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Digital workplaces: plug and play?

Bringing personal devices into the workplace offers both benefits and risks. SteveMontgomery examines how BYOD can interact with AV installations, and looks at how to get the best results.

As far back as 2013, IDC reported that tablet sales were overtaking both PCs and laptops as the demand for mobility and convenience exploded. This trend has continued and IDC recently confirmed that 56% of all personal computing devices now sold commercially are tablets. Along with smartphones, these are the predominant and preferred devices of most people – and they have all but taken over from the PC-based communication and personal management tools of a few years ago. Similarly, IP- and web-enabled communication devices are rapidly displacing fixed telephones as the primary means of voice and video interaction throughout the commercial and educational sectors.

We are experiencing a high level of take-up in universities and other educational facilities

Nick Mawer, Kramer

A large proportion of tablets and smartphones are employee owned, and the demand has grown from staff to be allowed to connect their own devices to corporate networks and use them for business purposes – both for communication and internet access, and to enable connection to local AV devices for presentation and collaboration. While this BYOD trend is hugely beneficial to companies, it brings with it significant problems. These have led to some companies, particularly larger ones, blocking the use of personal devices and not permitting them to be connected to in-house IT networks.


Futuresource Consulting found that around 25% of users throughout Western Europe and the US are permitted to use their own devices to share content in meeting rooms. However, 44% of employees report that their organisation places some limitation on the use of employee-owned devices. This is a result of concerns over the security implications that these devices pose, and the consequent restrictions imposed by IT departments and network administrators to safeguard access to corporate networks and sensitive commercial data.

Futuresource also discovered that larger organisations are more likely to place restrictions on the use of personal devices. Nick Mawer, marketing manager at Kramer, confirms this observation: “BYOD is becoming more popular across most segments, but more so within smaller businesses. Some of the larger businesses tend to exert more control over the devices used on their systems, but it really does vary between organisations. We are also experiencing a high level of take-up in universities and other educational facilities.

“Security concerns are the main reason organisations are not prepared to allow external or unmonitored devices onto their networks,” he continues. “Another reason is standardisation: some companies allow individuals’ devices to be connected but are keen to provide a controlled experience during presentations and that requires corporate-owned rather than personal devices.”

Botao Lin, director at Delta Products Corporation. agrees, and adds another reason: “We have detected two key barriers to the adoption of the BYOD model, and these are security and network utilisation. From a security perspective, the challenge lies in establishing how to share information and data securely. The second important factor is network utilisation, and the question there is whether BYOD will affect the performance of the network infrastructure through excessive bandwidth consumption.”

Security is a major consideration for all organisations; how, and to what extent, an organisation is prepared to allow BYOD devices onto the network will affect the AV equipment deployed.

Tony Crossley, pre-sales technical director for Pure AV, explains: “There are several collaboration tools that are designed to work with personal devices. The selection of which one is best suited to a particular installation depends upon the level of trust and accessibility that an organisation is prepared to give to users.

“In some cases they will allow significant connectivity and access. When there is accountability and a high level of trust we would recommend a more open collaboration system like Kramer VIA. However when a large number of unknown visitors are actively wishing to connect it may be better to use a more closed system like Barco ClickShare with its dedicated inbuilt wireless connectivity that works separately from the enterprise wireless network.”

Sahara’s Clevertouch also allows users to connect to display devices without connecting to the corporate network, as Sean Marklew, sales and marketing director for Sahara Presentation Systems explains: “Clevertouch screens can act as standalone devices that don’t have to connect to the network. They generate their own hotspots that allow users to connect and collaborate with the screen using any platform without the need to connect to the business network.”

Next: Approaches to BYOD