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Episode 7: Integrating with an AV Integrator

When a company decides they are ready to take action in either establishing or upgrading technology, or even improving the existing infrastructure of an audiovisual system, it can make for a much smoother process if they understand the steps an AV integrator goes through, the questions they ask, and why they do what they do.

To assist companies that are planning to partner with an AV integrator, we have taken some of the most common scenarios and questions that come up on an almost daily basis and are sharing them now with you. This behind the scenes view of the process from the integrator’s point of view can be invaluable in helping clients understand more about what to expect in their own audiovisual journey with a provider.

The Top 2 Things to Know Before You Contact an AV Integrator

It may seem like reaching out to a professional AV integrator is just the tip of iceberg, and in many ways it is, but it does require two key pieces of information before you make contact with them:

  1. Shared vision – The term essentially means that the vision you communicate to the integrator should be shared among your company’s key leadership. If the IT lead calls and communicates a vision that is different from a chief operating officer’s which is also different from an executive’s, chances are that the final technology proposal will not be up to snuff for at least one or more individuals. Develop your company’s shared technology vision before you initiate contact with an AV integrator.
  2. Budget – Know your budget for the project. This does not mean that the entire budget will need to be used, but it does give integrators a starting point for knowing if certain technology is automatically off the table due to budget concerns.

With these two pieces of information established, it is time to contact a reputable AV integrator about getting your space connected.

What to Expect in Your Consultation with an AV Integrator

Typically, when a client wants to get their office boardroom, conference room, or classroom connected, they contact an AV integrator via phone or email. This is a way for the client to introduce themselves and learn more about the individual they will be working with. That introductory phone call should only be a gateway to an in-person meeting to discuss the vision for the project.

While a phone call, pictures of the space, or even a Zoom call can provide basic information, it is not conducive to collecting specific details of a space such as wall measurements and a three hundred sixty-degree view of the room. A phone or email conversation should not be a substitute for physically being in the space to get a feel for the dimensions and makeup of a room.

Face to face communication is always preferable when possible because it allows the project leader and the integrator to collaborate together. It allows the give and take between both parties in terms of a client identifying what they think might be needed and an integrator knowing if it is doable on the client’s budget.

Once an in-person meeting is set up between the integrator and client, the real work can begin and generally follows these steps:

  • Conducting a needs analysis – This includes establishing what technology the client wants to incorporate and for what purposes, as this usually dictates which products will be needed specifically to help them achieve their goals.
  • Noting the room’s physical makeup and dimensions – An AV integrator will likely bring laser tape measurers and other tools to help them measure the dimensions of the walls of the room, which will help with product placement. Even the height of the ceiling is key as it will dictate what kind of product can be mounted and how it will need to be done. Integrators will also write down the physical characteristics of the space such as if there is sheetrock, concrete, cinderblock, etc.
  • Engaging in a question-and-answer session – There can be hundreds of different ways to get a boardroom or conference room connected, so in an effort to be respectful of all parties’ time, expect the integrator to ask a myriad of questions. These questions are not asked to pile on possible solutions and strategically increase the cost of a project, but rather these questions will help them determine the functionality of a room as it relates to the client’s intended goals.
  • Identifying possible red flags – By taking a tour of the space in person, it can allow the integrator to identify red flags for design engineers. This could be the type of ceiling or flooring a room has and how that will impact running cable. It may be that the spot a client wants a display screen may not work because it would be too close to a fire alarm to be ADA compliant.
  • Determining building access – Some audiovisual system installs can require a great deal of equipment and products that will need to be transported inside the building. For this reason, it is critical to determine if the installation crew will be able to park right at the building or will have to transport materials from several blocks away. Another consideration is if the space is not located on the first floor of a building and will require the use of an elevator.
  • Waste management – It is important to note if the facility has the capability to dispose of project-related waste such as packing materials, Styrofoam, and cardboard boxes. If not, it may require the provider to repack all the waste and haul it away to dispose of it properly.

Each of these considerations plays a significant role in determining the design, management, and labor involved in a project.

How An Integrator Puts Together the Project Proposal

With the client’s shared vision and an in-person evaluation of the space itself, the next step is for the integrator to put together a project proposal. Sometimes an integrator will sit down with their notes and draft them into a more cohesive format to create a better visual before turning them over to the design engineer.

The primary elements a design engineer needs to evaluate before creating a technology solution for a client includes:

  • Integrator’s notes
  • Pictures of the site
  • Measurements of the space
  • Client’s vision
  • Review of potential red flags in the space that could impact its design

Having these elements at their fingertips can help them more clearly understand what the parameters of the design project are. This step can take some time since the design is being created from scratch and customized for the client.

Understanding the Project Proposal

The last step of a project proposal is presenting it to the client. It is highly recommended that the client and integrator go over the proposal together to go over any questions or concerns before the client makes a final decision about moving forward with the project.

After a proposal is it is common for clients to have one of the following responses:

  • Question what some of the line items on the budget mean
  • Love the design engineer’s outlay but decide they cannot afford to do that much all at once
  • Choose to delay the project altogether
  • Go ahead with the project as drawn up in the proposal

A client is entitled to all of these reactions, but there are some precautions that are worth mentioning. Sticker shock is real—but so are the amazing results of the technology it can afford a client. When sticker shock becomes a problem for the client the instinct can be to either phase in technology, do value engineering, or go with another provider, but there are a few problems with each:

  1. Phasing in technology – Although a great deal of thought and planning goes into the original budget, it is possible for a client to decide it is just not plausible to do all at once. However, phasing in technology means the client sees the value in the design and would rather leave out one function that they can delay for future purchase and have the rest of the technology go live now. Of these three, this is generally the smartest option because it does not sacrifice quality in the long run.
  2. Doing value engineering – Some people will see the design engineer’s plans and decide they simply cannot do that much and will ask the integrator to go back to the drawing board to come up with a solution that is less pricey but will still accomplish most but not all of the functionality the client needs. This can be delicate territory as there may come a point where value engineering takes away from the integrity of the project, in which case an integrator may walk away because they could not in good faith recommend a system like that to a client.
  3. Going with another provider – Many AV integrators find that clients who chose to walk away from the project to go with another provider eventually return because the lower cost project design they went with did not have the functionality or quality they needed. Unfortunately, the client then has twice the expenses as they paid for a project they are not happy with and now have to pay a different integrator to fix it.

Again, it is essential that the client meet with the integrator to review the proposal in detail so that there is no confusion. It may even take a follow up visit or two before the client feels comfortable about interpreting what they are reading. A reputable integrator should be happy to work with the client until they have a clear understanding of the document.

A Final Word About Budgeting

It may not come as a surprise that one of the biggest hurdles in putting together a project proposal is defining the budget.

Although clients generally shy away from this forward question, most integrators do not like asking it either. The misconception is that a hard budget number is needed so the integrator can sell a client enough product so that the entire amount is used. The truth for most integrators trying to determine the best products for the functionality of a space is that the budget can give them a jumping off point. If a $60,000 display panel would be perfect for functionality but a $30,000 budget cannot accommodate that, the integrator knows they have to rule out even seemingly perfect solutions that are more expensive due to budget restrictions.

Sales representatives at audiovisual companies have access to thousands of quality products which range widely in price. This enables them to choose the best panels, speakers, amps or other equipment that meet functionality, quality, and budget restrictions for a client.

As a business seeking to enhance internal and external communication, it is vital they know what technology they want and why they want it, and then be willing to partner with a reputable AV integrator to achieve success.

What Are Assisted Listening Systems

An assisted listening system (ALS) is technology that helps people with hearing loss better hear a speaker, a concert, a council meeting – anything worth listening to. ALS technology can be found in many settings but are most common in venues where audio enhancement solutions are needed, so anywhere you might find speakers, amplifiers and similar hardware.

There are multiple types of ALS solutions, and they all work discreetly and easily, so people are generally willing to use them if needed. Further, venues that rely on audio broadcasts are required to provide listening assistance to remain in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

What Kinds of Assisted Listening Systems are Available?

ALS solutions have been around for decades, and in that time a few technologies have been developed to help with assistive listening. They include:

Inductive Hearing Loops

Inductive hearing loops first gained popularity in Europe, Australia and Asia, but they are quickly gaining popularity in America. Also called T-loops, an inductive hearing loop is powered by copper wiring or tape that’s arranged in a loop and installed under the floor. This loop is connected to the room’s audio capturing technology, so when sound is delivered to a microphone, it is also routed to the induction loop. This electrical impulse produces a magnetic field that anyone inside the copper loop can use to augment their hearing aid’s ability to output sound.

About 80 percent of hearing aids are built with a telecoil, or T-coil. The telecoil is very simple as it’s only a small copper coil that can be toggled on with a switch on the hearing aid. When switched on, the telecoil responds to any magnetic field by outputting the same audio frequencies indicated by the induction loop.

Anyone with a T-coil hearing aid will pick up this audio as long as they stay inside the loop. It’s high-quality audio, too, as the signal is piped directly into the listener’s ear at a safe volume.

Infrared Systems

Infrared systems use a signal transmitter and a receiver, which is typically worn around the neck and connected to earbuds or speakers. During operation, an infrared ALS works much like a remote control and television. The transmitter sends an audio signal to the infrared radiator (emitter), which beams an infrared signal to any receivers in the room. In short, the information is converted from audio to invisible light, and back to audio again.

FM, or Radio, Systems

An FM system is nearly identical in function, compared to an infrared ALS. Both utilize signal transmitters and receivers to deliver information in the form of audio to a worn output device. The only difference is that an FM solution uses radio waves to deliver this audio information, while an infrared system uses invisible light.

What does this difference in delivery method mean? Infrared signals cannot pass through solid objects, just like visible light can’t. This means that if your venue is using an infrared ALS, it will need a clear line of sight to the receivers to work. However, this can also be an advantage when the audio is meant to be private, as the signal will be blocked by the room’s walls. Radio signals are not affected by solid objects in the same way, so FM systems offer a bit more flexibility in where they can be positioned.

What Are The Benefits of Investing in Assisted Listening Systems?

Almost every organization – professional, educational, governmental or otherwise – relies on communication to properly function. Whether that communication takes place in a meeting room, a lecture auditorium or a concert hall, here is why ALS makes sense:

  • It enhances audio only for those who need it – Hearing difficulties can make it extremely difficult to follow what is being said, and that makes comprehension nearly impossible. During a concert or speaking event, this may be frustrating, but in a classroom or professional setting, it could cause serious work or school-related issues.
    An ALS provides the much-needed audio boost that people who are hard of hearing need. Research shows that this audio boost should be around 15 to 25 decibels, and with ALS technology in place, this boost can be delivered without affecting audio volume or quality for anyone else in the room. That makes ALS technology a perfect combination of effective and discreet listening assistance.
  • It ensures compliance with accessibility regulations – The ADA requires certain venues to provide ALS technology for their hard-of-hearing visitors. In spaces where, according to the ADA, audible communication is integral to the use of the space, the goal is to ensure that everyone can be included in the conversation.
    In addition to mandating ALS technology in certain venues, the ADA also requires those venues to maintain a minimum number of receivers and to provide signage that indicates the presence of assisted listening systems. The greater the venue’s seating capacity, the more receivers need to be kept on hand. For example, in a venue that seats at least 1,000 people, the ADA requires there to be at least 25 receivers on hand, plus one more for every 50 seats.
    There are exceptions to the ADA’s requires on ALS technology but, in general, if a space requires audio amplification technology, then it must provide an ALS option as well.
  • It is cost effective and convenient for both venue and listener – What makes an ALS solution so cost effective is its ease of use and convenience. ALS technology works with minimal attention (an inductive loop can be kept on indefinitely), and all a user has to do is either toggle a switch on their hearing aid or pick up a receiver at the venue. It’s the simplest way possible to provide clear audio to people with hearing difficulties, and the simplest solution is often the most effective.

Where Are Assisted Listening Systems Normally Installed?

ALS technology is required in any setting where spoken audio is important and where audio enhancement is needed. That covers a lot of venues and spaces, including:

  • Public meeting and hearing rooms
  • Classrooms, lecture halls and auditoriums
  • Courtrooms
  • Council and legislative chambers
  • Performing art centers like theaters, amphitheaters and concert halls
  • Convention centers
  • Stadiums

Given their size and acoustics, it’s even more difficult for people with hearing difficulties to follow the audio in these spaces. However, assisted listening systems offer a cost effective and reliable way to ensure everyone is included, so hearing problems don’t get in the way of an important conversation.

Those considering adding assisted listening systems to their facilities should work with a reputable and knowledgeable AV integrator to assist with the details for each unit, including the proper location and ensuring it is installed correctly.

Soft Codecs and Video Conferencing: Enterprise Quality Without Enterprise Costs

For decades, enterprise organizations have relied on hardware-based solutions for their video conferencing needs, but that is starting to change. Hardware-based video conferencing, also termed hard codecs, have long provided best-in-class video and audio quality, along with maximum reliability. They still do, but some software-based solutions, or soft codecs, have mostly caught up, and you only need a PC, smartphone, or comparable device to run them.

Market-leading soft codecs like Zoom and Microsoft Teams are frontline options for enterprise, as they offer excellent AV production, uptime, usability and collaborative potential. They can also offer that while costing a fraction of most hard codec options, but that doesn’t mean hard codecs have been rendered obsolete. In fact, leading hard codec manufacturers like Poly have designed solutions that merge the best of soft and hard codec features.

Why Are Soft Codecs a Popular Video Conferencing Option?

Video conferencing itself has become one of, if not the most in demand AV solution among businesses, universities and other enterprise organizations. Soft codecs are a major part of that trend, as companies are increasingly relying on remote teams and therefore need a conferencing and collaborative platform that is easy for people to use, wherever they are.

Here’s why soft codecs are popular now and well positioned for the future:

  1. Easy to deploy and utilize anywhere – There’s no denying the quality conferencing experience a hard codec brings to a meeting space, but that experience is difficult to bring outside of the meeting room without a cloud-based soft codec.
    Today’s remote workforce has never been larger, according to recent workplace surveys. More than half of the global workforce telecommutes at least one day a week, and about 20 percent of remote workers do so full time. Video conferencing is a primary solution to keeping those employees unified and communicating with each other, and soft codecs are an ideal approach in this regard.
    That’s because most at-home or mobile professionals can conference through a soft codec like Zoom from their phone or with an inexpensive camera and microphone. Zoom, Microsoft Teams and others have tailored their platforms so they can run on most devices without compatibility issues and connect users using different devices.
    This allows remote workers to video conference in a way that’s most comfortable for them, which encourages more effective and more frequent communication.
  2. Reduced upfront costs – Although Zoom and Microsoft Teams are partnered with hard codec manufacturers to offer a variety of conferencing solutions, there is no need to invest in significant hardware with a soft codec platform. All that’s needed is a camera to capture video, a microphone to capture audio, and a display and speakers to output both. There’s a lot of room for cost-reducing flexibility here, as individual workers can get by just fine with their own computer and an inexpensive camera and microphone. As such, soft codec solutions can be scaled up with minimal costs, in many instances.
  3. Strong collaboration features – Zoom, Microsoft, Cisco and a few others have engineered conferencing platforms that emphasize collaboration. Features like screen sharing, content sharing, co-annotating, permanent virtual rooms, enhanced chat and conversation tabs and whiteboarding make collaboration more efficient and enjoyable. With these features, your teams will spend less time e-mailing back and forth, and more time interfacing directly about their ideas and concerns.
  4. Always getting better – The most popular soft codecs are rapidly being adopted by organizations in nearly every industry, and they’re only getting started. Because they are software-based, it’s easier to add and update valuable features. For example, Microsoft started rolling out its AI-driven audio codec, Satin, for Microsoft Teams. Satin will be able to produce sound frequencies ranging from narrow to superwideband, and do so while a call is experiencing high levels of packet loss.
    This is just one example, but as major tech brands such as Microsoft jump into the soft codec video conferencing market, the quality of soft codecs will improve with time and development. Organizations that invest in soft codec solutions, then, are investing in a long term, future-resistant conferencing option.

How Hard Codec Manufacturers Are Adapting to the Soft Codec Revolution

Soft codecs are a powerful and economical option for enterprise, but hard codecs still have a place in many organizations. They are extremely reliable, offer superb audio and video quality and are built by manufacturers that have decades of experience in video conferencing products. It’s standard practice for organizations to have a hard codec option for redundancy or for high priority meetings where unfailing reliability is a must.

Some hard codec manufacturers like Poly and Crestron have also developed products that are designed to work with leading soft codecs like Zoom. A couple of those solutions include:

  • The Poly Studio – The Poly Studio is an all-in-one conferencing solution that can provide a native Zoom, Microsoft teams, Bluejeans or GoToMeeting experience. It’s designed to make video conferencing as simple as possible, as it’s designed with a built-in camera, a beamforming microphone array and a pair of stereo speakers. All you need is a digital display and your team is ready for an in-room conferencing experience that rivals the telepresence rooms that Poly is known for. Further, the Poly Studio comes with Poly’s respected noise control features, including Acoustic Fence, which only captures audio inside the room (and not intrusive sound coming from outside) and NoiseBlockAI, which recognizes and automatically suppresses distracting noises like finger tapping or paper rustling.
  • The Crestron Flex – The Crestron Flex is another simple video conferencing solution that can also provide a native Zoom and Microsoft Teams experience. While the Poly Studio is built into an all-in-one piece of hardware, the Crestron Flex consists of a USB video bar and a tabletop control unit. Through the tabletop unit, users can connect their own devices, control the room’s conferencing equipment and engage other features, like room control and scheduling functionality. Pair this with Crestron’s XiO cloud, and you have an easy to manage hard codec solution that can support the most popular soft codec platforms as well.

Soft codecs like Zoom and Microsoft Teams have brought much-needed innovation and usability to video conferencing. They’re economical, scalable, and packed with features that can drive collaboration and encourage everyone, regardless of technical expertise, to effectively conference and collaborate.

Episode 6: AV in a Hybrid Workspace

Due to the recent pandemic, more people and corporations than ever are a part of the hybrid environment. This dynamic allows people to connect, collaborate, and communicate regardless of their location or geography and feel like they are in the same room with others. With the right hardware and software in place from an AV integrator, it enables employees to join a video call from a boardroom, the home office, a coffee shop, or wherever work takes them.

While the benefits of a hybrid work environment are more readily apparent, how to achieve success in this area can be confusing for those unfamiliar with newer technology that lends itself to this specific type of situation. A professional AV integrator can be integral in setting up and installing the right elements to yield optimal success.

Frequently Asked Questions About Establishing a Successful Hybrid Environment

Across much of the nation and even the world, people are working at least part-time in a hybrid environment. Although many have been doing this for the past year or so, technology continues to evolve and is finding ways to enhance and clarify audiovisual communication.

To help you better navigate the hybrid environment, we are sharing some of the most frequently asked questions about this type of setup:

  • When working from home, what are some key elements needed to enhance video conferencing capabilities?
  • Is a laptop or webcam feasible for a video conference for two or more people?
  • Is it possible to get rid of background noise such as a dog barking on a video conference call?
  • Why can I not hear others on Zoom calls sometimes or the sound quality is poor?
  • What is needed to host a successful hybrid networking event?
  • Are there portable video conferencing solutions?
  • What are the pros and cons of different platforms?

Key Elements Needed to Enhance Video Conferencing Capabilities When Working from Home 

The corporate sector is seeing an increasing number of employees either working from home fulltime or limiting their time in the office to only a few days a week. With this change comes the need for a good home office set up for video conferencing which will require a device that can handle a camera, microphone, and speaker all in one. The camera can adjust the video when needed due to lighting changes to yield a clearer picture.

Audio is the most important element of collaboration on a video conferencing call because without it, there is limited communication. For this reason, a microphone or microphone array will be essential in capturing good audio quality. A camera and audio solution should be a USB peripheral which allows user-friendly plug and play.

Laptop Webcams and Video Conferencing for Two or More People 

It is not recommended to use laptop webcams for video conferencing for two or more people. Fitting two people in the view of a built-in laptop camera requires people to be literally squished side by side and does not allow for social distancing.

In addition to personal space issues, it can also create lighting challenges. A laptop’s onboard camera may also not have the capability to work with dynamic light settings. If the light in front of the person speaking is not as bright as the light behind them it can create shadows, making visual clarity difficult.

Getting Rid of Background Noise on a Video Conference Call

With so many of us working away from the office in some capacity, there are many enterprise and consumer level options that offer noise cancellation. For example, Polycom provides a sound package in which algorithms can identify noises that are repetitive, like a pen tapping or papers rustling, and then eliminates them from the audio feed to make the audio clearer.

Platforms such as Zoom and Teams already have an auto cancellation built-in which helps with feedback and echoing, but the cancellation of background noise is somewhat limited and usually requires the aid of a digital signal processing system such as Biamp.

Acoustic fencing is an excellent tool for setting the parameters of a specific area you want the microphone to cover. If in a space flanked by open areas busy with chatter, it is possible to set the fence of the microphone to capture only the immediate area of the speaker and not pick up any additional chatter from outlying areas. This component can also be useful in the boardroom of a busy office that keeps the door open. Acoustic fencing can capture the sounds within the boardroom minus what is happening outside the doorway.

Issues with Poor Sound Quality on Video Conferencing Platforms

There are multiple reasons sound quality issues with some platforms can occur. If there are issues with a computer’s camera or microphone, it can be hardware related. If people are joining the call from a location that does not have enough bandwidth, it may impact the quality of audio and video.

Platforms such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams feature analytical tools to aid IT departments with a log that may point to where the error is occurring, be it software, hardware, or bandwidth errors. Although possible, it is typically rare for platforms such as these to have an issue with poor sound quality that is on their side.

Hosting a Successful Hybrid Networking Event

The key to a successful hybrid networking event is making sure the right things can be seen and heard by participants. It is recommended to have a camera that captures presenters and people in the front of the room as well as another camera to capture mainly the participants in the room.

When it comes to a camera for a presenter, it should have audio tracking capabilities so it can track a presenter that is moving around by their voice and still keep them in focus. Cameras for participants should both be able to focus on a participant that is speaking as well as pan out to the larger audience.

Audio for the event should be able to capture presenters as well as participants when warranted. This can be accomplished via a wireless handheld microphone used by the audience or ceiling microphones located throughout the space.

Having the right audio package and determining what is suitable for your particular space is where the help from an AV integrator is key. They can purchase the right kind of package, install it, and calibrate it in a way that makes it optimal for your hybrid networking event.

Portable Video Conferencing Solutions

There are a number of video conferencing options that do not require a big investment, such as the Poly Studio X Series. This video conferencing bar features a camera, speakers, and microphone array all integrated together which can be connected to a display. Set up is relatively quick.

To make this option portable so it can be used in different rooms of a business or corporation, it can simply be loaded onto a mobile cart. The cart will have the video conferencing bar and the display and will only require an outlet to plug into. It can be set up to connect wirelessly or via a network.

This flexibility is essential for businesses that do not have the budget to put video conferencing technology in every room. An AV integrator can set it up to connect to multiple platforms to increase its versatility.

 

The Pros and Cons of Different Platforms as They Relate to Video Conferencing

Platforms will vary and generally include some tradeoffs, such as if it is strong in quality, it may be more prone to failure, or vice versa.

Microsoft Teams is popular with many companies because it is a sunk cost in their business. If they already have a larger enterprise investment with Microsoft, they are essentially already paying for Teams, making it an obvious solution.

Zoom is also popular with businesses because it is reliable, cost-effective, and allows video as a service. It can be an operational expense instead of a capital expense.

Webex may be good for people invested specifically in Cisco hardware, and there are many other options available to consumers as well.

Each of these platforms will have minimum hardware requirements, but these are generally closer to the status quo than they are the unusual. Still, the requirements must be met for the platform to function properly on the computer. In addition, it is imperative to have proper bandwidth and a reliable connection to facilitate use.

With the number of people working in a hybrid environment and the ever-growing number of video conferencing platforms, it is best to choose what works best for your setup specifically. A professional AV integrator can help your company find the right solution for the budget and tailor it to the company’s needs to ensure visual and audio communication is clear and productive.

A Strained Supply Chain is Affecting the AV Industry

Supply chains into the U.S. have been thrown into chaos, and the AV industry is starting to feel the effects. AV integrators, in response, are having to adapt quickly to ensure projects can be completed within a reasonable timeframe and cost. For schools, businesses, and other organizations, it’s never been more important to work with an integrator that is certified and experienced, given the challenges pushed on the AV industry.

How is the AV Supply Chain Being Disrupted?

The AV industry is far from the only one dealing with supply chain woes. Manufacturers in nearly every sector are experiencing the same supply chain-related issues, and there’s no simple solution on the horizon.

How did the nation’s sprawling logistical pipelines get so tangled? There are a few reasons. Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic in early 2020, state and local governments have taken a widely variable approach in producing new regulations in response to the virus. Some of those regulations have made it difficult, if not impossible, to maintain critical links in the supply chain, for a few reasons. For example:

  • Ports of entry and cargo operations are running slower – Every year, millions of cargo containers are unloaded at U.S. ports of entry, carried overseas from other countries. With so many ships to take in and unload safely, it’s essential that ports of entry function without interruption. Some ports, though, have been required to slow or halt their operations for safety reasons. As the crisis has dragged on, many ports have had no choice but to downsize in light of the pandemic, reducing operating capacity further. Another issue is that there aren’t enough longshoremen to maintain what operating capacity ports have.
    As a result, hundreds of thousands of container ships are stuck in a massive traffic jam outside major U.S. ports of entry. Many of these ships are carrying components and goods relevant to AV and other technology-focused industries.
  • Manufacturing facilities are also running slower – Logistical shocks have also been felt among manufacturing companies, and electronics manufacturing is one of the hardest hit. The pattern is the same – manufacturing facilities have shut down, either temporarily or permanently due to downsizing, and the labor needed to run the facilities has been hard to come by. Not only is it difficult to get needed components and goods into the country, but it’s increasingly difficult to manufacture them as well.
  • Demand for certain goods has skyrocketed – People are spending more time at home, either due to pandemic-related restrictions or because they are working remotely. The need for additional technology, such as economical computing devices, has risen accordingly. As such, consumer demand is way up for electronics, among other things. E-commerce is also expanding at incredible rates, as many brick and mortar shops were shut down for weeks or months. Estimates vary, but double-digit growth across the entire e-commerce industry is expected in 2021. That’s a lot of additional pressure put on manufacturers and their ability to maintain inventory, so it’s as if the supply chain is being pulled from both ends.
  • Some industries receive priority for critical components – Electronic components are needed by many tech-aligned industries, and because some of those industries are powerful, major component buyers, they are more likely to receive priority when components are available.
    This is of relevance to AV, as several types of components, semiconductors most notably, have become scarce. Semiconductors are used in the production of display drivers (the device that tells a display what to show) and are essential in many AV projects. However, semiconductors are also used in the commercial TV industry, which is a major buyer of electronic components. It’s possible that manufacturers will prioritize their biggest buyers first, adding to the challenge facing AV integrators.

What can AV integrators do to mitigate supply chain pain?

It’s not clear when supply chain pressures will ease up, but in the interim, schools and businesses can maximize their AV ROI by working with a certified, experienced integrator. Here’s why:

  1. Experienced AV integrators know how to communicate – It’s impossible to forecast when and how the supply chain will return to normal, but a certified integrator will keep their clients informed about what to expect regarding project timelines and product availability. It may not always be possible to expedite parts of the integration process, but a reputable integrator will be honest and realistic throughout. By communicating early and often, a certified integrator ensures their clients can make informed decisions about how to push their project forward.
  2. They also know how to optimize an AV budget – Even when supply chains are operating smoothly, certified integrators do what they can to get the most out of every AV dollar. That’s even more important, now, as costs are likely going to be passed downstream to the end user, in response to increasing component prices.
    A certified integrator can make adjustments to account for increasing costs, such as replacing technologies with less expensive alternatives, opting for previously owned equipment instead of brand new, and scaling down solutions where necessary.
  3. They know how to manage complex project logistics – With experience, AV integrators are able to establish their own in-house logistical chains. When the economy is running normally, this internal organization ensures clients get their projects done on time and on budget. When there are larger disruptions in the supply chain, an experienced integrator’s superior investment in logistics means they will locate and secure needed components before less experienced integrators can.
  4. Certified integrators can maximize system performance and lifespan – One way to optimize an AV solution is to maintain it for extended performance and stability. Certified integrators know that installation is only the beginning and can provide their clients with a cost-effective maintenance agreement. With an agreement on hand, schools and businesses have a true technology partner in their integrator, one who can provide technical support, maintenance and training for any covered solution.

It’s a challenging time for organizations operating in every part of the economy, and the AV industry hasn’t escaped the supply chain drain. Experienced, certified integrators, though, are better equipped to weather the logistical storm and provide their clients with crucial technologies.

How Can An Interactive Display Benefit Students?

An Interactive Display Will Help Prepare Students For The Future

The future of education is never settled, but one thing does seem certain – students will need to be comfortable with technology to compete in the modern economy. As the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) points out, a large portion of today’s high demand careers have been created in just the last decade as a result of rapidly-improving technologies.

An interactive display can help improve your students’ comfort with tech and help unlock their potential using the display as an instructive, creative and collaborative medium. An interactive display, then, can enhance student learning across a multitude of subjects, and not just technology.

Six Ways Students Will Benefit From An Interactive Display

An interactive display can play a major role in your classrooms, helping teachers deliver compelling lessons, and encouraging students to participate in novel ways. There’s a lot the technology can do, and here are seven features that will give your students an advantage:

1. Improved lesson engagement – People learn and retain information better when multiple senses are utilized during a lesson. Traditional stand and deliver lecturing, though, often lacks the visual, audible, and tactile qualities that can pull students into the material. In 2013, Gallup tracked students’ opinions of school over the years, and found that even though close to 80 percent of elementary students were engaged in their lessons, that number dropped to 33 percent by 11th grade. When Gallup asked students to describe how they felt about school, “bored” was the most common response.

Technology, however, is something students are both familiar with and willing to engage with. Educators can leverage this by bringing in a compelling combination of imagery, animation, sound, and tactile feedback, in the form of an interactive display.

2. STEM-focused learning opportunities – The number of STEM-related industries and the size of those industries expand every year, faster than projections made just a few years ago. Further, STEM careers pay more according to Pew Research. In 2019, the median pay for non-STEM jobs was about $47,000, and for STEM careers, it was $77,400. Money isn’t everything, but the role of an educator is to set their students up for future success, and STEM careers offer a clear path to that.

Fortunately, interactive displays are an ideal tool to deliver STEM lessons. With their ability to represent complex technical details visually, interactive displays can simplify STEM concepts that would otherwise be intimidating to learn through only lecture. Also, interactive displays typically come with software that delivers compelling STEM lessons, like simulating physics or challenging students to build an electrical circuit.

3. Enhanced collaboration between students – Interactive displays also facilitate collaboration between students, making for more interesting group work. In some classrooms, educators are changing the way they teach, using the power of interactive displays and group work. This is particularly useful in classes or clubs where the students will be taking on large projects, like robotics. Educators can arrange students in groups, or pods, and pair each group with an interactive display that they can use to visualize ideas and develop plans.

4. Software that expands lesson content further – Leading display manufacturers package their hardware with innovative software that can drive learning to new heights. Some of this software is STEM-based, such as physics simulators, but much of it can be used to unlock student creativity, improve collaboration, engage with games, or introduce a wealth of ideas.

5. Import lessons that other educators have built – In addition to the software suite that comes with the display, some manufacturers have also built up their own educational ecosystems. Through one of these online platforms, educators can access lessons and learning materials that other teachers have put together and uploaded. With so many contributions from other passionate educators, teachers will never run out of material for their own coursework.

6. Screen mirroring is great for hybrid learning and presentations – Interactive displays are designed with screen mirroring functionality, so teachers can send whatever is on the display to students’ own devices. In the classroom, this is ideal for presentations, as students can share their work from their own devices.

Screen mirroring, though, is even more valuable in hybrid classrooms, which have spiked in prevalence during the last 18 months. With screen mirroring, teachers can keep remote students engaged with the same visuals and lesson content that students see in the classroom. Students can also annotate from their own devices, so remote students can interact with the class, even when they aren’t in the same space.

A Certified Integrator Can Oversee And Optimize Your AV Projects, Interactive Displays Included

Interactive displays are highly effective teaching tools, but to get the most out of your technology, consider working with a certified AV integrator. Here’s why:

  • A certified integrator can select the best solution for your classrooms – When embarking on an AV project, there are usually many products to choose from, and it’s not always clear what the differences are between them. This is also true of interactive displays, as there are several reputable manufacturers that develop products for the market. To sort through all of the available options, districts look to their AV integrator to provide valuable insight. With a certified integrator on hand, your schools will always have the technology that best fits their students and their learning needs.
  • A certified integrator can help your teachers get comfortable with the technology – A certified integrator does much more than select and install equipment. Once the solution is set up, an integrator can train everyone that will use the technology, so they aren’t overwhelmed once the solution is live. With interactive displays, this means training educators on the display’s use and features, so they will be able to handle the technology as easily as a blackboard or overhead projector.
  • A certified integrator can provide long term maintenance for your system – In addition to project design, installation, configuration and training, a certified integrator can also provide ongoing maintenance. This includes remote, onsite, and preventative maintenance, which will keep the solution running at optimal capacity. Preventative maintenance is especially important, as it can be used to spot potential downtime-causing issues before they emerge.

For educators, students and administrators, there’s a lot to like with interactive displays. They’re engaging, they’re versatile, they’re easy to use, they require practically zero maintenance, and perhaps most importantly, interactive displays will ready your students for a tech-focused future.

Is Audio Conferencing A Thing Of The Past?

Video conferencing is getting a lot of attention these days, and for good reason, but audio conferencing is still relevant. That’s partly because audio conferencing and video conferencing solutions aren’t necessarily replacements for each other. Instead, for many organizations, they are cost effective complements.

As useful and engaging as video conferencing can be, there are times where an audio-only conference is not only sufficient, but preferred. For example, it’s still a common communication choice for educational departments, for technical discussions, for sales calls and more. There are many settings where audio is enough.

Three Reasons Why Audio Conferencing Can Still Play A Vital Role

Many organizations may wonder why they should bother investing in audio conferencing if a video conferencing solution can deliver both parts of the AV equation. Isn’t audio conferencing a redundant piece of technology if video conferencing is present? In most organizations, the answer is no. Audio conferencing offers a few advantages that make it worth considering, including these three reasons:

1. It’s simple to use and control – One of the reasons why older technology remains relevant is because it’s proven. Conference calls have been around for decades, so people of all generations are familiar with them. Therefore, it’s generally easy to get people to adopt an audio conferencing solution and utilize it regularly. Further, because audio conferencing technology is pretty basic from a control standpoint, your IT personnel will spend less time responding to issues with the technology.

2. It provides unmatched voice quality – Modern video conferencing solutions leverage the internet to facilitate calls and deliver excellent audio quality, as long as your organization’s network can handle the data. Audio conferencing solutions can either use the internet or participants can be patched into the call individually. In either case, because audio is the only data being sent, fewer network resources are needed to ensure the data arrives intact.

It’s easier to guarantee strong audio quality when utilizing an audio conferencing solution. Video conferencing is still extremely reliable, but when network hiccups do occur, they can interfere with audio integrity. Audio conferencing, then, tends to maintain better audio in the aggregate.

3. It is affordable – Audio conferencing solutions are among the most affordable AV technologies available. This affordability advantage is especially true now, as video conferencing solutions are in demand around the world. Audio conferencing is often seen as an inferior option if video conferencing is available, but if your teams can communicate effectively with audio conferencing technology, then the technology can be too cost-effective to pass up.

However, there’s no need to reject either video or audio conferencing in favor of the other, as both can serve in different roles for an organization.

Audio conferencing? Video conferencing? Why not both?

There’s room for most organizations to fit audio and video conferencing into a single AV solution. It may not be immediately clear why businesses and schools would consider such a move, but here are a few reasons why it makes sense:

  • Audio and video conferencing offer complementary strengths – Video conferencing may seem like the superior choice in every situation, but plenty of communication between team members can be handled without video. In these instances, audio conferencing solutions can be a viable alternative because for many people, they can set up a conference call faster than a video conference. There’s an efficiency advantage, and audio conferencing is also a good option when discussing technical material or data, as it offers excellent audio quality and clarity.
    Video conferencing has its own obvious advantages. The only way to get a true face-to-face conversation remotely is with video conferencing, and people respond well to such communication. During a video conference, it’s also easier to keep track of who is speaking. Also important, modern video conferencing solutions are designed with a lot of useful features, including the ability to connect additional devices and share content.
    Together, audio and video conferencing can do more than either one can on their own, and with both, your teams can effectively communicate the way they prefer.
  • Audio conferencing is an affordable backup plan – Even if your teams rely solely on video conferencing, an audio conferencing system ensures that they can communicate should network, hardware or user issues interfere with plan A. As audio conferencing is affordable, it makes for a low-cost, high-reliability backup when it’s needed.
  • An integrator can package together for extra cost efficiency – Audio conferencing is cost effective, and even more so when a certified integrator makes it part of a larger integration project. An AV integrator can design a larger solution where audio conferencing is just one component, and an experienced integrator can make hardware selection, placement, installation and configuration decisions that reduce the overall operational cost of audio conferencing solutions.

A Certified AV Integrator Can Build A Complete Communication Solution

Audio conferencing is still relevant and still effective, but like all AV solutions, it is most effective when it’s properly integrated into a larger AV solution and into an organization’s existing technological infrastructure. Certified AV integrators are the experts in this area and can improve your project’s outcome in the following ways:

  • By streamlining the process – Even the simplest AV solutions are rarely that simple. The system must first be visualized and designed, then obsolete technology and cables must be removed, new hardware selected and procured, and everything installed and configured. Some of these steps include additional parties that must be communicated with, like equipment vendors, and it’s inevitable that delays or roadblocks will present themselves. With a certified AV integrator overseeing the project, though, these obstacles can be mitigated without anyone in your organization wasting their time dealing with them.
  • By meeting your organization’s exact AV needs – Before embarking on an audio conferencing project, or any AV project, a certified integrator will first work to understand what their client needs from the technology. Experienced integrators place a lot of importance on planning and communication with the client because the system’s design must fulfill the client’s objectives. That’s why system design comes after consultation and not before. This way, your organization’s needs are prioritized before any design or installation begins.
  • By providing ongoing support and training – Following system integration, a certified integrator will train your people on how to use the technology to its full potential. Training introduces users to the system, and during this training, the user’s role relative to the technology is considered, so training material is developed with the audience in mind. This makes it easier for users to understand and access only the features they need, which improves user adoption and reduces the intimidation factor that comes with a new process.
    Further, AV integrators can provide ongoing support and maintenance for the solutions they implement. This includes preventive maintenance, which can identify and solve performance issues before they cause downtime.

AV moves faster than most industries, but time hasn’t passed by audio conferencing. It’s still an effective communication tool, particularly when it’s paired with other AV technologies. It’s reliable, it’s affordable and it’s proven – so it’s a worthwhile consideration for most organizations.

What To Know Before Investing In Technology For Your School or Organization

Consider Your Options Before Committing To An AV Solution

School districts, businesses and other organizations are prioritizing technology like never before, for improved safety and student engagement. AV solutions can provide both, and more, but before committing to a particular solution, there are several questions that every organization should be able to answer. Here’s why:

AV solutions are a significant investment

AV solutions are cost effective, but like any worthwhile technology, they require a considerable upfront investment. Further, AV solutions are expected to provide excellent performance for years following installation, so it’s not just an investment – it’s a long-term investment.

AV solutions can be scaled up to almost any degree

Chances are, AV can do things that your organization likely hasn’t considered yet. It can also operate at a scale that is surprising to many when they see it in action. Further, AV solutions can be customized when handled by a certified integrator, so no matter what your organization’s communication or educational needs are, an AV system can be developed to meet them.

AV solutions are difficult to manage in inexperienced hands

A lot of AV hardware is designed for ease of installation, and much of it is plug-and-play. Still, as simple as the technology seems, your organization will require the expertise of an AV integrator to optimize its performance. Some organizations turn to their IT personnel for this purpose, but IT alone may not have the industry and vendor knowledge required to run the system properly.

There are a lot of decisions to make when embarking on an AV initiative, and not just on the hardware side. What role the system will serve, how to integrate it into the organization, how to maintain it over time – these are the kind of concerns that an experienced integrator can help their clients work through.

Four Things To Know Before Investing In Technology For Your School or Organization

The more information your organization can gather on potential AV solutions, the better. At the minimum, here are four questions your organization’s leaders should be able to answer before embarking on any AV solution:

1. What does the organization need from the AV technology? There’s no denying the impact that AV can have, and it’s impressive to see in operation, but before selecting any technology, it’s important for the organization to outline what it needs from an AV solution.

Does your school need to engage students more effectively? Are your remote teams having trouble communicating efficiently? Does your organization need to try something new with its branding? Could your business use more foot traffic? Does it need to convert more foot traffic into sales? The first thing to do is establish a high-level idea of what the AV solution should accomplish, as an integrator will use this as a starting point for the system’s design. This is one reason why experienced integrators prefer to consult with their clients at the outset.

2. What kind of budget and timeline must the AV project adhere to? No matter the industry, time and budget are always going to be chief concerns. No surprise, the longer the timeline and the larger the budget, the more technology your organization will be able to acquire. In general, then, these are central concerns for an organization and their integrator partner.

However, certified integrators can get creative with how they meet their clients’ needs. They can target specific features in the hardware they consider, they can start small and scale the system up as resources become available, they can utilize refurbished equipment, they can offer an OpEx payment model instead of a CapEx – there are plenty of ways to fit AV into your organization’s budget.

3. Who will use the technology? Where the technology meets the user – that’s where an AV solution either succeeds or fails. It’s important that organizations remember that, in the end, the technology must fit the teams that will use it. If the solution is feature-laden but difficult to control, then people may not bother learning the system in the first place. Also, there may be critical features that users may not be aware of until they see them demonstrated. Finally, it’s likely that your teams will differ greatly in their technical expertise and comfort. Students, for example, can usually take on new technologies without difficulty, while teachers may need more guidance.

Sorting out training and allowing users to get comfortable with the solution is extremely important. This is why certified integrators will package training with system installation and configuration. Training improves the likelihood that the system will be adopted, and it also increases the likelihood that users will be able to access all needed features.

4. How will the solution be monitored and maintained? AV solutions are designed to be simple and effective, with minimal maintenance required. When maintenance is required, though, or when a piece of equipment needs to be replaced, who is going to oversee those tasks? If they aren’t handled in a prompt manner, the result could be costly downtime or slowdowns.

Whether your organization relies on in-house expertise or a certified AV integrator to provide maintenance, it should be designated to someone so that it’s properly taken care of.

An Integrator Can Answer Your AV-Related Questions

It’s clear that AV projects are complex undertakings, even if the technology itself isn’t. Every AV solution implemented by a reputable AV integrator should include the following:

  • Surveying the installation site for conditions
  • Removing any obsolete, unusable technology
  • Selecting the new system’s hardware
  • Acquiring that hardware
  • Designing the solution
  • Installing the hardware
  • Configuring the hardware
  • Integrating this hardware into the client’s network
  • Training users on the new solution
  • Providing ongoing maintenance

It can be overwhelming for schools and organizations to keep up with all of those tasks, but they are standard parts of the process for AV integrators. In this way, a certified integrator can serve in a technology partnership role for their clients, by providing expert insight, overseeing the project’s execution, ensuring users are comfortable with it, and maintaining it as needed.

Why Are Educators Doing Backflips Over Flipped Learning?

Why Are Educators Doing Backflips Over Flipped Learning

Though it’s been around for about two decades, school districts around the U.S. are now considering the flipped learning model for their classrooms. Why? Today’s educators must be ready to teach remote students, and as schools invest in their distance learning capabilities, a natural fit for this approach is to adopt flipped learning concepts.

Under a flipped learning model, in-class lecturing is kept to a minimum. Instead, students are expected to view lesson content outside of class, using technology to connect to an online learning platform. Alternatively, educators can provide their students with devices that have lesson content loaded onto an onboard drive, so online connectivity is not required.

In either instance students review the lesson outside of the classroom, and inside the classroom, students are encouraged to direct their own learning within the lesson framework. The teacher provides one-to-one or group support, depending on each student’s needs.

How Does Technology Fit In A Flipped Learning Model?

Without technology, flipped learning would be impossible. Devices, whether connected to the internet or not, are required for at-home learning. As for the specific device, districts typically choose from familiar options, including iPads, Chromebooks or Windows laptops.

Technology also has a major presence in a flipped classroom, and in one, you may see the following:

Digital displays, including interactive displays

In a flipped classroom, lessons are reinforced using compelling visuals and not just lectures. Digital displays are a popular option for delivering these visuals, and students can use them to review videos, images, concept drawings, recorded demonstrations, and other support media.

In some classrooms, educators opt for interactive displays, which adds another layer of functionality. Students can use the display to organize brainstorming sessions or problem solve using a visual format. Teachers can also use the interactive display to annotate over media or quickly introduce helpful material to students.

STEM-related robotics and support furniture

According to the Flipped Learning Network, flipped learning is most common in math and science. It is also common to see the flipped learning approach used with robotics and engineering lessons, flipped classrooms and STEM learning are easy to match together. In addition to the robotics themselves, flipped classrooms may incorporate support furniture like robotics storage and device charging stations.

A group-focused classroom layout

Flipped classrooms are not arranged like traditional lecture rooms, with desks facing the front. Instead, you’re more likely to see desks arranged in pods to facilitate group work or to partition students depending on where they are in their lessons.

What Are The Benefits Of Adopting Flipped Learning?

There are numerous benefits to the flipped learning model, and educators who try it almost universally agree that it’s an effective approach. In a survey sent out by the Flipped Learning Network, 99 percent of teachers who used flipped learning said they would use it the following year in their classroom. It’s difficult to find such unanimous agreement with anything, but flipped learning makes a strong case for itself. Here’s why educators are considering it:

1. Students respond well to technology – Technology is an essential part of the flipped learning framework, which is good for educators looking to better engage their students. Today’s students are already familiar with the kind of technology used in a flipped learning classroom. Digital displays, tablets, laptops – these are basic devices for most students, and they form the foundation of flipped learning.

Flipped learning also brings in the power of visual learning, to a more comprehensive degree than what’s found in a traditional classroom. With compelling video, images and applications, students that would be bored with a lecture can be engaged in other ways.

2. Flipped learning transforms the role of student and teacher – Among the many flipped concepts in a classroom is the role of student and teacher. With a flipped learning framework, students are empowered to pursue their studies when and where they want, as lesson delivery is done outside of the classroom.

With this approach, students are responsible for their learning and can move at the speed they are most comfortable with. This is ideal for both lagging and excelling students, as neither is pressured to speed up or slow down.

Flipped learning also switches up the role of the teacher. In the past, educators were overwhelmed with lesson creation, delivery, and ensuring the entire class is keeping up. This can set up an antagonistic relationship between the teacher and their students, as some may feel like they are being left behind. With flipped learning, though, teachers can focus on students who need extra support, ensuring everyone’s educational needs are met. Also, because teachers take more of a supervisory role in the classroom, they can quickly identify which students will likely need this additional support, before they are challenged with an exam.

3. Students perform better in a flipped learning classroom – In the end, educators want teaching methods that work, and methods that improve test scores and student achievement. Flipped learning does that, according to several studies. One of these studies looked at flipped learning for at-risk students and found major improvements in student pass rate. Other studies have noted improvements in advanced math classes, including algebra and trigonometry coursework.

Flip Your Classroom With A Certified AV Integrator

Students and educators are both enthused about flipped learning, but to ensure your school gets the most out this solution, it’s best to work with a certified AV integrator. The technologies used in a flipped classroom are largely AV in nature, and a certified integrator knows how to best arrange, install, and configure them. An integrator can even help before the technologies are selected, matching each classroom to the best displays, speakers, and matching students with the best learning devices.

As certified AV integrators are experienced in technology-focused ideas like flipped learning, they can provide insight into room layout, educational applications, STEM-learning accessories, and anything else that would fit into a flipped classroom. After everything is installed, certified integrators can also provide long term support and maintenance for their educational clients, so no matter how complex or wide-ranging your flipped learning initiative is, a certified integrator will ensure it continues functioning smoothly. Be sure to choose an AV integrator that provides professional development as this is the ideal way for teachers to adapt to the flipped learning process quickly and seamlessly.

Recent years have challenged educators to stay on the forefront of learning technologies, and many are turning to flipped classrooms to keep their students engaged and competitive. A certified AV integrator can help make this vision a reality, with powerful technologies that are easy and engaging to use.

Why You Need Zoom Rooms From A Specialized AV Company

Considering Zoom Rooms? Consider an AV Integrator as Well

Zoom’s popularity is skyrocketing, with more than 300 million people participating in Zoom meetings every day. The brand’s room conferencing solutions, Zoom Rooms, are extremely popular as well, but as powerful as they are, it takes a certified AV integrator to unlock their full potential.

Some districts and businesses, though, work directly with Zoom to put together their Zoom Room project. There are a few problems with this approach, and they could reduce the effectiveness of your solution and delay its implementation.

Why Are AV Integrators Best Equipped for a Zoom Room Project?

In the past 18 months, video conferencing solutions like Zoom Rooms have become critical to many organizations and their workflows. Experienced AV integrators, though, have installed, configured, and maintained video conferencing systems for decades, which makes integrators the primary experts on the technology. If your organization is interested in this solution, here’s how a certified AV integrator’s expertise will add value:

1. They handle the installation – Modern video conferencing solutions may be easy to use, but like with many AV solutions, they can be a challenge to install. As the size of the project scales up, so will the challenge. If your organization is working with an AV integrator, however, the project won’t be bottlenecked at the installation stage. Before a certified integrator begins installation, they consult with their client to determine their exact needs and survey the site to verify it is ready for the hardware and cable.

This degree of planning is important to avoid any unexpected delays, and certified integrators invest in the system design and planning phases, so they can reliably deliver on time. If your Zoom Room absolutely needs to be operational by a certain date, an integrator can make it happen.

2. They can select optimal hardware for your organization – If you’re working directly with Zoom, your organization’s hardware choices may be limited. Further, without AV expertise on hand, it will be nearly impossible to accurately compare your hardware options. As a result, your business or school may be left with a system that doesn’t deliver the conferencing experience your teams were hoping for.

Zoom is partnered with several major AV hardware brands, and the one that works best in your organization may be one that you haven’t heard of. AV integrators are familiar with these brands, such as Poly and Crestron, and can make an informed judgment on which one would best fit your organization’s needs.

3. They can help your team adjust to the technology – One of the major challenges organizations face when investing in new technology is getting teams to adopt it. To do this, it’s critical to generate enthusiasm and comfort with the solution early on. Once enough people are using the solution productively, it’s only a matter of time before everyone is familiar with the system.

AV integrators know that to drive early adoption, training is key. With effective training, your employees will have an opportunity to try out the solution before it goes live, which can help develop comfort with the hardware. Training is organized at the user level, so different training materials for typical users, managers, and IT. The point is to make training as engaging and practical as possible, so your employees aren’t overwhelmed.

Every hardware brand also operates a bit differently, so if your organization is trying out a new manufacturer with your Zoom Room, an AV integrator can provide brand-specific training.

4. They can provide ongoing support for your Zoom Room – To maximize the return on your investment, you’ll want to maximize the lifespan and performance of your Zoom Room. As time goes on, it’s possible that performance issues, including those inadvertently caused by users, will interfere with the system’s operation. This is more likely if the technology was installed without expert guidance.

Integrators know that AV solutions, even modern ones, require ongoing maintenance and monitoring. This is why a certified integrator will offer a maintenance agreement as part of the solution’s integration.

A maintenance agreement keeps your AV integrator on as a technology partner, providing onsite and remote tech support, network troubleshooting, preventative maintenance, additional training, warranty handling, and equipment shipping should repair be necessary. This collection of services will optimize the long-term performance of your Zoom Room and prevent technical issues from affecting your teams’ meetings.

What Are Some Leading Zoom Room Solutions?

Zoom works with several leading AV brands to deliver their Zoom Rooms. Two of these brands, Poly and Crestron, are among the most experienced video conferencing manufacturers in existence. Their solutions include popular standouts, including the following:

The Poly Studio X –

The Poly Studio X merges excellent video and audio quality with simplicity of use. The Studio X is a video bar that combines a professional-grade camera, professional-grade speakers and native Zoom functionality right out of the package. Connect a digital display to the Studio X, and you’re ready to conference.

The Studio X’s features include Poly’s EagleEye camera, which is built with intelligent framing. Some models also come with a dual-lens design, so the camera can switch from wide angle to close up instantly. On the audio side, the Studio X is built with a second-order microphone array and advanced bass ports, so audio will be crystal clear on both sides of the call. Audio quality is improved further with Poly’s noise suppression and blocking features, which are some of the industry’s most sophisticated.

The Crestron Flex –

Crestron’s Flex, like Poly’s Studio X, isn’t just for Zoom Rooms, but it can be customized to provide a Zoom Room-focused experience. The Flex is flexible – it’s in the name – and it can be deployed for conference rooms of nearly any size. Standout features include smart room controls, so you can bring the lights up or volume down with a single button press, room scheduling, and Crestron’s XiO backend cloud. Through XiO, users can monitor and control a single Flex, or thousands at once. With a unified backend, it’s far more efficient for technical personnel to push over updates and manage devices.

There’s a lot to like about Zoom Rooms, and if industry data is any indication, a lot of people like Zoom. To ensure your organization’s solution is installed, configured and maintained properly, you’ll need a certified AV integrator to provide the needed expertise. Not only will this optimize your solution’s performance, an integrator will also ensure your teams are ready for the Zoom Room once it’s ready for them.