By Zee Hakimoglu, President and CEO, ClearOne
With the rise of COVID-19 in March 2020, it quickly became clear that in-person meetings were unsafe and no longer an option for employees and businesses across the globe. What was once an essential part of business operations became virtually obsolete in just a few weeks.
Luckily, in recent years technology has advanced exponentially to offer lightning-fast internet connections, virtual conferencing platforms, and highly-advanced audio and video devices. That said, it didn’t take long for businesses and educational institutions of all sizes to pivot to workplaces powered by seamless virtual collaboration to maintain streamlined internal and external communication wherever employees were located.
While the mass adoption of virtual collaboration tools like Zoom and Google Meets was initially thought to be temporary, it’s become clear to organizations and integrators that remote collaboration is here to stay. Over the past two years, many employees have come to enjoy the benefits of working remotely, rather than commuting to an office five days a week.
As we look to the future of meeting rooms, businesses and educational institutions globally are tasked with deploying high-quality AV solutions to support the needs of hybrid work. These new needs have resulted in what we call Hybrid Flexible rooms (HyFlex), which are designed specifically to accommodate the in-person and remote collaboration that is now in high demand by modern institutions and businesses.
Today’s Technology is Ready for HyFlex
Video and audio capture technologies have advanced rapidly in recent years, with manufacturers constantly striving to improve resolution, compatibility, ease of use, and special features. Organizations can choose from stationary cameras to 4K PTZ cameras with AI-based people tracking, or tabletop conferencing phones to invisible beamforming microphone arrays designed to look like ceiling tiles. The offerings are widespread and come at a variety of prices for all budgets and use cases.
Along with microphones, cameras, digital displays, and speakers, Digital Signal Processors (DSPs) form an important part of a professional-grade solution. With features such as acoustic echo cancellation, noise cancellation, and feedback control, DSPs help improve audio quality and ensure any remote participants can follow along as if they were sitting in the front row.
The sophistication and price of components vary depending on the needs and size of the room being outfitted, but every system must deliver seamless compatibility with all other components and services as well as any future add-ons. This helps ensure the system is easy for staff to set up and use without training or assistance from IT professionals.
Building a HyFlex Room Seamlessly
HyFlex rooms utilize multiple cameras and microphones in conjunction with digital displays and speaker systems to provide spaces that can be used for remote collaboration just as easily as for in-person needs. A typical HyFlex room has at least two cameras, with one focused on the presenter and the other capturing the entire room or the audience, depending on the size and layout. An important feature of these rooms is that they are kept free of boxy equipment and visible cabling that can limit how the room is used.
Advanced products, such as beamforming microphone arrays that include onboard multi-channel amplifiers, can help to make the installation process easier, faster, and more profitable for integrators. With this kind of tool, integrators can set up more rooms in less time and simplify wire layouts while reducing both the total number of components and the complexity of ongoing system maintenance.
Integration firms can deliver reliable, comprehensive video conferencing and collaboration systems by partnering with widely respected manufacturers and prioritizing user experience during the design process. Every situation is different, with some clients requiring BYOD capabilities and others relying on in-room computers to run meetings and education software.
The Future is Flexible™
Over the next few years and beyond, organizations that install flexible and adaptable office technologies will see a high return on that investment, and the constant innovations from AV manufacturers support this change. Yet, while HyFlex rooms are equipped with an abundance of technology, the solutions must be sleek and unobtrusive – allowing organizations to optimize space and utilize the rooms for multiple use cases.
As the latest technologies emerge, integrators have the fantastic opportunity to recommend the most fitting new solutions to new and existing clients. It’s up to integrators to stay up-to-date on the latest advancements to equip the next generation of HyFlex rooms, shaping the future of virtual and in-person collaboration.