Presentation technology for conference hotels and conference centres in times of digitalisation

AV technology has developed rapidly in recent years. This development has an impact on the meeting and conference spaces of conference hotels and conference centres. The operators and owners of hotels and conference centres have to deal with how to develop their conference facilities, which technologies are future-proof and which investments pay off. This articel geives a short overview over the current developments and about how the operators and owners can prepare themselves for the future.

Growing visitor expectations

Today’s visitors of conference hotels and conference centers have higher expectations of the technical equipment. They have a lot more previous knowledge and habit concerning technology. They also often have their own equipment that they want to use. They also expect to find a sufficient technical infrastructure and a good user experience in conference hotels.

As a result, meeting and conference rooms today must be treated like modern working environments. This requires modern, interactive AV technology, such as touch displays and video conferencing and unified communication systems. Traditional presentation tools such as a mobile projector, flipchart, metaplan wall and presentation case are no longer sufficient.

Which AV and presentation technology makes sense?

“One of the most essential requirements of a modern conference room is that the guests can display content from their laptops etc.”​, knows Philip Eschenfelder, AV Senior Consultant and Project Manager of macomGROUP. Displays are becoming increasingly popular for presentation purposes. These have become flatter and cheaper in recent years and can be used in most conference rooms due to a variety of screen sizes up to 98”. If they are also touch-capable, they can also be used for interactive presentations and annotation. In the meantime, LED walls are also becoming a solution for high-quality meeting rooms.

Wireless Presentation

To connect the laptops the users bring along to display and power supply, desktop connection panels with HDMI interfaces make sense. In addition, operators and owners should also provide wireless connectivity. However, due to the variety of external devices, you should allow as many connection standards as possible, for example Airplay and Miracast. Here the market has clever and solid solutions. Nevertheless, the selection should be well thought out. On the one hand, the planned use cases play a role here, on the other hand, the IT specifications regarding security standards.

Videokonferenzen und Unified Communication & Collaboration (UCC)

Meetings- und Konferenzen werden immer interaktiver. Zudem sind immer öfters nicht alle Teilnehmer vor Ort, sondern klinken sich mittels Videokonferenztechniken ein. Im Bereich Videokonferenz und UCC geht der Trend zu Software-basierten Lösungen. Proprietäre Hardware-Systeme, die früher besonders im Bereich Videokonferenz eingesetzt wurden, sind heute nicht mehr zeitgemäß. UCC-Software-Lösungen wie Microsoft Teams, Webex Teams von Cisco, Zoom oder Skype for Business kombinieren Videokonferenz mit Chat-, Datentransfer- und Kollaborations-Funktionen. Für die Umsetzung in Meetingräumen gibt es unterschiedliche Ansätze. Besonders für kleinere Räume bis sechs Personen eignen sich sogenannte All-in-One-Displays. Diese kombinieren ein Touchdisplay mit integrierter Kamera, Mikrofon, Lautsprecher und einem UCC-Client.

High usability and simple operation for visitors and operators

But modern technology alone does not make a successful event. It is important that it is also easy to use. „”Presentation technology that does not work immediately, but has to be started laboriously with the help of hotel staff, is like catering that doesn’t taste good. Dyou can hold the conference, but it still leaves a negative aftertaste”, explains graduate engineer Hugo Nägele, sales engineer at macomGROUP.

Therefore, technology and premises should be intuitive and can be operated without the support of technical staff. This is feasible for simpler systems with automatisms such as automatic signal recognition when connecting external laptops. In addition, a welcome screen on the display with precise and clear instructions can show visitors how to connect their laptop. For rooms with more flexibility, several connection possibilities or more extensive requirements, the control of the technology by means of a touch panel is almost inevitable. Here, however, attention should be paid to a clear and intuitive user interface.

What do these developments mean for new constructions and refurbishments

In the past, hotel operators have tended to focus on interior design rather than technical equipment when designing conference areas. Often the technology had to follow the design. But this is no longer feasible for modern work, meeting and conference areas. The planning focus should therefore be on a well-founded and early definition of requirements. In addition to the interior design, the technical trades should also be involved at an early stage.

Increased demands on room acoustics

“What many architects and building physicists are not yet aware of is that the acoustic requirements have changed.​ In small and medium-sized meeting rooms the room acoustic classification A3 according to DIN 18041 was previously sufficient. FFor good audio quality in video conferences, however, an A4 classification is required,” explains Hugo Nägele.

“In addition, the sound system in the rooms must not be neglected” adds Philip Eschenfelder. „First of all, the existing requirements must be clearly defined and the solutions must be designed accordingly: Do you only have to reproduce the sound of the connected guest devices? Do you need wireless microphones or does a Voicelift system make sense? Do you want to use the room also for events with with higher sound requirements? All these questions do have an impact on the sound-engineering requirements of the room and should be taken into account in harmony with all other trades”.

Future prospects: On the way to Smart Building

If we look at current technical developments such as IoT, 5G standard, AI, smart home products and voice assistants, the harbingers of smart buildings are already emerging. Those who want to optimally position themselves for the future can already set the course for them now:

  • Use cases are getting more and more important since technology becomes increasingly specialized. This means that „Smart“ will only work for the designed use cases in the future.
  • Usability decides whether technology is used or not: Simple systems that can be used intuitively are without any alternative in Smart Buildings.
  • Rooms are becoming functional units: AV technology, room control and architecture can no longer be seen as separate components. Isolated solutions and proprietary systems will no longer exist in smart buildings.
  • IoT and Big Data – sensors are tracking everything in the meeting room: The technical solutions for this are already there. TThe questions that still need to be clarified here are mainly of an organizational nature: Which data should be tracked? What is to be done with it? And how is this compatible with data protection?
  • Operation and operation management is getting increasingly important and becomes a success factor. While in the past it was enough to replace a broken projector bulb within one day, technology in the Smart Building has to be available 24/7. This requires new operating concepts and operating models for the technology used, the rooms and the entire building. Immediate trouble shooting must be available at all times.

Conclusion:

Meeting hotels and conference centres face the challenge of holding their own against the new competition from coworking providers and collaboration spaces. To achieve this, they must view their meeting and conference areas as modern working environments and offer modern and interactive technical equipment, as is expected of visitors today. This also means that AV technology and conference areas have to be operated simply, intuitively and flexibly without technical support and can be quickly adapted to the various use cases. It is also important to design rooms and technology in such a way that they can be used in the best possible way. Especially with regard to the future of smart buildings, AV technology, room control and architecture should already be seen as functional units today.
Author:

Martin C. Wagner, Head of Marketing der macomGROUP

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