) Despite the technology frustrations noted above, the in-meeting experience has unquestionably improved with manufacturers increasingly focusing on ease of use, plug and play “it just works” solutions that even the most technology-challenged can navigate. A report November/December 2018
earlier this year from BT revealed that 80 per cent of executives would prioritise increased productivity if they were CEO – and 90 per cent felt that mobile tools and collaboration services are achieving that goal. But what of the pre-meeting experience? Have the same strides been made in making us more productive in arranging meetings – and especially in the fraught area of booking rooms, which always seem to be in short supply? Can some form of automation address that latter problem? This month, we feature eight providers of meeting scheduling systems to help you compare and contrast their offerings. Devil in the detail All, inevitably, share certain basic functionality. Some are hardware only, some software only, some combine the two. All are Microsoft Exchange-compatible. The devil, inevitably, is in the detail – the differentiators that separate one solution from another. That might be from the sustainable nature of e-ink displays through ease of installation to customisation options. In the corporate environment, security will be a key consideration. Given the workforce mobility noted previously, the availability of a mobile app that complements the solution could be critical.
“You may even stumble across a lost soul – new to the organisation, perhaps – already late for an important meeting in a room they can’t find” 27
IN FOCUS: SCHEDULING
“It’s estimated that we spend around 35 per cent of our working time in meetings. 67 per cent of those are deemed to have failed in their objectives” > Above: Extron records data from meeting rooms to better manage and understand usage
The ability to integrate with occupancy sensors – such that a room that appears to have been booked can be identified as unoccupied, and therefore released – can obviate one of the biggest frustrations in trying to arrange a meeting. Many of the solutions feature a reporting capability to provide management with insight into room usage – information that can be critical in planning future space needs. That could be as valuable as the room scheduling system itself. And, of course, there’s pricing… In many cases, it’s possible to get started with just a single screen, costing little more than €1,000. Some manufacturers offer outright purchase, others look for a regular licensing fee. However: without exception, these solutions appear highly affordable – and if
productivity is indeed increased, and space usage improved, then the outlay should be looked on as an investment, rather than a cost. Somewhat beyond the scope of our showcase is BookingLive, an example of how a simple room booking solution can become so much more by extending its reach far beyond the walls of the enterprise environment. Hosted by Amazon Web Services and said by the company to be the UK’s best-selling meeting and room reservation system as well as being at the heart of local government digital transformation projects, its breadth of capability isn’t for everyone – but it’s a clear indication of what’s possible. No meeting room scheduling solution will mean that every single meeting you attend will ensure you don’t endure death by PowerPoint, that it will be worth your time, or that it will deliver the outcomes it was supposed to deliver – but, given that meetings are something of a necessary evil, it can at least make some contribution to increased productivity and your life somewhat easier. Those benefits in themselves are certainly worth having.
“Scheduling meetings has unquestionably become easier over time” 28
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IN FOCUS TIPS
Easy Tips For Better Room Scheduling
WHETHER YOU’RE managing meeting rooms, classrooms or office hoteling spaces, you want the reservation process to be quick and painless for both organisers and attendees. Pairing good policies with technologies like calendar software and digital room signs can streamline room scheduling to make everyone’s life easier. Instead of putting up paper schedules, or managing reservations in multiple places, consider a comprehensive strategy.
Use a calendar app It doesn’t make sense to have your team spend their valuable time manually handling room reservations, updates and cancellations. Calendar apps like Microsoft Exchange and Google Calendar let everyone in your organisation see availability and book rooms in the software with just a few clicks. There are also apps that are tailored to different organisations like schools, hotels and conference centers that include features specific to those types of venues, and can even integrate with other software you’re using for facility management.
2 > Debbie DeWitt is the marketing communications manager for at digital signage solutions and interactive wayfinding provider, Visix, Inc. www.visix.com.
Publish your policies Make your event organisers as self-suffcient as possible with some basic guidelines. Booking space should seem like a no-brainer, but everyone has different workflows and writing styles. People can only know what you want from them if you publish your policies somewhere accessible like your intranet. Make sure people know to cancel meetings in the app if they aren’t happening – especially things scheduled repetitively, like every week, or far in advance. Also, make sure they aren’t using your largest meeting space for a two-person chat when smaller rooms are available.
Set naming conventions The most important policy you can put in place is how to name room bookings. Ask people to always use event names that are descriptive but concise. “Department meeting” leaves the reader asking which department, while “Acme bi-weekly marketing staff meeting” is too long. “Marketing staff meeting” gives all the information you need in a digestible chunk. Since people are used to character counts on social media and other platforms, putting together some basic limits should go over well.
Advertise room assets Provide a photo of each room, along with details like seating capacity, furniture and audiovisual tools, so people can choose the best space for their needs. Some systems will let you do this within the scheduling app, but you can also publish this your intranet or in your policies. If you have an activity-based workplace that offers hot desking or office hoteling, be sure to show which areas are workspaces, call cubbies, huddle spaces or quiet zones for privacy.
Show schedules on digital signs Nothing is more frustrating for your employees and visitors than arriving just prior to a meeting and being unable to ﬁnd it due to lack of adequate directions. Use digital signs at entryways and in lobbies to show your event schedules with room names and start times to improve the attendee experience. You can also use your screens to show guest welcomes, speaker bios and other meeting-related content. It all adds up to ease stress and present a more positive shared experience.
IN FOCUS TIPS
Install room signs If you’re looking for your meeting, or looking for a place to meet, digital room signs can help. These small screens outside your shared spaces can display that room’s schedule for the day, so people know they’re in the right place at the right time. Almost all digital room signs interface with your calendar app to pull schedules from a central source, and some allow you to book rooms right at the sign. Newer E Ink signs are wireless, lightweight and affordable, so they’re a great option for hoteling spaces. Just make sure that whatever room sign you choose can easily integrate with your calendar app, and that it has architectural accessories like mounts and mounting templates.
they can see all of your important announcements, so they don’t miss out. In many cases, you can also use an emergency override to push alerts to room signs, in case of severe weather, threats or worse. If you can’t put your digital signage playlists to your room signs, you might be able to show basic images, like PowerPoint slides or JPGs, to accomplish the same thing.
Use availability lights If you are shopping for digital room signs, make sure you get a model that has availability lights built in. This is a simple on-screen or external indicator that shows if a room is busy or open. This is a great tool for large meeting areas or conference centers with multiple rooms. That way, if someone is looking for an open room to use at the last minute, they can simply glance down the hall to see if any of the lights are green. If your room signs let them book at the screen, they can grab the room right there and then.
Show message playlists If you have a digital signage system, why not combine it with your room signs? If you can push your message playlists to room signs from a central source, it’s an easy way to keep people informed who might be tied up in meeting areas all day. That way, when they take a break,
Show cancellations As previously mentioned above, you’ll want people to cancel meetings in your app if they have plenty of notice. That way, all attendees can be notified, and the meeting wiped off their schedules. But if a meeting cancels at the last minute, consider modifying the name instead (e.g., “CPR Training – CANCELLED”). This can be a good way to get the attention of the attendees who may not yet have checked their email before showing up to the room. The best practice is to show any cancellations that occur the same day as the meeting.
Send reminders Everyone is busy and may not have tomorrow’s schedule memorised. Setting up email or calendar reminders for events can help keep both organizers and attendees on track. Be sure to include all of the same meeting information in the reminder as the original invitation, especially if it’s been over a week since the invite went out. Location and start time details help everyone to be on time, and an agenda lets people know what to expect and how to prepare for any topics they may need to cover. Also, someone might have a double-booking or lastminute project, and realise they need to reschedule once they get the reminder.
MAPPING THE FUTURE: Finding your way around ‘Digital Wayfinding’ technology
hen someone enters a building, whether as a customer, student, patient, or staff member, they all have one thing in common: wanting to get to where they need as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, there isn’t always a friendly staff member that’s able to help and ‘You Are Here’ signs often aren’t sufficient enough for immediate assistance when running late to something important. Digital wayfinding, over the last decade, has become increasingly used by a number of businesses in different sectors. Whereas traditional wayfinding simply directed an individual from point A to point B, digital wayfinding offers users a multi-layered experience to provide much more value than would be experienced previously by a static wayfinding sign. Here, Dominic Hinchcliffe, sales > Dominic Hinchliffe, sales manager at manager at TrouDigital, highlights TrouDigital the uses of digital wayfinding solutions in different sectors:
Healthcare Sector Attending a health facility, such as a dental practice or hospital, can be a rather anxiety-inducing experience for most of us. This anxiety can be amplified when you can’t find the treatment room or wing you need to be in. Enter digital wayfinding. With modern hospitals being expansive, spread across multiple sites and multiple floors, finding a specific room on a certain floor within a specific wing can prove challenging to the best of us; let alone someone who may be having an emergency. A study in a hospital in Atlanta found that nearly 4,500 staff hours (equivalent to two full-time employees) were being eaten up by giving out directions to patients. The need to adequately direct individuals is not only to save a visitor time, but also to stop wasting staff member’s time. In turn, saving money and, potentially, even people’s lives over a long period. Corporate Sector For large corporate organisations, taking care of guests that could be potential clients is imperative for longevity. There’s nothing more captivating than a personalised welcome message upon arrival
“Having a digital wayfinding solution in place can help reduce stress that is incurred during busy working periods” within a building, as well as the modernised feel of using an eye-catching touchscreen kiosk. Besides providing a captivating entrance and helping guide a guest, integrating your digital wayfinding solution with meeting room booking systems and event scheduling software encourage colleagues and guests to make the most of all the facilities the building has to offer. Displaying parking information and local transport routes encourages visitors to use public transport and helps abet traffic congestion. For organisations spread across multiple rooms, floors, and sites, providing personalised staff directories can be an excellent means to keep organisations from feeling disjointed. Education Sector Within educational environments, digital wayfinding solutions can be imperative in aiding learning and facilitating the smooth flow of a school. Integrating a wayfinding solution with school timetabling software can help student punctuality remain at the highest possible level, whilst integrating with local transports routes helps students to safely travel home from school. For international schools and colleges, being able to offer multiple language options keeps international students engaged and not feeling isolated. This is particularly useful for many private schools that become the hub for international students during the summer holidays. Updating screens and kiosks in real-time means that any important information and announcements that need to be pushed out to students can be done so quickly. Alongside this, scheduling functionality allows staff to schedule content days, weeks, and in advance. During busy periods like the start of term
and exam season, prescheduled content alleviates staff from the ongoing upkeep of wayfinding. Retail & Hospitality Sector Arguably the most stressful and fast-paced of all the aforementioned industries, the customer-facing retail and hospitality sectors are used on a daily basis by the bulk of us. Having a digital wayfinding solution in place can help reduce the stress that is incurred during busy working periods. Displaying live directories of items is extremely useful for outlets that experience large fluctuations in stock levels. Being able to order stock directly through a digital solution also reduces the need for constant staffing, lowering the staffing budget spent on customer sales roles. This same model can be applied to food establishments as real-time menu boards can be used to display food and drink availability for customers. A well positioned digital wayfinding kiosk in a busy environment will receive high dwell time, footfall, and user engagement. As such, it makes for an attractive prospect to advertise on. Advertising during non-use and downtimes can help generate more revenue and often pay for the cost of a screen. Applying specific QR codes to these screens at appropriate times of the day for specific retailers can increase customer propensity to visit shops and outlets that offer QR discounts and special deals. Disability Use A digital screen or kiosk has an immense potential to be able to support disabled users - both mentally and physically. This technology can help map wheelchair access routes around a University campus, or warn patients in a hospital that lifts are unavailable in real-time. Smart technology like this can help users that struggle with day-to-day activities that most of us take for granted. Treating these digital screens as ‘information points’ to convey vital information, such as nearby health facilities and counselling, can have a profoundly positive impact in removing the stigma around mental health. Something so simple as even displaying a helpline number could really make the difference for an individual.
“A digital screen or kiosk has an immense potential to be able to support disabled users – both mentally and physically”
IN FOCUS: TECHNOLOGY SHOWCASE
FINDING THE RIGHT SOLUTION We spoke to eight of the leading AV scheduling technology providers to discuss how their solutions are helping to ease (eradicate?) some of the frustrations often experienced by many businesses when doing something as simple as booking a room for that important meeting
Condeco Meeting Room Booking Software Description: Described as a full meeting room booking solution, Condeco’s offering includes integrated modules for visitor management, vendor management, video and Skype for Business video meeting bookings, as well as desk and workspace scheduling. The visitor management feature is designed to give guests a hassle-free experience upon arrival, including the automatic printing of passes and notification of the host when visitors arrive. It can also integrate with existing security systems to speed up visitor check-in. As well as simple room reservation, needed resources such as AV equipment or catering can be ordered. The solution also provides mobile apps to book rooms and desks on the go. In addition to the software, Condeco also manufactures and supports its own workspace digital signage for meeting rooms and desks, offering meeting room touch panel displays, wayfinder and desk-mounted digital signage. The SaaS or PaaS solution provides detailed reporting on how space is used, allowing for users to better understand their meeting room space requirements and offering the potential for reduced costs. The company believes that the advantage of its solution is that it does not require the involvement of third parties, offering a dedicated workspace management tool with integrated hardware. Compatibility: Microsoft Office 365 and Outlook calendars, G Suite (Connect solution only) Link: www.condecosoftware.com
Enterprise Room Scheduling Platform
Description: Said to be highly scalable, Crestron hardware allows the user to choose the scheduling provider that best meets the organisation’s needs. This includes room availability hallway signs, room scheduling touch screens, on-screen display (via Crestron Mercury, Air Media Presentation System and so on), and On the Go (via Crestron Pinpoint). Given the company’s focus on the enterprise market, Crestron has prioritised security, with features including network access control, integrated password management, centralised deployment and enforcement of security settings with XIO Cloud, change management control with audit logging. TSS scheduling panels support 802.1x authentication, TLS encryption, HTTPS connectivity and integrate with active directory. The TSS-7 and TSS-10 panels can be mounted either in-wall or on-wall. Where other room scheduling panels have room availability lights fitted to the sides, Crestron provides the choice of fitting a light bar which surrounds the panel or a separate wall/ceiling-mounted light indicator which can also have the room’s name custom-engraved. According to Crestron, the fact that its solution does not require custom software or ongoing software licence charges means that cost of ownership is exceptionally competitive, with the cost of panels comparable to that of an iPad. Compatibility: Microsoft Exchange/Office 365, G Suite Link: https://www.crestron.com/en-US/Products/Market-Solutions/Enterprise-Solutions 34
IN FOCUS: TECHNOLOGY SHOWCASE
Description: Combining Evoko Home software with Liso hardware, the goal of Evoko Liso is to remove the hassle from booking meeting rooms while providing insight into how effectively meeting room space is being utilised. Rooms can be reserved either via the central calendar, or individually at the room itself. Each room panel is equipped with what the company describes as red, orange or green ‘aura’ to communicate the status of the room as it is being approached. Motion detection is featured to display the most relevant room information when someone approaches it for enhanced convenience. Where an impromptu booking needs to be made, Liso can be used to search for other rooms based on their availability, size and the available equipment directly from the panel. Liso also facilitates the reporting of any technical issues, with users able to quickly identify and report isolated faults such as projectors or Wi-Fi with three taps directly on the panel. The inclusion of Evoko Home provides management reporting, including the ability to determine which rooms are oversubscribed or being underutilised. Evoko notes that its solution is in use by Volkswagen, Coca Cola, McDonald’s and the US Senate, among others. Compatibility: Microsoft Exchange 2010, Office 365, G Suite, IBM/Lotus Domino Smartcloud, IBM/Lotus Domino 8.5.3 – 9.x Link: https://www.evoko.se/products/evoko-liso/
Extron Room Scheduling
Description: A standalone system built around Extron’s TouchLink room scheduling panels, Extron Room Scheduling users can make reservations directly from the panels, a computer, smartphone, or tablet. TLS panels come in three sizes – 5-inch, 7-inch and 10-inch – are connected directly to the organisation’s mail/calendar server, and are customisable according to the user’s requirements. Multiple mounting choices are available for the panels, including on-wall, in-wall and secure mounting to almost any flat surface. PoE minimises cabling. Acquiring the panels is the only cost involved: there are no recurring licence fees for the solution. Room availability can also be managed with occupancy sensors by combining TouchLink panels with occupancy sensors to reduce the risk that rooms are booked, but unused – and can be shown as available after a user-defined time. Room scheduling analytics provide the information needed to analyse room usage, activity patterns and occupancy trends across the organisation: activity files provide at-a-glance room usage and meeting data for each panel. This readily-available information, says Extron, can be transformed using data analytics tools to create powerful reports. Extron Room Scheduling provides encrypted communications across the ecosystem, and access to panel configurations and resource calendars is secured according to organisation-defined credentials. Compatibility: Microsoft Exchange, Office 365, CollegeNET 25Live, Google Calendar Link: https://www.extron.com/article/roomschedulingad November/December 2018
IN FOCUS: TECHNOLOGY SHOWCASE
Acendo Book Scheduling Panel
Description: AMX by Harman’s Acendo Book Scheduling standalone panels are available in 7-inch and 10.1-inch versions, with their slim design said to make them simple to install anywhere on any flat surface, including glass or stone. Both integrate directly with popular room scheduling software such as Microsoft Exchange, Office 365, and Google Calendar without additional system hardware requirements. The user interface background colour and built-in room availability bars change between red and green to show room availability, so that users can easily locate and book an available room directly from the panel. If that room is currently booked, users can quickly locate the nearest available room or the next available time. The panels are similar in style to Harman/AMX’s Modero S Series Touch Panel and feature a fullcolour high-resolution (1,024 x 600 for the 7-inch version; 1,280 x 800 for the 10.1-inch version) display. Both include the company’s proprietary SmoothTouch technology. Installation and set-up are said to be straightforward, involving simply plugging in an Ethernet cable and running the one-time, panel-based configuration wizard to get the panel operational in a matter of minutes with minimal training. Compatibility: Microsoft Exchange, Office 365, Google Calendar Link: https://www.amx.com/en-US/product_families/amx-acendo-book
Description: Joan’s distinguishing feature is its use of a range of e-ink displays that minimise power consumption and thus cost of ownership, as well as making it a sustainable solution. This also means that the displays are rechargeable (up to 12 months from just a single charge) which, with the inclusion of Wi-Fi, means that cabling is eliminated. Ease of installation is further enhanced by its ‘peel and press’ mount. Available in a range of sizes and versions – 6-inch (Meeting and Executive) and 13-inch (Premium, Board and Classroom) tablets - Joan also supports a mobile app for on-the-go room reservation, while its online platform enables management of devices. This allows the user to choose different settings for different devices - turning features on and off, for example – and to check battery level and Wi-Fi signal, as well as to obtain a complete overview of the installation. Executive and above versions provide a weekly analytics report, sent directly to designated email accounts. It shows usage, occupancy, number of meetings, booked on the spot or via calendar meetings and more. Joan offers customers standard Wi-Fi security with WPA2-PSK encryption and enterprise Wi-Fi security with WPA2-EAP encryption. Joan’s customers include BMW, Cisco, Dell, Microsoft, NASA, Panasonic, Samsung, Sony and Virgin. Compatibility: Microsoft Exchange, Office 365, G Suite, iCalendar, Slack Link: www.getjoan.com 36
IN FOCUS: TECHNOLOGY SHOWCASE
SEDAO DIGITAL SIGNAGE
Description: Given Sedao’s background, it’s no surprise that RoomXchange can be used either standalone, or Integrated with its digital signage platform - SedaoLive CLOUD - for more feature options. The integration capability enables instant messages such as notifications and alarms to be sent to RoomXchange screens along with digital signage and collaborative screens at any time. It also enables RoomXchange screens to be used to display promotional or internal communications messages when not in use – which, the company believes, adds value to the investment and flexibility to the solution. The included 10-inch panels can be wall-mounted, and feature built-in 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi. Support is provided for two USB ports to allow the addition of Ethernet/USB adaptors for hard wired LAN if required. There are three display states for each screen in RoomXchange, so those looking for an empty room can easily identify the status of the room. Rooms can be in use / booked, or available: in the latter case, the panel can either show a room free message, or be used for digital signage. The combined hardware)/software solution includes rebranding software to personalise the display with the organisation’s logo and brand colours. Compatibility: Microsoft Exchange, Office 265 Link: www.sedaosignage.com
Description: Described as a space scheduling and workplace analytics platform, Teem is designed to simultaneously improve workplace experiences for an organisation’s employees while offering IT and real estate professionals with useful data insights to optimise their use of space. Beyond this, it is said to be able to provide an understanding of the impact of meetings on an organisation’s productivity. A cloud-based – and thus scalable - software solution, Teem includes software for room displays, hallway navigation, mobile indoor way-finding, and calendar plug-ins to show images and the amenities of spaces. It also offers visitor management software to securely and efficiently welcome visitors to an organisation’s facilities. In a hot desking environment, Teem can also identify available desks, while in an organisation using non-bookable huddle rooms, occupancy sensors can automatically show which spaces are available. Voice interaction is possible for Teem’s integration with Alexa for Business. The solution is said to bridge the gap between employees’ mobile technologies and their office space, operating not only on displays in the office environment, but travelling with employees on their mobile devices. The Teem Partner Network enables Teem to integrate with other workplace technology solutions, including those from Aruba, Crestron, Currents by GE, Enlighted and more. Compatibility: Microsoft Exchange, Office 365, Google Calendar Link: www.teem.com November/December 2018
HOW ARE YOU, REALLY?
A break away from our standard AV coverage — but relevant to every business
If someone was struggling with their mental health at your place of work, would you be able to spot the signs? Would you know how to help? As a business owner and/or manager, are you aware of your responsibilities? AVTE examines the very real issues around mental health in business
here are many different levels of mental health ranging from good where everything is fine – to more serious conditions, such as stress, anxiety, and depression. As human beings, we all fit into one or more of those categories at some point in our life – some short term, whilst some may impact us for the rest of life. How we manage our mental health, or respond to those suffering with theirs, is vitally important, and – potentially even life saving. According to reports, one in every four
adults living in the U.K. will experience some form of mental health problem this year. The reasons can be wide and varied, and are always unique to an individual. These may cause – for example, a lack of sleep or panic attacks; difficulty in concentrating; and low confidence. In England, figures show that one in six people now experience a common mental health problem (such as anxiety and depression) in any given week. The implications of mental health issues for businesses are significant. It’s estimated that 15 in every 100 people have an existing
MENTAL HEALTH SPECIAL
In 2017, a total of 5,821 suicides were registered in the U.K.. This equates to an age-standardised suicide rate of 10.1 deaths per 100,000 population; this is one of the lowest rates observed since our time series began in 1981, when the rate was 14.7 deaths per 100,000. mental health condition at work (take a look around). The final impact – based on absence and reduced performance – costs employers up to £42 billion a year. As a whole, the cost of poor mental health to the U.K. economy is estimated to be as high as £99 billion. In recent years, the discussion around mental health has become less taboo. Celebrities, high profile business execs, and numerous national campaigns spearheaded by leading health organisations have all contributed in taking the subject out of the dark and into the public light, and helping to erode the perceived or assumed stigma surrounding it along the way. However, whilst attitudes are improving, there still remains some way to go, particularly in business. Perhaps most tellingly, Gillian Connor, from the national mental health charity Rethink Mental Illness, added: “Mental health can affect all of us at any given time. Mental health is not selective. It doesn’t target a specific gender, people with a specific job title, or how much they earn. There is no standard fit or model to work off. It’s very discriminate. We are all individual human beings. We all come with our own context and look at life through a different lens and we all have our own triggers.” Spotting the signs Addressing the issues around mental health can (crudely) be of tremendous benefit, helping not only to enhance your reputation but also financially. To give that some context, it’s now estimated that better mental health support in the workplace can create savings of up to £8 billion per year. “By looking after employee’s mental wellbeing, staff morale and loyalty, innovation, productivity and profits will rise,” – Deloitte wrote in a recent report. There are numerous ways in which employers and employees can help support
their colleagues, the majority of which require minimal (if any) investment, or force staff to play the role of a mental health professional, such as a therapist. According to figures published in the Thriving at Work Report – commissioned by U.K. prime-minister – 11 per cent of employees discussed a recent mental health problem with their line manager in 2017, whilst half of employees say they would not discuss mental health with their line manager. Eight in 10 employers report no cases of employees disclosing a condition. The figures highlight the sensitivity around the subject and the need and necessity for companies, particularly line managers, to get to know their staff. According to Connor – whose charity has seen a significant rise in providing organisations with mental health training and awareness courses, identifying possible concerns and intervention (if required) is key. The first and clearest sign to look out for, as simple as it may seem, if someone is behaving in a way that’s that’s not considered normal for that person. “Acting differently is often a sign that they are struggling in some form,” explained Connor. “If they’re normally happy, bubbly and talkative, but all of a sudden they seem quiet, distracted, or even withdrawn, then
KNOW YOUR OPTIONS Should an employee choose to discuss their mental health problems with their employer or not, it’s important they understand the options available to them. For many organisations, they will already be signed up to an Employment Assistant Programme (EAP) scheme — which are normally free and provide dedicated 24/7 telephone support and, in some instances, free counselling. “When you consider the wait for NHS
THE THRIVING AT WORK REPORT sets out what it calls six “mental health core standards,” a framework for a set of actions which it believes all organisations in the country are capable of implementing quickly. THESE INCLUDE: 1. Businesses to produce,
implement, and communicate a mental health at work plan. 2. Develop mental health awareness among employees. 3. Encourage open conversations about mental health and the support available when employees are struggling. 4. Provide your employees with good working conditions. 5. Promote effective people management. 6. Routinely monitor employee mental health and wellbeing
It’s estimated that better mental health support in the workplace can created savings of up to £8 billion per year.
counselling can be months and months with a GP referral, that’s a fantastic service, said Connor..” If not an option, requesting double appointments with a GP is encouraged, whilst contacting the samaritans (not just for those considering suicide) is an option. Connor added: “Those are three examples that people may not think about immediately. Knowing what support is available can be hugely helpful and the starting point to getting better.”
MENTAL HEALTH SPECIAL
Attracting the Next Generation Providing a support network for employees around mental health and wellbeing is becoming an increasingly becoming a key factor for millennials and the next generation on where people choose to work. “The evidence tells us they are much more interested in the ethical side of an employer,” explained Connor. “They now want to know what support is available and ask questions about company and their views on staff wellbeing.”
Women in full-time employment are nearly twice as likely to have a common mental health problem as full-time employed men (19.8 per cent vs 10.9 per cent).
there’s clearly something that’s not right. “Stress or anxiety is a reaction to feeling threatened or the perceived feeling of being threatened and can have a major impact on someone’s well being.” She continued: “For line managers, the importance of getting to know your staff can not be underestimated. When you ask someone how they are, actually mean it as a question and not an almost instinctive throw away acknowledgment. If you line manage properly, then you’ll take notice of your staff and you should (not always) be able to get to know them well enough to identify when something is and isn’t normal.” Trigger unhappy Understanding these signs and learning to identify certain triggers from staff – triggers they may not even acknowledge themselves at the time, is also crucial to helping alleviate a problem before it potentially spirals out of control. “They know their triggers and how to rebalance themselves when they’re well, but also when they’re unwell. It’s easy to lose sight of that,” continued, Connor. “Having other people around who know the signs is hugely important. All companies are capable of embarking on that journey.” Culture However, achieving these levels of relationships centre heavily around the culture and environment created at a workplace – one that encourages communication and provides an open and trusted space, where staff feel comfortable enough to speak up if they have a problem (such as pressures over workloads, bullying, or even something outside of work) which could be impacting their mental wellbeing and their performance at work. According to Mind, around 300,000 people lose their job each year due to a mental health problem – a figure which could have been significantly
reduced if the correct framework was provided by employers. The impact of encouraging staff to be honest that ‘it’s ok to not be ok’ is supported can not be underestimated. It’s currently estimated that as many as 95 per cent of people who take time off work due to a stress related health issue will lie to their employer and instead use a physical sickness condition as reason for their absence. This is largely related to fears over not being taken seriously, a lack of support, or that it might be perceived as weakness that may harm their immediate or and/or future career.” She continued: “It’s a visibility thing. It’s this notion that if you’re feeling mentally unwell, not feeling good, overworked, stressed, and a bit overwhelmed that it’s some sort of weakness to say something. A fear that you may be judged or that it may harm your career. A good working environment can help to eliminate these concerns.” In addition, there is also growing issue around presenteeism, where staff that are struggling with their health (both physical and mental) but continue to go into work. This is heavily linked to an increase in stress, anxiety, and depression cases in the U.K. Again, something that could potentially be cut with the right framework. According to the latest CIPD – the professional body for HR and people development – Health and Well-being at Work survey, the number of people working whilst ill is at a record high in the UK, tripling since 2010. Of the 1,000 plus employee respondents to the 2018 survey, 86 per cent said they had observed presenteeism in their organisation over the last 12 months, compared with 72 per cent in 2016 and 26 per cent in 2010. Work and life balance The survey also found that ‘leaveism’, which sees people working through their annual leave – for example, due to concerns around workloads – is also a growing problem, with more than two-thirds of respondents (69 per cent) reporting incidents in their organisation over the last year. Just a quarter of respondents that have experienced presenteeism (25 per cent) say their organisation has taken steps to discourage it. Rachel Suff, senior employment relations adviser at the CIPD, commented: “This survey shines a light on the shocking scale of presenteeism and leaveism we have in the U.K., as people feel under even more pressure at work. Increasingly the threats to well-being in the modern workplace are psychological rather than physical, and yet too few organisations are discouraging unhealthy workplace practices and tackling stress, which is
MENTAL HEALTH SPECIAL strongly linked to health conditions such as anxiety and depression.” She continued: “In order to encourage a healthy workplace, organisations need to look beyond sickness absence rates alone and develop a solid, evidence-based understanding of the underlying causes of work-related stress and unhealthy behaviour like presenteeism.” “If you feel you have to be at work when you’re not physically or mentally fit to do so, then that’s not a healthy culture and that’s not going to benefit the business in the long term,” Connor added. “The best companies are the ones that recognise we all have mental health and it isn’t something to be taken for granted,” said Connor. “Companies that tell their staff that it’s okay to have good days and to have bad days, for me, create the foundation for a good culture. It gives people permission to talk and permission to feel that it’s ok to talk about it when they’re struggling.” Proactive not reactive According to the previously mentioned Deloitte At a Tipping Point, Workplace Mental Health and Wellbeing report, it’s estimated that four in 10 organisations (39 percent) now have policies or systems in place to support employees with common mental health. However, whilst this is great news, Connor admitted that for many of the clients that approach her and her team regarding training on mental health in the workplace, it’s sometimes, following the loss of a colleague to suicide and learning what they could have perhaps done differently. One of the most concerning statistics you’ll read in this article today, is that the biggest killer of men between the age of 18-45 is suicide.
“A mentally healthy workplace and increased employee engagement are interdependent – by looking after employee’s mental wellbeing, staff morale and loyalty, innovation, productivity and profits will rise.” Deloitte: ‘At a tipping point, workplace mental health and wellbeing: And whilst, again statistically, women in full-time employment are nearly twice as likely to have a common mental health problem as full-time employed men (19.8 per cent vs 10.9 per cent), it is widely held believed that men are more likely to suffer in silence. “The difference between men and women when it comes to mental health is a concern,” said Connor. “We think a big reason for that is because men don’t share. Why? We believe it’s because there is a perception or an expectation among men that they don’t have permission to talk about their feelings and that they need to be strong. Keeping that to themselves, building up all those feelings and to having that reassurance and that there is support. We have men taking their own lives and that needs to stop.” She concluded: “Keeping things to yourself is the worst thing you can do and for businesses to implement some for of support network, no matter how small, it could be a lifeline for someone. A good business will look after its staff.”
LIFE OUTSIDE OF WORK Connor has urged employers to help support their employees for matters related not just to things in work, but also out of it. Employers are obligated to ensure their employees should not leave work in worse health than when they arrived based on their own obligations – however, for many people, a mental health condition is an extension of what’s happening in their personal life. Discussing how an employer can help provide additional support, such as flexible working hours or even time off, could benefit everyone. “Good employers recognise the value of their
staff and will try to accommodate their staff when they’re going through different things when they’re trying to juggle things when they’re outside of work,” said Connor. “If somebody had a bereavement, companies have a policy around compassionate leave. So therefore, if somebody is going through a breakup, why wouldn’t you recognise or have that discussion that they’re probably not going to be able to work at 100 percent? Having said that, it’s also about not making an assumption because for some people, work can be a relief or they might want to carry on as normal. it goes back to the conversation.”
THREE LEVELS OF MENTAL HEALTH • Doing really well and feeling good • Finding things hard • Being ill and possibly having time off work
SYMPTOMS OF POSSIBLE POOR MENTAL HEALTH • Difficulty sleeping • Feeling sad • Hallucinating • Hearing voices • Low self-esteem • Mood swings • Negative thinking • Racing thoughts • Self-harm • Suicidal thoughts • Weight loss
300,000 people with a long-term mental health condition losing their jobs every year. This is the equivalent of the whole population of Newcastle or Belfast.
INTERVIEW: VIDEO CONFERENCING
THE EVOLUTION OF VIDEO CONFERENCING AVTE caught up with William MacDonald, CTO at StarLeaf to discuss how the role and importance of video calling and conferencing has changed in recent year How has the role of video conferencing evolved for businesses changed? Cloud services and improved user experiences have fundamentally changed how video conferencing is deployed within enterprises. Cloud technology has eliminated much of the complexity and expense of maintaining on-premise video conferencing infrastructure, enabling and providing a seamless environment for both video conference suites and
â€œVideo conferencing enables businesses to have a flexible approach to working, enabling an organisation to recruit and retain the best people possible, wherever they are â€?
tightly integrated solutions deployed across multiple devices and platforms. Video conferencing is now playing a critical role in business operations, particularly those with a global workforce. Businesses that were dependent on the need to physically gather senior staff together to make critical decisions can now collaborate and make decisions much more effectively, collapsing the decision-making cycles, speeding up the time it takes to bring products to market and agree business strategies.
Why do you think that is? Beyond speaking face to face, what do you consider to be some of the biggest benefits? Video conferencing enables businesses to have a flexible approach to working, enabling an organisation to recruit and retain the best people possible, wherever they are. People are living increasingly congested lives and spending hours commuting every day not only reduces the time they can spend focusing on the business, but also compresses the time they can spend with family and friends. Video conferencing technology can eliminate many of the challenges this presents to staff, allowing them to work with greater effectiveness in a location that is suitable for them. With flexible working and the capability for staff to work from remote locations, businesses can significantly expand the available pool of people they can hire from, as it no longer matters that your business is based in London but the developer you want to hire lives in Inverness. Talk to us about the vale of cloud-based video conferencing. With cloud-based services, sophisticated management platforms can provide data analytics on service usage, enable control privileges for administrators, simple and straightforward provisioning and room setup. Firmware updates can be delivered automatically to every single device connected to the cloud, reducing the burden on IT staff manually upgrading their video conferencing environments, which is particularly important for global businesses that may have hundreds or even thousands of meeting rooms. Businesses are often tempted to deploy PCs in meeting rooms and connect them to the video conferencing cloud, as they are relatively cost
INTERVIEW: VIDEO CONFERENCING
INTERVIEW: VIDEO CONFERENCING
“For small businesses with only a few staff, free services can be a good starting point. But the likes of Facebook and Slack are pitched to the consumer, with little or no support ” effective and easy to use. However, a PC in a meeting room can be subjected to automatic Windows updates, which can break some of the drivers like cameras and audio systems and cannot be centrally managed, placing additional burdens on IT management. In addition, PCs cannot offer the same intuitive user experience of a dedicated video conferencing solution and may break the seamless collaboration workflow from mobile to desktop to meeting room. What are some of the biggest advancements being seen today and where do you think it’s moving towards? The next stage for video conferencing technology, particularly at the enterprise level, is incorporating artificial intelligence (AI) and Big Data analytics into management platforms. Businesses want to see analytics on room utilisation and video point to point usage, enabling them to make better decisions on how they communicate as a business and use their meeting spaces. AI solutions can also recognise if a meeting is scheduled but does not start at the allocated time, telling the organiser that it will be cancelled, and the room made available if the meeting does not start within a specified time. What would be your advice to a business or individual looking to invest in a new meeting room solution? Businesses looking to invest in meeting room solutions should be looking towards tightly integrated cloud solutions, that give their staff everything they need to operate effectively, providing a secure environment. Businesses also have to make sure that the cloud provider is offering them a reliable solution with redundancy built into the network and that it has a global footprint of points 44
of presence to support your business. Robust data jurisdiction and privacy policies are also crucial to ensuring that companies can meet their compliance obligations. Some reading this may still be using free services from the likes of Google or Facebook and wonder why they should invest in something they already get for free. What would you say to those? Businesses will typically use free services because they are not quite ready to make a bigger investment into a fully integrated meeting room and collaboration solution. There is nothing wrong with using free services, but the likes of Facebook and Slack are pitched to the consumer with little or no support. There can be issues with quality and they are not optimised for business. For small businesses with just a few staff members free services can be a good starting point, but as these businesses grow they will need a reliable, quality solution that has the capacity to scale with them and incorporate a fuller range of benefits. For end users looking to invest in video conferencing, what would you say are the key things they should consider before making a decision? Organisations that invest in video conferencing may have many different stakeholders, like HR, marketing and engineering departments, that all have different requirements. End users need an intuitive environment that just works for them, so they don’t have to call IT support to get it working. End users need video conferencing solutions to support innovation and accelerate decision making, they should not have to think about the system itself, it should be there to serve the business and the staff that use it. www.avtechnologyeurope.com
BATTLE OF THE BRANDS: THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN
Choosing the right video conferencing platform for your business is vital for getting the most out of your meetings
ideo conferencing (or video telephony as it was once referred) has come on along way since its concept was first conceived back in the 1870’s, with its first public service offering in 1936. Back then, the technology largely centred around the use of two closed circuit television systems (one at each end) connected via coaxial cable or radio. Today, the concept is far simpler and is accessible to anyone in possession of a connected device – be it a desktop, laptop, tablet or smartphone. For businesses, adoption of video conferencing services continues to rise at speed. According to various forecasts, the video conferencing market is predicted to grow around 20 per cent each year, with the industry’s current worth of $16 billion rising beyond $40 billion by 2022. In 2017, Skype alone had more than 300 million active monthly users, with the app downloaded more than a billion times. In an ever increasingly crowded market, choosing the right platform (or platforms) is vital, but can be equally as complicated, confusing and potentially even costly. There are a number of things to consider (see pages 50-52) and a wide range of brands to choose from. To help bring some clarity, AVTE spoke to seven leading video conferencing providers (steering away from the hardware) to learn more about their solutions and why they consider theirs to the best choice for you and your business.
84 per cent of
businesses now use two or more cloudbased video conference solutions
Live video will soon account for per cent of the total video traffic
the workforce will telecommute within a decade, its claimed
In 2017, per cent of companies had video conferencing setups in their ‘huddle’ rooms
Company: 8x8 Solution: 8x8 X Series Target market: Firms of all sizes and from any industry – SMB, mid market, enterprise and public sector. Perfect for: Distributed work forces, global users and meeting rooms of all sizes. Sell it to us: 8x8 X Series provides users with one integrated application for video and audio conferencing, team messaging, and phone calls. Users can join and host meetings from a mobile application, or browser, easily adding internal guests through instant message or extending the invite to an external participant. 8x8 meetings integrate with Google mail and Outlook to make it easy for users to set up meetings and video conferences from their mail application. 8x8 owns and develops its own solution. Providing customers with a guaranteed and reliable, clear video and audio using advanced technology to deliver high-definition quality. Stand out feature: Single solution for enterprise quality voice, video, meetings and messaging. 8x8 recently acquired Jitsi to further enhance video capabilities.
“Users can join and host meetings from a mobile application, or browser”
BATTLE OF THE BRANDS: THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN Company: BlueJeans Solution: BlueJeans Rooms with Dolby Voice Target market: Start-ups to global corporations Perfect for: Huddle rooms and small to medium sized conference rooms. Sell it to us: BlueJeans Rooms with Dolby Voice combines high-end video conferencing features at an entry level price point. It is an easy to install, manage, and use solution that intelligently flexes to various scenarios to provide an amazing, natural, and productive meeting experience. It overcomes key challenges faced by meeting participants and IT that hamper productivity such as unintelligible audio, shadowy video, distracting background noise, poorly framed views of participants, and confusing interfaces on jumbled hardware kits. It is easy for participants to use and for IT to manage. It was introduced as a way to minimise fatigue by combining excellent sound quality and levelling technology with smart camera adjustments to motion and lighting, helping meeting focus to stay on what matters. Stand out feature: The 4K wide-angle camera and HDR video mapping intelligently adjusts to changes in lighting and motion in a multitude of room sizes and structures. This enables a seamless experience for everyone in the room and remote participants by intelligently framing the meeting discussion in real-time. Why choose over a competitor? By including the Dolby Conference Phone, BlueJeans Rooms with Dolby Voice delivers an amazing audio centrepiece with the ability to adapt to shifting speaking volumes and room acoustics in real time. With features like voice placement and dynamic levelling, the power of audio clarity becomes a reality. Price? Variable, from free trial to enterprise-level. Free trial? Yes, a 30-day free trial.
Company: ClickMeeting Solution: ClickMeeting Target market: ClickMeeting is a browser-based webinar software that brings the power of web conferencing to organisations of any size, from one-person firms to multinational enterprises. Sell it to us: ClickMeeting delivers the best webinar and web conferencing experience for each client. Interested prospects can choose from available features and add-ons and create their own solution that serves their needs in the best possible way. We’ve found our own way to compete with the giants with creativity and flexibility and we’ve proved that even a small team can conquer the market and build a strong and solid position for itself. Stand out feature: It’s not a feature per se, but it’s something that definitely makes a unique software provider and it’s our 5-star Customer Success Team. Just to give you an example, 95 per cent of customers are happy with our support, which beats the global benchmark by10 per cent. Why choose over a competitor: We provide a complete webinar solution that works great both for small meetings and huge webinar events. At the same time, we’re flexible enough to deliver solutions that our customers want and need. Doesn’t matter if they are a one-person company or an enterprise - we hear out their feedback, support them in their work and help them to understand how webinars can help their business grow. 8. Price? ClickMeeting pricing is subscription-based, which means that our users choose how they want to be billed: on a monthly or annual basis. The pricing is also associated with the number of attendees allowed in a single webinar session. The pricing starts from $25 per month. Users are allowed to upgrade their account at any time and buy add-ons for an additional fee. 9. Free trial? 30-day free trial version with no credit card required.
Company: Lifesize Solution: Lifesize Dash Target market: Corporate Perfect for: Mini meeting spaces and huddle rooms. Sell it to us: Mini spaces and huddle rooms are quickly becoming the go-to location for meetings in today’s fast paced, collaborative environment. We designed Lifesize Dash as a way to help maximise productivity in these spaces while still offering the benefits of larger meeting room solutions. Now,
companies have another option that is simple, cost-effective, and above all else, intuitive for their users. Stand out feature: Our quality not compromised by price or size. Why choose over a competitor: The DASH is really simple to use and seamlessly integrates with a variety of third-party USB cameras and audio devices including AVer, Logitech, Huddly, MXL and others, so customers can create the best possible meeting room solution for their needs. Price? All you need is a Chromebox, laptop or tablet, a USB camera and audio device, and a monitor and you have yourself a video solution for under £1,000. Free trial? Existing and new customers who subscribe to the Lifesize cloud-based service (Between Oct. 30, 2018 – Jan. 31, 2019) will receive a free Lifesize Dash subscription. 47
BATTLE OF THE BRANDS: THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN Company Name: RingCentral Solution Name: RingCentral Office (video solutions are included in the main solution, along with team messaging, conferencing, mobility, analytics and tonnes of communications features). Traget market: SMB, mid-market, and enterprise businesses of all industries Perfect for: Rooms of any size, can also be used as a full room conferencing solution as well as for small teams or individuals. Sell it to us: RingCentral, Inc is a leading provider of global enterprise cloud communications and collaboration solutions. More flexible and cost-effective than legacy on-premises systems, RingCentral empowers today’s mobile and distributed workforce to communicate, collaborate, and connect from anywhere, on any device. RingCentral unifies voice, video, team messaging and collaboration, conferencing, online meetings, and integrated contact centre solutions. RingCentral’s open platform integrates with leading business apps and enables customers to easily customise business workflows. Stand out feature: RingCentral video conferencing has a simple UI and enables you to easily join meetings from your desktop, conference room, or mobile device, which is further integrated into a full cloud PBX solution. Why choose over a competitor: RingCentral video solutions offer user friendly HD video to businesses of all sizes, easily integrates with your business activities and is just one part of a larger all-inclusive communications package. Price? £7.99/user Free trial? Yes
Company Name: Microsoft Solution Name: Skype for Business Target market: Organisations of any size. Perfect for: Collaboration with anyone, anywhere on any device Sell it to us: Skype for Business goes above and beyond the platform’s standard capabilities by throwing in tools and features that make it worthy of full enterprise deployment. The service offers advance scheduling, real-time screen sharing, VoIP support, and accessibility across desktop, iOS and Android devices, while up to 250 people can join a single meeting. Want to take this even further and stage a webinar? Skype Meeting Broadcast may be the upgrade for you, enabling up to 10,000 attendees, full producer controls, Azure streaming, Bing Pulse polling and audience participation via Yammer. Stand out feature: Being part of the Microsoft family makes Skype for Business particularly appealing for organisations already using an Office 365 corporate package, as the associated applications come tightly integrated and have instant familiarity. Notable features included: An unlimited number of meetings, built in instant messaging, URL invites, Powerpoint upload, use on any device (PC, MAC, iPhone, Android, iPad), screen sharing, whiteboard (draft, draw and edit together like being in the same room) and more. Price? Though it wasn’t always the case, Skype for Business now requires a subscription to the Business Premium edition of Office 365, which costs $12.50 (£9.50) a month if you commit to an entire year. If you want to pay month-tomonth, the price hikes up to $15 (£11.50) per month. Free trial? Request
Company Name: Zoom Video Communications Solution Name: Zoom Target market: Organisations of any size Perfect for: Desktop, mobile, and meeting spaces of any type. With features like HD video, cloud recording transcripts, virtual backgrounds, you can Zoom from anywhere! Sell it to us: Zoom is a communications platform for video, voice, chat, and content sharing across all devices. Zoom features an easy-to-navigate interface and highest quality video and audio experience for face-to-face meetings that feel natural, flow better - without interruptions - and ultimately meetings that are more productive. Stand out feature: Zoom is uncomplicated for its end users – with a simple interface and one-click join. It makes video
communications less fiddly and more accessible. Why choose over a competitor: Zoom offers more for less, with a free plan that gives you access to unlimited meetings – including one-to-one calls with no time limit for absolutely no cost. As if that wasn’t enough – it also offers calls for up to 40 minutes with a maximum of 100 participants for free. Price? £0 for the free plan and £11.99/mo for Pro Free trial? More than a trial – a free plan with great benefits.
THE HOME OF AV AND SYSTEMS INTEGRATION Make all the connections you need at ISE 2019 Integrated Systems Europe is where the latest innovations and solutions are showcased and where professionals go to learn, network and do business.
VIDEO CONFERENCING: TOP TIPS
Six Things to Consider Before You Invest in Video Conferencing AS TECHNOLOGY has advanced, it has changed the notion around video conferencing altogether. Video conferencing is no longer a ‘nice to have’ solution but is now a viable necessity for businesses of all sizes. It is interesting to see how a technology such as the fax machine changed business, and not simply by saving money. After all, no one ever bought a fax machine to save on postage. What changed was the speed of business. The goal of any business should be to speed up, to transact, to relate and ultimately to sell ideas faster and more efficiently. Video conferencing is simply the next logical extension of a constant speeding up of
business since the modern business office was born over 100 years ago. Therefore, if you’re any type of business with an idea to sell, customers to service, partners to communicate with or on-the-go employees to manage, you’ll want to investigate how video conferencing will work for you to make all of that a lot easier and more human too. Lifesize has provided AVTE readers with its six top tips on things that should be considered by end users before making an investment in video conferencing. Each is designed to help you think of how video conferencing could affect your business processes, why compatibility matters, the steps you should take to ensure its adoption and more.
VIDEO CONFERENCING: TOP TIPS
Business processes: How could your business benefit from video conferencing? Consider today’s work flow and how video can expedite decision making, help you to communicate with more people, maintain employee engagement, facilitate training with disparate teams and more. Think, “Who outside of my organisation can use this?” The answer is, anyone with whom you interact with. HD video collaboration replicates in-person meetings, so you can extend the technology to anyone, such as your supply chain, customers, partners and suppliers, just to name a few. Do you have remote or mobile users who need to communicate with others in meeting rooms? Would your organisation benefit from the recording and streaming of meetings? Compatibility: Be one with everyone. Be agnostic. Look for a video conferencing solution that is standards-based, not limited in its offering. • Communicate everywhere. Think outside the walls of the meeting room. You’ll want to be able to talk to the broadest range of devices as possible, including desktops, laptops, tablets and any other mobile devices. • Start simple. Maybe you can’t kit out the whole organisation with video conferencing on every device, so think about what matters most and start there. • Keep the costs of your initial investment in video conferencing low so that you can scale your video environment as you grow.
Find a trusted advisor: Not just a ‘supplier’ but a helping hand to guide you. •Pick a supplier who understands your business. They should be a trusted advisor who already understands and manage other IT functions at the company. • Look for manufacturers who have proven themselves to be innovators and who are committed to the market. You don’t want to invest in the overnight sensation that will be gone tomorrow. • Interview potential advisors thoroughly; check that they know what they are talking about. Video conferencing is NOT an AV product. In the modern era, the network and infrastructure issues require expertise in more than lighting or room decoration.
Costs: Remember to leave room to grow. • Invest in technology that doesn’t become obsolete as your needs change or your organisation grows. The cost of a dedicated Internet connection can be very high and is rarely justified. Basic Internet is more often than not good enough. • Think of the opportunity cost in waiting to have those meetings. Video allows face-to-face communications instantly. • Finally, there’s travel costs. Yes, it matters, but it is not of primary importance. Don’t look to justify your spend on technology this way. Invest in it because you believe in it.
Quality of experience: Your window into another world. For video conferencing to be successful within your business, it needs to be of such high quality that your users forget they are using it. The best video conferencing is invisible to users. Remember, video won’t replace travel completely because there will still be instances where an in-person interaction is needed. But when travel is not a necessity, video will enable you to see the person on the other side more frequently. Bottom line, don’t skimp on the quality of experience.
Evangelising video conferencing: Shout it from the rooftops, or at least the executive floor. Installing video conferencing into a business and expecting the organisation to adopt it and change its behaviour overnight is simply not realistic. For truly successful implementation, a number of strategies can be employed to help fuel adoption. These include: • Let potential users know it exists. • Conduct training (live or on demand) showing how easy it is to use. • Understand that people will be afraid to use it, even if they don’t tell you they are. • Find corporate business sponsors. (We suggest you start with the executive floor.) • Investigate to find out who in your supply chain has video; use it with them. • Incentivise your team with “video miles” or other cool swag for adopting the technology. www.lifesize.com/video/conferencing
In association with
EYE ON RECRUITMENT A selection of the latest movers and shakers from across the AV industry, plus some top insight from leading AV recruitment firm, JacobsMassey
Ben Palmer AV Technician, Church House Conference Centre, Westminster What attracted you to Church House? I have always enjoyed being very ‘hands on’ at a job (as opposed to my previous job, which was predominantly over the phone tech support for audio gear). As well as treating their employees very well, Church house offered the kind of diversity of events and clients to really keep me on my toes. What are your main responsibilities? At present my responsibilities involve working alongside the other members of the AV team to ensure that each and every event is planned, prepared and operated to the highest standard possible within the means at our disposal, which can often change and shift on the day to meet the constantly evolving needs of the clients. What industry trends are you seeing? It seems to me that web streaming is becoming increasingly popular with our clients; with increased streaming options using services such as YouTube or Facebook Live, many clients have found that size constraints with a venue are beginning to matter less and less as their conference or event can be viewed by either invitation or publicly online by an unlimited amount of guests. What’s the best thing about working in AV? For me, the best part of being in the AV industry can be accredited to a few different aspects, working as a part of a close nit team and being exposed to varied events which I would not usually get to attend, which can often be very interesting subject matter. It is great to be a part of an ever expanding industry and keeping up with evolving tech. I also get a bit of a kick out of trouble shooting and getting to the bottom of tricky issues within a system.
Stephen Wair: NEC Stephen joins as end user account manager and brings a wealth of experience in complex control room environments, having spent 15 years at Barco as BDM and before that, two years as UK broadcast manager at Panasonic. Richard Billings: Peerless AV Richard joins as technical sales manager for mainland Europe. He has over 10 years’ experience in business development, product marketing, channel management and commercial sales at various global AV manufacturers. Previous experience includes roles at Legrand, PSCo and Polycom.
MD, Graeme Massey’s Words of Wisdom On our recent travels we have visited many client sites as we enter the final knockings of 2018. One thing that is common to all is the increased level of investment in AV. The move by many departments to create an audio and visual ‘experience’ has resulted in auditorium spaces being overhauled. We now see gallery-style facilities offering live event support, enhanced video capability and live streaming. So keep an eye on the job market. Technical innovation feeds the demand for complex AV skills.
Share your recruitment movers and shakers with AV Technology Europe If you have recently made a new appointment and would like he or she to be featured in our ‘Eye on Recruitment’ page, please email our editor Michael Garwood: firstname.lastname@example.org
THE TECH GUIDE
A SELECTION OF THE LATEST AV PRODUCTS AND SERVICES NOW AVAILABLE NEC Display Solutions
Polaris Series Product type: LED display panel Target market: Rental staging What does it do? Specifically developed to meet the demands of narrow pixel pitch (NPP) LED in live event rental applications, this new series encompasses 10 models ranging from 1.5 to 6.9mm pixel pitch to fit all rental staging needs. The series is suitable for both indoor and outdoor use. For the first time, rental stagers can benefit from a true high-resolution LED display solution for maximum rental revenues and the fastest ROI for outdoor and indoor applications. What’s new? The series boasts a number of technological breakthroughs, including High Brightness Black (HBB) technology, which produces 20 per cent less heat and 20 per cent more brightness. With brightness levels up to 5,000 nits and a contrast ratio of 8000:1, Polaris offers excellent visual effects even in outdoor use. It also brings speed, ease of use, robustness and precision thanks to a number of mechanical advances including auto-lock, auto-eject and fast-switch curve locking systems.
MultiSync C751Q Product type: UHD Large Format Display Target market: Corporate, Retail What does it do? The C Series is designed with an ultra-minimalist style to complement today’s trend for clutter-free meeting spaces. Capable of portrait and landscape orientation, the displays feature professional haze levels to ensure the best possible visibility eliminating reflections, along with brightness levels of up to 350 cd/m2 meeting the demands of today’s meeting environments. What’s new? New large formats of 75” and larger (86” and 98”) all offer UHD resolution for pin-sharp pixel-free visualisation. They are future-ready with Open Modular Intelligence expansion enabling users to upgrade the power of the display at any time. Perfect for? The new large format displays are designed for modern office and shop environments with controlled ambient light levels, ideal for meeting room, conferencing and digital signage applications. The 75” C751Q model enables presenters to feel confident during meetings of up to 12 participants whilst retailers and hospitality facilities can boost sales through digital signage. Released: June 2018 More info at: www.nec-display-solutions.com Price: £4,080
Perfect for? All manner of live events, both indoor and outdoor Released: June 2018 More info at: www.absen-europe.com Price: POA
T-32 Shift Product type: Projection screen system leg Target market: Education, presentations, corporate, event staging What does it do? The T-32 Shift screen system leg makes it possible for just one person to easily adjust a mobile projection screen‘s height in a matter of seconds, without having to disassemble it first. Airstar
NEO Product type: Inflatable lighting solution Target market: Event staging What does it do? Measuring 5m long x 20cm wide, NEO is an inflatable lighting structure that is easy to handle and set up, and can be either installed on the ground or mounted. Its imposing size makes it a unique product, offering a powerful brightness of 8,500 lumens. What’s new? Although relatively simple, it is truly unique in the marketplace: it creates extravagant and creative lighting effects. Event professionals can let their imaginations run free with the help of this fun and easy to use solution. The product offers a powerful yet evenly spread light, while its elongated and linear shape provides an impression of lightness.
What’s new? AV Stumpfl’s engineers knew that many of their customers wanted to be able to adjust a mobile projection screen’s height without having to disassemble it first, because although doing so is not a problem as such, the reality is that it takes time and usually involves two people. AV Stumpfl didn’t want to force existing customers to switch to a completely new system, which is why they developed the T-32 Shift, which is compatibility with the existing and highly successful AV Stumpfl products Monoblox32 and MonoClip32. Perfect for? Time-sensitive / short-staffed mobile projection screen applications Released: February 2018 More info at: www.avstumpfl.com Price: POA
Perfect for? Outdoor events and music festivals, or as an integral part of a creative set. Released: August 2018 More info at: http://www.airstar-light.com/en/# Price: POA
Duecanali Series Product type: Amplifier Target market: Small to medium size fixed/ permanent installations
INSIGHT Laser 8K Product type: Laser projector Target market: Presentations, corporate, fixed installs, broadcast, planetariums, home cinema What does it do? Digital Projection’s INSIGHT Laser 8K is the world’s first commercially available 8K DLP laser projector. Put simply, 8K delivers 33 million pixels at 7680 × 4320 resolution, which is the equivalent of 16 Full HD Projectors, or four 4K projectors (rather than two 4K projectors, as some might assume). It uses laser technology, a solid-state illumination system which eliminates the need for regular lamp replacement cycles and allows for continuous system operation. What’s new? The projector makes use of the DLP technology, incorporating 3 x 1.38-inch DarkChip, DMD and ColorMax technology to ensure superb colour accuracy and black levels, while the 8K laser technology provides a new performance benchmark. This projector sits in an elite class of its own when it comes to performance, providing ultra-high resolution through 25,000 lumens.
What does it do? This two-channel amplifier platform is dedicated to the fixed install market, and is the perfect answer to system integrators’ needs for a high-performance amplifier solution in leisure and retail spaces. The new Duecanali Series features low power consumption and heat dissipation, with direct positive effects on investment. It offers 40 per cent to 60 per cent savings on operating costs over traditional amplifiers of the same power rating. Fully remote controllable, it provides excellent sonic quality and offers a simple, limited interface for non-technical staff to access the main functionalities while leaving full operability to qualified admin users. What’s new? It is able to drive low impedance loads (2/4/8 Ohm) and 70V/100V distributed lines selectable per channel. With optional DSP onboard, interoperability created via third-party plug-ins, networking and remote control, Powersoft amplifiers have been converted into smart controllers of the future. This has great bearing on integrators involved in multiple disciplines like audio, video, ETH cabling, power distribution and UPS provision. Perfect for? Retail, bars, restaurants, fitness centres Released: February 2018 More info at: Powersoft’s distributor network: http://www.powersoft-audio.com/en/contacts/ worldwide-distributors Price: POA
Perfect for? From the most advanced auditoriums, to visualisation projects requiring unmatched details, to elite entertainment venues that demand the most immersive experience through large-scale imagery; the INSIGHT Laser 8K provides a new performance benchmark in the industry. Released: August 2018 More info at: http://www.digitalprojection.com/emea/ Price: POA
Vision Audio Visual
SB-900P Active Soundbar Product type: Audio-visual speaker Target market: Corporate
EQ1 Series Product type: 4K resolution display Target market: Corporate and retail environments What does it do? The EQ1 display range offers simple digital signage with a built in USB player and synchronised playback on multiple devices via USB and LAN. It is also ideal for corporations with the extensive connectivity features for digital link, with 4k/60p video input signals via 2x HDMI. What’s new? (new features compared to previous model) The EQ1 series offers six different sizes from 43-inch to 86-inch, and maximises the quality of 4K images with its slim depth and narrow bezel design which creates a larger screen area in relation to the display’s physical size. It provides a high quality image resolution with 350cd/m2 brightness, while the two largest panels also featuring In-Plane Switching technology which maintains colour accuracy and clear visibility when the screen is viewed off axis. The displays have two HDCP 2.2 compliant HDMI terminals, and can also be monitored or controlled using Panasonic MultiMonitoring and Control software.
What does it do? The Vision SB-900P Soundbar is designed to enhance the audio in meeting rooms, boardrooms and conference rooms. The built-in 2 x 15 watt amplifier produces extremely clear sound and ensures no tiring high frequency distortion. What’s new? With an improved sleek design, the Soundbar features Power Cycling and Auto Standby to conserve energy when mains power is turned off and on. Bluetooth connection allows multiple devices to pair at once, with sound projected forward in a tight pattern to help audio conference phones to filter out echoes. The Soundbar also comes with a hanging wall bracket, rubber feet for shelves and can easily fit on a floor stand. Perfect for? Medium and large meeting spaces Released: November 2018 More info at: https://visionaudiovisual.com/ techaudio/sb-900p/ Price: POA
Perfect for? (i.e small classrooms, medium sized meeting rooms, outdoor stadiums, etc) Shopping centres, showrooms, meeting rooms and classrooms Released: October 2018 More info at: https://business.panasonic.co.uk/ visual-system/products-and-accessories/professionaldisplays/indoor-displays Price: Prices range from €720 - €6228 RRP
Xtreme™ High Bright Outdoor Display Product type: Outdoor Target market: Sports venues, theme parks, ski resorts, transportation, retail, museums, visitor attractions, education, corporate and hospitality BenQ
LU9915 BlueCore Laser Projector Product Type: Laser Projector Target Market: Large installations such as museums, exhibitions and auditoriums What does it do? The BenQ LU9915 BlueCore Laser Projector is the brightest choice for large venue applications, featuring 10,000 ANSI-lumen brightness and 100,000:1 contrast ratio for brilliant viewing experiences even under bright ambient lighting. The BlueCore laser engine also delivers enhanced colour performance through a dual colour wheel system, support for 360° and portrait installation and 24/7 operation. LU9915 is compatible with a selection of lenses for a wide range of installation possibilitie. What’s new? BenQ BlueCore laser projectors are designed with sealed laser modules and enclosed light engines to protect the DMD chip, colour wheel sensor, laser bank, and other optical components. This lock-and-key design hermetically seals the engine from dust to prolong projector lifespan. LU9915 employs two advanced cooling systems to ensure optimal thermal conduction during operation. The circulatory liquid cooling system protects the laser light bank and DMD chip even after constant operation in ambient temperatures up to 40°C (104°F,)
What does it do? The Xtreme High Bright Outdoor Display offers the highest environmental rating in its class and the widest operating temperature range in the industry. Whether installed in extremely hot or extremely cold environments, the display performs reliably and maintenance free with the best picture quality, even in direct sunlight or when exposed to moisture, brake dust, dirt, fumes, insects, chemical clouds, hose directed water and temporary submersion. What’s new? The Xtreme High Bright is available in 43”, 49” and 55”. The display features a patented Dynamic Thermal Transfer system that allows the display to operate in extreme temperatures ranging from -35°C to 60°C. It is IP68 and NEMA 6 rated with a high TNI panel and IK10 rated impact resistant cover glass for protection against damage. 2,500 nits of brightness ensures reliable performance in high ambient lighting conditions, without the need for fans, vents or filters. Perfect for? Perfect for any outdoor digital signage Released: September 2018 More info at: www.peerless-av.com Price: POA
Perfect for? Large venue installations such as museums, exhibitions and auditoriums Released: January 2018 More info at: https://business-display.benq.eu/ lu9915.html Price: £14,499
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STRICTLY OFF-LIMITS Michael Garwood waltzes into BBC Studioworks Elstree studios – Hertfordshire’s answer to Hollywood – for a behind the scenes cha-cha-chat and tour of BBC One’s Saturday night juggernaut, Strictly Come Dancing
he advent and ever growing popularity of on-demand subscription and non subscription based streaming services (Netflix, Amazon Prime, iPlayer et al) coupled with the availability of high-speed internet, has significantly altered the way audiences engage with television content in recent years. According to a report from Ofcom, a staggering eight in every 10 adults in the UK (that’s 40 million people) used some form of catch up TV last year, whilst subscription numbers for the aforementioned paid services topped 14 million. The rise – predictably – continues to fuel the fire around suggestions that linear TV is either dead or dying, with people increasingly preferring to choose as and when they consume content. You only need to look back to 2017, when an episode of Blue Peter (June 13, 2:30pm) failed (incredibly) to record a single viewer – down from eight million in its prime. But whilst the figures may give the death knell ringers some solid backing, there still however remains an insatiable appetite for live television, notably sport and – our focus here – during Saturday primetime. All singing, all dancing The time slot, typically measured between 19:0022:00, remains highly competitive, with BBC and ITV entering into what’s often described as a ‘ratings war’ between networks through their various different shows throughout the year. Figures for shows, such as The Voice (5.2m) and The X Factor (5.6m), Britain’s Got Talent (8-9m) have all remained healthy and strong, if not entirely consistent. However, one show that’s currently dancing its way to the top of the rating tables is the BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing. Now in its 16th series, viewing figures for its live Saturday night broadcast remain solid, pulling in audience figures of between 8 and 10 million – that’s the equivalent of the population of Sweden collectively glued to a TV between 6:30pm. and 8:35pm. This year, the show has been attracting an even bigger audience: on 14th October, Strictly had a peak audience of 11.9 million. But Strictly’s success hasn’t come out of luck, nor has it sat back and admired its own success. Such is the demand from fans and eagerness for the broadcaster to remain engaged with its audience, Strictly now airs seven days a week. This includes Sunday’s results show, followed by five days (Monday to Friday) of It Takes Two, which follows the progress of the contestants building up to Saturday’s live show.
For BBC Studioworks, with studio operations at Television Centre (White City), BBC Elstree Centre and Elstree Studios, facilitating the production and post production for the show is a full time job. And by full time, we mean 24/7. “There’s never a quiet day here,” jokes the MD of BBC Studioworks, David Conway during our visit to its Elstree post production village, the entrance to which is the exterior setting of Holby City. “Whilst Strictly is a live show, there is a lot taking place during the rest of the week, with daily recordings of things like rehearsals as well as a lot of time critical editing.” Run VT He’s not kidding. The workload that goes into producing the show is not for the faint hearted, be it the staff or indeed the dancers – who by comparison, get off lightly. For the dancers, it’s a six day week, only resting on Sunday – should they choose. Monday to Thursday, the couples practice and rehearse in a convenient dance studio location (often close to their home), whilst on Friday they’re required to be in London for a full rehearsal. During each of their practice sessions, the couples will be assigned a camera crew to capture their progress and collect other types of footage that may occur (accidents, progress - or lack if it). Each day, crews record two hours of footage on each couple, which will be used to create a VT lasting around 90 seconds for the show(s). In total, more than 100 hours of footage is collected during the week. As part of a “well oiled machine,” content is first delivered to the BBC Studioworks data wrangler, who then catalogues, checks and backs up all of the material to a 210TB Object Matrix Online storage solution. From there, a team of loggers ingest the material at XDCam 50 onto a Cinegy logging system connected to 100TB of EMC and SATA Beast storage where the media remains for the duration of the series. Specific content is sent to a 180TB Avid Nexis server. Editing happens across 12 Avid Symphony edit suites, with audio dubbing being carried out on a Pro Tools system. “You get handheld cam footage all week of the celebrities in the different rehearsal rooms, so there’s quite a lot to piece together,” adds Conway. “It’s quite a big logging operation.” John Loughman is post production supervisor at BBC Studioworks and has worked on the show for the past 11 years. He is responsible for ensuring that all VTs used in its broadcasts are edited to the highest standard and are photosensitive epilepsy
<ABOVE: This year’s crop of celebrities
compliant before going out on air. “The workflow hasn’t changed that much over the years and it’s evolved into a very smooth operation,” says Loughman tapping his desk, from which he is working across four different monitors. “My responsibility is to view all the VTs after they’ve been put together by the editors and make sure they’re good and technically compliant. The editors get so close to the content cutting that they can sometimes miss something quite obvious to others watching, like someone coughing during a shot or something like that.” Discussing the captured footage, he adds: “Every year they do the VTs differently. They used to shoot hours and hours of training, whereas now they’re a little more strategic. They might go and visit somewhere, such as a family member or a special place, so the training aspect for the main show is now a smaller part. It Takes Two is on five days a week, so they tend to concentrate on the training and have various segments like Choreography Corner, which looks back at the previous weekend. Editorially they have a lot of time to fill and they want to fill it with engaging content.” Day and night Editing (unlike the dancing), Loughman explains, does not take a day off – with the frequency of the show ensuring there is always new content to cut. Staff even have to work overnight following November/December 2018
the live show’s conclusion on Saturday, with preparation for the results show starting before the credits have even rolled. “Saturday night there’s editing, Sunday there’s editing – basically there’s editing every day, seven days a week, 24 hours a day up until the final,” he explains, still smiling. “On Saturday night, the production team cuts a ‘Behind the scenes’ VT for the Sunday show. They shoot a lot of footage, so much of the work is finding the best bits of the show and all the buzz behind the scenes. It [the VT] is usually in two parts. The first is cutting all the preparation, makeup and getting ready for the show. Then transitioning into the actual show, the reactions from the judges and the door burst as each couple leaves the dance floor. Sunday morning, they then start editing the results show at 6:30am and then deliver that down the line at around 3pm Sunday afternoon for broadcast on TV later that evening. Repeat that process 12 times in a row. It’s constant, but we enjoy it.” Tape is dead One of the big changes to the way this year’s show is recorded, delivered and edited is through the use of tapeless capture technology. The new tapeless system, which has been used at BBC Studioworks’ Television Centre base for the past year, is making its debut in Elstree for Strictly and will be used for all future 61
<ABOVE: John Loughman
programming recorded there. According to Loughman, its new tapeless setup is something that has become increasingly requested by clients due to it providing a number of time and cost saving benefits (not to mention environmental) when compared to tape. Stand out benefits include the ability to make material from the studio floor instantly available for editing, even if the show is still being recorded, saving time and ensuring a more speedy turnaround for completion. The technology is powered by three 12 channel EVS XS3 Servers, which are based in proximity of the relevant studio, along with a 10 GbE switch and an IP Director for each studio. The core system, based in an UPS and generatorbacked apparatus room, consists of three Ultra High Performance XT Access Servers, a mirrored database solution and a management IP Director. All media streams onto BBC Studioworks’ 180 TB Avid Nexis storage, either to be edited or held as a back up. “I pushed for it and was involved in designing and implementing it,” says Loughman. “Basically tape is dead. When we re-opened Television Centre last year, we made a conscious decision to be fully tapeless there and looked at a few different options. It’s kind of becoming the industry standard. “After doing The Voice last year here [at Elstree], we thought, we’re spending more and more money hiring kit, because a lot of the shows we do, such as The Chase are all tapeless and demand is
growing, so I suggested we should look at buying a system and we have.” And on the benefits? “If people edit with us, the benefits are massive,” continues Loughman. “They can literally record in the studio, stop recording and start editing straight away. It’s a really efficient studio and post production tie-up. There’s also cost savings because I don’t have to employ an edit assistant to digitise in real time from tape, but also there are time and environmental benefits, because they’re not being used and then being binned, or keeping them in a room and then binning them.” He adds: “Within five minutes of a recording being finished, we can hand it over to production. For a lot of other solutions it takes time and you have to wait. There might be a copying time or it doesn’t stream in real time, so it might be 1520 minutes or even an hour after the recording is finished. A lot of the stuff we do, like The Jonathan Ross Show, Mock The Week, The Graham Norton Show and Have I Got News For You, they’re all edited on the night. So waiting an hour after the recording isn’t really an option.” The stage is set That’s the editing side, but what about the live elements of the show? Ahead of leaving Holby City (BBC Elstree Centre and home of Studioworks’ Elstree edit village) for the short walk to Elstree Studios, Conway gives us a brief tour of Studio D, which was used back in the day for the likes of Jim www.avtechnologyeurope.com
BROADCAST SPECIAL Henson’s The Muppet Show, Top of the Pops and (my into the spectacular ballroom setting it is in front favourite), ‘Allo ‘Allo! of us. “It’s the biggest and best thing I’ve ever Studio D is preparing to film a new episode of done,” he explains as we stand behind the judges’ Through the Keyhole and has been the home of desk, the stage to our right and the giant disco ball things like Children in Need, Celebrity Juice and A in our sightline. “In July I go to set storage and get it all League of Their Own in recent years. Measuring refurbished. On August the 8th, I start in here with 11,800 square feet, with a shiny resin floor and an empty shell. From that day on, the roof goes grid infrastructure on the ceiling used to suspend in, the lighting goes in, and then we mark out for equipment to service the show such as lamps, where the set goes in, which needs to be accurate to scenery, screens, speakers, microphones – whatever within 35mm, or else it wont work. A week later, the requirements happen to be. we start with the set build. That takes two and half Seating for the audience is technically off and <ABOVE: David Conway weeks to get everything in and then after that, the away from the studio floor, positioned in a recess dance floor is laid, which takes a day to put down. at the back of the studio and allowing more floor “It’s like Ikea, you just then put it all together. space for the set. Everything about it is just huge, far bigger than what it was at Studios such as these, Conway explains, are designed to be turned around relatively quickly, with some of our studios across Television Centre.” Experience for the audience and making them feel truly Elstree and at Television Centre hosting multiple shows in a immersed in a theatre, rather than a television studio is key. given week or even on a daily basis. “When it was first designed, the objective was for it to be “Down in Television Centre we have six different shows theatreesque and like the ballroom at Blackpool Tower,” says taking place in Studio TC1 this week. So once one finishes, one Osborne. “Each year it grows, much of which many won’t set comes out and another goes in.” However... “I wanted to notice, but it’s about maintaining the illusion. I love it.” show you this because what you’re about to see over the road couldn’t be more different,” he adds cryptically. Choreography As we enter Elstree Studios’ grounds, passing the Big Brother With the show broadcast live, there is no room for error, not just house, a live recording of The Chase, set building for Celebrity those on camera, but crucially those behind it. Juice, and pausing to admire the set of Netflix drama The Crown Visually, the audio and visual aspect of the show needs to be along the way, we arrive at the George Lucas Stage 2 – home of as choreographed and scripted as the dancers. the “world famous” Strictly Ballroom. In total, there are 16 camera operators (all manned) during The Elstree Studios site is one that carries a lot of history in a live show – all of which have a script, determining what they the film world, with over 800 features being produced at the are required to do and where they are required to be at all times. facility over the years. The Star Wars and Indiana Jones trilogies, For example, the director will monitor each couples’ rehearsal Superman, Moby Dick, The Dam Busters, The Shining and (my during the week to determine what shots will work best. The personal favourite) Labyrinth, to name just a few. same needs apply for all teams to ensure everything runs smoothly and all potential permutations are considered. Bigger, better, louder Lighting and visuals play a crucial role in creating a visually Measuring close to 16,000 square feet, it is the largest galleryimpressive and immersive environment and experience for those served studio or stage space in the country and has become the venue of choice for many of major saturday night shows, including inside the studio and watching at home. There are hundreds of lights and six projectors (all Christie The Voice, Britain’s Got Talent and of course, since 2013, Strictly Come and supplied by Creative Technology), dotted around the venue, Dancing. which like the camera crews are choreographed based on the “We used to host Strictly at Television Centre in Studio 1, music and the dancers. which was the largest studio at the time,” says Conway as we Considerations such as ensuring lights or projection images maneuver the tight security, and sidestep numerous people do not point directly at a camera during specific shots to avoid carrying colourful (and skimpy) outfits and technicians as lens glare, or even in the eyes of the dancers are a key part of rehearsal for the results show is about to begin. the planning. The choice of colours from the projections and Unlike with the smaller TV studios, George Lucas Stage 2 is, as described by Conway, a “giant empty soundproof box” – with lights must also be considered so not to create a colour clash with costumes. the set, which houses 640 audience seats, taking over a fortnight Colour temperatures from each camera are also monitored to build and remains in place for the duration of the series. closely to ensure the exposure is consistent throughout, ensuring “It doesn’t have an infrastructure like a traditional TV studio, what is seen on TV does not vary between shots. so you’re building everything from scratch,” comments Mark “Everything is choreographed and scripted from start to Osborne, construction manager for BBC Studioworks, who has finish” explains sound supervisor, Andy Tapley, “Everything is been working on Strictly for over 14 years and with the BBC broken down into bars and they [the camera crew] will have since 1983. a shot card telling them exactly when their camera will be Osborne is responsible for turning the “empty box” like venue November/December 2018
BROADCAST SPECIAL very difficult for one person to mix it,” says Tapley. “With 15 original couples, judges, presenters all on radio mics, 80 band circuits, audience mics and spares on standby, we have a team of sound assistants ready for every eventuality. Sometimes there are some unforeseen circumstances and you work together to overcome them. That’s part of the fun of the job. He adds: “The frequency management is obviously very important and we have to work closely with other shows in the area to make sure we don’t have any crossovers.”
operational, where their camera should be, how wide, how tight and who they’re looking at. Everything has been thought about in advance. All the music has been listened to and worked out on the camera scripts.”
<ABOVE: Andy Tapley
Sound of music The glue (arguably) holding all of the above together, plus ensuring the experience for the audience is as immersive as it is entertaining, is through audio. With a plethora of major live large-scale projects for BBC Studioworks under their belt, Tapley, co-supervisor Richard Sillitto and their team are responsible for bringing the show to life. Using a Riedel comms system and a Studer Vista X mixing console (its broadcast desk) as the backbone to the audio set-up, Strictly now has the largest audio configuration of any production supported by Studioworks. There are of course many different areas in which audio is paramount. During a live performance, the audio team manage around 80 RF channels, including presenters, dancers (often built into their outfits), judges, guests and performance artists. All radio microphone equipment is hired through Terry Tew Audio, an AV firm, based in Chigwell, with the preferred choice used in the show being Sennheiser and Shure. In total, there are just under 200 sources in the studio feeding into six stage boxes which feeds directly (via fibre) into the sound desk, which is manned by two people. “It’s such a busy show, physically it would be
Going live Another major aspect of the show, one in which Tapley lauds as one of Strictly’s greatest assets, is the use of a live band. In total, 18 musicians are used during each and every show, only learning what music they will be playing when they gather for the first time ahead of the show. In total, there are 80 circuits coming into from the band. This includes a drummer, a percussionist, bass player, two guitars, three keyboard players, three saxophones, three trumpets, two trombones and four singers. “Everything has to be hidden away because we don’t want the viewers to see speakers or microphones at all,” says Tapley. “Generally the audience shouldn’t be aware of it either and it’s our job to make sure that’s all managed properly.” The couples rehearse their dances to track playback during Friday rehearsals, but in the evening the band rehearse the songs for the first time. This gives the audio team the chance to start setting up individual mixes for each song in preparation for the live show. “It’s one of those things people watching at home may not realise or truly appreciate, but it’s a huge part of the show and the experience,” he explains as we take a tour of the dance floor, currently empty but with a brightly lit stage. “It’s completely live, so if something goes wrong, or they play a wrong note, or sing something wrong that’s what goes out. The couples all dance to playback during the week, which allows the preparation for all the positioning, lighting etc to be decided and confirmed. “These musicians are some of the best in the world. They’ll turn up on Friday night, not knowing what they have to play and they’ll do it perfectly. It’s so much better having a band play rather than as a playback.” www.avtechnologyeurope.com
BROADCAST SPECIAL He continued: “It has much more energy and makes the show so very special. It really is a huge part of what makes Strictly such a great show.” Swansong As our time at Elstree draws to a close, we are quickly hurried off the dance floor as presenters Tess Daly and the rather colourful Claudia Winkleman arrive. With the results show rehearsal taking place, we get to see, albeit briefly, Tapley and his team in action. Working to a 120-plus page script and under the constant direction of the script supervisor (whose voice can be heard at all times often, counting down), the rehearsal kicks off. Using ‘Spoton’ playback software (recorded sound bites), Howard Hopkins standing in front of a monitor clicks the first of many (possibly hundreds) of different coloured squares in front of him. The music starts. Watching the feed from the studio, viewing his script and the command of the director, he hits another. “This is Strictly Come Dancing: The Results! Please welcome your hosts, Tess Daly and Claudia Winkleman,’ boomed out. Tapley and his team spring into life, managing the microphones from the presenters as they introduce the show, reading from teleprompters positioned on several cameras. “These are all Howard’s cues he needs to play in,” Tapley explains during a brief pause of the action. “So this next section for example, we’ll cut to Claudia and then we’ll cut to a graphic and then we’ll move into VTs and we’ll play the VT sound. We can then relax for a minute. A VT is
often where if there is a problem somewhere, such as a dodgy microphone, we can get in there, fix or replace it. “Everything is about managing that sound. We have to make sure the audience reaction is working properly with the mix. When we come to a couple’s song, I have that loaded in already, so the band is set up, but I’m still managing their levels and making sure the whole mix is working together. “If you make one small mistake, even just for a few seconds, everyone will know and the impact is huge.” The audio and lighting teams are the first to find out the results of the public vote in advance of the audience and dancers – often just a few minutes before the cameras start rolling again. During this short period, they will immediately prepare the running order as Tess Daly details who stays and who goes, highlighting (spotlights) and capturing the reactions (both visually and audibly) of the dancers and the audiences. “We’re on air at 6:30 and I’ll probably walk out at 11:00pm, so it’s probably a 15 hour day for us,” says Tapley as Winkleman and Daly conduct the stop-start rehearsed elimination in the background. “We have a wrap time of around 10:00pm. It’s a full on day,” Wrapping up our time in Elstree, Tapley concludes: “The great thing about doing a live show is the adrenaline rush. You know that at 6:30pm we’re on air. So, your whole day is building up to that point and you don’t have the option of saying, we’re not quite ready, can we go on at 7:pm instead. You have to be ready. That why I love this job.”
GEORGE LUCAS STAGE 2 SPECIFICATION
• Sound Proof: Yes • Size: 41.275m x 35.5m (135ft. 6ins x 116ft. 6ins) • Area: 1465sqm. (15,770 sq ft.) • Height:15m (49ft.) • Lighting Grid: Chains & Tackles • Power: 1200 amps AC TPN
MEET YOUR AV MANAGER
MEET YOUR AV MANAGER:
Sorcha Steele, Head of Sound, Royal Exchange Theatre In this edition of Meet your AV Manager, AVTE caught up with Sorcha Steele to discuss what a typical day looks like for her and her team inside the spectacular Grade II listed Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester Hi Sorcha. Tell us a little about the Royal Exchange Theatre. The Royal Exchange Theatre (RET), located in the heart of Manchester, is an award-winning producing theatre, and was recently voted Regional Theatre of the Year 2016 (Stage Awards). We create world-class theatre, bringing together talented artists, writers and communities, producing brave new plays, ambitious revivals and distinctive arts events and projects. How big is your team? Including me, there are five of us in the sound
department. I have two senior technicians and two technicians and on occasion we bring in casual staff when needed. With two main theatre spaces, three rehearsals rooms, site specific events in buildings around Manchester and the additional events held in our main theatre space on top of our theatre programme, we are certainly kept very busy! Whatâ€™s a typical day for you? I manage the sound department, part of the larger production department. We are responsible for delivering and supporting projects across the theatreâ€™s programme which includes our main
theatre spaces as well as rehearsal spaces and site-specific events across Manchester. We are primarily responsible for all sound aspects of the work, but we also provide support for video requirements for our productions. We are also responsible for upkeep of the show relay systems. Tell us about some of the key AV technology you use for your job? Our main theatre space is equipped with a Digico SD10T console, with a redundant engine, a Qlab system with redundancy, managed with Autograph Signature Series Audio and KVM switches, and TiMax 2 Soundhub for our system management. We can also provide 8 channels of radio mics and a variety of computer software and equipment. Our PA is a passive Meyer system with Lab Gruppen amplifiers and relevant processors. Our studio theatre space has a powered Yamaha speaker system with a Roland digital console. We also have an equivalent system that is available for the site-specific work. We keep a stock of smaller speakers, microphones and specialty equipment that is shared between the spaces based on the requirements of the current production teams. Our video stock isn’t as extensive, we do hold a variety of cabling, distribution units and some small projectors, anything more that is required for productions is hired in on an as needed basis. What are some of the most common challenges you encounter? Live theatre can throw all kinds of things at you, so you have to be prepared for anything. Troubleshooting skills is something that I look for in my team, they need to be able to solve issues quickly and efficiently, particularly during a show or event. Issues that arise can vary greatly but can usually be narrowed down to a faulty cable, or a computer falling over. Thankfully this is something that we don’t experience that often as we continually maintain our equipment to keep it operational to the highest standards which avoids these situations from happening in the first place. I often find that it takes a considerable amount of computer and networking knowledge to run sound and video systems these days. Technology can make our jobs as technicians so much easier, but it does require monitoring and investment in not only the equipment itself but training for the people expected to use it. What functionality is it crucial for you and your team to provide? To be as flexible as possible. Every production will have its own requirements and will challenge us in different ways. Some will be sound heavy, and others will have hardly any. Some will have a video element that we can provide from within the team and others we will bring in a specialist. The creative process differs between the varying Creative Teams and we need to be able to respond to and support that, rather than influence it. We begin to plan productions 4-6 months in advance and
MEET YOUR AV MANAGER
events six weeks in advance, so we have time to put in place anything we might not have in-house. This can range from additional speakers to radio mics, projection screens, and live action cameras. One of the ways we manage the variety the sound we deliver is our TiMax 2 Soundhub. As a theatre in the round, our sound designs tend to focus more on spacial audio rather than the traditional stereo left/right configuration. TiMax is a great tool which provides us with system management but also additional features like PanSpace. This allows us to move sound around the space which can really help to enhance the atmosphere of a performance and place the audience in the action, helping them experience the production in a way which is not always possible in a proscenium arch theatre. With our most recent upgrades we have increased our available functionality further. We sometimes have to deliver events on top of other shows, meaning we can’t physically reconfigure the system. At times we only have an hour to change between a daytime event to our show set-up in the evening. The recent console and TiMax upgrades have allowed us to create event configurations (levels, delay times, soft patch etc.) without compromising the system design for the evening show. We can now switch from one to the other at the click of a mouse. It takes planning and co-ordinating but makes our lives easier in the long run. What factors do you have to consider when making an investment in new technology? Before I look to invest in anything, I weigh up the benefits of purchasing over hiring it in terms of its lifespan and what it can offer us from a workflow point of view. If we need something for a production that I can see would be useful for us to have in stock I will make the case to purchase it. Influencing factors for this could be knowing that another production in the season will require the same item, so it becomes more cost efficient to purchase it, or we look at what has been requested on say the previous few seasons and identify what aspects of our system we need to improve. This is what we did for our latest upgrades. There has been a trend for designers requesting more QLab outputs and therefore more system outputs. This was a key factor in upgrading our sound cards, desk and TiMax systems. A couple years ago we were limited to 24 QLab channels, we can now offer
<Above: Manchester’s dream team
MEET YOUR AV MANAGER
“Live theatre can throw all kinds of things at you, so you have to be prepared for anything”
48. We often found we were running short on TiMax outputs (even though we had 32), again we can now offer 48. Radio mics are something that we are asked regularly for. What I have in stock is limited. What with radio frequencies being sold off, and new digital mic systems (whilst being the way forward) are still expensive evolving technology, now is not the time to buy for us. Therefore, we hire these in if we need additional channels. Are you currently looking at ways to enhance the theatre’s AV offerings? I always look to enhance what we have, but as our programme is so varied it’s difficult to plan a standard offering as one size does not fit all! We have the basics in house and we hire in anything specific as and when it is required. I often get asked what is our ‘standard rig’, and my response is we don’t have one. The equipment stays the same for the most part, but how we utilise it can change significantly from one show to the next. Do you typically go via an integrator/ distributor for AV installs or do some upgrades/projects get handled in-house? A combination of both. The equipment is usually sourced through an integrator/distributer and then my team would carry out the install. For more
complex building wide systems such as the show relay and paging systems, we would bring in a specialist company. Most recently we worked with Autograph Sales who consulted on and supplied our DigiCo upgrades, and directly with Outboard for our TiMax upgrades. For smaller, show specific requirements we would look at solutions ourselves and source the equipment where appropriate. Do you maintain any direct relationships with the manufacturers or go through other channels? For TiMax we do keep in contact with the team at Outboard. I think it’s important to keep the dialogue open. It allows them to showcase their product through us and we can feed back to them ideas to consider for further development. Their expertise and support in creating a workflow conducive to our space has been invaluable Most of our relationships are with suppliers rather than manufacturers, some local to Manchester and some in London. If I’m looking to purchase a new piece of equipment I like to have a conversation with someone who has used it themselves rather than buying it blindly and then finding it unsatisfactory. Our suppliers are great at setting up demos so we can see how well it works for us in situ, before committing to a purchase.
The IP KVM People
GETTING TO KNOW YOU
Getting to Know:
Nicolas Vanden Abeele, senior VP entertainment at Barco
When did you first become involved with Barco? I started working for the company in 2017. Barco is a household name in the industry, providing visualisation solutions for the entertainment, healthcare and enterprise markets. I head up the entertainment division which has a leading position worldwide in a diverse number of markets in the cinema, venues and hospitality and simulation space. How has Barco evolved as a company in the time since you joined? Barco has become much more of a hardware, plus software, plus services player over the past several years, whereas it was much more a hardware-centric company before. Like many other companies, we are also in the middle of a transformation towards becoming a more services-oriented organisation where innovative business models play an extremely important role. How has Barco’s portfolio evolved? Barco Entertainment continues the investments in expanding its product portfolio for projection, image processing and LED. We have enlarged our cinema projector portfolio to focus on a lowest cost of operation whilst delivering the best image quality. As such we now have a portfolio ranging from lamp based projectors to smart laser, laser phosphor, and full RGB laser projectors, and are working on the next-gen cinema experience with HDR lightsteering. In Venues and Hospitality, we have expanded our portfolio with various additions from the 2K lumen night vision simulation projector to the world’s brightest projector at 75,000 lumen, and also including small and hi-res LED’s.
What products are currently proving the most popular at Barco? UDX has become a game-changing projector platform for the events and ProAV markets, for us. Customers told us they want a projector that is easy to ship, easy to set up, easy to maintain, with unmatched colour performance, flexible brightness and resolution. We took this feedback to heart and the UDX has proven to be the projector of choice for some big shows such as Justin Timberlake, Indochine or Lady Gaga. The same is true for big corporate events or large sports arenas where advertisers demand the best image quality to deliver their message. What advice would you give to businesses investing in AV? In the entertainment business, the image on the wall is part of the experience. AV solutions are becoming increasingly important to wow audiences worldwide. The evolution of technologies like laser projection, high definition LED, image processing moves at an incredible speed. These technologies make it possible to offer compelling experiences that customers cannot recreate in their living rooms. Outside of work, how do you like to spend your spare time? In my spare time, I like to spend my time with my family and kids, travelling around the world to remote off-the-beaten-track locations. I am fond of running and participate regularly at triathlons. Finally, tell us something about yourself, which might surprise people? I am pretty much a citizen of the world… I have worked and lived quite some time in the Americas, Asia, Europe and speak fluently seven languages.
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