This year, the AV/IT industry has witnessed agility and innovation like never before. Existing technologies are being leveraged and manufacturers have developed new products and solutions to help facilitate a healthy return to corporate and college campuses, hospitality, and more.
Over the coming months, as the workforce returns to the office and more students return to the classroom, AV/IT managers are deploying no-touch, or touchless technologies to automate everything from opening a door to launching everything needed for a meeting. We reached out to manufacturers to learn about the solutions they’re working on for this new, touch-free world.
As a manufacturer of automated camera solutions, we have been hearing from customers for a while that they want a room that “just works.” Teachers and CEOs who walk into a room for a meeting do not want to worry about the technology. IT managers expect low-maintenance and low-support requirements with more rooms outfitted for videoconferencing.
With social distancing and hygiene concerns, the need for automated, “touch-free” rooms has only increased, and this includes larger multi-use and divisible conference room spaces. Thankfully, recent technology advances are making this possible for audio, video, content sharing, and control. These “hands-free” automated rooms will benefit users for years to come—even after the COVID crisis is behind us. Remote work and hybrid meetings are here to stay.
In the COVID-19 era, there are many new challenges in the return to normal. Today’s kiosks offer a plethora of features: automatic voice control prompts to reduce physical touch on the device, access to communications via QR codes, on a smartphones, and facial recognition and multi-user tracking for employee and guest check ins.
Other capabilities include temperature checks via built-in thermal scanning technology, emergency alerts and updated news on facility policies, and instructions for safely navigating a facility to adhere to social distancing. Additional interactive wayfinding throughout a facility can guide navigation around a building, regulating available spaces and pre-approved routes to reduce wandering and support effective social distancing.
Reducing manual contact with people and technology is priority number one in the return to normal life during COVID-19. AtlasIED’s new Atmopshere lineup was designed to reduce physical contact with technology that controls a business’s or school’s public address, life safety and security, and audio systems. For instance, a QR code accessible through Atmosphere’s digital signal processor grants authorized users access to certain audio settings directly from a personal mobile device.
Leveraging this hands-off approach is Atmosphere’s ambient noise compensation technology. Built into the DSP are multi-patented algorithms, which enable it to continually learn and adapt to changes in the environment, such as noisy hallways when students transition between classrooms and lively lunch hours in the break room at businesses.
Ease of use has become the guiding principle in AV and control systems, but the concept of “safe” has grown increasingly essential, leading to an approach that favors automation. Imagine entering a meeting space, presenting material, and leaving the room without touching anything but a personal laptop or mobile device. Atlona switchers—including the AT-OME-MS52W and AT-UHD-SW-510W—incorporate automatic display control, wireless presentation, automatic input selection, and occupancy sensor triggering to make this is a reality.
On the control side, Atlona’s Velocity System offers QR Code BYOD Control for environments that require manual interaction. Velocity generates a QR code that can be displayed on the touchpanel GUI or printed and placed inside the room. Users scan the code with their BYOD device to take full control of the AV system.
At Avocor, we’ve been closely monitoring CDC guidance as the world continues to learn about COVID-19, and the data that we’re seeing is that the virus isn’t often spread by touch like people initially thought. Gesture or voice control can be awkward and difficult to get used to; it can just feel unnatural.
It’s more important to find solutions that allow you to have a more seamless meeting experience that feels familiar—especially as we navigate significant changes to the workplace. Teams working in-person don’t have to physically touch a display with their finger to have a successful meeting experience. Because of their low cost, companies can invest in stylus pens in bulk so that teams can have their own dedicated tool, for example. And if you do choose to use touch control, our displays work seamlessly with latex gloves, and we’re also collaborating with companies that have anti-bacterial cleaning solutions, such as Austere Clean & Protect.
For years, BenQ has recognized the value and flexibility that touchless technology provides, and we have developed solutions that let the users and participants choose how they interact with them.
Our touchless capabilities encompass voice-activated control and proximity sensors that automatically adjust the screen for blue light and glare in our interactive flat panels (IFPs). Also integrated into our IFPs is our InstaShare software, which allows anyone to join in, share, and interact with content on screen safely from anywhere using their Chromebook, laptop, or personal device. But organizations shouldn’t have to upgrade their displays or projectors to benefit from in-room wireless screen mirroring. Our InstaShow is a completely app-free, secure wireless presentation system that creates a contact-less collaboration experience without network access or expensive infrastructure or hardware investments.
At beyerdynamic, we’re seeing more interest in products like our ceiling array and table-top microphones. Our MPR 210 and RM 30 microphones with Revoluto technology ensure great voice quality throughout the room and a perfect touchless environment tool when group meetings are necessary.
We’re also seeing more innovative uses of products like the Phonum Bluetooth wireless speakerphone. Miami University came up with a remote learning solution: using Phonum on a mic stand with an iPad to broadcast classes to students. The Unite intercom bundles were released a few months ago to help live broadcasters, like houses of worship, better manage their productions while keeping distancing protocols in place. The bundles are feature rich and easy to navigate, with user-friendly manuals.
As some employees cautiously migrate back into traditional offices, the desire for touchless technology in shared spaces has grown tremendously. In response, Biamp is pushing innovation to help reduce points of contact between users and devices.
Our recently launched Modena family of Wireless Presentation Systems enables users to access a space’s AV equipment and share content with colleagues, in the room or remotely, directly from their device or via their preferred UC system. With Modena Hub or Modena Hub+, every laptop, tablet, or mobile device can both share screens with a display and receive content, enabling attendees to collaborate without the need to touch or pass devices. Modena Server, a multi-room wireless presentation device, further extends this capability into common areas or other non-traditional meeting spaces.
We’re all looking at how we can best utilize and develop technology for increased collaboration and better experiences. AI’s ability to improve noise cancelation—and even learn which surrounding noise to suppress—means you won’t need to ride the mute button or constantly increase or decrease the volume because of the surrounding noise. We’re also going to see AI used with video products as a way to provide more comprehensive telemetry on how the room or space is being used, to ensure safe distancing, for example.
Apps that control AV devices will become more commonplace, as they safeguard users from needing to touch multiple devices. This gives users the ease and freedom to control AV equipment; the NCH 700 UC is a perfect example, as it uses the Bose Music app for adjusting controls (in addition to touch commands on the earcup) and providing software updates automatically.
The onset of COVID-19 has led the digital signage industry to recognize major shifts, such as the move to touchless interaction through QR code implementation, haptic technologies, and mobile app integration. Legrand|AV supports a myriad of these new or accelerated trends.
Chief’s Impact Kiosk and Fusion Cart products fit the needs of experiential design, while meeting the new operational demands stemming from COVID-19. As a continued response to our partners in this changing market, Chief is excited to add our Tablet Series mounts, which expand our robust product offerings for safe spaces. This new category features tabletop and floor-standing mounts, as well as accessories to support column and VESA tablets with integrated temperature sensors, printers, and Q&A screens.
Creating a touchless space is especially important now, and for many public spaces, it will be a necessity. Christie offers Pandoras Box AirScan, which combines with Pandoras Box Widget Designer to transform digital content—whether it’s presented on a LED or LCD video wall or projected onto a wall or screen—into a touch-free, interactive experience.
Pandoras Box AirScan is an IR laser-based solution that creates a motion-controlled user interface with up to 24 interaction points for displays up to 30 feet in size. It features a built-in motion stabilizer for high-speed processing and damping of the sensor motion data. AirScan is installed in front of a display and then connected to a PC with Widget Designer, where settings can be adjusted and customized to the application. AirScan is well suited for public spaces like museums, entertainment venues, and theatres looking to transform displays from touch to touchless.
Touchless controls weren’t a new innovation as a result of the pandemic. Wireless collaboration and remote control of conferencing have increasingly been deployed in meeting spaces, lecture halls, and boardrooms for ease of presentation and collaboration. Now, touchless solutions have become more important for the return to work to support distancing and to reduce common control touchpoints.
Crestron developed new control experiences for touchless controls that will support the return to work, including the Crestron ONE app and the new 70 Series Touch Screens. Employees and guests can safely and reliably control the AV, communications, lighting, automation, and other experiences in the Crestron system with the Crestron ONE app on their personal device. When users approach a 70 Series Touch Screen mounted on the wall or situated on a table, the proximity sensor wakes the screen to show the QR code to connect to the system wirelessly.
Now more than ever, the subject of AV automation is becoming a major talking point within organizations of all sizes. Touchless room control can be accomplished by scanning a QR code on an Extron TouchLink Pro touchpanel with your personal device. Simply point your camera at the QR code displayed on the touchpanel and you’ll automatically be taken to the Extron Control for Web interface, which provides the same flexibility of control. Extron also offers several mobile apps to help automate AV system functions, and provides easy room AV control from the palm of your hand. All our apps are free on Google Play or the App Store.
In spaces with an Extron HD CTL 100 Workspace Controller and an OCS 100C Occupancy Sensor, organizations can benefit from automated display control based on motion detection, minimizing button presses while helping individuals remain productive.
To protect personnel from unnecessary exposure, studios are being built with multiple IP-connected PTZ cameras that can be remotely controlled by a single operator. No longer are multiple skilled camera operators forced to share a small, "high-touch" space; instead, all unnecessary interaction is removed.
One camera operator is too many for most meeting and lecture capture applications, though. PTZOptics’ sister company HuddleCamHD uses AI tools to automate camera operation—allowing teachers and meeting participants to interact naturally. The HuddleCamHD HuddleView uses face and motion detection to automatically frame shots so that virtual meetings feel personal and inclusive. The SimplTrack2 uses autotracking to allow educators to teach as they do best: at the front of their classrooms.
Although a pandemic was not the driver behind development of the Intel Unite solution, the collaboration platform was born with a host of features that make it well suited to a contactless world. Its wireless connectivity means there are no shared dongles or cables. Wireless connectivity also facilitates social distancing, since meeting participants no longer need to be within reach of a cable. With the platform’s remote capabilities, either through Protected Guest Access or a UC such as Webex, they don’t even need to be in the same room. The Intel Unite software is also open platform, which allows participants to use their own device to share content.
At Kramer, we recognize the challenge that so many organizations are facing to ensure business continuity during COVID-19. That is why we have developed an innovative new contact monitoring technology: Corona Tags, small, battery-powered trackers for recording interactions that don’t adhere to the CDC or NIH social distancing guidelines. They track anonymously and securely—protecting individual privacy while recording valuable information to help enterprises and institutions continue to operate safely during the pandemic with minimal down time. Kramer’s Corona Tags are designed for easy rapid deployment and meet the most stringent privacy requirements of GDPR.
Kramer’s VIA family of wireless and/or wired presentation and collaboration solutions also feature touchless connectivity, BYOD, BYOM, and remote management. Kramer Control features touchless automation, remote access, and remote troubleshooting.
As businesses around the country reopen amid the ongoing pandemic, we here at LG Business Solutions USA have expanded our suite of Health Protocol Solutions. In partnership with other technology leaders, we’re offering an array of new options—including touchless interactive digital signage displays, wellness kiosks, occupancy management systems, and more. These solutions combine LG’s displays with the industry’s top sensors and software to help businesses and public venues address the specific needs of the current touchless environment.
I think we’ll continue to see this rapid rise in gesture and voice control in the post-COVID era. Gesture and voice technology were already emerging as viable alternatives to touchscreens even before COVID struck. Now, having gone through a global pandemic, it may be awhile before consumers are comfortable interacting with frequently touched displays.
As companies begin to think about how to bring their employees back into the office, Logitech is helping to keep employees safe and secure by partnering with Amazon, Google, and Microsoft to create contactless experiences in meeting rooms leveraging their voice assistant technologies.
For our customers that use Amazon, our Logitech Solutions for Zoom Rooms with Alexa for Business allows employees to begin, end, and schedule meetings simply with their voice. Google customers can say “Hey Google” on Logitech Solutions for Google Meet to help them with all their conference needs and minimize contact, while Microsoft users are able to ask Cortana with Logitech Room Solutions for Microsoft Teams.
Mersive Solstice has always offered touchless collaboration, content sharing, control, and markup for meeting and learning spaces. However, in 2020, Mersive launched three major new product initiatives that further enhance Mersive’s ability to support the hybrid workplace: Solstice Conference enhances collaboration among onsite and remote participants through touchless videoconferencing; Solstice Active Learning enables video routing for confidence monitors in large spaces where participants need to spread out; and Solstice Cloud allows organizations to monitor and manage the return to work through remote deployment analytics, alerts, and management capabilities.
As we move into 2021, Mersive is focusing on the next iteration of capabilities that will support safe and healthy workplace collaboration—including smart new features built around room occupancy, monitoring of scheduled versus ad-hoc meetings, and more.
There’s no doubt the pandemic catalyzed massive adoption of low-touch and touchless solutions. To use retail as an example, people are looking for ways to shop safely, while stores are eager to find new ways to increase customer engagement without physical interaction.
OnQ’s Converge Control lets shoppers scan a QR code on their phones to take control of an in-store digital display. What retailers especially love about this solution is that it doesn't require an app, and customers don’t need to connect to the store’s Wi-Fi network. What’s more, customers can purchase on the spot using their phones and have products shipped to their homes.
With an increased importance set on best ways to stay safe in the pandemic, Peerless-AV introduced new solutions for public health preparedness and viral transmission prevention with an Occupancy Control Kiosk, three variations of Temperature Sensing Digital Signage Kiosks, as well as Temperature Sensor Tabletop and Floor Stand Mounts. These solutions allow companies and businesses to follow guidelines in real time.
The Temperature Sensing items offer self-service, non-contact temperature screening via a tablet; Occupancy Control regulates foot traffic at each point of entry and detects if a visitor is wearing a mask, while also displaying dynamic digital messaging, such as rules, instructions, wait times, promotions, and other information.
Businesses have had to shift quickly to outfit their spaces to ensure safety. One product designed to facilitate this is the Automatic Digital Hand Sanitizing station, equipped with MagicInfo and built-in IR motion-sensor. The kiosk dispenses sanitizing gel or foam and delivers safety information via the display screen that consumers need to follow while inside the building. Additionally, we have seen the Samsung Pro TV integrated into education and hospitality spaces to assist with messaging, wayfinding, and social-distancing protocols.
Remote meetings are no longer optional, but have quickly become a given. Travel limitations and social distancing recommendations have resulted in reduced room capacities at companies, so there will always be someone participating remotely, and that requires the right collaboration equipment. Moreover, there is a substantial demand for equipping more rooms with remote conferencing technology.
Besides the obvious need for more supportive collaboration products, the increased sensitivity and awareness toward hygiene matters will continue. Users have become sensitive to interacting with shared devices, and so touchless workflows are on the rise.
For reasons of simplicity and convenience, touchless audio was a focus for Sennheiser pre-COVID and will continue to be something that we explore long after COVID is behind us. We are happy to be able to offer a suite of products that meet touchless demands now and in future.
Sharp has been offering touchless solutions for years—making this year’s adjustment easier. Sharp worked with Amazon Alexa to create MFP Voice, a feature that has become essential to office safety. This voice activation feature offers a touchless solution by allowing users to print, copy, scan, and fax, simply by speaking the desired commands.
Sharp has also developed Synappx Go, an app that can be installed on your smartphone and used to control your MFP’s scanning, copying, and printing needs. This means users touch their personal device and not a shared device.
The pandemic has altered audio capturing plans for a number of industries, and Shure’s array microphones—which are traditionally thought of for conference rooms or classrooms—have found success in providing quality audio in other professional applications.
Where tabletop, lavalier, and handheld microphones are no longer feasible, Shure offers options of overhead-mounted array microphones with steerable coverage technology to provide broadcast-quality audio. The MXA910 array microphone, the MXA310 tabletop microphone, and the new MXA710 linear array microphones are the leading products in this category. MXA products have been used for several broadcast applications, including being mounted inconspicuously for reality TV shows and to capture interview audio in radio and TV studios.
As it became clear that the pandemic was going to be a long-term issue, ViewSonic shifted product offerings to provide partners with ways to keep their businesses moving. With the continued need for wayfinding, communication, and safety, ViewSonic introduced health kiosks that hold a hand sanitizer dispenser (optional), a media player, and a 24- or 27-inch monitor that can be used to welcome customers or provide information as people enter a business. These displays come with integrated software that allows users to communicate wirelessly.
ViewSonic has been working with its factories and partners to ensure they have the resources to keep their business moving forward.
We’re seeing tremendous interest in our range of Cynap all-in-one AV appliances. This is especially true in education, corporate, and judicial environments, where people are looking to minimize the amount of interaction they are forced to have with shared surfaces. Overall, our Cynap solutions have proven to be an ideal way to swiftly implement safe working and learning environments because they provide all the functionality needed in the modern meeting space in a single appliance. This includes wireless presentation, HDMI connectivity, source selection, web conferencing (i.e. Zoom, MS Teams, BlueJeans, et cetera), and room control.
Earlier this year, Yamaha introduced ADECIA, a family of communication products for enterprise or meeting spaces. ADECIA provides all the components and automatic technologies to reduce set up time, costs, and complexities.
It introduces the RM-CG multi-beamforming ceiling microphone and RM-CR audio processor, and includes Yamaha's long-trusted PoE switches and VXL Series line array speakers. By utilizing four dynamic beams that continuously track voices and adaptive Acoustic Echo Cancellation and Human Voice Activity Detection technology, the ceiling microphone creates an audio experience that sounds as good as personal tabletop microphones. The solution auto-detects installed components, auto-configures the devices, and auto-optimizes audio performance so that components never have to be adjusted after the initial setup, even in reconfigurable rooms.