UCC and Smart Meeting

This year’s ISE 2020 had a somewhat bumpy start. Coronavirus and storm Sabine/Chiara not only caused some cancellations, but also people who wanted to come could not arrive at all or only late. Thus, the number of visitors at the last ISE in Amsterdam also lagged behind previous years.

All in all, we have again waited in vain for the great leaps in technical development this year. Instead, manufacturers have developed and refined their products. They have become a little simpler, a little more integrated and are a little more in line with the rules of IT. Current technical trends, such as platform economy, smart integration, the digital twin and standardized solutions are now also finding their way into AV. This is particularly visible in the area of corporate AV. Here, the biggest buzz words are UCC and Smart Meeting.

 UCC platforms: The centre of corporate AV

This year it became clear just how much the topic of Unified Communication & Collaboration is now at the heart of the Corporate AV. Everything revolves around the fact that companies can communicate and work even better and more efficiently. In principle, all innovations in the field of UCC and Smart Meeting can be summarized under this heading.

So, there were rather few real developments in the pure hardware, if you look at touch technologies or the wireless presentation systems (apart from Barco, who showed an interesting solution with the new Clickshare Conference).

Instead, a certain consolidation is emerging in the UCC systems market. While at ISE 2019 we reported that there are more and more suppliers, at ISE 2020 everything seemed to focus on the four most important UCC software platforms: Microsoft Teams, Cisco Webex, Zoom and Google Hangouts. There was no hardware manufacturer who has not presented a solution specifically for one of the platforms. For example, Crestron strongly promoted its cooperation with Microsoft at its stand.

UCC und Smart Meeting im Meetingraum

“Collaboration First“ in the meeting room

The credo “Collaboration First” in the meeting room has established itself. The hardware-based UCC systems were largely replaced by software applications. These can be used on all terminal devices today (PC, mobile, browser, telephone, room systems …). This enables true end-to-end communication from the workplace to the meeting room to the home office. Collaboration can take place where there is a sufficient internet connection.

For the huddle spaces and meeting rooms, hardware providers are increasingly relying on so-called all-in-one solutions, fixed bundles of interactive touch display, camera and soundbar. These can be operated via clients from one of the major UCC software providers. In order to guarantee a uniform user experience and a better integration into the meeting rooms, the software manufacturers have meanwhile issued stricter specifications for the integration of the clients. Whereas last year we recommended these all-in-one solutions for smaller rooms only, they are now also suitable for medium-sized rooms and boardrooms, with some advantages for users and operators.

These solutions promote the standardization of corporate AV and reduce the bouquet of AV components that have to be elaborately integrated in meeting rooms. The All-in-One displays only need to be connected to power and network. This greatly facilitates IT integration. Thanks to digital interfaces, these solutions can also be centrally managed, operated and updated. This reduces operating costs, which in the corporate AV sector increasingly often end up with IT, and simplifies the roll-out of several rooms. Users also benefit from a uniform user interface at the workplace and in the meeting rooms.

Platform and use cases decide on hardware

What does this mean for the selection of UCC solutions for your own company and users? The choice depends on two factors: Which communication platform does a company choose and what are the planned use cases? More and more often, the IT department bears the choice of the communication tool in a company. The suitable software platform comes first, the AV hardware for the meeting rooms only second. The decision as to which AV technology equipment will be installed in a conference room in the future is therefore made in advance by selecting a UCC software platform.

The processes and communication culture in the company play an important role in the use cases. At the ISE, the distributor Maverick had presented the individual use cases very nicely on their stand. A distinction was made between a “join” approach, a “bring” approach and a “select” approach.

  • With the “Join” approach, the company selects the UCC platform for its employees. Each meeting room receives a matching all-in-one solution with integrated UCC client If an employee wants to hold a meeting, he or she directly uses the client that is located in the room.
  • The „Bring“ approach works according to the Bring Your Own Meeting approach: The client for the meeting is on the device of the user. The user brings the client to the meeting room. Using tools such as Barco Clickshare, he can connect to and use the infrastructure of the room.
  • In the “Select” approach, the company offers its employees several platforms. For example, NEC’s Quicklaunch software enables dial-in to multiple UCC clients on the NEC Infinity board. In this context it is very interesting that Zoom, Microsoft and Cisco are working on interoperability between their UCC clients. At the Cisco stand, for example, it was presented how to dial into an MS Team session via Webex.

Smart Meeting: Bring Your Own Meeting

Through the further development of the UCC software platforms, the meeting room becomes a real extension of the workplace. This is also made clear by the slogan “Bring-Your-Own-Meeting”. For example, Cisco Webex, Microsoft Teams and Zoom provide wireless authentication methods that can automatically identify individuals based on their digital twin in the UCC client. For example, if an employee enters a meeting room with his smartphone, he can seamlessly transfer a telephone conversation from his smartphone to the room systems and continue it there. When he leaves the room, his mobile device takes over again.

Recommendations of the macom experts:

  • The selection of hardware components for a meeting room fades into the background. First priority is the choice of communication and UCC software. Not every system is suitable for every use case and for every corporate culture. There may also be IT limitations that exclude some systems. It is therefore important to precisely record the use cases and all user and IT requirements. In addition, work processes with contact to the UCC system play an increasingly important role. Only when these points have been completely recorded can the next step of the selection be made.”
    Immanuel Ross, AV consultant and UCC expert, macomGroup
  • Especially for larger companies with several locations, national and international, the hardware integration should be scalable and manageable. Here the software and hardware manufacturers are moving in the right direction with current developments. Nevertheless, tests are useful to check whether the hardware and software for your own use case and in the existing IT infrastructure really work together. We have therefore pre-installed various UCC ecosystems in our macomLAB and can simulate customer infrastructures to perform such tests. “
    Boris Storz, COO and Director Operations, macom GmbH

Author:

Martin C. Wagner, Head of Marketing, macomGROUP

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