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Cloud AV to accelerate ROI and improve virtual meetings in the WFH era

The COVID-19 Pandemic, along with extreme weather conditions, civil unrest and other disruptive events are shaping how businesses operate and how people work on a global scale.

Employees need to be engaged and productive, from an office, meeting room, at home or out on the road, with connectivity between all employees throughout an organisation essential for future business gains.

Now, research carried out by industry analysts Frost & Sullivan for a new White Paper: ‘7 Steps To Improve Meetings In The New Era Of Work’, addresses the key factors for successful collaboration, including:

  • Prioritise Cloud Conferencing Service Adaption
  • Upgrade Meeting Room Technology for the New Era of Work
  • Improve Collaboration with Audio for All
  • Instil Confidence and Boost Productivity with Seamless Audio
  • Drive Meeting Room Effectiveness with Best-In-Class Audio
  • Adopt an Ecosystem Approach
  • Focus on Ownership, Experience, Standardisation and Interoperability

The report, augmented by global market leading audio manufacturer Shure’s ‘Future of Conferencing’ survey, reveals how IT and business leaders are future-proofing organisations, with technologies being replaced due to various factors within individual businesses:

  • Quality and reliability – 35%
  • Security concerns – 34%
  • Limited interoperability with 3rd party solutions – 26%
  • Lack of the latest features and capabilities – 25%

The world has shifted to flexible, cloud-based deployment and consumption models with richer functionality, with a broad range of communication applications to choose from.

However, without the foundation of any meeting, audio, no meeting can actually take place:

  • 95% of meeting rooms have minimal technology
  • 83% of professionals depend on technology to conduct meetings and collaborate.
  • 87% of professionals are frustrated and stressed due to technology failures in meeting rooms.

Expected proliferation of distributed work is among the top factors causing organisations to re-think their meeting rooms, with 82% of managers expecting flexible work from him polices post-pandemic.

Top Drivers for Technology Investments:

  • Improve teamwork – 35%
  • Improve information management – 32%
  • Improve customer experience – 31%
  • Improve operational cost – 29%
  • Improve marketing effectiveness – 29%
  • Boost creativity and innovation – 28%
  • Accelerate decision making – 26%

“Once offices reopen, health and well-being regulations will require employees to have minimal contact with shared surfaces. Therefore, there will be a great demand for touch-less conferencing,” explained Robert Arnold, Principal Analyst, Connected Work, Frost & Sullivan. “As enterprises build a robust conferencing ecosystem, the adoption of A/V technologies that aid simple deployment, intuitive operation, and seamless compatibility with leading collaboration platforms will experience significant growth.”

Jim Schanz, Vice President, Global Integrated Systems Sales at Shure, said, “To optimize audio performance in rooms connected to any conferencing service as well as to streamline room audio management, organizations must emphasize standardization of certified audio devices. As no meeting can be effective without quality audio, investing in a scalable infrastructure can position businesses of any size for greater success as they battle evolving market factors.”

Click here to read the full report.

CASE STUDY: How to set up 5 star office conferencing facilities

By Shure

With more than 50 destinations across Europe, Event Hospitality Management Holding GmbH & Co KG currently operates more than 80 business and conferencing hotels in Germany, Italy and The Netherlands under its ‘EVENT Hotels’ brand. 

In order to ensure that its high standards are met across all its 3-, 4- and 5-star facilities, the group’s corporate management regularly liaises with the directors of each hotel, with the focal point of these important meetings being the large conference room at the corporate headquarters situated in Cologne on the banks of the River Rhine.

In February 2019, work finished on an ambitious installation which featured Shure’s Microflex Complete Wireless Solution, complemented by an IntelliMix P300 Conferencing DSP Processor. The system was planned and installed by systems integrator TASCAN.

Due to the conference room being an oblong shape, the previously installed conferencing system was unable to guarantee speech intelligibility during large meetings, affecting participants both in the conference room and at external locations, which led to a negative impact on internal and external collaboration and wider teamwork contribution. 

Having opted to comprehensively modernise its on-site media technology, the company also decided to bring the audio system up to date with a new, state-of-the-art solution.

Given the challenging room shape and dimensions, Cologne-based integrator TASCAN needed a flexible conferencing system that was also user friendly and simple to operate. With The team at TASCAN designed and implemented a solution that would improve not only speech intelligibility at the main conferencing venue, but also provide off-site meeting participants with high-quality audio streams.

With the project brief specifying a wireless system, the system would be required to operate error-free, despite the large number of technology and media companies in Cologne and the rising use of wireless frequencies nearby.

Another requirement was that the system allow integration of analog AV hardware codecs as well as ensure that laptops and other computers could connect with the central control unit.

TASCAN Systems installed a total of 16 MXCW640 Wireless Conference Units in the room, each fitted with an MXC420DF/C condenser gooseneck microphone catering for up to 32 meeting participants. Using an MXCWAPT Access Point, the wireless signals are routed to an IntelliMix P300 DSP processor via Dante before being provided to the video and audio conference.

A 4.3” colour touchscreen situated in the rooms displays the speaker order and can also be used for voting. The MXCW640 Wireless Conference Unit offers flexible configuration options and can be placed on surfaces anywhere in the room. The integrated speaker of the MXCW640 also provides additional advantages that help meetings run smoothly – with each unit functioning as a loudspeaker, the system provides significantly improved communication between participants around the elongated conference table.

“The flexibility of the automatic frequency management, paired with the excellent audio quality, was the clinching argument for us to select the Shure Microflex Complete Wireless System,” explained Abdelaziz El Jaouhari, Projects & Sales Manager at TASCAN Systems.

“The management team at Event Holding was also impressed at the way the P300 DSP processor was integrated quickly and easily into the video conferencing system via Dante.”

Jaouhari concluded: “The customer has reported back to us on the uniformly positive user experience with the Microflex Complete Wireless system.”

Style over substance: Are the aesthetics of new office builds hampering conferencing options?

UK architects are recognised as being the best in the world – fact. The education of these talented individuals focuses on learning design and generally, from an early age, individuals attracted to architecture are those with a desire to be creative.

However, being creative can also present its own problems, as having an eye for aesthetics can sometimes mean the practical side of a project is forgotten somewhat. And, when it comes to conference spaces and having the right audio visual (AV) technology, this is often an issue.

New research by global audio technology specialist Shure has revealed that efficient AV within a conference space needs to be considered much sooner in the project timeline; in an ideal world, at the conceptual design and planning stages of the office itself.

A common trend over the past five years has been to create office design around natural lighting, maximising the amount of sunlight that enters the room through the use of glass and other reflective products. At the same time, natural materials are used to enhance the feeling of ‘bringing the outdoors inside’.

While this certainly adds a sense of well-being to an office space, when it comes to the business side of communicating with other offices around the world, it’s by no means the best solution for AV conferencing.

Shure polled a selection of leading specialist integrators about AV and networked audio challenges – and top of the agenda for creating strong AV was the actual space itself.

“The acoustic environment on some projects has been challenging,” agrees Paul Louden, Sales director at international audio-visual company Electrosonic. “We see it a lot with new builds – they consist of a lot of glass, and a lot of open plan spaces, which look great but have implications on achieving first class audio. Businesses invest a lot of money in video conferencing and the need to get it right is crucial for successful meetings to take place. AV technology can help to improve acoustics, but technology alone won’t solve the whole problem, all factors of the environment need to be considered.”

“Poor sound is a major concern in boardrooms and meeting spaces; the main culprit is usually bad room acoustics,” explains Nevil Bounds, Key Account Director at audio-visual integrators Feltech.  “Often an AV conferencing room is a lovely square room, usually glazed with lots of hard surfaces and has horrible reverberation times. The picture on the screen looks absolutely stunning, but the sound can be very poor. It almost doesn’t matter what audio digital signal processor (DSP) you have or the mics you are using – if your room has high reverb times or heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) noises, the sound will not be satisfactory.”

Stuart Davidson, Technical Director at global audio-visual integration company AVMI agrees. “It’s a fundamental architectural mistake. Current trends are towards glass buildings and reflective office furniture – none of which are good for audio.

“Usually, AVMI are involved towards the end of a project, once the building has been designed, and our challenge is having to deal with those issues, which can be really difficult sometimes.

“It would be beneficial to accept AV as an integral part of an office build and to have us in at an earlier stage to help guide and consult.”

Discussing the research, Shure UK Regional Sales Manager John Ellis offers: “Great audio for conferencing starts right back at the architectural stage of any office development.

“There are a lot of companies who are taking it seriously and employ proper acousticians, as well as architects, who work harmoniously together. However, there are still many companies that are interested in the style and the appearance of a conference space, rather than the actual function of the room.

“Under the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA), legality requires a building used by the public/employees* for an audio purpose to have an induction loop fitted, although there is nothing legal that states that the acoustics of a room must be to certain parameters. Having said that, when an architect is designing a school, parameters on new classrooms do include acoustic design as a legal requirement and are created as comfortable listening environments for the pupils.

“Education is key to the ongoing development of AV within the office space. We have a good relationship with the AV team at the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) who are trying to influence architects and there are other initiatives developing which seek to assist architects to understand AV room acoustics within their ongoing professional development.

“Architects designing conference spaces within offices should consider non-parallel walls, carpeting and baffle any air conditioning in the ceiling to make it as quiet as possible, along with the minimum amount of hard reflective surfaces, including any furniture. Discreet baffles hanging from the ceiling and acoustic lanterns also help and can become an architectural feature in their own right, drapes and thick curtains help while acoustic treatments can be painted and brought into the design of a conference room.

“People sometimes assume directional microphones will solve all the problems. Whilst a good microphone with a fairly tight pickup pattern will help, it will still pick up room noise as well as the spoken word. So, Microphones and associated processing alone cannot solve bad acoustics.

“There’s also specifications available from Shure that we supply to acousticians, architects and AV consultants that offer ‘best practice’ information on designing rooms for optimum audio performance.”

Bayer turns its AV systems up to 11

Biotechnology and pharmaceutical company Bayer has unveiled new AV systems throughout its Green Park headquarters in Reading to create collaborative meeting spaces, meeting rooms and presentation suites.

The pharma giant hired Shure Distribution, MiX Consultancy and Focus 21 to handle the work.

“The convergence of IT and AV is not a new trend but something of increasing significance for new builds and refurbishment,” explained Glynn Seymour, IT project lead for Bayer.

“The Bayer UK headquarters move was part of a wider culture change to a more agile way of working and our new home had to reflect and support this, whilst adhering to corporate standards in many areas. We were challenged to create a variety of meeting spaces that were versatile but retained ease of use and bolstered the image of Bayer as an innovation-driven Life Science organisation.”

Shure Microflex products were chosen for the project as they are corporate network ready and can connect to networks and third-party control systems using standard protocols for remote management and campus-wide implementation, delivering versatile, flexible meeting spaces that had to be consistent, reliable and easy to use.