The meeting room or huddle space is a cornerstone of today’s pro-install industry. But which AV elements are indispensable to the creation of a successful space, and what are the new technologies that will shape the future of this sector? In the first of this four-part series, we look at the key priorities when it comes to meeting room tech.
The corporate market has constituted one of the undisputed success stories in professional AV for the best part of two decades. Enabling businesses of all shapes and sizes to deliver increasingly formidable audio and video to staff and visitors, the trend has arguably reached its apex to date with the kind of conference facility installation whose AV infrastructure easily equals – or even surpasses – that of a well-specified theatre or concert hall.
But although large-scale projects like this are always welcome, it is smaller endeavours – often involving one or more meeting/huddle rooms in a single facility or multiple buildings – that tend to comprise the bulk of installers’ work in the corporate environment. Where once an aging overhead projector and the human voice might have been deemed sufficient, now it is much more common for meeting rooms to include most, if not all, of the following elements: high-resolution displays and projectors, collaborative software and related tools, video-conferencing, wired and/or wireless audio, integrated networks, and some form of overall control system.
Everyone who spoke to AV Technology Europe for this article said that the corporate market was in a good-to-strong position when it comes to new AV investments. Budgets are frequently an issue, but there was no sense that they were facing additional pressure at this time – although with a no-deal Brexit looking increasingly likely at the time of writing (early August), whether that will continue to be the case for much longer in the UK remains to be seen.
Depending on the type of company involved, the AV requirements of a meeting room can vary significantly even within the realm of one organisation. So it’s to be expected that companies’ priorities and concerns at the inception of a project are far from being uniform.
Shure is a company whose roots may reside in the music side of pro-audio, but which has become increasingly active in the corporate market, not least with sales of wireless microphone systems such as Microflex Complete Wireless into meeting spaces and auditoriums. The manufacturer also continues to collaborate in this market with ‘video-first’ communications supplier Zoom Video Communications, with June 2019 bringing the news that Shure had become Zoom Rooms Certified for several key audio-conferencing solutions.
According to Shure’s senior director for integrated systems sales in Western Europe, Rob Smith, meeting room priorities “can vary enormously [and include] budgets, RoI, longevity, supportability and ease of deployment. Scalability is a particular concern and request of SMEs, who generally start with one or two rooms then want to be able to add to the system two or three years down the line. The long-term viability of a product [is therefore a priority consideration].”
AV systems integrator CDEC is most closely identified with the education market, but after a drive to expand its interests in recent years the corporate business now accounts for about 20% of its turnover. Recent projects have encompassed everything from small meeting spaces to large conference facilities, but although client requirements may differ considerably, the core CDEC philosophy is pretty universal.
“We tend to outline our expertise about the latest technologies, in particular AV over IP, and the benefits that these can bring [for corporate installations],” says CDEC managing director Toni Moss. “Clients may have a fixed idea about what they want at the start of the project, but by the time we have worked with them they will often have changed their view a bit so that it looks more towards the future [in terms of the equipment used].”
The company does not have a preferred list of brands, opting instead to use the most appropriate products on a project-by-project basis. Budgets can “often be on the leaner side, although coming from education that’s certainly something we are familiar with”, says Moss. “So there is an obligation to be creative [with our system designs and specification processes], and in fact that can be quite beneficial.”
Read more: Core competencies: Audio