Future of the Integration Business: Meeting Room Solutions

By Tom LeBlanc
National Systems Contractors Association

Integration firms looking beyond the COVID-19 crisis will serve customers with a new set of priorities for meeting room technology.

As integration companies battle through a COVID-19-depleted market, there is much uncertainty about what the future of the integration industry holds. One feeling, however, has been consistent throughout NSCA’s countless conversations with integration firm leaders: Even when the integration market enters its reboot and recovery phase, the “new normal,” as it’s often called, will be different. Integration firm leaders must prepare to lead a different type of company under different work circumstances and address their customers’ changing needs.

NSCA’s “Future of the Integration Business” series offers insight from NSCA members and industry professionals to shed light on what the future holds.

Future of Meeting Room Solutions

Year after year, Electronics Systems Outlook report after Electronics Systems Outlook report, NSCA has consistently reported strong growth in corporate market opportunities — driven in large part by how organizations wanted to optimize their meeting rooms.

In the late 2000s, there was a mad rush to equip as many meeting rooms as possible with videoconferencing capabilities. Then, as unified communication and collaboration (UCC) gained steam, and meeting philosophies shifted, integration firms were kept busy creating and converting huddle spaces for their customers.

As the integration market reboots and prepares for the post-COVID-19 market, integrators may still find that the corporate market is driven by meeting room solutions — albeit with big differences. Corporate customers are likely to emphasize social distancing, so it seems unlikely that huddle rooms will continue to be in high demand.

Meanwhile, new meeting room demands will emerge, according to members of NSCA’s Emerging Technologies Committee. The following educated guesses come from committee representatives, including Tim Hennen, CTO of IVCi; Dan Abrams, VP of business development for IVCi; and the internal solutions team at Mechdyne Corporation.

Take these predictions with a grain of salt; the COVID-19 crisis and recovery are always fluid.

Demand for Contactless Operation

Organizations will want to limit the number of surfaces (screens, light switches, etc.) that employees need to touch. Integrators will be called upon to help make this happen through wireless control of meeting rooms via personal devices and voice and motion control. Employees and guests should be able to present wirelessly and use voice activation to limit contact.

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Room Scheduling

Already gaining popularity among forward-thinking customers, and to facilitate collaboration, room scheduling will take on a social distancing role. Organizations will want solutions for scheduling and organizing each meeting space, and limit the number of attendees. They’ll use these solutions to set strict time limits and avoid overlap — and to schedule time for sanitization between meetings.

Remote Employee Communication

The work-from-home (WFH) culture isn’t expected to fade away with COVID-19 recovery. Organizations will likely encourage more employees to work remotely. As such, video collaboration hubs will be prioritized within social distancing guidelines.

On the other end, the experience for remote employees will need to be just as meaningful as if they were in the same room. We’ve also learned throughout the COVID-19 crisis that not all people are adept at video calls. This may create demand for solutions that will auto-frame and optimize video interaction.

Feature-Rich Video Experiences

Meeting room systems will need to have better features than desktop video to motivate users to leverage the conference room environment. That may mean the ability to share multiple sources, collaborate in real-time on shared documents, larger displays, immersive audio and ease of use. Along these lines, there may be fewer meeting rooms than in the past; organizations will want to optimize these coveted spaces.

Offices Become Meeting Rooms

There may be a resurgence in private offices. That will bring demand for better remote meeting experiences from those spaces. That could include UCC solutions, larger screens, better audio and more.

Accelerated Change

It’s possible to look at the first part of 2020 not as a setback for the integration market, but instead as a transition period. Changes that were going to happen anyway will be accelerated, adds David Riberi, CEO of LightWerks Communication Systems, Inc. For example, his company had already been championing cloud conferencing, particularly Zoom, “but it was probably going to take years for people to trust and adopt it,” he says. Throughout the COVID-19 crisis, however, the use of Zoom skyrocketed. “Now everybody knows how well it works.”

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