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Exclusive: The return to a hybrid kind of normal with streaming

Marc Risby, managing director, Boxer Systems on video streaming's future role

One day soon life will be back to normal. One day soon the threat of Covid will diminish. One day soon things will be back to normal.

Or will they?

The past year has been insane on every level, a horrific natural event that caused massive disruption and forced change across every part of our lives. But what happens next, how do we find positives and what does normal mean now?

Firstly, hybrid working will become normal for many people. Reduced time travelling and improved work / life balance for the employee but also saving real-estate costs for the employer are obvious attractions. This is not right for everyone, but many have found that productivity has not been negatively affected and that the cost savings are significant all around. Moving forward, we must also consider that Covid was an unprecedented scenario this time round, but should a similar situation occur again, every organisation must have planned a contingency. So what does this mean in terms of AV?

In the short term it’s very likely there will be changes to the physical real-estate in many organisations. Whether this is downsizing, consolidating or rationalising existing buildings, it makes sense for enterprises to scale appropriately for having fewer staff on-site and new buildings mean new installations. During these times there are always opportunities to embrace new ways of working and to implement the latest infrastructure technologies, such as IP video distribution, that might have been difficult to do within legacy installations.

The way we use our buildings will likely change too. Monolithic large conference rooms will be needed less, but more small to medium size rooms will be required to allow for face-to-face team meetings as people catch up on common days in the office. As the use of video streaming increases, repurposing spaces as conference rooms / studios would also make sense. It’s important that organisations up their video game if they are to get the most out of teams in diverse locations. It’s no longer okay for a CEO to use a badly positioned webcam in a poorly lit room to talk to their employees. A good camera, proper lighting and quality audio should be the minimum requirements for streamed addresses. Having a space configured for this that can be easily repurposed and used for activities like important briefings, training, events and sales presentations makes a huge difference to the output and how people engage with the content.

VoIP technologies like NDI (Network Device Interface) allow video and audio to be transported over standard office LANs which make it much easier to utilise different physical locations in installations. Using IP it’s easy to install remotely controllable PTZ cameras and functions like control rooms, graphics and editing can be put in practical locations and still connect to the conference room / studio space, allowing dual use and quick reconfiguration. Automation makes switching the room’s purpose a matter of moments. As the drive for better quality continues, protocols like SRT (Secure Reliable Transport) allow high quality video to be sent securely over the public internet between offices, studios and even from home contributors to ensure the best viewing experience.

Content will become more important moving forward. Working from home is full of distractions, so we need to ensure that what we stream is interesting and engaging and in effect more televisual in its feel. It simply isn’t enough to talk over a slide deck. For key events this will mean more produced and curated content, particularly as some organisations move away from large physical events like company-wide sales conferences and redeploy that budget towards streamed events. Already we’ve seen that a 4K TV studio can be built for less that the cost of the bar bill at some events!

As part of this, companies will need to invest in content management and streaming platforms that offer secure, scalable delivery of their content whether it is live or on-demand. Some systems offer added value with the inclusion of live polling and audience interaction which brings huge value to live events and drives viewer engagement. Where possible these platforms should be integrated into existing corporate systems and share features such as SSO (Single Sign On) to make the experience seamless to the end-user.

It’s been said that Covid has driven 7 years of digital transformation in under a year. If only a small percentage of organisations embrace hybrid-working and move forward it is still a huge opportunity for the AV industry. Video streaming will lead the way and there are rewards for all that embrace it.