Software-Based Collaboration for Cash Strapped Managers

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Collaboration has earned its right as a buzzword in the audiovisual industry: it boosts productivity, helps to bring the best ideas to the table, and enhances engagement. However, the caveat to implementing collaboration systems is containing costs and maximizing return on investment (ROI). (This is especially true in higher education where the potential for investment in technology is inclined to be minimal, and the expected return tends to be astronomical.)

While there are a number of hardware-based solutions — including Crestron’s AirMedia, Barco’s ClickShare, or Christie’s Brio, among other solutions discussed in my last post — technology managers can strategically introduce groundbreaking collaboration capabilities in the classroom, the conference room, or the boardroom, with software-based collaboration solutions that keep initial costs low.

For cash strapped technology managers, collaboration can be as easy as real-time editing, provided by cloud-based document services such as Google Docs or Microsoft’s Office 365. Those using Microsoft Lync can implement several important features to boost collaboration on campus without significant cost increases.

For simple collaboration needs, several of my requesters (i.e., department heads, deans, and technologically advanced professors) have asked me to assess various “consumer grade” wireless display software options, including but not limited to, AirParrot or AirServer to see whether or not they would be viable for use in the classroom or the conference room. These PC- or Mac-based software solutions essentially emulate an Apple TV’s ability to receive an Airplay signal; but they can quickly become a hassle considering how a corporation might choose to route their IP traffic and separate wireless and wired network VLANS. Both of these products provide low-cost collaboration options, allowing users to display their mobile devices and annotate on top of graphics, or even documents. However, while these options are certainly viable for incredibly niche applications, they may not be a viable solution for enterprise level collaboration and for long-term success on networks with highly managed IP traffic routing.

For a more stable PC-based software application, I encourage technology managers to consider Mersive’s Solstice. Solstice allows multiple presenters to gain access to a presentation display, whether projector or flat panel, and collaborate in real time. It is an ideal fit for a large boardroom or classroom setting where a PC likely already exists. I’ve had the opportunity to see Solstice in action at InfoComm this past summer, as well as to download the product demo and give it a cursory test, in which it performed admirably.

Unlike most wireless display and collaboration devices/software, Solstice provides full support for Windows, Apple computers, and iOS and Android devices. It allows users to share applications, documents, images, and videos up to 1080p at 30fps (assuming of course the video output card on the computer is capable of displaying this resolution/frame rate).

Even if a flipped learning classroom with a large 64x64 matrix switcher isn’t in the budget, the technology does exist to bring collaboration to campus. With the increase in demand for AV solutions, providers are rising to meet the challenge and offer affordable, enterprise-level wireless display and collaboration solutions that are software-based. By allowing users to leverage existing technology to achieve their goal, these solutions remove the need for expensive hardware upgrades and set up the classroom or the boardroom for collaborative success.


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