I love an industry trade show as much as the next person. But COVID-19 had other plans for us this year. “No trade shows for you!” it said. “No fun for you!” it said. No sir/ma’am, the AV industry responded. Instead, it got creative in a collective effort to meet virtually and connect the world’s #AVtweeps near and far.
Concerning virtual shows and our reporting on them (we do that a lot these days), we’re back at you today with a recap on another one that we sure hope you didn’t miss, because it was really pretty great. The host, distributor Almo Professional A/V, did the dang thing for its fall 2020 E4v — the second iteration of the “E4 Evolution” (Almo’s acclaimed E4 Experience but all online in a virtual format). Through a second E4v, Almo proved, once again, that it would give the world (and indeed, Tuesday’s E4v attendees came from all over) a chance to engage in forward-thinking education and content for AV and IT. Led by our fantastically animated emcee Joel Rollins, it was an E4 like never before.
Our roundup of the UCC part of the show — part one of five in an E4v recap series — is below. Hope you’re looking forward to it as much as we are.
UCC Just Got Personal
What I loved about the fall E4v kickoff session — all about Unified Communications and Collaboration (UCC) — was the notion that AV can drive collaboration literally anywhere human interactions happen. That’s what UCC is, after all: making person-to-person communication and collaboration better. Gary Kayye’s session “UCC Gets Personal,” dove into how UCC, today, is everywhere — classrooms, retail, business; you name it. A boom in UCC gives the AV industry a major opportunity to build creative solutions all around.
Kayye started with some factoids about the environment we used to know, pre-COVID-19:
- Four out of 10 meetings were virtual (as opposed to 9.7 out of 10 meetings being virtual today).
- Collaboration took place in RBMs (room-based meetings) 40% of the time, while BYOM environments constituted 60% of meetings before the pandemic.
- Prior to COVID-19, 44% of people considered video quality in meetings to be positive.
- A whopping 93% of people recognized wasted time in meetings prior to COVID-19.
- And about 73% of meetings were defined as “in person.”
Today, the scene looks a little different.
“I look forward to in-person meetings now much more than I did before,” Kayye joked.
What we’ve learned today is that 40% of people are concerned about returning to the workplace in the next year. And environments are changing every single day. For one, it seems like every conversation we have today seems to loop back to hybrid meetings and/or HyFlex classrooms: Those on the remote end, joining remotely — along with the presenters too — want the feeling of remote participants being in the room. Post-COVID-19, Kayye added, hybrid meetings will be normalized. Hybrid meeting environments (HMEs) are growing quickly too.
Additionally, Kayye added, there will be more meeting rooms or people joining meetings from their desks. It’ll be more than just joining on Zoom, though. People will also want to archive meeting content and the historical collaboration — so document collaboration, a factor of UCC technology and, arguably, a piece that’s missing right now, can help teams start where they left off. Helping teams create continuous meetings will be a great opportunity for our industry to shine.
Next, where IT was previously resistant let AV in, IT is now seeing AV as the solution to the problem. The technology we’re bringing in, after all, is the thing helping retail stores and businesses open back up again. Referring to the AV industry, “We are the solution to the problem,” Kayye said.
A few opportunities to consider NOW:
- Technology related to public health: While the temperature-scanning kiosk can be a good entry-level “in,” Kayye suggests a wider look. Look at what Whole Foods is doing, for instance — they’ve added digital signage to support wayfinding and crowd-control (e.g., wait before you enter this produce section or that overpriced frozen foods aisle). This is all being managed by AV companies — who can deploy occupancy sensors, IoT sensors, etc. IT is actually stepping aside to allow AV to do this, Kayye added.
- Digital signage being transformed into UCC: Kayye offered the idea of repurposing existing digital signage display and turning it into a UCC display. Take the company cafeteria screen not being used today. What if we start turning those screens into ad-hoc meeting room environment, with better airflow and more room to breathe? If AV can find ways to add the technology to do this, like BYOD control through QR Codes, it can grow our access to “meeting rooms.” Also too, with IoT added onto UCC, AV can manage that data.
- BYOM in addition to RBMs: Room-based meetings, which have been popular to date, only cater to the UCC platform being used (e.g., Zoom Rooms for Zoom; Teams Rooms for Teams). The problem is that RBMs are hard to convert for the average user; start thinking about how BYOM (bring your own meeting) could be a strong added, long-term solution for clients in addition to RBMs; BYOM solutions offer interoperability and typically play nice with most peripherals too.
Other opportunities discussed were gesture, voice and BYOD-based interactivity; upgrading your networked audio via USB; upgrading cameras via USB; adding personal and room collaboration boards; continuing to explore whiteboard; adding room-booking and management systems (as long as they’re scalable); focusing on IoT and meeting analytics (knowing what’s happening both on-prem and remotely with meetings); and getting better, as an industry, at security as we’re now bringing more devices onto the network.
The future of UCC is everywhere, Kayye explained. AV solutions that are proof of this (technology he predicts will continue to grow) include all-in-one WFA kits, personal collaboration boards, VR-based meetings, voice/gesture control, UCC software platforms (even those outside Teams and Zoom), the virtual concierge, HyFlex, technology for telehealth, UCCaaS (UCC-as-a-Service), 4K and 5G. What trends are you seeing?
E4v Day One: A Day Well Spent
Almo’s second E4v, a totally online version of the show, began Tuesday, Oct. 27. It will continue to take place over the next two days, Oct. 28 and 29. The show is broken down into six verticals — what Almo is calling “Solution Centers” — that offer the industry a wide array of insights and forward-thinking education. Oh, also offering 14 AVIXA CTS Renewal Units (RUs) over the course of the three days is a very real draw too.
The Solution Centers: UCC, digital signage, next-generation workspaces, pro audio, the future of events and meetings, and direct-view LED.
Each day’s live webinar-style sessions (offering the opportunity for audience participation and an interactive chat feature, so the audience can talk to and challenge the speakers directly in real time) are followed by prompts to explore any of the six E4v Solution Centers. One of Tuesday’s featured Solution Centers was UCC (as per this wrap-up article), and some of the featured content covered topics like:
- Advice for AV Integrators: UCC, UCC, UCC
- How UCC Enhances Courtrooms, Hospitals and the Virtual Concierge
- How UCC Has Moved into Ed, Healthcare and Even Google Docs
- Why and How UCC Will Go AV-over-IP
Also interesting was the breakdown of UCC “Product Solutions” in this Solution Center: including USB cameras, USB microphones/speakers, interactive displays, wireless presentation and sharing technology, cables and more.
If you missed day one of the fall E4v, catch day two on Wednesday, Oct. 28. If you’re not registered, sign up for day three (Oct. 29) here: https://e4evolution.com/.