Wednesday, December 9, 2015

The Vision of Unified Collaboration and Communications

 – Better than Being There – Three Keys to AV Delivering UC&C

I want to preface this by stating an important point.  Nothing will ever replace the value of face-to-face meetings.  A firm handshake to close a deal or the ability to spend time with people building strong relationships is incredibly important.  This article is about building on top of the personal relationships and handshakes by using technology, processes and space planning.  The emphasis has to be on the building and adding and not trying to replace.

I can’t help but get incredibly excited about where we are heading with Unified Communications and Collaboration (UC&C).  This is really directed at the AV/IT players in the industry.  When we look at UC&C and what AV/IT can do with this space the impact is fascinating.  AV already masters the physical space with lighting, acoustics, displays, sound and control options, but when you add in the full offerings of UC&C the usage model changes in unbelievable ways.  Let’s explore some examples together and then we can break them down into a few categories to see what really makes this work for us.

I feel I have to re-emphasize that when I refer the UC&C, I am referring to a system that includes all that telephony, IT and audiovisual has to offer.  In this article I am going out of my way to emphasize the audiovisual part. 

These are Just Three of the Many Advantages of AV/IT Delivering UC&C:
  1. The Environment - These advantages include a more natural environment for videoconferencing with proper audiovisual integration that includes proper lighting, acoustics, camera, microphone, loudspeaker placement and display sizing and placement.  All of these things can give the users the feeling that the remote participants are in the room. 
  2. Collaboration - Another advantage is the ability to use audiovisual integration by placing document cameras in the ceiling and using processors that can support the ability to literally slide a document across the table to remote participants and have them edit and collaborate on these documents using the network. 
  3. Escalation - One more advantage is having the systems fully converged so that when the users are on a VOIP call and they need to move it to a videoconference they can just shoot an Instant Message to invitees and open a video call on the fly.  The user should even be able to book resources on the fly as needed for adhoc meetings and escalate a meeting from a call to a full-fledged collaborative videoconference with just a few clicks.

One thing that is mind-blowing to me is this thought; what if we actually put cameras, displays, loudspeakers and microphones in the chairs of “remote participants”?  Some UC&C integrators (AV Systems integrators) are doing just that to give participants the feeling that remote participants are “in the room”.  Schools do this for kids that can’t attend school because of illness.  As a product there are robots that travel the halls and attend classes via videoconferencing for students and allow the students to be a part of their regular school environment while they recover from a medical procedure or medical treatment.  Why can’t we do this for business remote collaborators as well?  See.  Told you.  Mind blown.
Picture Attributed to VGO Communications, Inc.

When looking at how UC&C will evolve in the near future, we see how UC&C meetings will actually be better than being there (remember I said that it will never replace the handshake, but at times when added to face-to-face it can be better).  How can I say that?  I say that because there are times when these meetings take place that participants will need access to resources that are only in their home office locations.  Having a UC&C meeting means that participants can be in two places at once.  This means that they can have access to all of their recourses that are in their home location and be in a remote location at the same time.  To me, at times, that can be better than being there.

So what is really driving this evolution for UC&C?  I believe three major categories is driving the changes; the advancements in technology, the way companies are changing their process and policies and lastly the way we are doing space planning to support true collaboration.  In my next article I will discuss how AV/IT integrators can leverage these trends by applying what they do in the technology realm, with supporting process and policies and physical space with lighting, acoustics, audio, video and converged technologies that no other industry can deliver the way AV/IT can.

The author:
Max Kopsho, CTS-D/I, PMP, CQT, CCNA R&S and Security, CompTIA Network+ and CTT+

Max has worked in the AV industry for over 17 years in various management and technical roles.  Over the last 28 years Max has acquired an extensive background in supporting AV and IT systems, computer networks, telecom, and VTC systems.  Max developed one of the industry’s first networked AV solutions and that product is now deployed in a single network with over 15,000 network attached AV devices.  Max has made considerable contributions to the InfoComm Education area in AV/IT and CTS preparations.  He was awarded the 2010 Educator of the Year for InfoComm and has prepared over 1000 candidates for their CTS exam.  

The views in this article are strictly the views of Max and do not necessarily reflect the views of his employer or business partners.

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