Category Archives: Collaboration

Technology for Smarter Meeting Spaces

Avoid overbooking your meeting rooms and hold more efficient meetings with smart room booking and automated room control. Innovative, easy-to-use solutions can help you focus on your meeting, not on the technology.

Room booking

A meeting room booking system ensures your spaces are used to maximum ability. It makes it faster and easier for your team to find an available meeting space, instantly reserve a room or make last-minute changes such as extending the meeting time.

Many scheduling systems are accessible from a desktop, mobile device or convenient touch panel immediately outside the room. At a glance you can see the room name, current meeting and its duration, as well as the extended calendar for future scheduling. Some touch panels feature LED indicator lights, so people can easily determine from a distance if a room is occupied or available.

Intuitive room booking systems require no programming, and are quick and simple to set up. For ease of implementation, choose a system that integrates with your existing programs, such as Outlook® or G Suite™.

Room control

Once inside your meeting room, you can keep your meeting running smoothly with help from a room control system. Using a touch-screen interface, desktop and wall panels, or a smart phone, you can lower screens, dim lights and begin your presentation. Comprehensive room control solutions enable you to control multiple items from one control panel, including the room’s automation system as well as multimedia, AV, KVM and IP-enabled devices.

Even if you’re not actually in the meeting room, a control system can provide you with remote access. This enables you to set up the room in advance with the swipe of a touch panel. It also gives you the ability to deliver your presentation remotely.

Don’t worry if your existing system and devices are several years old; many meeting room automation solutions can integrate with new and not-so-new technology.

Choose flexible, scalable solutions

When considering a room booking system or control system, choose a provider who will work with you to create a custom interface to meet the needs of your specific applications. It is a good idea to select systems that are scalable to accommodate your current environment as well as future growth.

Black Box offers smart booking and control systems to maximise your spaces and streamline your meetings. Click to learn more about how IN-SESSION™ Meeting Room Booking System and ControlBridge™ Multisystem and Room Control  can enhance your operations.

4 Features to Look for When Buying a Presentation Switcher

Have you ever been in a meeting where presenters changed or the input source needed to change? Typically, this involves switching cables and changing the source on a display, which wastes time and creates distractions. The advent of the presentation switcher has made awkward and time-consuming fumbling around a thing of the past. But not all presentation switchers are created equally. Here are the key features to look for when selecting a presentation switcher for your conference room:

1. Easy Connectivity Regardless of Source

It’s very common to have a variety of analog and digital sources that need to connect to a display during a meeting. A presentation switcher that can accommodate a host of inputs, including DisplayPort, is important to maximize flexibility.

2. Seamless Switching

When more than one source is required, it can be inefficient and time consuming to switch in between sources. Look for the ability to switch quickly between sources, like projectors and laptops, without latency. Lulls in a presentation can lead to losing the audience’s interest. Look for a presentation switcher with the most seamless switching capabilities.

3. Built-in HDBaseT Extension

HDBaseT technology enables users to present from remote sources or to transmit to a remote display over existing CAT5e and CAT6 cable. Presentation switchers with built-in HDBaseT extension enable you to take advantage of existing infrastructure saving both time and money.

4. Future Proof Presentation Switching

Technology is always evolving therefore it is important to look for a presentation switcher that can accommodate change. Look for a presentation switcher that supports 4K UHD with the ability to scale signals up or down in order to match the display resolution. 4K UHD is currently the best resolution we have, so finding a switcher that supports it ensures you never encounter display issues. Backwards compatibility is also necessary, as well, as you will most like encounter a variety of newer and legacy displays.

In a technology-focused world, presentations that utilize multiple, multimedia tools are the norm. Presentation switchers have entered the arena to make multimedia presentations more impressive, interactive, and seamless. Not only do they enhance presentations, but they also enhance the collaborative nature of a multimedia presentation. Whether you are switching between sources or switching between presenters, a presentation switcher will ensure the process is effortless.

Find out more about our Presentation Switchers or get an overview of Black Box conference room solutions.

Three Reasons Why Collaborative Workspaces Are a Must

Collaborative workspace is not just a buzzword or trend; it’s a way of doing business that’s here to stay. Whether you’re in an academic setting or a multinational corporation with a worldwide workforce, collaborative interaction is part of life. Here are just a few ways to make collaborative workspaces at your business or school more effective.

1. Understand collaborative working and why it’s important

To start, set up workspaces in a way that will facilitate, or even encourage collaborative working. Individual cubicles or lecture-style layouts have their place, but not when creating a space for people to work together. While this mostly deals with the orientation of tables and chairs, consider placement of audio and video equipment as well. Use of wireless presentation systems or video conferencing interfaces must be accounted for in such a way that everyone can participate comfortably, including having their ideas viewed and heard. Also consider the needs of both local and remote participants. The days of everyone being in one room at the same time are fading fast.

2. Choose efficient collaboration systems

Choose collaboration systems that are simple to use. We’ve all been there: wasting valuable time trying to figure out how to use a program or find the right cable. There are resources that are well-suited for a facilitated environment, but for collaborative workspaces, choose easy-to-use tools. Few things will quell one’s creative ambition to share like being intimidated by the wireless presentation or collaboration tools. When dealing with a physical work space, be certain that access to A/V equipment connections and power outlets does not create a hindrance.

3. Embrace secure and open collaboration

In today’s climate with globally dispersed workforces and supplier/partner relationships, it’s important to have a communication framework that can securely enable open collaboration anywhere, at any time, on any device. Openness and security are two sides of the same coin — it cannot be one over the other, it must be both. If your solution is not open and supportive of multiple device types such as PC’s, Mac’s, Android/iOS/Windows tablets, and smartphones, you risk losing valuable input by alienating participants. But if you don’t keep it secure, you risk losing valuable information and people possibly becoming reticent to openly share their ideas.

Whether a board room, a classroom, or a project meeting in multiple rooms, collaboration enables participation from more people in every setting. From a single location or multiple sites across a campus or across the globe, the generation and sharing of information and great ideas is vital to driving business forward. A simple to use, yet full-featured, robust tool set, combined with an overall unified collaboration and communication platform, taking advantage of secure networking solutions is the way to go.

Create a technologically modern and integrated collaborative workspace, where everyone can share their ideas. The Small Conference/Training Room Kit (CONF-2C-KIT-EU) contains everything you need including a Coalesce™ wireless collaboration system, presentation switcher, control panel, and even cables. The kit also comes fully pre-configured with standard or even individual settings. No programming knowledge is required.

Application Diagram

Need help determining what to include in your conference room or classroom to encourage collaboration? Find out more about Coalesce™ or contact us today to schedule a consultation.

7 Tips on How to Improve Collaboration in the Workplace

The benefits of collaboration in the workplace are countless, from saving time, to more efficient productivity outcomes. Many organisations struggle trying to find the right enterprise collaboration system that removes collaboration barriers and improves meeting effectiveness.  Here are seven tips that may help your organisation.

1.  Intuitive and easy-to-use team collaboration tools increase the adoption rate

Select a team collaboration tool that is easy to use. Systems that are hard to set up and difficult to use will have a harder adoption rate. Too often, the first 5 or 10 minutes of a meeting are spent setting things up. Therefore, in order to avoid spending too much time, it’s advisable to look for a product with an intuitive user interface (UI) that requires little or no training to use and enables wireless screen mirroring within seconds.

2.  Make sure your enterprise collaboration system is BYOD ready

Be sure your enterprise collaboration system can support any type of device. Within a BYOD environment, all types of devices used in a corporate conference room will allow a vast array of apps, docs, images, and videos to be shared from any laptop, tablet, iOS, or Android device. This is particularly important as millennials enter the workforce.

3.  Offer wired and wireless connectivity

Offer both wired and wireless connectivity. Some devices require a wired connection while others can connect wirelessly. A solution that allows for both wired and wireless connectivity at the same time will eliminate any connection guesswork.

4.  Enable collaboration with people outside of your organization to get a wider range of opinions

In many instances, people from outside of your business will want to share and collaborate with your team. To ensure the highest levels of security, look for a collaboration tool that has dual-network support. This means that internal team members are connected via your corporate network and visitors are connected via a guest network.

5. Share an unlimited number and type of content items

There may be times when the group needs to share multiple items at the same time for comparison. Being able to share an unlimited number and type of items is a great feature to look for when selecting a team collaboration tool.

6. Allow for an unlimited number of participants

Don’t compromise collaboration productivity by restraining the number of participants in a meeting. If your meetings typically have more than two to four people, you’ll need to look for a system that allows an unlimited number of users.

7. Take ownership of meeting moderation

In some instances, a team member may need to be able to manage the meeting and control who shares what and when. There are collaboration tools with multiple-use modes that enable different types of meeting moderation including open, password, screen key, and line of site.

Black Box can help you design a collaboration system that will create a collaborative environment and enhance meeting efficiency and effectiveness. See how Coalesce™ removes all collaboration barriers. With Coalesce™, any number of users can wirelessly connect, share, and control content from any device. Encourage involvement, drive collaboration, and embrace the BYOD culture in meetings, lectures, and classrooms.

Watch the Coalesce™ demo video below:

Find out more about Coalesce™ or contact us today to find the solution that’s right for you.

6 Collaboration Equipment Considerations for AV/IT Managers

Take a look at the next conference room or classroom you enter. Is it set up for a collaborative environment?

Collaboration is a key part to all types of work, from working with a team at your workplace to working on a project for class. In recent years, more organisations have been reaching out to AV/IT managers to design collaborative spaces. Before designing a space, it’s important to identify what is needed to retrofit a room for collaboration.

We asked our technical specialists here at Black Box what it takes to retrofit a room for collaboration. Here are the top six considerations we uncovered:

  1. Ease of setup and installation.
    Collaboration technology has to be easy to setup and install. For example, organisations don’t want users to have to spend the first 10 minutes of the meeting setting up the call, entering passwords, logging into a website, providing additional meeting information or credentials, working with others in the room to connect, finding the right cables, hardware, adapters, etc.
  2. Ease of use with minimal or no user training.
    When your CEO comes into a conference room and wishes to share his/her ideas, he/she typically doesn’t have the time or inclination for a 30-minute training session on how to use the room. It’s essential to choose products that are intuitive and adopted with limited instruction.
  3. Intent of the room.
    Ask the right questions to discover the intent of the room. How will the room be used? What are the user’s preferences in terms of sources? Will there be dedicated PCs, set-top boxes for video streaming, or other equipment in the room? Or, will content typically come in from outside the room on a user’s laptop, mobile device, or both?
  4. Easily maintained.
    Collaboration technology must be easy to manage remotely. A centralised location brings simplicity to the task of updating and troubleshooting enterprise applications. Does your system have remote management capability?
  5. Compatibility.
    Look for equipment with open systems that are non-proprietary and that will work with existing infrastructure such as presentation switchers, controllers, and other leading industry products.
  6. Upgradeability.
    Choose products which can be upgraded as needs and technology changes. For example, software-based solution updates can be made without replacing the system.

Have any more equipment suggestions that can help optimise your rooms for collaboration? Let me know in the comments below!

InfoComm 2016 Preview: Exciting New Black Box Solutions

Infocomm 2016 Banner

InfoComm will be here before you know it! It’s the largest event for professional AV with 10,000+ products and nearly 1,000 exhibitors. We thought we’d give you a sneak preview of the new and exciting solutions Black Box will showcase at InfoComm, June 8-10!

Not registered? Be our VIP guest. Use guest pass BLA176 for free access to the exhibitor hall. Stop by the Black Box booth C5034 any time during the show, June 8-10.

Here’s what you’ll find at the Black Box booth.

Conference Room and Classroom Collaboration Solutions

CoalesceDEMO_AP1CImagine idea sharing without barriers. Encourage collaboration with modern huddle spaces, conference rooms, and classrooms.

  • Coalesce™ Wireless Collaboration System:
    Create. Connect. Collaborate.
    Your path to smarter collaboration starts here with Coalesce, the new, one-of-a-kind BYOD wireless collaboration system. With touchscreen simplicity and simultaneous wired and wireless connectivity for an unlimited number of users, you’ll be able to encourage collaboration and share ideas without barriers.
  • Best-in-Class Presentation Switchers
    Connect, extend, and switch any wired video device to any conference room display with Black Box Presentation Switchers. These all-in-one switchers/scalers support resolutions up to 4K (UHD), upscale/downscale video to match the display resolution, and support all standard video formats, including DisplayPort, HDMI, DVI, and VGA.
  • HDMI Extenders with Built-in Scaling
    Use the new VX1000 Series HDMI Extenders with our Presentation Switchers to easily switch and present any video signal on a remote display. Or use them alone for simple video extension. Two transmitter models available: standalone box or wallplate. USB support enables them to be used for basic KVM applications.
Stunning Visual Solutions

MediaCento4K_diag

When you want to impress, inform, and educate, turn to Black Box for AV technologies that turn boring into bold. Send signals from any source to any screen over IP, and get real-time data visualisation.

  • Better than Ever AV-over-IP Extension, Switching, and Video Walls
    The ever-popular MediaCento IPX product line has expanded to now include MediaCento IPX USB 4K. The new AV-over-IP extenders are now better than ever with increased video performance and 4K (UHD) support. The new transmitter and receiver also support built-in 4K to HD downscaling, analog and digital audio, touchscreens, and KVM functionality.
  • Stunning iCOMPEL™ Digital Signage
    Your complete digital signage solution begins here with iCOMPEL. Select from an array of digital signage media players and content commanders.
Command and Control Room Solutions

CONTROL-ROOM-NASA_PCImprove productivity and mission-critical reliability in broadcast, public safety, industrial, and defense command and control rooms.

See something that sparked your interest? Call a Black Box technical specialist at 00800-2255 2269 (00800-CALLBBOX). We look forward to connecting with you!

We look forward to connecting with you!

Encourage collaboration with modern huddle spaces and conference rooms

Research shows collaborative environments foster innovation, improve team performance by ensuring everyone is working towards the same goal, and increase employee retention since people prefer to belong to a team and contribute to the team’s goals. Next generation workers and the need for companies to compete on a global basis will drive demand for collaboration solutions throughout the organization, according to a Wainhouse Research study.

Perhaps that’s why, in recent years, a more agile approach to meetings and working in collaborative groups has been embraced by schools and businesses of all sizes. Implementing collaboration solutions such as huddle spaces, or small-space meeting areas, in addition to larger conference rooms is one of the ways organizations are making this change.

What is a huddle space?

A huddle space is a smaller meeting space, which can take place just about anywhere. It typically accommodates six or less attendees. They range from basic spaces to well-equipped and advanced rooms. Basic huddle spaces, with either open area or private closed rooms, may be equipped with a small table, some chairs, a speakerphone, and perhaps a dry erase board. Whereas, well-equipped and advanced huddle rooms may include flat panel displays, integrated AV conferencing, and a wireless presentation system. Huddle spaces do not typically include enhancements such as ceiling speakers, acoustic wall treatment, or AV control system.

What should your huddle space include to promote collaboration?

The way huddle spaces are used varies by organization, location, vertical market, culture, etc. Whether or not a huddle space is effective depends on the given task and requirement of the space. If you’re planning for a well-equipped huddle space, you should also consider your AV technology needs as well.

In general, your huddle space should include equipment that has:

  1. Interoperability with other products you may have in the space such as screens, projectors, panels, or touchscreens.
  1. BYOD support which allows collaboration/sharing of any type of device the meeting participant has. For example, participants could bring a laptop, tablet PC, mobile phone, or netbook and connect with ease.
  1. Content sharing capabilities. For example, a presenter may need to share any number of pieces of content with other participants simultaneously.
  1. An intuitive interface, which will reduce barriers to use. The easier your equipment is to use, the more participants feel comfortable using new technology.
  1. The ability to allow an unlimited number of users to participate. While there is a practical limit to the number of people that can fit in a room or share a screen, facilities change and so do user’s needs. Try not to get locked into limiting systems which only allow 4-6 concurrent users.

In addition to many of the items needed to make a good huddle space, for your larger conference rooms you may need additional AV solutions.

What should your modern conference room include to promote collaboration?

Today’s larger meeting rooms often come with higher expectations. They will certainly start with the same type of collaboration solutions discussed earlier for huddle spaces. Additionally, they must provide support for tomorrow’s technology using today’s design. These rooms often require more types of equipment, which may require support for a wide range of video signals.

In general, your modern conference room should include equipment that has:

  1. Switching capabilities to manage video signals that need to be shown on one or more displays.
  1. Presenter control options for switching. For more efficient meetings, select a switch that automatically switches to a new source when a new user connects a device.
  1. Scaling able to work with a wide range of video signals, both current and legacy, to ensure the display is compatible with anything that needs to be presented.
  1. Reliable video distribution capabilities to send and receive audio, video, control and even power from another room or building.
  1. Video wall capability to display any source from anywhere with switching control.

When designing and outfitting the spaces, it’s important to think ahead and design for AV systems that can adapt and grow as technology changes.

Have a collaboration space that needs to be enabled by AV technology? Call a Black Box AV expert.

Additional Resources:
Content sharing: Wireless Presentation systems
See our AV and Multi Media solutions
Storage and charching of mobile devices