Corporate meeting and video conference room with four chairs and one LCD display panel on the wall with video camera and microphone

Prioritizing Needs for Audio Visual Collaboration Upon Return to Work

While some organizations are starting a returning to work program, all employees may not be returning at the same time so some remain remote. Even those returning to work may not be returning to prior meeting routines. Regardless of location status, many people have become very familiar with video conferencing platforms over the last few months. It’s likely that this form of collaboration will be required for the foreseeable future. However, not every organization has the same tools available in all locations. How do you keep large teams collaborating locally and remotely upon return to work?

If you are planning to deploy collaboration rooms in the near future, there may be some critical factors to consider before you get back to business as usual. Keeping staff safe is always going to be top priority. A phased approach when coming back to work ensures social distancing measures are followed. In addition, travel may be restricted, making video conferencing even more essential. These new working conditions may come with pressure to implement solutions quickly to maintain high levels of productivity.

Audio

Integrating AV with video conferencing platforms in your meeting rooms can improve collaboration activities. When choosing a solution for a collaborative meeting room, the main focus should be on audio. Having clear, intelligible audio allows teams to communicate most effectively. There are a few options to consider especially if you have budget constraints.

  • Speaker and microphone placement are critical; speaker and microphone coverage areas should be mapped out in advance to ensure everyone will be able to hear local and remote presenters from any location in the room.
  • Implement simple acoustic treatments and reduce noise reflection.
  • Invest in a system with Acoustic Echo Cancelling (AEC) capabilities.
  • Remove any unnecessary, noisy electronics from the room

Sharing Content

Another important factor to consider with collaboration solutions is the ability to share presentations and data effectively. The main sharing enablers are displays and the user interface. The display doesn’t need to be fancy. Almost any monitor or TV will allow teammates to share their content.  But if your data is highly detailed, the size and resolution of the display become factors to consider.

User experience needs to be intuitive enough for any user to boot up and begin a presentation. Most people working from home have been using remote collaboration services. Choose a user experience which operates similar to those products to help meetings get started on-time and reduce calls for support.

Camera

Selecting the right camera is the next technology consideration. Although face-to-face interaction is important, budgets may dictate tough investment choices. In these cases, video cameras can be categorized as “nice to have”. Depending upon the intent, successful meetings can result from sharing verbal and written information, not necessarily seeing each other.

 

Prioritizing your conference room needs can be difficult, especially in a time of uncertainty. Remember, audio should be the main focus. Finding a solution that fits your organization’s specific needs will be key. Getting a head start on planning now will increase your collaborative success upon return to work.

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Every School Needs a Systems Integrator

If you are reading this, chances are you went to school at a time when you were lucky to have an overhead projector in your classroom and really had it made when your teacher rolled in the TV cart to watch a movie. You’ve most likely been out of school for some time and might not realize just how large of a contributor education technology has become in the classroom today as opposed to ten years ago, let alone twenty or thirty. What was either considered a luxury back then or just extremely expensive is now a thing of the past. Schools are now depending on these technologies more than ever and actually use it as a selling point to make their school a more appealing option. If you’d walk into any given classroom in 2016, you might not see as many textbooks as you’d imagine. Instead, you’d see students with Chromebooks or iPads in their hands working on educational software or other educational apps. A school’s technology is sure a lot to keep track of and stay on top of that personnel at the school most likely aren’t capable of handling. This is where a systems integrator comes in.

 

Consultation

 

Whenever you are looking to purchase something, the best thing to do is talk to somebody. Independently researching only goes so far. If you are seriously looking to acquire or upgrade your technology, your best bet is to talk with someone who knows the industry, knows the products and pretty much has their finger on the pulse. You can’t expect your school’s Director of Technology or other IT personnel to know everything. What types of technology are available? What do I really need? What is best for the students? Working with a systems integrator will answer all of your questions. Teachers and faculty of the school know how day-to-day operations go and what areas need improving. A systems integrator can help identify these areas for improvement and suggest what the best solution would be based on their vast knowledge of systems integration.  Having a direct line to that source of knowledge is extremely beneficial.

 

Healthy Business Relationship

 

Consulting and doing business with are two different things, yet a trustworthy and reliable systems integrator has you covered in both aspects. Not only can they steer you in the right direction they also bring the vision both of you come up with together to life. Having a strong relationship with an integrator means you don’t need to go elsewhere. This saves you a lot of time and from the hassle of having to find someone else. Working with a systems integrator is more than just purchasing technology; it should be a partnership and a team effort to ensure not only the best working environment for teachers and faculty, but most importantly the best learning environment for students.  The benefit of finding a reliable, hard working, honest integrator is a luxury if you often make technology purchases and upgrades for your school. Repeat business not only benefits the integrator, but also the client by getting better deals and better pricing given the repeat business over an extended period of time. As in any sort of relationship, both sides need to benefit for the relationship to continue

 

Changing The Culture

 

Having a good systems integrator can single handedly change the culture of how students learn at your school. Sure, the technology itself is the real propeller of instituting change when it comes to learning, but the systems integrator is the means of transportation to get it there. A good systems integrator can be the one to bring in the very best and top-notch systems into the classroom, not only making the teachers jobs way easier, but bringing a new level of collaboration and interactivity among students that they might have no had previously.

 

 Management All In One Place

 

Having your own integrator is not just beneficial to the school and all of its end-users, but also to the technology itself. All aspects of your technology both in AND out of the classroom can all be managed in one place. Your sound system, presentation system, phone system, data network, surveillance, etc. can all converge on the very same I/P network and going through the same systems integrator can make that all possible. Having all of your low-voltage integrated systems run on the same I/P network simplifies not just how it operates, but also adding new technology in the future.

 

 

Having a systems integrator that you can call your own can help your school in several ways. The only real question left is where you find a good systems integrator. For more information on what to look for when picking the right systems integrator, check out one of our recent blogs posts Picking The Right Integrator.

 

Are you looking for a systems integrator? Perhaps Pentegra can be of service.

Call us today at (630) 941-6000 or visit us online at www.pentegrasystems.com!

 

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Are you using Video Conferencing yet?

It is almost 2017. The internet has allowed us to achieve levels of communication and collaboration we would have never dreamed about. You can communicate with someone halfway across the globe instantly and effortlessly. This has improved not only our personal lives, but these possibilities have also had a lasting impact on the world of business. Basically, unless you have been living under a rock, video conferencing is here to stay. It goes without saying that nothing beats a real face-to-face conversation, but what do you do when that’s not available? Sure you can have your emails, instant messaging, telephones, etc. but the next best thing to an actual face-to-face conversation is indeed video conferencing. Can you believe there are still people out there NOT utilizing this technology? There is nothing wrong with being a late-adopter, but if you ARE a late-adopter you’ve most likely heard time and time again how beneficial video conferencing from others that have used it. Here are some major advantages and reasons to start using video conferencing:

Productivity:

Whether your employees work out of the office or at home, the luxury of attending a meeting whenever wherever is a blessing for businesses. The world of video conferencing negates any travel whatsoever. You don’t have to drive across town, hop on a plane or even just walk to the meeting room upstairs. Taking traveling out of the equation leaves employees more time to get work done which increases productivity for any business.

Money Saver:

In most cases business meetings are local, but in other cases you’d need to catch a flight to wherever. In either case it costs the company money. Traveling not only costs you productivity (AND TIME), but it also hits you financially. Got a meeting and it takes an hour to get there and an hour back? That’s gas money. Need to attend a meeting in Phoenix next week? You’ll need to pay airfare, accommodations, rental car, food, etc. Imagine the money you’d save by just clicking an application on your computer or mobile device and remote in through video conferencing? No muss, no fuss.

Employee Satisfaction:

Let’s be real, traveling can be a hassle to varying degrees. No matter if it is for a few hours or a few days. Who wouldn’t want to remain at their desk opposed to spending time on the road or in the air just to attend a meeting? You don’t need to pack your suitcase, you don’t need to dread the road trip, don’t need to go through TSA, don’t need to be away from your family, etc. Instead of boarding a flight, your employees will be onboard with this.

Improved Communication:

You get all the benefits of a face-to-face conversation with video conferencing. Much of communication is determined by body language and facial expressions. It is difficult to read a person over a conference call or e-mail. This helps build your relationships with your customers and also your fellow employees. You get the effect of being there…without literally being there. It is much easier to become engaged in a meeting when you can see the people you’re speaking with.

Sharing:

Most meetings have visual aids, something to compliment the speaker. With video conferencing, not only can you see the people you’re speaking to you can also share files effortlessly online. Need to show an informative video? Need to display a PowerPoint? The members of your meeting can view these files through screen sharing and easily keep up with the topics on the agenda.

Build the Best Staff:

As a business owner or decision maker for you company, you want to do what is best for business. A crucial aspect of any good business is employing the right people. Through the use of video conferencing you don’t necessarily have to limit your personnel search to just locally. Let’s say you find a prime candidate for a position that is more qualified than any of the local applicants however this person is in the next state. No problem. Video conferencing enables you to bring this person onboard because you can work from home and never miss a meeting or suffer from a lack of communication. Also this enables your business to cover more ground if your employees are working out of different locations.

 

Technology has come a long way and is becoming more easily accessible to everyone, everywhere. There are several different options to choose from when it comes to video conferencing and they are all so incredibly user-friendly. Even the most out of touch late-adopters would find it easy to use should definitely take advantage of this communication tool. Let one of our engineers steer you in the right direction and help determine what video conferencing system is best for you today.

 

Call us today at (630) 941-6000

Or visit us online at www.pentegrasystems.com

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Picking the Right Integrator

Time flies. We have all heard that expression. You can’t stop the clock. Everyone and everything gets older, including your technology. Well, especially your technology. It seems like every day you look at your once “state-of-the art” presentation system complete with projector, ceiling speaker system and all of the bells and whistles that would and did impress people about 10 years ago. Now? Well you are looking for an upgrade. This goes for all sorts of technology. You want something completely brand new, but most of all you want it designed, engineered and installed by professionals. So, what do you do? You need to pick the right integrator.

Here are 5 things to look for when choosing the right integrator:

Compile a List of Integrators

Picking the right integrator is easy if you have the right options. Finding said options is a little tougher of a task. Give a general contractor or a consultant a call and ask some questions. These are the companies and individuals that work with integrators often and would have a solid knowledge base on the matter and can definitely point you in the right direction. Also, it goes without saying, the internet is your best friend. A simple Google search of local integrators should turn up some results. Pick some accurate keywords when searching online. For example: “CCTV” and “Access Control” when searching for potential security integrators, “sound masking” or “digital signage” if you are trying to find an AV specialist. Some names could be very familiar to you and some you may never have heard of and that’s okay.

Competency

By now you have a short list of a few integrators you’d like to explore working with. You now need to find out if these firms can even do the work and do the work properly. The firm you ultimately choose will need to be certified in the specific field. The target firm not only needs qualified individuals, but industry leaders when it comes to all facets of your potential project such as sales, engineering, project management, etc.) The firms’ websites are a primary destination to find out most of your answers and are a decent indicator of the firms’ abilities. The more information on a company’s website the better your perception of them will most likely be. Give each integrator on your list a call and let them help you find out what it is you really want and really need. There is nothing better than interacting with a potential future integrator early in the planning process. You can feel them out, ask questions, and test their knowledge. Have them help you identify your issues and aid you in finding the perfect solution. That is what an integrator does, identifies a problem and devises a solution. Have multiple conversations or have a representative come out to your site so they really get a good grasp of the situation. This will give you a much needed and accurate perception of the integrator and give you a pretty solid base to select the perfect one for you.

Firm Size

Dig deeper into the firm, more than the basic information. Is this firm the size of a firm that can make your project a reality? What is their annual revenue? You have already spoken to these companies and have a pretty good perception of how qualified their staff is (or not), but do they have a reasonably sized staff to execute such a project as yours? Is this firm too small to be taking on your project? Or is this firm actually too big to be taking on your project? For example: You’re a small business looking for a small telephone system for your office. The one firm you have an eye has contracts with companies that makes $50 Million dollars per year or higher. Will they even take time to work with you? Will they exhibit the same care they show for their high-end clients? These are just some things to think about.

Reputation & References

Being capable of doing something and actually having done something are two different things. You have a good idea that a couple firms can get the job done, but now you want to know their track record. To really get a good idea of what working with a certain firm is like you need to talk directly to some of their clients. Many firms have some of their notable clients listed on their websites that you can get in contact with and some firms will actually give you a client list with the proper information of who to contact, which is a very good and telling sign of how they go about their business. When making any decision, the more information you know the better off you’ll be.

Post Installation Support

When you are doing research about an integrator please do not forget to also look further into their post-installation methodologies. This includes their ability and reliability of servicing and maintaining your system to ensure it operates to its full potential. For more information about what to look for in a great service department, check out our previous blog here.

 

Much like a consumer buying a new car, businesses and organizations do their due diligence when it comes to purchasing new technology for their space. This is not a task that should be rushed. A worthwhile investment such as a new phone system or sound system requires investment from a financial standpoint, but also a time standpoint. Rome was not built in a day. If you follow the steps above and get serious about searching for the perfect integrator, you will find one and hopefully build a lasting business relationship with for several years.

 

Pentegra Systems is a low-voltage integrator specializing in audio, video, data, security and telecom solutions. Are you in the market to upgrade the technology in your business or organization? Visit our website for more information at www.pentegrasystems.com or give us a call at (630) 941-6000.

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Advantages of Leasing Technology

It is 2015 and let’s face it technology has become a necessity in almost every aspect of your life. This is a harsh truth to some people, but so is the fact that if you want the best technology it sure doesn’t come cheap. Is your business in need of network equipment? How about a video wall in your lobby? Chances are you can be looking at a substantial investment. What if you just don’t have that sort of money when you need it most? Leasing technology quickly becomes a pretty appealing option.

SAVING You Money

Let’s say you are the facilities manager at your company and you need to look into buying a video surveillance system to monitor the grounds. To acquire a proper system fitting both your needs and your wants, your system has a price tag of $60,000. Your company definitely needs this system, but just doesn’t have that money to spend right now. By leasing this surveillance system your company can get the exact system you want and need today and pay it off over a specific time frame with a pre-determined monthly cost. Plus, more than likely there will be no down payment to begin with. You can spend that total of $60,000 over the entire lifetime of you using it opposed to dropping that serious amount of money all at once. By leasing this technology, you conserve your capital. By not buying the system upfront, you free up that money you would have spent otherwise. This way, you not only get your video surveillance system, but now have additional money to spend in other areas that also need it.

Keeping You Up-to-Date

In today’s world your brand new cutting edge technology could become outdated by tomorrow. You buy a brand new phone and within months, or weeks now it seems, an even newer phone comes out with much better features that is miles ahead of the one you just purchased. We have all been there. Being stuck with outdated technology is just a common burden that cannot be avoided. Leasing technology gives the buyer the option to update their current equipment when their current lease is up giving them the freedom to periodically have the most up to date products on the market. When your lease agreement comes to an end you simply pick from the current options available and begin a new lease agreement. Plus, since the technology you are leasing will never be outdated, you are also saving yourself the expenses of necessary repairs. If you are stuck with technology that you bought up front, the longer times goes on the more and more that equipment will need to be repaired and maintained, thus saving you even more money.

Other Advantages

When tax time rolls around, the IRS lets you deduct the full cost of all newly purchased assets in the previous year. This does not only mean equipment you purchased upfront, but it also includes equipment you leased. Select lease structures are 100% tax deductible. The entire cost of you leasing your equipment can often be reported as an expense item when its income tax season and could potentially give you a larger tax deduction.  Also, when looking to take out a lease on equipment or technology, most financial services can turn your transaction around in one day’s time. Depending on the size, the much larger transactions are often given high priority. Financial Services not only make the transaction smoother, but also save time and resources making it as hassle-free as possible.  In addition, depending on your type of organization, you can qualify for additional benefits. For example, School Districts have an even greater advantage when leasing due to tax-exempt and flexible payment lease programs that lower the costs of ownership even further down. Schools have tight budgets as it is, they can’t afford to buy equipment upfront in most cases, so in addition to the money leasing will save them additional programs will also save them even more. Faculty, staff, students and parents can definitely appreciate a school with the most up to date technology without the large financial burden of paying for it all at once.

In the grand scheme of things, leasing technology makes the most sense, especially for education and government customers. Municipalities and schools definitely need up-to-date technology and just can’t consistently afford or be as efficient by purchasing that equipment outright when compared to leasing it. Leasing gives you more money to work with now which is crucial in today’s economy. The advantages of leasing become extremely beneficial not just when it comes to affording the equipment, but also using it given you will always be using current technology that will rarely need repairs, let alone replacing.

 

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How to Manage BYOD on a Wireless Network

In the past, it was commonplace for employees of a business to only use resources provided and owned by their respective employer. Usual examples include computers and company phones. Businesses had total control of how these devices were being used since they were in-house and more than likely that’s where they stayed. Fast forward to present day, things have changed quite a bit. Through the help of wireless networks, a movement called BYOD has become quite popular. BYOD is an acronym standing for “Bring Your Own Device.” This allows for employees of the company to bring their own personal mobile devices to the workplace to use. These devices are most commonly used to carry out usual business practices which often involve the accessing of privileged company information and applications. BYOD has proven to drive employee satisfaction as well as overall productivity. This initiative also saves companies money since they do not have to supply the employee with a company device. The issues are that since these devices are also used for personal use of the employee, companies don’t have that complete control over these devices and how they are used. Since BYOD is a trend that most likely will grow, the question arises: how does one manage BYOD on a wireless network?

When first implementing a BYOD policy in the workplace, the decision needs input from everyone across the board. If valuable company information is going to be accessible on personal devices of employees, collaboration is needed from top ranked management officers, the IT department, human resources, etc as to what extent of information can and can’t be accessed. Every single person involved needs to be on the same page when thinking about what is best for the company. Once these decisions are made rules and guidelines absolutely need to be put in place as to what employees are and aren’t allowed to do on their devices while using them for work purposes. These rules need to be as specific and as clear as possible to avoid any unexpected or unwanted usage issues.

There are several ways to go about managing BYOD. Companies want the capability to monitor what employees are doing with their devices. Many mobile devices already offer a slew of technologies that can monitor usage of multiple features. Such technologies include GPS receivers, camera recorders and audio recorders. However, most companies commonly implement the use services and suites to closely manage how their users are using their devices. These technologies have the ability to act as a safeguard for both outgoing and incoming files and information. If these devices have access to valuable company information, companies wouldn’t want any of their private information to accidentally leak out. BYOD management software has a tight hold on the data traffic ensuring nothing will fall into unwanted hands. The same principal goes for monitoring what comes into these devices such as downloading files or applications that can be harmful to the business.  Alert systems are also incorporated to immediately notify necessary parties of any sort of issue that arises. Tighter security measures must also be in place for CEO’s and various higher ups within the organization due to their access to perhaps more confidential information than that of the average employee.

Any website, hyperlink or e-mail attachment has the potential to be extremely hazardous. As employees browse the web and open e-mails, the possibilities of viruses arise. Viruses are a significant issue when individual users’ devices get infected given the amount of data stored within those devices (account numbers, financial information, personal information, etc.). However, the issues only intensify when an entire company is at risk. Viruses can’t only steal information; they have the capability of bringing down an entire network. Policies need to be in place where all devices need to be running antivirus and anti-malware programs especially if the device runs a vulnerable OS such as Windows, Android or Linux. These programs will be the first line of defense against incoming threats. In addition to companies already securing their data, companies need to deploy a dedicated device such as SonicWALL to manage the security of the network. Relying on simple firewalls is not enough. Your network should be a managed impenetrable fortress to the outside world.

In an effort to manage the system in a much more efficient way, the BYOD initiative should not include “any” device. Employees shouldn’t assume they can bring whatever device they have and expect it to work with the system. There are a slew of mobile devices available and one cannot expect every single one to be able to be included. The business has quite a large task on their hands as it has to oversee what is going on with everyone’s device, the narrower the spectrum of devices, the easier it will be to manage and create policies and security measures.

Security is the big picture when managing a BYOD program, obviously. Decision makers need to also create loss, theft and exit policies. How many times has one of your friends or family members told you that they lost their phone again? When an employee brings their device to work and has access to company information, these devices indirectly become an asset to that company without the company actually owning them. A prime example is contact information. If an employee leaves a company for whatever reason, they no longer just take away the experience from that job; they have information in their device such as important contacts among other things that they can more than likely utilize elsewhere. These policies will need to balance features and risks to protect the personal information of the user as well as the reputation of the business.

If employees are to use their own personal devices for work purposes, policies and security measures must be in place. However, the employees using their personal mobile devices most likely won’t want their phone or tablet on total lockdown. It’s at this point BYOD creates a risk for both the employer and employee. There needs to be a medium. In terms of what a company can have access to, there needs to be a fine line between a user’s company data and a user’s personal data. This is where managing a BYOD becomes critical for the initiative’s overall success and prosperity. The BYOD system has proven to be ultimately successful if this balance can be achieved.

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Videoconferencing Industry Growing on the Daily

The following is a great article by Chip Manning we found posted on VDO360 highlighting how the videoconferecing industry continues to grow.

 

According to Transparency Market Research’s latest study, at a projected valuation of $6.4 billion around the world, 2020 will represent a clear milestone in the videoconferencing market. That’s a phenomenal compound annual growth rate of 9.36 percent from 2014 to 2020. Industry-wide adoptions at the enterprise level will drive much of this progress.

While many industries have embraced the potential high quality videoconferencing technology has to offer, less traditional verticals like healthcare, defense, and the education industry are also starting to take notice. There are myriad reasons for this exciting growth when it comes to video collaboration—here are some of the most popular ones:

Flexible, Scalable Videoconferencing Solutions Expand the Marketplace
More businesses than ever before can afford videoconferencing solutions. A few years ago, only large organizations with significant tech budgets could afford to implement on-premise solutions with an in-house technology team. Today, companies can access VaaS (Video as a Service) solutions as well as cloud-based videoconferencing solutions at a fraction of the budget needed for in-house hardware, software, and support.

These flexible, cost-effective video opportunities allow small and medium-sized companies to do business in a global environment with the same resources as much larger firms. As more vendors come into the videoconferencing field, the competitive videoconferencing market has replaced previous concerns regarding security and availability with customized solutions that meet those requirements. Cloud and VaaS solutions can offer the same level of security as on-premise solutions, provided that vendors and clients understand their roles in protecting data and video services.

Videoconferencing Drives External and Internal Communication and Collaboration
As the general economy continues to mobilize globally, businesses can significantly cut overhead costs with the right videoconferencing solution. Remote workers can easily engage with teams around the world. Office branches in different states and countries can meet as necessary without stopping their daily work to fly to one central location.

HR and recruiting professionals can use videoconferencing to easily interview candidates regardless of location. Customer support professionals and account executives can also use videoconferencing tools to pitch products, help customers troubleshoot a problem, or work on a rollout project. Videoconferencing adds value universally.

In the healthcare industry, a main driver of videoconferencing growth, doctors can conduct remote consultations and discuss medical findings with ease through video-collaboration meetings. In the education industry, students and teachers from all over the world can connect in a virtual classroom to discuss ideas and grow in a global environment. The possibilities for interaction with high quality videoconferencing tools impact all sizes of business, industries, and initiatives. Even retailers, manufacturers, and restaurant managers can use videoconferencing to enhance operations and collaboration.

Invest in and Optimize for Videoconferencing Today
As the use of videoconferencing solutions of all kinds becomes more commonplace, organizations and consumers may start to expect a certain level of digital capability. If you still travel to a place and plan to charge a client for an in-person meeting that could easily occur through videoconference, you may lose clients or be asked to absorb the travel costs in the future. Start investing in videoconferencing solutions and optimization today to maintain a competitive edge during this industry growth spurt.

 

Learn more about how Pentegra Systems’ Collaborative Communication solutions can design, engineer and install your new videoconferencing system today!

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Trust by Design: Working With The Right AV Integrator

When it comes to AV Technology, most businesses make the common mistake of planning for technology only after their building has been constructed or their remodeling project is at the verge of completion. This leads to yet another grave mistake–equipment design that’s not compatible with their business needs and an infrastructure that is not adequate after the building is completed. This could and often does result in high additional costs or unsightly wires. This is a situation best avoided. But how? The answer lies in ensuring that your technology integrator walks you through the design process while understanding your business needs. The best integrators can sense the bigger picture, so they acquaint their clients with the pros and cons of a particular design while suggesting what is best for them. This can not only cut down the unnecessary cost of unwanted or unnecessary features, but also creates a bond of trust between the integrator and the client.

How important is the design phase?
Proper design has a great impact on the final outcome of your projects. Naturally, a lot depends on your integrator’s understanding of your business processes and your specific requirements. This is where a step gone wrong can cost you not only time, but budget overages as well. To avoid this, choose an integrator who makes you a part of the design process. This eliminates a lot of confusion, missed details, and extra costs. And, as there grows a level of trust and understanding between you and your integrator that comes as a natural result of working together, you can rely on them for your future projects.

Which factors to consider in your design phase?
Before starting your audio visual project, there are several factors you need to consider in the design phase. It’s important that you have multiple sittings with your AV integrator during this phase to arrive at a point where you’ve been able to convey your exact requirements and the integrator has attained a full understanding of your business process and your specifications.
Here are the important factors you need to discuss during the design phase.

Who is your audience?
Determine the primary user group and how tech savvy they are. It’s always best to go a little deeper in knowing what would be the right fit for your audience. Use age group, user habits and other demographics, and a full understanding of their needs as points for discussion.

What is the present condition of your building?
The age of your building plays an important role in deciding the audio visual technologies you would want to integrate. Take your integrator on a tour around your building before the process of design commences, then, as construction and design are underway, make sure you continue to tour and inspect regularly, as it’s not unusual for things to come up that you’ve not thought of in the early phases of the project.

What are your audio requirements?
Both internal and external sound can affect the quality and effectiveness your AV system. Discuss with your integrator about the optimal audio conditions before they can work on them.

Which are the optimum lighting and heat conditions for your technology?
It’s important to assess the amount of natural and ambient light the room receives before planning an AV system for it.

What kind of electrical and cabling would be best suited to your needs?
Talk to your integrator with regard to the specific electrical, IP, and cabling that you’ll require.

What type of screen would you need?
The size of the screen is an important factor. It has a lot of impact on your audio visual experiences and will (and should) ultimately drive everything. The size of the room and the number of people it would seat are critical matters to consider while determining the right screen size.

What are your video conferencing requirements?

Be very clear about your video conferencing preferences when discussing these factors with your integrator. Chalk out every small detail, such the camera placement or what kind of microphone you would need based on your video conferencing habits and requirements.

After discussing the above points with your integrator, both of you can have greater clarity as to what design might work for the benefit of your business. This is not only an important step toward an ideal AV system design, but also a step closer to finding an integrator who will most fully understand your business.

What are your experiences? Have you been an active participant in the design phase of a project? Have you worked with clients who were? We’d love to hear more.

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5 Collaboration Technologies That Millennials Want At Work

Millennials are the most tech-savvy, collaborative, and socially-minded generation in human history.  Millennials have grown up using smartphones, Facebook, and the cloud.  They can navigate the web like the back of their hand.  Millennials realize the future belongs to them.  They are determined that today’s workplaces match their expectations and ideals.

In a nutshell, Millennials seek work environments that foster connectivity, meaning, and social purpose.  They seek work hours and arrangements, which reflect their desire to balance career goals with their family and personal aspirations.  In particular, Millennials view work as an “activity,” not a physical place.  Therefore, they look at flexible hours and telecommuting as prerequisites. They want the workplace to reflect their values and ideals.  In short, they want work environments that provide the technological and collaborative opportunities they expect.  Five collaboration technologies that Millennials want at work include:

1) Video:  Traditionally, business people have opted for in-person meetings as their preferred method of communication.  Millennials value face-time, but they have embraced video-conferencing as an ideal tool for conducting meetings, saving time, and enhancing collaboration.

2) Huddle Rooms:  Millennials want to flatten and dismantle hierarchies.  They dislike and distrust command-and-control environments.  They are more interested in team-building than individual status.  In this regard, huddle rooms are an ideal way to tap the creative energies of Millennials.  What is a huddle room?  Essentially a huddle room is a space where a small number of workers can gather to discuss or tackle a common agenda.  Huddle rooms are an alternative to large, costly, and less intimate conference rooms.  Huddle rooms typically involve a display, such as a flat screen monitor, a table or workspace, and a webcam that facilitates video or teleconferencing with outside parties.  Huddle rooms vary in size, as do their specific features, depending on the needs of the organization.  But basically huddle rooms are designed to foster and tap the creative energies of small but nimble teams focused on common goals.  Millennials distrust top-down environments.  Instead, they value work environments where teamwork and horizontal relationships are more prominent.  Innovative working arrangements, such as the huddle room, facilitate the kind of work experience Millennials expect.

3) Social Media:  Technology is the air that Millennials breathe.  They are accustomed to using services like Facebook, Twitter, and Linked-in on a daily basis.  They utilize these platforms throughout the day (at home and on the go) and they expect to use them at work as well.

4) Telecommunication:  By 2025, about 40% of the workforce is expected to work from home.  Millennials value flexibility, comfort, and family time.  Millennials view commuting and the nine to five workday as anachronistic.  Milennialls see working from home as natural.  Indeed more than 90% of Millennials want to work from home, and more than 85% want to work according to their own schedule.  Millennials want to work, but they want technological options that will allow them work from remote locations and according to their own schedules.

5) Gaming Apps:  Millenials have grown up in the world of videogames.  They want work to be fun and exciting; not boring and frustrating like the jobs their parents endured.  According to Adam Penenberg, companies are responding to this reality by developing “gamification applications,” programs and systems that turn the work experience into a something of a game.

Millennials are going to shape the future of work.  Like previous generations, Millennials value work, but they have a different idea of how to get work done than their predecessors.  Millennials value transparency, collaboration, and flexibility.  They believe corporations need to be less hierarchical and more socially accountable.  They want to telecommute and set their own schedules.  They also want work to be creative and fun.   Millenneials will embrace tools that foster collaboration and other ways of interacting creatively with their peers and their work environments.

Resources:

Information Week What Millennials Want at Work

Forbes: 10 Ways Millennials are Creating the Future of Work

 

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5 Tips For Successful Video on Wireless Networks (WLAN)

Video conferencing is tool a now widely used by businesses, schools, government agencies, and households.  The development of high-speed wireless access has greatly increased the number of computer users who regularly video conference over wireless networks (WLAN).  Today, users typically bring their own device (BYOD) when it comes to making video calls through wireless networks.  The variety of devices – tablets, laptops, smart phones, etc – is formidable.  Tips for ensuring successful video on wireless networks include:


1)  Bandwidth:  Having enough bandwidth to support high quality video calls is essential. When it comes to supporting video calls the 802.11n standard is ideal.   Basically, 802.11n is a wireless networking standard that governs transmission rates.  With an 802.11n network, multiple antennas are used to increase the data rates necessary to support multimedia, video, and other high bandwidth applications.  If you require high-quality video conferencing, particularly when multiple users will be using the same Wi-Fi network, then utilizing a standard as up-to-date as the 802.11n protocol is essential.  Ideally, both the wireless router and the adapter in a BYOD will adhere to the 802.11n standard. 


2)  Use a Quality Video Conferencing Service:  Free video conferencing services, such as Skype and Google Hangouts, offer a decent quality when it comes to video conferencing with friends and family.  However, if you are a business person who needs to make a good impression, then make sure you are utilizing professional quality video conferencing software.   Losing a client over a dropped call or technical glitch is not worth it.


3)  Security:  Security is of paramount concern when logging onto or managing a WLAN network.  Put simply, wireless networks are vulnerable to outside hackers and legitimate users who might misuse their network privileges.  The proliferation of BYODs necessitates security protocols that identify each and every user and device that connects to a network and grants them an appropriate level of access.  Managing security can help insure that network resources are available for legitimate activities, such as video calls.   


4)  Router Signal: Making sure you receive a strong signal from a wireless router is important if you will be utilizing high-bandwidth activities like video calls.  Most devices include bars and graphics, which visually illustrate the signal strength you are receiving.  If the signal seems weak, then try moving your device around until you find a stronger signal.


5)  Upgrade Your Device’s Wi-Fi Adapter:  Upgrading the Wi-Fi adapter in your device can help improve performance when it comes to video calls.  Most new devices probably include the latest networking standards, such as the 802.11n protocol.  However, in most cases, older computers and laptops can be adapted to the latest standards because they include slots for wireless PC cards and USB adaptors.  Adapting devices like smart phones might not be as easy.


Video calls are an increasingly important and common feature of our daily lives.  Schools, businesses and households are utilizing video calls for educational purposes, to conduct business and stay in-touch.  When they go well, video calls can be fun and productive.  However, technical glitches still mar many video calls.  Configuring devices and wireless networks to optimize video calls is often a simple process.  When it comes to video calls, doing a little tech homework and preparation can help ensure that your video conferences go smoothly.

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Unity Temple

Unity Temple

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What began as Unity Church in 1871, Unity Temple always called Oak Park, IL home. The original Unity Temple building was struck by lightning and destroyed in 1905. A young architect named Frank Lloyd Wright was then brought in to design the new Unity Temple building. Frank Lloyd Wright’s design ...

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