Wireless technology: Everyone's invited?

Hurrairah bin Sohail discusses the state of wireless presentation with AV manufacturers and investigates the complexities of enabling communication and collaboration in Asia’s meeting spaces.

The importance of wireless presentation in today’s AV world is summed up by Lieven Bertier, head of meeting experience at Barco: “Demand has been growing for wireless presentation in APAC especially over the last three years. Wireless presentation answers the universal need for human collaboration, whether in meeting rooms or classrooms. Wherever people come together, and especially knowledge workers, there’s the need to share their views. They are from different sectors and different industries.”

Joel Mulpeter from Crestron says: "We live in a world where bringing personal smart devices into the office or class environment has increasingly become the norm. Hence, the expectation that the spaces we live, work, play, and learn in also has the capability that allows us to present, collaborate, and share content wirelessly has become a requirement. Because communication is such an important element in our day to day lives, we’ve observed that demand for wireless technology in meeting spaces across different sectors is on the uptrend."

Ramesh Jayaraman, VP and GM, APAC at Harman Professional Solutions, adds: “Wireless presentation products are seeing improved demand in specifi c market segments and counties in APAC. For example, corporate and higher education sectors where collaboration and content sharing are important are the key target markets. The basic requirements of collaboration and ease of use makes wireless presentation an essential tool in all meeting and learning spaces in these market segments.”

It is easy to see how smart devices, like present day mobile phones and tablets, have spurred on the demand for wireless presentation. Standards such as Bluetooth and Miracast allow users to connect their smart devices wirelessly to speakers and TVs. These users then demand similar wireless capabilities in their professional spheres and places of work.

Benjamin Phua, regional sales manager from WolfVision, gives his insight into why wireless presentation is in hot demand: “In the corporate world where there are frequent meetings and also in universities where the lecturers and professors come in with an iPad, tablet or Surface Pro, wireless presentation is almost becoming essential.”

Party size

The problem for manufacturers is that there is no defi ned parameter for the size, shape and function of a meeting room across projects in diferent verticals.

Jayaraman from Harman says: “The challenge isn’t due to the size of the spaces but rather the number of participants.”

The current range of products available on the market perform well when deployed for applications such as huddle rooms and small meeting spaces. Asian integrators however report that providing wireless presentation for a large number of participants, say for example a lecture hall at a university, is a different matter.

Customising your wireless presentation product can help. Phua from WolfVision says: “We do special customisation to fulfi l client requirements in Austria given the correct specifi cations and time in development. In addition, they can also use the provided programming codes (Wolfprot) provided on our website or the common control systems by AMX, Crestron, Extron to adapt our solution to their needs.”

Ed Morgan, head of marketing and communications at DisplayNote, says: “Our core wireless presentation offering is Montage. It differs in its approach to solving the needs of big companies: fi rstly it’s available as hardware and software, users can choose what they want. It’s UX focused in that it allows everyone to connect and share content: that can be in-room, remote or – and this is huge – it allows guests to cast from a guest network at the same time as those on the enterprise network. We also customise our solution to help big companies meet security, branding and compliance requirements: for example we’ll brand a complete solution (from host software to apps); we’ll remove a feature, for example some enterprises don’t need our video piece so we remove it for them; others need the solution to sit on their network and we’ll do that.”

Joe da Silva, director of product marketing at Extron, talks about some of the problems faced when providing wireless presentation for large spaces: “Larger spaces like lecture halls typically have additional audio and video technology to support legacy source devices, multiple displays, and touch panels for control of the space. This is where the ShareLink series integration with Extron control processors makes a difference. We can create a cohesive solution that integrates the legacy equipment as well as ShareLink products into a single user interface.”

Gark Tan, general manager for Asia Pacific at Mersive, says: “In larger spaces, the challenges are how to control and limit who can connect and share content, as well as establishing a connectivity range of the wireless presentation system. Solstice includes powerful user authentication models such as a moderator mode and the ability to lock the session.”

Jayaraman from Harman says: “Harman Professional Solutions’ Enzo has a moderator mode that allows the lecturer or the event organiser to manage multiple users in a large room. This solution provides a moderator with a list of users who are logged into the system and then gives the ability to select which one will be allowed onto the main screen. The moderator can divide the view into four segments or full screen. Harman’s solutions are customised for our customers’ requirements and can be programmed according to their needs.”

Bertier from Barco says: “ClickShare CSE-800 is our fl agship product and targets boardrooms and larger spaces. It not only brings wireless presentation but also includes moderation, ideation and switching capabilities. In this way it answers the needs of larger spaces. For instance, when there are more than 20 people in the room, sometimes moderation is required and sometimes it’s important to start brainstorming on the screen and feedback the session to the participants, or you simply have the need to show a videoconferencing or other window in the ClickShare screen layout.”

For now, manufacturers agree that the average number of users for wireless presentation in Asia Pacifi c ranges from three to ten participants. Theoretically, the technology can allow for an unlimited number of wireless connections.

Bertier from Barco says: “Need for limited or unlimited connections is more of a technical specifi cation, rather than a use case. In theory, as many people as you want can connect to a wePresent or ClickShare access point, however, there are limits to what a WiFi chip can seamlessly handle. That’s why Barco has a specifi cation for it, as this is the minimum number of users that can be connected whilst having smooth performance.”

Limiting the number of participants is more of a user experience consideration rather than a limitation of the technology. Jayaraman from Harman says: “The average number of participants would be three to five participants for corporate users and the maximum limit would be ten to 20 participants for education users. At present, we do not foresee a requirement for unlimited connections. The real need will come from collaborative nature, hence the maximum number of participants for an effective session would typically be a class size.”

Enriching proceedings

Manufacturers are also looking to expand the functionality of the wireless presentation devices. Rather than mirroring displays and content, wireless presentation products are looking to enhance communication and collaboration by providing annotation features.

Da Silva from Extron says: “The Extron ShareLink series offers annotation capabilities within the mobile app as well as directly through the ShareLink with a connected USB device or HID compliant touch sensitive display. Any connected user can annotate and even save those annotations.”

Bertier from Barco adds: “The key challenge is to balance between the functionality you offer on the one hand, and making sure it stays within the customer experience on the other hand. As an example, you can have tens of different ideation tools on a product, ranging from annotation to persistent workspaces. Key question is what is needed for the use case in the meeting room, i.e. what will people actually use?”

Jayaraman from Harman says: “It ultimately narrows down to the command and control of each active session and the basic behaviour of humans. We can only listen to one source at a time and it is also basic courtesy to let the designated person speak without interruptions. The market needs would also arrive at the same logical concluding results.”

Tan from Mersive further discusses the issues with delivering a useful annotation feature: “Annotation can be troublesome when the content on the screen is dynamic since most annotation tools are merely an overlay applied on top of the content. The annotation generally does not follow or respond to any changes to the underlying shared content; once the content moves, the annotations don’t make sense anymore. This problem is signifi cantly compounded for solutions like Solstice that support multiple sources of content on screen simultaneously and allow the content to be arranged on the fl y to suit the meeting. That said, annotation is an important feature to the market, and Mersive is working on a solution to the challenge of annotating dynamic content in a smart, compelling way.”

Mulpeter from Crestron says: "Crestron’s solutions are developed with the end-user in mind – we put the focus on ease of use, regardless of the user’s technical background or experience with enterprise products. To ensure that the quality of our solutions is not compromised, our products are walled garden solutions which restricts access to non-approved applications or content."

Safe and secure

One of the major concerns of end-users when it comes to wireless presentation in spaces such as lecture halls and government offi ces is security. The fear is that wireless presentation may allow unwanted personnel access to the IT networks. AV manufacturers have to address these concerns with their products.

Da Silva from Extron says: “Extron performs regular performance and compliance reviews for all hardware and software products we manufacture. For the protection of our customers, Extron does not disclose, discuss, or confi rm security issues until a full investigation has occurred and any necessary patches or releases are available. Additionally, Extron provides confi guration options within the products we manufacture enabling installation sites to tailor the operation to the individual requirements of the local authority or system administrator.”

Morgan from DisplayNote says: “To us, security is more than an important concern, it is essential that sharing content is done in a way that’s totally secure which is why we work in tandem with companies to deliver a solution that meets their security requirements. This means number one working through a baseline security evaluation where we’ll look at everything from the core architecture and design to user management, network, API design, impact of web applications, mobile security and impact on third party and remote connectivity. Our goal is to be compliant in every area where a customer needs compliance. We’re increasingly seeing fl at-out refusal of hardware end points which is driving the need for a software-only approach to wireless presentation.”

Bertier from Barco comments: “A lot of different specifi cations are being used to talk about security, 128-bit encryption versus 1024- bit encryption and many more. But basically security starts when you design your product, it’s not something you add afterwards but it’s inherent in your product design. For ClickShare for instance, we authenticate the communication between device and base unit, and on top of that encrypt all data transfer. But as you know the proof is in the pudding. That’s why Barco (and also some of our customers) run penetration testing on its wireless presentation products.”

Future considerations

Seeing that the way humans communicate and collaborate evolves, manufacturers are ready to go with the fl ow. Wireless presentation products need to be agile and adaptable to future changes in meeting spaces.

Bertier from Barco says: “A number of trends are impacting developments. There are three we would like to highlight: fi rst one is that touch screens are fi nally entering the meeting room and becoming the dominant screens, bringing along new requirements for wireless presentations. Second, devices are becoming more and more connected, i.e. less standalone. And last but not least, the new generations entering the workspace, with their own requirements, especially in terms of simplicity like in consumer technology. In future development, more users and devices can be connected with wireless presentation but we need to have better security features.”

Jayaraman from Harman says: “We see a lot of developments and technology innovation in this space. The future developments would target a broad range of areas like enhancing ease of use without comprising on security, be more intuitive to the way humans communicate and increase the quality of the supported sessions with high defi nition and close to zero-latency. An option to share the session is also important in this digital age.”

Tan from Mersive says: “The biggest development coming from wireless presentation is the disruption of adjacent markets like digital signage and room scheduling. Mersive Solstice customers tell us all the time that they love the product, and now they’d like to know what else it can do. That’s why we’re adding room scheduling in the Solstice 3.1 release, and we’re looking at a number of other innovations beyond the core wireless presentation functionality. Now that Solstice can effi ciently stream media over IT networks, there is a world of possibilities available thanks to the product’s software architecture and upgrade path.”

He continues: “Another future development coming from Mersive is the ability for technology managers and decision makers to capture meeting data analytics from their Solstice deployments. This will provide insight into how meetings are conducted in the organisation and support data-based decisions about future investments in meeting room technology. The new development aligns with broader smart building and IoT market trends that are driving much more informed and effective deployments of workplace technology.”

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