I want to preface this by stating an important point. Nothing will ever replace the value of face-to-face meetings. A firm handshake to close a deal or the ability to spend time with people building strong relationships is incredibly important. The emphasis of this article is on the building and adding to the personal nature of face-to-face meetings and not trying to replace them.
I can’t help but get incredibly excited about where we are heading with Unified Communications and Collaboration (UC&C). This is really directed at the AV/IT players in the industry and why they should add IT. When we look at UC&C and what AV/IT can do with this space, the impact is fascinating. AV already masters the physical space with lighting, acoustics, displays, sound and control options. When you add in the full offerings of UC&C the usage model of these meeting spaces change in unbelievable ways. Let’s break down the advantages of the combination of AV/IT delivering full UC&C into a few categories to see what really makes this work for the market.
It is important to emphasize that when I refer the UC&C, I am referring to a system that includes all that telephony, IT and audiovisual has to offer. In this article I am going out of my way to emphasize the value of the audiovisual part, but UC&C includes all of these aspects.
These are just three of the many advantages of AV/IT delivering UC&C:
- The Environment — These advantages include a more natural environment for videoconferencing with proper audiovisual integration that includes proper lighting, acoustics, camera, microphone, loudspeaker placement and display sizing and placement. All of these things can give the users the feeling that the remote participants are in the room. There is a science to getting the placement and sizing right to make the system natural and fit in the environment. AV designers and engineers study this and do an incredible amount of research (and questioning) before making recommendations about how to deploy a system.
- Collaboration — Another advantage is the ability to use audiovisual integration by placing document cameras in the ceiling and using processors that can support the ability to literally slide a document across the table to remote participants and have them edit and collaborate on these documents using the network. This is more than just bring-your-own-device (BYOD) and a “share button” with an original equipment manufacturer (OEM, or off the shelf) PC. This is a full integration solution that is done when a complete space planning and full AV design is done with IT and Unified Communications in mind.
- Escalation — One more advantage is having the systems fully converged so that when the users are on a VOIP call and they need to move it to a videoconferencing they can just shoot an Instant Message to invitees and open a video call on the fly. The user should even be able to book resources on the fly as needed for adhoc meetings and escalate a meeting from a call to a full-fledged collaborative videoconferencing with just a few clicks.
One thing that is mind-blowing to me is this thought; what if we actually put cameras, displays, loudspeakers and microphones in the chairs of “remote participants?” Some UC&C integrators (AV systems integrators) are doing just that to give participants the feeling that remote participants are “in the room.”
Schools do this for kids that can’t attend school because of illness. As a product there are robots that travel the halls and attend classes via videoconferencing for students and allow the students to be a part of their regular school environment while they recover from a medical procedure or medical treatment. Why can’t we do this for business remote collaborators as well? See. Told you. Mind blown.
When looking at how UC&C will evolve in the near future, we see how UC&C meetings can actually be better than being there (remember I said that it will never replace the handshake, but at times when added to regularly scheduled face-to-face meetings, it can be better). How can I say that? I say that because there are times when these meetings take place that participants will need access to resources that are only in their home office locations. Having a UC&C meeting means that participants can be in two places at once. When I say this I mean to say that they can have access to all of their resources that are in their home location and they can “be” in a remote location at the same time. To me, at times, that can be “better than being there.”
So what is really driving this evolution of UC&C? I believe three major categories are driving the changes; the advancements in technology, the way companies are changing their process and policies and lastly the way we are doing space planning to support true collaboration. In my next article I will discuss how AV/IT integrators can leverage these three trends by applying what they do in the technology realm, with how they support process and policies and what they do in physical space with lighting, acoustics, audio, video and converged technologies that no other industry can deliver the way AV/IT can.
Image via VGO Communications, Inc.