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The Fate of Room Systems in the post-COVID-19 World

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The nature of work is rapidly changing. Remote employees, on-demand jobs, and freelancing highlight trends that are reshaping workplaces worldwide. What’s not changing, however, is the need to have meetings. For instance, in the US alone, up to 56 million work meetings are held every day, but only one in four will take place in person by 2024.

What made such a transformation possible is an array of cloud-based communication and collaboration tools. And COVID-19 has further accelerated this trend, spurring the rise of a distributed workforce that operates across different time zones and geographies. The way teams organize meetings is undergoing changes, and room systems, in particular, will be affected in the post-coronavirus work landscape.

The rise of cloud-based room systems

Video conferencing is vital for enabling remote work. It allows onsite and offsite teams to cooperate in an agile and flexible way with smaller huddle rooms, an especially popular option for facilitating deeper collaboration. But according to some estimates, less than 2 percent of 32.4 million huddle rooms globally are video-enabled.

This figure illustrates many downsides of legacy video conferencing technologies. High cost, technical complexity, purpose-built spaces, and maintenance requirements meant that premium room systems were affordable only to deep-pocketed clients. Smaller companies perceived video conferencing as a luxury rather than a necessity. Even bigger businesses used to deliver a premium meeting experience only in a few locations, such as executive-level conference rooms, leading to an inconsistent video conferencing experience.

It comes as no surprise then that this model is being abandoned. Innovative and cheaper alternatives such as Zoom Rooms and Teams Rooms are growing in popularity. These cloud-based room systems offer hassle-free installation, plug-and-play hardware, improved user experiences, scalability, and affordability.

Adding video conferencing functionality to a meeting space of any size has thus never been easier. And from digital whiteboards and content sharing to smart cameras and cable-free join, an array of modern features is now accessible to everyone, whether you’re a small startup or a Fortune 500 giant.

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Portable room systems and rooms-as-a-service

How to ensure a perfect video conference

These improvements benefit today’s companies that operate in an increasingly unpredictable market. You’re often forced to schedule meetings on short notice. While working in the office this can be challenging if there are no huddle rooms or conference rooms available. Ideally, you want to be able to video conference in almost any room. And this need gave rise to portable video conferencing equipment that provides users with much-needed flexibility.

ezTalks is one of the video conferencing firms with such solutions. Its flagship product, called Meet S, is a small, rectangular object that unites a video camera, microphone, and speaker into one. You can place it on the top of a computer or TV monitor and start the video conference with only a single click. You can also quickly move the device into different spaces. Also, it can connect wirelessly and operate up to 4 hours before needing a recharge.

Besides being flexible, video conferencing solutions also must be affordable. One way to make this happen is through the rooms-as-a-service model. You get to pay a monthly fee to receive meeting room hardware, cloud service, support, and maintenance. A subscription model reduces upfront costs and guarantees predictable pricing. Zoom recently announced their own entry into this Hardware as a Service model.  By teaming with partners such as Poly, Neat, and DTEN, they’re able to deploy end-to-end meeting solutions for as little as $75 per room per month.

The impact of COVID-19 on huddle spaces and room systems

Room systems technologies are getting ever more sophisticated. Companies want to make meetings of distributed teams more immersive as COVID-19 accelerates the shift to flexible working. As a result, huddle rooms are growing in popularity and getting a makeover.

As workers slowly return to offices, they are obviously going to be less crowded initially. Organizations such as the World Economic Forum have recommended that companies reduce the density of desks so that workers sit at least six feet apart. Travel for business will slow down as well. Meetings will thus be held between smaller teams.  In many cases, individual workers may sequester themselves, while in the office, into a huddle-room size “hot-desk” area.  All these trends will likely boost the demand for huddle room spaces and technology.

Pre-COVID-19 huddle room growth was predicted to be high, based on anticipated democratization of enterprise conferencing spaces. Post-COVID-19, the growth may end up being equally robust, but for different reasons.  Huddle rooms may be built more as a set of socially distanced hot desk areas in an enterprise. Even more importantly, they may not include any room system technology. Working instead on the assumption that the occupant would themselves bring the app, camera, and microphone, and only require a robust Wi-Fi or WAN connection to make the room light up for a video conference. More traditional consumer hardware technology providers such as Logitech are seizing on this opportunity to help supply end users with both in-office and WFH headsets and portable webcams in anticipation of current and increasingly high future demand.

According to Nemertes Research, a consulting firm specializing in UC and Collaboration issues and technologies, over 80% of enterprise organizations recently surveyed are either currently using or plan to adopt room systems by 2022. This number represents an increase of over 30% post-COVID-19.  In other words, organizations are not being deterred in their room system rollouts just because of a work-from-home trend.

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Innovation Case Study: Microsoft HoloSuite

Microsoft is one of a set of leaders testing new types of meeting infrastructure. The tech giant has developed the ‘meeting hexagon’ for its Envisioning Center in Redmond, deploying various sensing and display technologies that allow remote participants to contribute more substantially during video conferencing. Also, the company has opened the so-called Holosuite in its office near Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport. This mixed reality room is at the center of the building and provides staff with various innovative solutions to make remote work and training more effective. 

Unify Square makes managing room systems easy

Achieving success with Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and other video conferencing and room systems solutions requires careful planning. Video-enabling conference and huddle rooms is only the beginning of the process. Your IT team still needs to continuously monitor the meeting infrastructure, derive actionable analytics, utilize legacy hardware systems, secure meeting recordings, and rapidly troubleshoot any issues.

To make these tasks easier, Unify Square has developed a range of meeting room management solutions. OurPowerSuite for Room Systems, for instance, can help you to manage and secure Zoom, Teams, and Skype for Business room systems of any size. The service is powered by experienced operations engineers and the innovative PowerSuite software.

This software & services offering provides visibility across various platforms, delivers pattern and trend analytics, troubleshoots and remediates issues, identifies hardware and software in need of updating, and does so much more. PowerSuite also supports other collaboration and communication platforms, including Slack, Workplace from Facebook, and Office 365. Feel free to request a demo and learn more about our offerings.

Enabling an effective collaboration of remote teams

Shifts in workplace culture and new technologies are changing the way companies operate. The post-coronavirus work landscape is likely to be even more dominated by smaller teams distributed across time zones and communicate using video conferencing technologies. Cloud-based room systems will play a vital role in these activities, connecting employees, and enabling meaningful and effective collaboration.

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