With more than 80,000 visitors and nearly 1,300 exhibitors, Integrated Systems Europe 2018 has once again set visitor and exhibitor records. As the visitor numbers grow so does the variety of solutions displayed. New manufacturers and interestingly IT companies from outside the historical AV sector giants appeared. Keeping an overview here is getting more and more challenging! Which is why macom spends the time scouring the show floor and stands to help you find what the relevant technology trends of ISE 2018 were, where the market is moving and what impact this has on your AV technology and digitalisation projects.

 

Collaboration, AVoverIP, LED, Usability

 

Four of the main trends were: Collaboration, AVoverIP, LED and Usability. The spectrum of collaboration solutions at this year’s ISE was huge. There was hardly a display manufacturer who did not present at least one co-working solution on their stands! The topic AVoverIP has finally arrived in the AV industry. Numerous manufacturers presented solutions for IP signal transmission, only uniform standards are still missing. LED was virtually omnipresent across the show. A huge number of different manufacturers showcased their LED solutions that had previously avoided the product set. In addition, it became clear that almost all manufacturers were increasingly addressing the topic of usability.

Further ISE trends 2018

  • Unified Communication
  • Digital Reality
  • AV management systems
  • Room booking
  • Audio for UCC and VC
  • Event services

This is just as a quick overview and appetizer. We are of course going to closely scrutinise each of the trends. In today’s blog post, we’ll look at Unified Communication and Collaboration and Audio for UCC and VC. The other trends will follow next week in our next macom media technology blog.

 Unified Communication and Collaboration

 

In addition to LED and AVoIP, Unified Communication and Collaboration were two of the major hot topics of this year’s ISE. There was hardly any exhibitor who did not have at least one solution at their stand. The transition between pure UC and comprehensive collaboration solutions was often fluid. The range of collaboration categories was also very large. For your benefit, we have narrowed them down below. We also looked at the latest developments in microphones for UCC and videoconferencing.

Collaboration

 

From the digital whiteboard, which automatically digitizes and stores content in the cloud, to software solutions that enable true real-time collaboration on documents, including video telephony, everything was on show.

Display hardware
Visualisation hardware, displays, now mostly with 4K resolution, and short throw projection still have the edge. Both technologies have their pros and cons, depending on the use case and budget. Samsung presented a MicroLED wall, which is also supposed to be usable for meeting room applications but this product does not look set to be released until later in the year at the earliest.

Processing and touch quality
In the areas of hardware processing and touch quality quite a lot has happened. Microsoft Surface Hub still is the benchmark. With touch technologies we see several different approaches. Here macom believes the Flatfrog solutions as well as the combination of capacitive touch and active pen inputs are the most promising. The capacitive touch solutions do currently have the edge in terms of user-friendliness.

Collaboration functionality
Manufacturers are basically following two different approaches: Some focus on hardware and open interfaces to be able to implement software clients or operating systems for the different use cases. One good example is the display manufacturer Clevertouch, which has integrated the Display Note software on its devices as an interface. The other approach is that in addition to the display hardware, the manufacturers also produce the software for the different use cases and offer everything from a single source.

Recommendation of the macom experts

Which collaboration solutions fit you eventually can only be decided once you have analysed your specific use cases. The approaches for the collaboration functionalities described above have very different advantages and disadvantages and selection of the right tool really is dependent on your specific needs in each area of your business. For smaller companies with just a few meeting rooms, it may make more sense to purchase source displays and software from a single source. This guarantees uniform user interfaces in all rooms. For larger companies with different user needs display solutions from different manufacturers may be better suited, however, this may make the user experience a little more difficult and require larger changes in management processes.

Hardware
As with a lot of things in life it pays to invest a bit more money in quality! This appears to be especially true in the touch quality arena where there are huge differences. Most manufacturers are still at a stage where a supported palm on the touch surface is not considered an input. If however a jacket or cuff touches the surface, things look a little different. It is quite easy to separate the wheat from the chaff!

Unified Communication

 

In the Unified Communication sector, the trend is towards compact and scalable all-in-one solutions that combine camera, microphone audio and video output in an appealing design. Software-based UC clients such as Skype for Business or Cisco Spark are gaining ground. As a result, proprietary hardware vendors such as Crestron with their tabletop solution Mercury, Polycom with their room system MSR, and Yamaha with their CS700 driven either by the user device or via an open graphical user interface for third-party clients to provide the end user with a familiar UI. We absolutely think this is a step in the right direction.

Several software manufacturers presented cloud-based systems with apps for different mobile devices. To use the software, the app can be installed on laptop or smartphone. The advantage of this system is the usability. Regardless of the room in which the UC participants are located, the communication is controlled via the personal devices. The users are well versed in those devices and this lowers the initial user barrier. The meeting rooms here only provide the infrastructure for communication.

To connect mobile devices to the meeting room infrastructure according to the BYOD philosophy, hardware manufacturers are increasingly offering interfaces such as USB or Bluetooth. These are already familiar from the consumer sector.

Recommendation of the macom experts

Just as with collaboration, the choice of unified communication direction also depends on the specific use cases. They determine which solution or solutions makes sense in specific areas. Every solution has different advantages and disadvantages. However, it has become clear that you have to go to the cloud to be able to use all the advantages of UC systems. There is no way around it and this of course needs more communication with our colleagues in IT and puts additional requirements on IT security. Interfaces and scalability also matter if you want to remain open for future extensions.

Audio in UCC and VC

 

Voice quality has always been one of the crux of videoconferencing and unified communication. With more intelligence in microphones and solutions for different room sizes, the exhibitors at this year’s ISE tried really focused on improving speech quality in meeting rooms.

There is a trend towards soundbars and array microphones, either installed on the ceiling or on the table. The soundbars were often part of all-in-one solutions, installed above or below a display. These can work well especially for smaller rooms and huddle spaces. Many manufacturers had installed so-called “beamforming” microphones in their soundbars, which only cover a very precise area. Since huddle spaces often don’t have sophisticated passive acoustics (think glazed walls hard surfaces), this improves speech quality very well.

Array microphones were also presented for larger meeting rooms. Most of the arrays have an integrated intelligence. These can track a speaker and then optimally adjust to their position. Sennheiser for example presented such a system with their TeamConnect Ceiling. Most of the microphone arrays are scalable to enable coverage of larger conference rooms. These include the Biamp microphone arrays. As big as a golf ball, they contain eight microphones and a small intelligence unit. Suspended from the ceiling, they cover a circle of approx. 3 m in diameter, and can be placed in multiples depending on the room height and the desired speech quality. A single unit is sufficient for a conference table for 6 to 8 persons. For a larger room, a second array microphone can be used. The system intelligence coordinates both arrays.

Recommendation of the macom experts

The intelligence in the microphones is getting better and better as an example coughing has been identified as language by previous devices, the current algorithms are much more accurate and don’t identify this type of noise as speech. Very interestingly various microphone solutions presented this year were able to independently measure the meeting room acoustically and thus adapt optimally to it. In real situations this can work quite well, improving the voice quality, simplifying the installation by reducing the setup time for the microphones.

Next week, read about our ISE trends in digital reality, LED and IP signalling.

(Author: Martin C. Wagner, marketing manager macom GmbH)

 

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