Start a meeting from home, continue in the car, and end up in the office over a strong cup of coffee with colleagues? Why not. Of course, if the functionality of the meeting room allows such meetings to be held. Using the example of meeting rooms equipped by STEP LOGIC employees for STEP LOGIC employees, we will tell you how, without losing the quality of communications, to combine an office with remote workplaces and customers and create a comfortable atmosphere for holding meetings.
Three years ago, the company was faced with the task of equipping the office with meeting rooms convenient for collaboration. In many ways, this helped us to calmly survive the lockdown, because after the transfer of employees to a remote location, literally everyone rushed to build videoconferencing systems, and we have been successfully using them for more than a year. In this article, we will tell you in detail about the technologies that were used during the construction.
Cisco as a foundation
Since the office infrastructure is predominantly built on Cisco equipment, we took Webex as a video conferencing platform in meeting rooms. Thanks to this, our employees can connect from various personal devices without installing software through a browser.
The choice of the video terminal was based on two criteria – ease of use and the ability to automatically track the camera to the speaker. It would seem that this option is rather a pleasant addition, but it is due to it that the effect of presence is formed among the remote participants of the meeting. Conventional cameras cover the entire room, so it is difficult for those who connect remotely to recognize the speaker. Tracking solves this problem – the image of the “talking head” is displayed on the screen in close-up.
Tracking mechanics can be different. For example, in Figure 1, this function is performed by the Cisco Quad Camera – a four-lens camera array with one wide-angle camera and three cameras with 5K resolution, which has a built-in microphone array to accurately determine the direction of the voice. Due to the high resolution of the cameras, the tracking algorithm “cuts out” the protruding from the entire image and displays it in 2K resolution. Other cameras are also involved in the process – they are constantly on the alert, preparing to find and display the next active speaker.
In fig. 2, the Cisco SpeakerTrack system is responsible for automatic tracking. It has two 2K PTZ cameras and a built-in microphone array. While one of the cameras finds the active speaker and shows him in close-up, the other is in an active search for the next “talking head”.
By the way, in the first case, we assembled the kit ourselves, and in the second, all the equipment was “turnkey”, including TV, touch panels, etc.
Naturally, a video conferencing system is only part of a complex project. To make the puzzle fit, we’ve included additional solutions to create a comfortable collaborative environment.
Crestron AirMedia is used to display content in meeting rooms. AirMedia is a presentation server that receives and transmits data from user devices – smartphones, tablets, laptops – over a wireless channel. The decision reconciled
sect ministersusers of Windows and Mac OS, since devices on both operating systems can be connected to it. The system is also compatible with Apple IOS and Android, supports the transfer of images and documents in PowerPoint, Excel, Word and PDF formats, as well as sound and video. In the Quad View mode, up to four sources can be displayed simultaneously on the common screen. AirMedia integrates into the corporate network, eliminating the need for our colleagues to switch between Wi-Fi networks.
The video complex is controlled from the touch panel. Using it, you can turn on the complex, start a call, adjust the sound volume, find the subscriber in the company’s notebook, control the microphone and, if necessary, apply “mute”.
To work together, our colleagues use an interactive whiteboard (Smart) – a display that can work like a regular whiteboard: they “write” on it using a stylus and electronic ink and erase with the palm of their hand. Records are stored in internal memory with the press of a single button. There is a QR code on the panel. Having scanned it, you can synchronize the panel with your device and everything written on the display is immediately displayed on it and vice versa. It is possible to provide access to viewing and making entries on the panel in real time at the same time to 250 users. To do this, just send them a link by email, SMS, WhatsApp, AirDrop or any other convenient way.
The Crestron booking system, which integrates directly with Microsoft Exchange (for Outlook and Office 365 users), the Google Calendar application, including G Suite, helps you find out about the congestion of meeting rooms. The solution supports CollegeNET 25Live and Ad Astra scheduling software as well as IBM Notes via a local server.
Organization of space
Another important detail is the correct organization of the meeting room space. Employees must feel comfortable in it, at the same time, they must fulfill all the requirements for the installation of equipment: correctly set the light and make the right acoustics.
To get rid of unwanted overtones and echoes in the meeting rooms, a specialized finish was made. Soft sound absorbing panels helped to achieve the optimal level of RT60. They have a color that is comfortable for the eyes and at the same time do not distract the attention of the participants when discussing burning issues.
All equipment is switched on the basis of HDBaseT technology. Thanks to this, digital video signals are transmitted over a distance without interference and artifacts over twisted pair cable.
If the meeting drags on, and your phone or laptop urgently needs recharging, you can use a wireless charger and a 220 V outlet hidden in a hatch on the table. It also contains HDMI and USB C inputs for high quality picture and sound transmission.
A year ago, this functionality was enough to provide convenient collaboration. But the pandemic has made its own adjustments and led to the realization that to simplify remote communications, it is desirable to be able to connect multiple video conferencing services. Therefore, in the near future, we plan to implement support for Microsoft Teams and Skype in meeting rooms.
What do your meeting rooms look like?