It’s not every day that a product comes along in the presentation and collaboration arena that really is a game changer. Not just a different design of a popular component, or another cool feature that adds marginal value so you can call it “new and improved.” I’m talking about true innovation, the kind of technology advancement that will change the way people work on a daily basis and measurably improve their lives in the office.
That product is Barco’s ClickShare. I had the opportunity to demonstrate it at this year’s InfoComm during a presentation I gave on “Unified Communications and Collaboration.” While Barco is widely recognized for its excellent reputation in the high-end display and visualization space, it hasn’t been a big player in standalone AV components. But any doubts I had about their foray into enterprise visualization were quickly dismissed once I experienced this new presentation and collaboration tool.
First, Barco promotes ClickShare as the “One Click Wonder,” and, believe it or not, it lives up to this promise. With one click, a presenter can launch their content on the meeting room main display with no worries about IP addresses, having the right cables, room locations, and screen resolution. You simply plug in the Base Unit, attach the ClickShare Button to your laptop, start the application, and wirelessly transfer your desktop content to the main display in an instant.
With just three components, ClickShare removes the physical and communications barriers to achieving meaningful collaboration and information sharing in the meeting room:
ClickShare Base Unit: Requiring only a simple, one-time set up, the Base Unit has a fixed connection to the meeting room’s visualization system, and takes care of all the needed processing. No connection to the corporate network is necessary.
ClickShare Buttons: USB-powered devices, which users plug into their PC or MAC to present their content on the meeting room display with one click. A basic set comes with four buttons out of the box. The system can connect up to 25 buttons.
ClickShare Tray: The storage unit for the ClickShare Buttons when they’re not in use.
Here’s my nine-point detailed review:
1. Physical construction
The physical construction of the product couldn’t be simpler—it’s only two main pieces, the Base Unit and the ClickShare Buttons. The Base Unit, while somewhat large, can be conveniently stowed at the end of the table or unobtrusively placed behind the screen.
I just love the ClickShare Buttons, the handheld controls that connects to a user’s laptop. Although they sport an elegant, low-profile design, they’re quite robust and sturdy. They have a nice weight to them and the short cable is ergonomically smart. The system feels really solid, like it won’t break over time, even with daily use.
2. Review of inputs, outputs, controls and indicators
The only input is the network jack, which is connected once during the initial installation and only used to access the admin functions. Enough said.
The digital video outputs of the ClickShare Base Unit are well-designed, featuring a DVI port with a positive locking feature, which provides a secure connection that stays put during a presentation even when you’re moving things around, and a DisplayPort output.
The ClickShare Button couldn’t be simpler: once it’s plugged into the laptop, the user launches the application from the ClickShare drive. The white LEDs will blink until the ClickShare Button is connected to the Base unit. Once connected, the white LEDs will stop blinking and remain on, which means “ready to share.” Then, it’s just a matter of one click to present, or one click to remove, your content. When presenting, the red LEDs convey that you are on-screen.
A free service is available to install the application on your laptop so you won’t have to startup the application each time. Upon detecting a ClickShare Button, the service will automatically start the application and connect to the Base Unit.
The devil is in the details. When one’s content is shared on the screen, his or her name will briefly and discreetly appear on the screen—a nice feature that pleasantly surprises all participants and adds value to the meeting dynamics.
3. Technician level “user friendliness”
Since I was a beta tester, I didn’t have any manual for reference nor a set of instructions. But, I didn’t need any either—I simply plugged it in, and it worked.
However, at InfoComm, we had a very densely populated Wi-Fi environment. Although it fired up quickly when switching on in the first session, I wasn’t able to launch immediately in the second. But I just downloaded a quick software fix from Barco’s convenient web interface, and I was back in business again—problem solved. To me, that says a lot about the product’s robustness, adaptability and ease of use, all rolled into one.
It’s also nice to know that as the product matures, existing devices can obtain firmware updates from this easy-to-use interface to upgrade and fix any issues. It’s just another reason that ClickShare is really a game changer in this market.
4. End-user/operator level “user friendliness”
Very user friendly. The system easily adapts to whatever people need to support their meeting and communication needs. Participants easily enter and exit, alternating fluidly between single image presentations and multi-user collaboration. There’s never any confusion about whose turn it is, how to make room for a presenter, or revert to a meeting leader’s presentation—it all happens naturally and seamlessly, without interrupting the flow of conversation.
5. Review of the web-based control screens
Web-based controls are available at the technician level, but end users don’t need to worry about these. Users can easily create backgrounds, upload simple jpegs, update software machine/web interfaces, set channels and Wi-Fi ranges, and change screen resolution by following a few simple steps.
6. Overall operation of the equipment
The system is highly intuitive, and offers automatic formatting to conform to users’ presentation needs. Adding a presenter’s content to the main display is as simple as pressing the ClickShare Button—the screen automatically reformats to split-screen, up to four quadrants, to feature different participant’s images simultaneously. Pressing and holding the ClickShare Button causes the display to revert to a full-screen image of the user’s presentation. UP to 25 buttons can be distributed to meeting participants, enabling them to be ready to share at a moment’s notice with a simple click of the button.
Want to show a PowerPoint, spreadsheet, and a video on the same screen? No problem. All three windows can accommodate a wide range of application content, even videos like YouTube. ClickShare not only allows you to make your presentations richer and more dynamic, it displays them in a way that invites information sharing and real collaboration by allowing everyone to chime in with their data at once.
There’s even a time-out/sleep function to conserve energy and prevent screen burn-in, making it an environmentally friendly product.
7. Review of operation/reference instructions
As mentioned previously, I didn’t even have instructions and got it working right away. It takes almost no time to master the basics, and a couple of minutes to leverage all the system’s capabilities.
8. Website —all materials are clear, easy to read
All of these elements were in progress and coming online after I initially reviewed the product, but from a cursory review of the updated website, my rankings are:
• Data sheets—Excellent
• Drawings—Very Good
• Diagrams—Very Good
• Product photos—Excellent
• Tech manuals—Excellent
• Firmware files—Very Good
9. Price point
The MSRP for ClickShare is $5,995, which includes the Base Unit, four ClickShare Buttons, and the ClickShare Tray. Additional ClickShare Buttons can be purchased separately.
One might initially think that this is a pricey investment when you consider the cost of the actual display. But all of the designed-in intelligence and functionality adds up to a substantial value. Think about this: how many “man hours” have you lost during the past year resulting from stalled meetings where four or five employees sat idly by waiting for the presenter to solve connectivity issues? Conversely, what is the price of a great idea that comes from a wildly successful brainstorming session where true collaboration has occurred?
ClickShare’s ease and efficiency, combined with enabling technologies that facilitate knowledge sharing, provide a tremendous benefit to organizations. And, when compared to the total cost to outfit a new or refurbished meeting space, ClickShare reduces or eliminates typical cable, switching and even construction costs. So, in the end, it’s a bargain.
From a pure technology perspective, when it comes to transitioning your corporate AV infrastructure from analog or mixed sources to a fully digital platform, ClickShare is the catalyst that can make it happen.
ClickShare is the most ingenious product to date designed for the enterprise collaboration. It takes the concept of presentation and collaboration to a whole new level, removing the barriers to communication—whether they be physical or figurative—to harness the collective genius of an organization. The fact that it’s so simple and easy to use—with no pre-loaded software required— makes it a game changer.
With ClickShare, meetings will—fortunately— never be the same.
L. William Nattress III, CTS-D, CTS-I, has more than 30 years of project management experience in the design, engineering, installation and integration of audio, video, conferencing and control systems. As an associate principal at Shen Milsom & Wilke, he is responsible for client relationship development and project management. His experience formed the foundation of a chapter on remote controls systems in the book “Basics of Audio and Visual Systems Design: Revised Edition.” Ready to share a hands-on product review with your peers? Email AVTIntern@nbmedia.com to learn more about the AV Technology Product Forum.
Satisfaction Survey Results from Beta Users
Barco has selected various Fortune 500 companies, educational institutions, and integrators to test ClickShare as beta users; their feedback will help the company learn and evolve the product. See below for the key findings from a recent satisfaction survey to these beta users.t
· Highly recommended to others: Average rating of 9.78 out of 10 in terms of recommending ClickShare to others.
· Game-changing meeting room technology: 100% of respondents could see installing ClickShare in their meeting rooms--from basic, mid-end or highend boardrooms to classrooms.
· Easy learning: 63% of respondents learned how to use ClickShare simply by word-of-mouth.
· It’s that easy to use: 94% of respondents liked the ease of use of Click- Share—the one-click wonder.
· A new way of meeting: More than half of respondents used ClickShare to engage at least three meeting participants to share their presentations onscreen at the same time.
· Enhanced meeting efficiency: 93% of respondents are convinced that Click- Share improves meeting efficiency.
· Positive ROI from ClickShare:
· Increase in meeting productivity: 69%
· Time savings for IT and Facilities: 69%
· Time saved during the meeting: 56%