Meeting Room Management for the Next-Gen Enterprise

Audio Visual Distributors

Thursday, 20 June, 2019



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When it comes to the proactive management of their global AV meeting room estate, most enterprises are flying blind.

In the typical enterprise today, the accountable support folks DO NOT have a full view of their AV and collaboration environment. Instead, they have a narrow, periscope-like, view of specific areas.

But wait — this is the world of cloud services and IOT. The roster of IP-ready AV devices keeps growing. And for just a few hundred dollars, I can remotely monitor and manage my home via the Internet. How can the AV world be so far behind?

The reason is that due to cost, complexity, and frankly choice, most AV meeting rooms were designed to operate independently.

Monitoring and managing a single device (e.g. a group video system) using the vendor’s management software is relatively straight-forward. However, things become far more difficult when …

  • Multiple devices are connected to form a single system
  • Each of the devices offer different functionality (e.g. a display vs. an audio amplifier)
  • The pool of possible devices includes thousands of different products
     

The AV world is simply too open with too many choices and options. In the end, almost every AV system is a custom solution. Even so-called “standardized” AV systems are just custom designs that are re-used again and again to control cost, expedite deployments, and provide a consistent experience.

Traditional Ways to Solve the Problem

Historically, organizations had three ways to address the AV monitoring and management issues.

Method #1 — Throw People at the Problem

The simplest, most brute-force way to deal with this issue is to activate an army of support staff charged with inspecting, testing, and operating the installed AV equipment. This approach depends entirely on people, which makes it somewhat inconsistent and error prone.

Method #2 — Throw Money / Technology at the Problem

Another option is to deploy additional equipment and systems to make the AV environment visible and manageable.

Method #3 — Accept That Which We Cannot Change

Quite simply, this means accepting that some, much, or all of the AV environment will not be remotely monitorable or manageable.

But that was then … and this is now.

Today, organizations have the option of applying an IT-mindset to their AV environment. Instead of following the same old rules and methods, they can take a next-gen approach to meeting room management.

An IT-Mindset for AV Meeting Rooms

The IT-way to monitor and manage a global AV estate involves the following:

#1 — A Functionality-Oriented Approach

Almost every meeting room in the world has the same basic goal — allow people to gather, in one or more places and locations, and work together efficiently and effectively.

#2 — An IT-Based and IT-Best Practices Approach

IT folks seek solutions that look, feel, and act like standard IT-tools and technologies.

#3 — A Configured Vs. Programmed Approach

The IT world is all about configuration. Instead of buying raw processing power and programming a custom software solution, IT professionals prefer to configure solutions that are essentially ready-to-use right out of the box.

#4 — An “Automate Where Possible” Approach

An IT-friendly approach involves using systems instead of people whenever possible.

#5 — A Managed Services Friendly Approach

Long ago, organizations realized that some functions should be handled internally using internal staff, while others should be outsourced and handled by externals / contractors.

These are just some of the items that one should expect to find in an IT-centric monitoring and management platform.

Solution Spotlight — Barco Overture

Unlike most competing AV control solutions which require proprietary hardware and software, Overture was designed from day one to be an IT-friendly, enterprise-wide, centralized AV control solution.

For example, Overture runs as a Virtual Machine (VM) that can be hosted on most virtualization environments. Barco also offers Overture via a hosted / software-as-a-service model. In addition, unlike traditional AV control solutions, Overture is user-based, offering each user a personalized experience.

And this centralized software approach allows Overture to support devices in thousands of meeting rooms around the world by leveraging the existing IT infrastructure and without the need for dedicated control hardware in each room.

A key differentiator of this solution is that Overture is designed to be configured — not programmed. Overture offers a web user interface that allows administrators, with just a few clicks, to define locations and meeting rooms, add and configure devices, and enable automated functions (dubbed Behaviours) and alerts within the system.

For example, Overture can be configured to notify IT support when a projector bulb burns, a video system goes offline, or a room’s temperature exceed 85 degrees.

And like every AV control system, Overture supports multi-function script & automation functions.

For admins and support staff, Overture provides a centralized dashboard (see image below) including customizable widgets that provide real-time status information about devices and rooms (top of image), map-based navigation of your AV environment, and a dynamic activity window (lower right sidebar in image below).

Another differentiator is that Overture makes the meeting room’s user interface (UI) accessible from any device connected on the network i.e. cell phones, tablets, or notebooks.

To ensure a consistent look and feel, regardless of who configured the system, Overture’s UI is based on templates. This saves time by avoiding the need to create control panel designs from scratch.

And since the platform is based on HTML 5, advanced users and developers can easily provide a customized experience.

Overture also allows administrators to define scheduled behaviours to be applied to specific devices, systems, and/or locations. For example, the system can be set to turn off the lights in all meeting rooms on the 5th floor in the London office at 8 PM local time. Similarly, the system can be set to reboot all group video systems once a week at a pre-determined time.

Conclusion:

Overture’s centralized, software-based, IT-friendly approach changes the long-standing rules of AV meeting room control, offering cost-effective and highly scalable global device monitoring and management.

Image credit: ©stock.adobe.com/au/foxyburrow

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