Inavate + Sennheiser: True flexibility for spaces

John Oh from Sennheiser talks about how scalability is necessary for true flexibility. This in turn allows for optimally functioning spaces that deliver maximum value for end users.

Flexibility has become a cornerstone of meeting spaces across facilities and sectors. Today’s users are looking to communicate and collaborate in ways that are natural and organic to them. More importantly, there is an expectation that technology and spaces will conform to their needs rather than the other way round. From the perspective of facility managers and technology solution provides, ensuring that meeting spaces are adaptable and flexible enough to keep pace with the requirements of users has become non-negotiable.

Creating flexibility in spaces is not something new to AV professionals. The demand for flexibility enabled by technology has always been there but in the past this flexibility has come at a cost. Fitting out spaces to expand and support variable user group sizes would mean investing in expanded switch and DSP capacity for example. It would mean procuring additional end points such as microphones. And this investment was significant. However, expecting clients to foot the bill for flexibility is no longer feasible. John Oh, sales director for Asia, Business Communications, Sennheiser, says: “Spaces today are required to be much more flexible and at a wider scale. At the same time, the old levels of investment needed to enable flexibility are no longer prudent. Essentially, end users are looking for cost-effective flexibility and this has really driven the efforts of Sennheiser for the past few years.”

All this talk about flexibility is good. However, meeting spaces are still commonly thought of in rigid terms with their capacity for accommodating in-room participants being one of the most important qualifiers. How does the classification of meeting spaces as 2-person, 4-person, 8-person, and so on gel with the requirement for flexibility?

Oh answers: “This way of thinking is somewhat ingrained in the industry, not just for integrators but it is really being driven by end users. To be honest, it is an effective way to look at meeting spaces. It is understandable that end users want to know how many people can be supported by the meeting spaces that are being created and how many people can be accommodated in a specific room. The TeamConnect family of products, from the latest TC Bar S and TC Bar M to the TCC M and the TCC 2, is designed with the dimensions of spaces and the specific number of participants these spaces can hold in mind. It is a great way to convey the capabilities of Sennheiser’s solution portfolio.”

However, an evolution of this way of thinking might be required if true flexibility is to be achieved. Oh continues: “Flexibility is not possible without scalability. While considering spaces with regard to the number of people they can accommodate has its benefits, I think we need to start looking at how these spaces can function when the number of people that needs to be accommodated is variable and whether the technology being used can be scaled up or scaled down as required. For example, a meeting space designed for four people can be perfectly served by the TC Bar S or the TC Bar M depending on the size of the room. But, for a particular meeting that requires a small audience being present in the room in addition to the four people the AV systems will need to be expanded. Depending on the frequency of this situation, the end user might wish to consider scaling up with the Sennheiser ecosystem by perhaps deploying a TCC M or a TCC 2 in tandem.”

With the addition of the TC Bar to its product portfolio, Sennheiser’s ecosystem is primed to meet the flexibility needs of users. Oh explains how all the pieces fit together: “Sennheiser has paid specific heed to the needs of end users when it comes to scaling up. There is a built-in DSP in the TC Bar and support for Dante. This means adding a TCC 2 or TCC M is a simple process. You can even consider adding in Sennheiser receivers for gooseneck microphones if you want. And it is not just audio that can be scaled up. You can add a second camera to work in tandem with the TC Bar to expand the visual capabilities of the space as well. Last but perhaps most importantly, this scaling up does not require heavy investment or downtime. We have made sure that scaling up and expansion is a viable option for all end users.”

While modern communication and collaboration spaces are still in flux when it comes to design and execution, what is definite is that hybrid modes are here to stay. The current investment in technology from clients is very clearly being driven by the desire to empower users and clients are interested in making sure their investment is delivering returns. This leads us to data and information. Facility management teams want to know that the technology deployed in spaces is operational and they want to know how it is being used. These datapoints are then used as the foundation for decisions regarding future technology investments.

Sennheiser is matching this requirement for data from end users as Oh expands: “Data is king, and users want to have as much information about their systems. They want to know how the technology they have invested in is being used and how it is providing value to users. They also want to have live data from their devices. Remote management and monitoring have always been a key part of what Sennheiser does. We know that spaces are becoming more technology dense and that it is not possible for facility management teams to just walk to spaces to check on the AV technology. A dashboard is required to make sure that facility management teams can stay ahead of the curve when managing tech deployments. The Sennheiser Control Cockpit offers all this functionality. But we are also aware that users have multiple windows for monitoring multiple components. To make their lives easier, you can use the Sennheiser Control Cockpit’s own user interface, or you can choose to have it be integrated with third party platforms.”

Looking toward the future, Sennheiser expects to continue engaging with clients and taking their spaces to the next level. Oh concludes: “Every client would like to have the state-of-the-art, most advanced technology for their spaces. But you really have to listen to what they are saying and use your expertise to suggest the right solutions. Clients want technology to solve challenges that they are facing and at Sennheiser we focus on this. We are not in the habit of walking into a client’s space and telling them everything must go. Our job is to propose the most effective solution to help them overcome the challenges they are facing and create better outcomes for their users. This is and will remain the main driving force behind the expansion of our product portfolio.”

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