We can all agree that COVID-19 has changed our world in previously unthinkable and radical ways over the past two years. As we start returning to the office, the implementation of day-to-day activities will be forever changed – a case in point is the audio/visual outfitted meeting room.
Our new back-to-the workplace reality allows us to rethink audio/visual and other physical elements associated with in-office meetings. Expanding IP network convergence technologies enable the connected (smart) building. The connected building provides the infrastructure that enables next-generation touchless audio/visual (AV) meeting rooms. Additionally, next-generation touchless AV meeting rooms enhance collaboration, reduce inefficiencies and increase employee productivity.
A Touchless AV Meeting Room Defined
As we have all experienced, a typical in-office meeting could include any number of connected or smart building AV and/or environmental elements, including controls for lighting, HVAC, monitors, sound, etc. For pre-pandemic in-office meetings, it could simply be a matter of walking in, hitting the light switch, pressing the monitor power button and physically adjusting the room thermostat up or down. Then, we might plug our laptop into the monitor via an HDMI cable to show our meeting presentation to the assembled team. A touchless meeting room can be defined as providing alternative, touchless access to all the above via a smart building datacom network.
Touchless Meeting Room Technology Support Elements
With more and more environmental controls becoming IP enabled, these technologies can now be made accessible via in-building IP datacom networks. Meeting participants can use their network-enabled personal devices (phone, laptop or tablet) for room control instead of a shared on-wall touch panel or keypad. Also, network-enabled touchless control can take this even further via voice-activated systems that are becoming increasingly commonplace in our homes, cars and across the commercial office in a smart building environment.
Wireless connections to presentation devices are another aspect of the touchless meeting room that allows users to share content via video displays, laptops or even mobile devices without physically connecting or touching any cables.
There are also smart occupancy sensors and power systems tied to HVAC systems that can detect when participants arrive, adjust temperature and lighting, and then shut down when occupants leave.
Smart Scheduling Systems
Network-based scheduling system integration can further automate the touchless meeting experience. For example, if a Zoom or Teams meeting is scheduled, the room system can connect to the call automatically at the meeting start time. Functionality can also be unified across different room types and locations for a more consistent user experience across the building, campus or enterprise.
Using facial recognition and passive infrared readers (PIR) can also provide for further automation and security. For example, a scheduled call will not connect until the leader has arrived in the room.
Now that we have defined what touchless AV meeting rooms are and the accelerating convergence of IP network technologies that support them, let’s turn to some possible deployment challenges.
Touchless Meeting Room Deployment – Issues to Note
A BYOD Approach Is Key
To fully and successfully deploy a touchless meeting room strategy, organizations must also support a bring your own device (BYOD) approach, allowing users to wirelessly connect their own devices with the network and room systems.
Touchless Meeting Room Systems Infrastructure Support
While cost savings and efficiency benefits can accrue from integrating meeting room access with calendar, scheduling systems, smart sensors, etc., these will require support and coordination from the IT organization; security and compliance issues are also areas that should not be overlooked.
So, what if your existing offices are not fully ready to deploy an overall touchless meeting room strategy? In some cases, it may be possible to convert existing AV-equipped meeting rooms. However, in many cases, upgrades or new equipment may be needed.
Planning for Success
In our hyper-competitive world, reducing costs while increasing collaboration and productivity are key benefits of a touchless meeting room deployment strategy across any office, campus or enterprise. With touchless meeting rooms, users are no longer physically handling room-based, mechanically controlled devices or cables, and there are no electronics to clean up after each meeting. Another key benefit to touchless meeting rooms, which should not be overlooked, is how they positively impact the employee experience – enabling better and more efficient employee collaboration can only pay dividends.
As illustrated, touchless meeting rooms are not just more hygienic, they are also more efficient via recaptured operations costs due to reduced waste when it comes to more regulated HVAC, lighting and more. Touchless meeting room infrastructure also supports hybrid work/work-from-home models that are going to be with us for many years to come.
When thinking about or planning for touchless meeting room deployment, you should look for an experienced AV Integrator with strong programming, IT and networking expertise. Touchless meeting room systems can require highly complex back-end systems integration, so ensuring your chosen partner has these skills will be key to your success.