How many rooms am I managing? What technology is actually in there? These are reasonable questions, but for AV/IT managers, they haven’t always been easy to answer.
“[Tech managers] have been starved for data so long that even basic information like how many rooms they have is often hard to get—they may know, loosely, the number, but to get a concrete ‘I have 224 rooms,’ or ‘I have 9,832 rooms’ is difficult for them to pull out of the air,” said William Tinnel, vice president of operations and chief commercial officer at Utelogy, a software-defined AV monitoring and management platform developer headquartered in Irvine, CA. He added that with videoconferencing increasingly handled by soft codecs, this challenge is amplified.
The software platform developed by Utelogy enables tech managers to control, monitor, maintain, and manage devices throughout an organization. “They can see, actively, what’s happening in their classrooms and conference rooms—if there’s any technology that’s having any kind of difficulty, they can see that in real time,” Tinnel explained. The platform also provides historical data: “They can take a look at what technologies have been used, what technologies have been down, and for how long.” Utelogy also offers a remote support service to address system failures.
Tinnel noted that Utelogy’s solution can be tailored to fit an organization’s specific needs, such as gaining insight into videoconferencing call statistics or measuring up-and downtime for specific devices. The platform also helps tech managers determine how—and if—certain spaces and technologies are being used: are meeting participants using their laptops to present materials on a display? How many videoconferencing calls are taking place right now? What about audioconferencing? “[Once we get] that base set of information, then we’re going to continue to build on that to get deeper and deeper information sets,” he said.
Clint Hoffman, CEO at Kramer Electronics USA, headquartered in Clinton, NJ, explained that his company’s solution, Kramer Control, was built as a data analytics engine in the form of a control solution. “Every single thing that happens over the network through the control solution is captured immediately to the cloud and is available to analyze,” he said. He said that no additional programming is required to achieve this. “[It’s] different than the traditional approach, where you pay a programmer [an hourly rate] in order to pull [certain information out of the system]. Our system gives you every piece of information from day one.” The platform provides information on what devices are being used and how, including the features that people regularly apply. “Now, when you’re building another 100 rooms, you can say, ‘I don’t need to [install] that piece of equipment [because] nobody ever uses it.” Related to this solution is Kramer Network, a software-based AV-over-IP management system, which enables centralized management of AV devices across an organization, as well as audio and video signal routing.
As tech managers apply the data they receive from these solutions, Tinnel predicted they will want more detailed information on usage, such as time-to-meeting. It’s a waste of everyone’s time and resources if, for example, a meeting is scheduled for 10:00 a.m. but it’s taken the highly paid executive participants 15 minutes to get started due to technological glitches. When those managing AV/IT systems have access to this data, they may take the steps necessary to improve their organization’s efficiency. “One of the trends we’re seeing is that meetings are not necessarily an hour long anymore—they’re 15 minutes and then [people] are on to the next thing,” he said, which is why analysis of time-to-meeting is so important.
Usage statistics also have the potential to help tech managers understand when technology isn’t necessary for employees to do their jobs. “From a real estate planning perspective, not all meetings need to take place with technology, so having just the technology side of the picture doesn’t give us the full view of what’s going on,” Tinnel said. He added that this presents an interesting issue for companies like Utelogy to address: “[It’s] not difficult at all as we start looking at some of the new technologies that are coming our way, but if you have that piece of the puzzle, it’s very good in helping people make decisions.”
Deploy, Manage, Analyze: Solutions for Data-Hungry Tech Managers
With Crestron’s XiO Cloud solution, tech managers can deploy and configure an unlimited number of Crestron products at the same time. Administrators can set up devices via drag-and-drop, and then organize them into groups and subgroups. XiO Cloud’s remote monitoring and management features generate usage data (such as how rooms and the technology they house are used); group status; as well as an activity log that keeps track of all actions that have taken place within the portal. No programming is required.
Combining Intel processing, a Linux operating system, and IEEE networking standards, QSC’S Q-SYS software-based audio, video, and control platform aims to enable tech managers to easily scale their systems as technology continues to advance, and their organizations continue to grow. Q-SYS Enterprise Core processors allow for centralized management and monitoring.
Atlona’s Velocity platform is built on an IP system architecture designed to allow for rapid deployment of AV devices. Designed for integrations large and small, devices may be added to the network with a few mouse clicks. Flexibility, scalability, monitoring and management from a central location are all part of the package, as well as system analytics, which let tech managers know how their technology is performing. The platform encompasses three principle components: an online tool for remote configuration, management, and monitoring (Velocity Cloud); the Velocity Control Gateway, an IP-based processor; and Velocity Touch Panels, which, as their name suggests are touchscreens (in this case, measuring either 5.5 or eight inches).