Welcome to hybrid life, 2022. Whether you’re in the classroom or conference room, you now have to consider both remote and in-person participants. That makes having pristine sound and high-performing video equipment more important than ever.
Systems Contractor News looks into just a few of these solutions in our newest series: SCN Hybrid World. Starting with speakerphones, we look to provide a list of resources and solutions with tips from the experts behind some the biggest names and products on the market.
This article will be updated with new products and features, so be sure to check back often. (Most recent update: 12/6/2022)
SCN Hybrid World
- 11 Speakerphones for Today's Workspace (published April 24, 2022)
- Look Up, Listen Up with These 9 Ceiling Mics (published June 1, 2022)
- 17 Video Conferencing Cameras: Plus Expert Tips for Choosing the Right One (published June 27, 2022)
- SCN Hybrid World Review: 4 Selling Points for the Shokz OpenComm UC Headset (published Oct. 3, 2022)
As workplaces slowly begin to fill up once again, conferencing in the new normal has a different look. Whether it’s a conference room, workspace, or home office, speakerphones need to be flexible for the hybrid age and accommodate both the remote and in-person employee.
The meeting space itself has also changed. “I think our mindset has changed so much to automatically select larger distances from people and that’s a part of COVID that will stay with us,” said Holger Stoltze, senior director of technical sales and marketing for Yamaha Unified Communication. “And that means the open meeting space is growing. The whole audio and noise problem becomes a completely new one in that environment.”
Having the right speakerphone with high-quality audio for those present and connected to the call is imperative—but that doesn’t mean manufacturers had to reinvent the wheel. “It’s not so much new technology as it is leveraging a familiar tool in new ways,” said Lauren Simmen, director of product marketing for Crestron. “Having a phone that allows for a conversation that’s separated from the laptop you’re using to take notes or adjust that critical PowerPoint can be a really efficient means of communication.”
Having crystal-clear audio is more important than ever, with those calling in not wanting to miss anything their in-person colleagues have to say. That's where ceiling microphones and beamforming technology come into play.
Simply put, a beamforming mic is “an array of microphones that use a beamforming algorithm to combine the signal of separate mics into a single stronger output signal," according to Chris Swartz, product manager for Sony Electronics. However, not all beamforming mics are the same.
Finding the right beamforming ceiling microphone is good for a wide variety of use cases, be it in an educational or corporate setting. Along with beamforming technology, there are quite a few benefits ceiling mics offer versus other types of conferencing equipment.
The hybrid life is not only upon us, but seemingly here to stay. Seeing and being seen are important parts of the new age of conferencing and collaboration, because it keeps participants—from colleagues to students—engaged and actively part of the conversation.
Every environment is a little different. Corporate presentations in large boardrooms may need a different approach than those for smaller huddle rooms. So, where do you even begin to look for the right solution?
“There are a number of things to consider,” explained Tony McCool, country manager for MAXHUB UCC solutions. "What is the size of the room? How many people will be in meetings? Where is the preferred camera location? What platform will you be using, or will you need flexibility of platforms? Do you want a dedicated room solution, or will you use your own laptop? Will meeting participants wish to share content from their laptops or mobile devices on to the display? Once we know these answers, we can then progress to understanding the ideal camera solutions.”
SCN Hybrid World Review: 4 Selling Points for the Shokz OpenComm UC Headset (reviewed by Mark J. Pescatore)
Like many of you, I’m always in the market for a good headset. Whether it’s in-ear or over-the-ear, I’ve been using headsets for decades during phone interviews (and videoconferences in more recent years) to keep my hands free to type. So, when Shokz invited me to test its new OpenComm UC headset, which doesn’t put a speaker on or in your ear, I was intrigued. Here’s what I learned.
They say seeing is believing. But what happens when you don’t want to be seen?
In today’s evolving world of hybrid classrooms, meeting rooms, and even houses of worship, having the right technology is important, especially when needing to be heard. However, the right speaker can be invasive, with wires and bulky devices taking away from the aesthetics of the venue. In-ceiling speakers sound like an easy choice—but they aren’t a one-size-fits-all solution.
“The choice of in-ceiling speakers boils down to weighing coverage versus imaging and soundstage,” said Randy Blanchard, director of audio for Vanco. “They’re not appropriate for environments with extremely high ceilings—an eight-story hotel lobby, for instance. There are also times where you’re going for a strong directional, like live sound reinforcement, where you really want a point-source system.”
So, when are in-ceiling speakers right for your project? Read more to find out.