Systems Integration

What Is a Huddle Space?

Posted on: January 30th, 2017

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As corporate real estate firms have been consolidating space to reduce operating costs and improve flexibility, a surge of millennials have entered the workforce.  These employees are accustomed to accessing various types of technology across environments, including home, school, and work. As a result, millennials expect such resources from their employers and working environment, and the design community has begun to creatively accommodate the evolution of the conference room.

The prevalence of laptops, tablets, smartphones, and BYOD (bring your own device) has prompted business owners and designers to allocate less space for large formal conference rooms and more for informal “huddle” spaces intended for impromptu meetings and “hoteling” areas for employees without a permanent work space in the office.

According to a whitepaper by Wainhouse Research:

“It is anticipated that the number of small and medium conference rooms will increase at a much faster pace than large rooms”

This study also found that most small and medium conference rooms have the least amount of supporting presentation and communication technology.  Small and medium huddle rooms often have at least a flat panel display or a projector, but lack true integration.  As a result, such rooms feature difficulty in connecting to presentation systems, lack adequate quality video and audio capabilities, and often do not have dedicated in-room PCs or tools such as webcams.

Such factors limit the productivity that can be achieved in these spaces in terms of how people meet, work and communicate.

What does all this mean?

The technology integration in small huddle spaces is critical. Identifying the common uses for the room and creating technical specifications is the first step to effective huddle room design.  The most effective huddle rooms are designed around the technology needed, rather than adding technology into the room after the fact. Designing huddle spaces in this manner and involving technology integrators early in the design process will help you avoid common pitfalls that  result in added back-end expenses.

Any conversation around investment in collaboration technology should include huddle rooms as a top consideration. Even simple tools such as webcams, USB speakers, and table-based or wireless connectivity methods can vastly improve flexibility and productivity when properly integrated into a room.

Key benefits of huddle rooms

The top benefits of well-designed wireless collaboration huddle rooms include:

  • Enhanced collaboration: participants can simultaneously view multiple screens, including mobile device screens.
  • Ease of BYOD: any device can connect wirelessly in the huddle space.
  • Streamlined appearance: wireless collaboration technology eliminates cord and wire clutter.

Article written by William Kiley, IMS Executive Account Manager

Ready to learn more about huddle rooms?

Complete the form below and an IMS technology expert will contact you to talk about huddle rooms.

What is the Difference Between Web Conferencing and Video Conferencing?

Posted on: January 30th, 2017

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There is much confusion in the industry with the terminology of “web conferencing” and “video conferencing.” They are often interchanged and in reality, they are two different conference solutions.

Is video conferencing or web conferencing better?

Both video and web conferencing utilize a camera-capture image to combine this visual component with the audio component. This is where the similarities end.

Web Conferencing allows a presenter to deliver a presentation over the web to a group of geographically dispersed participants. It is usually software based and operates over your laptop. The presenter is not very “interactive.” Participants usually interact through the use of chat, whiteboards, and desktop sharing. In more passive instances, audience members may simply not interact or sit in a listen-only status. Participants can see what’s on the screen but cannot make changes.

Video Conferencing uses video and audio to connect two or more points across the internet for two-way conferencing over distance. Cameras are used to enable participants in a virtual conference to see the presenter and sometimes, the other participants. It requires the use of webcams or other video equipment connected to a network and uses more bandwidth than web conferencing.

Differences between both are cost and a quality of image rendered: “you get what you pay for.”

Web conferencing frequently has issues with frozen images and pixilation because of low bandwidth, which limits interaction. This makes web conferencing good for speeches, but for meetings, it leaves a lot to be desired.

Video conferencing is used more for meetings but comes with a higher upfront cost.  Video conferencing is loaded with high definition video, crystal clear sound, and a more lifelike interaction to simulate a face-to-face experience between users.

Deciding which solution is right for you depends on the importance of the meeting.  If it is an important meeting, you will likely want the HD image and high audio quality that only video conferencing can provide.  Web conferencing works well for broadcasting a single message or speech.  If reliability, quality, and dialogue interaction is important to you, high-definition video conferencing is the best option.

If you are considering implementing a web or video conferencing solution, please contact IMS Technology Services to learn more about what distinguishes the two and which solution is right for your environment.

Article written by William Kiley, IMS Executive Account Manager

 


 

Is video or web conferencing right for me?

Ready to learn if video or web conferencing is right for your office?  Complete the form below to schedule a conversation with an IMS technology expert.

Mike Herb – Director of Systems Design Engineering

Posted on: January 27th, 2017

ims-mike-herbAs the Director of Systems Design Engineering for IMS, Mike Herb’s responsibility is to assist the sales team with their client’s needs assessment, create a system design for that initiative, and pen a scope of work.


1. Describe your career with IMS in three words:

Challenging and rewarding

2. If Hollywood made a movie about your life, who would you choose to play you?

Jack Nicholson and/or Tommy Lee Jones

3. If you could trade places with any other person for a week – famous or not, living or dead, real or fictional – with whom would it be?

Frank Sinatra

4. If you were a super hero, what would your super power be?

Mind meld

5. What are you most passionate about professionally? What most excites you about your work & the contribution you can make?

The art of the deal

6. What are you passionate about personally? What do you really enjoy? What can’t you stop talking about?

In what order, Food/Music/Family

7. Where can we find you when you’re not working?

What? When is that?

Time Is Not On Our Side

Posted on: July 15th, 2016

“If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?” – John Wooden

In recent months we have noticed a growing trend that is challenging the technology industry, especially our niche of audio visual: truncation of project timelines.  In my conversations around InfoComm and other industry events this year, this does not seem to be limited to just our customers or just our region.  Based on what I have heard from our contemporaries, companies like IMS are all reporting the same problem affecting us in the Northeast Region.  The systems integrators are being brought into projects much later than is ideal and as designs change and the project approval process continues on, the anticipated completion date of the project does not move.  This creates a very large problem for a quality integrator to be able to deliver the functionality for which the clients are looking, at a reasonable price.  I am reminded of a famous triangle used in project management:

triangle

Budget, Scope, and Time are the three correlating aspects of any project.  They each are affected when just one of them is changed.  It makes logical sense: if the scope of the project is growing, then the budget for that project also will grow and the timeline to complete that project will extend.  I find that this is especially the case in the audio visual world.

Unlike other construction trades, such as carpentry and high voltage electric, the audio visual industry is unique.  There are not many trade schools that focus on the technologies we are asked to implement day-in and day-out.  Part of the reason why there are no schools is because there are no regulated STANDARDS across the different manufacturers and similar technologies that they make.  Instead, we are balancing in a world of manufacturer specifications and proprietary languages for programming and configuration.  Learning each of the manufacturers’ specifications and gaining the experience to be able to expertly install the systems that we install is a costly, time-consuming process that falls on the Systems integrator to manage with their skilled technicians.  Without these skills, the systems that are installed may not perform to the scope that is being defined by the client.  This is where a value-add Design-Build systems integrator is providing the professional service to the customer.

Because the skills are unique and hard to obtain, this leaves a limited pool of people that a systems integrator can call upon to install systems.  Most general contractors and end clients don’t realize that.  I’ve heard so many times, “well find people to throw at the job.”  I can do that, but it won’t get the job done and certainly not to any quality our customers are looking for us to provide.  With only so many limited resources to work with, it makes it very difficult for integrators to meet a truncated timeline for a project.  The hours are going to need to be expended to make the system hum right the first time and not be riddled with bugs for the next six months.

The AV industry is attempting to fix the issue that we face for having the right talent – through recruitment techniques, standards development, training programs, etc.  However, this is not an easy problem to solve and it will take time before adoption.  Until that time, when you’re planning your next audio visual project, keep that triangle in mind.  End-users will play a critical role in solving this challenge when developing or managing project budget, scope and timelines by keeping in mind that any change in one will affect the other two.  As a technology partner, we want to help you solve your technology problems correctly the first time, within the budget you have allocated, in a reasonable timeline to complete the work.

By Michael Shinn, Vice President of Customer Relations

Collaboration Showcase Recap

Posted on: April 22nd, 2016

Collaboration-showcase

On Wednesday, April 20th, IMS hosted the first ever Collaboration Showcase at the Corbett Experience Center in Norristown, PA. The event included demonstrations from Mersive, Kramer VIA, WePresent, Barco ClickShare, and OneScreen. It was an exclusive opportunity that many IMS customers shared in and at lunch, 5 lucky people received a door prize of one of the products from each manufacturer!

If you missed this, please join us at our next Showcase. Keep an eye out for the invitation.

 

“I really enjoyed being able to get hands on with multiple solutions in one event.  One of the tougher parts of shopping around for solutions is comparing products based on ‘how they are supposed to work’ as opposed to seeing them in action.  As you know, we already have a wireless solution chosen but I appreciated the learning experience and hope to find the same opportunity when shopping around next.”

– Alex Shirk, The Hankin Group

 

IMS Wins Excellence in Business Award

Posted on: April 22nd, 2016

ims-excellence-in-business-awardIMS recently won the National Systems Contractors Association (NSCA) 2016 Excellence in Business award in the category of employee engagement.

“This year’s winners are an inspiring collection of integration firms,” says NSCA Executive Director Chuck Wilson. “We’ve never seen a more diverse group of award winners in terms of company size and scope of work. The information they will convey during the opening-night program will deliver so much value and set the stage for an incredible event. The shifts these companies have made to achieve business goals, improve the customer experience, engage employees, and differentiate themselves are changes we can all learn from.”

This year’s Excellence in Business awards honor five systems integration firms in their efforts to adapt to the constantly changing industry, and this is what NSCA said about IMS:

“IMS Technology Services, winner in the Employee Engagement category, was impacted by Keynote Mike Abrashoff’s presentation at the Business & Leadership Conference in 2015 so much that the company decided to shift its focus to empowering each team member to make decisions. To recognize employees for working so hard to achieve their goals in 2015, IMS Technology Services hosted its annual meeting at Philadelphia’s Lincoln Financial Field. The entire event was centered on the employees – not the company or its managers – which helped continue to build engagement and rapport.”

Congratulations to all IMS team members for your hard work, dedication, and commitment to excellence.

Sound Masking & Speech Privacy: What Is It and Why Do I Need it?

Posted on: January 28th, 2016

Did you know?

  • ims-sound-masking3Lack of speech privacy – overhearing conversations and fear of being overheard - is the number one complaint of office workers.
  • Employees waste up to 86 minutes a day due to noise distractions.

Over 80% of offices have open floor plans, and for good reason. There are many benefits – a cost effective layout, increased opportunities for collaboration, and less ugly cubicle partitions equals more natural light.

The major downside of the open office? Lack of speech privacy. If you work in an open office, you’re probably hearing everything your co-workers are saying, from office gossip to personal phone calls. And with less expensive construction materials being used in walls and doors, one can’t even count on having a private conversation in a private office or conference room.  This phenomenon extends far beyond the office environment – you’ve likely overheard conversations you wish you hadn’t at your doctor’s office reception area or at a college library when you were trying to study.

So a noisy office environment is bad for worker satisfaction and for worker productivity. So, how can you make your workplace seem more quiet?

ims-sound-maskingSound Masking is the answer. It works by emitting a uniform, barely perceptible background sound into the environment through speakers installed in the ceiling. The sound is similar to the sound of airflow and is scientifically engineered to mask the sound of human speech, making conversations less noticeable, less intelligible, and less distracting. It’s also cost-effective to install and consumes very little power.

Sound too good to be true? Schedule a demo and let us show you the power of this effective, and affordable, technology.

 

Article written by Elgin Akarsoy, Director of Sales – Systems Integration at IMS Technology Services

 

From Concept to Completion – The Travel Log to a Successful AV Project: Design Development

Posted on: January 28th, 2016

In our September issue we discussed the processes by which an organization may identify the need for a technology initiative and how that need is developed into the concept that they would like executed. In the following paragraphs we will look at some of the ways in which those concepts can be advanced on their journey into a fully developed AV Design.

All Roads Lead to Design

As we discussed in our previous article, there are a number of ways an organization can develop the concept for their technology project. They can leverage experienced in-house staff, lean on an architect or design professional who is engaged in the project for support, or work with a technology consultant or design build integrator. Regardless of what path was taken to develop the concept, when it comes down to developing a design, all three parties must be involved. A successful design requires consideration of a number of factors including:

  • ims-corporate-boardroom-designWhat the technology is supposed to do
  • How users will interface with the technology
  • The furniture in the space
  • The lighting of the space
  • The acoustics of the space
  • Network access and bandwidth

I often tell my clients that the room itself is as much a part of the AV or communication system as the technology we install in it. This is not a sales tool, it is a fact. When the physical space is designed properly, the technology functions better. Proper coordination of these details can elevate the user experience from acceptable to exceptional. An exceptional technology experience drives an organization towards its goals. When meeting participants, both local and remote, can see and hear each other clearly, meetings are more effective. When technology is easy to use and reliable, meetings start on time and are more productive. If the technology concept is sound, and built around your organizations culture and the way a space is (actually) used, efficiency is gained.

Reaching the Destination

If a quality technology design requires consideration of all of these factors, it clearly requires that all parties who are invested in these factors work together. All too often technology designers are brought in to work with an organization only to be placed in a silo, isolated from other consultants, designers and architects. They work with a project liaison, often from IT, but not with the architect or interior designer. This isolation can negatively impact the overall project in a number of ways.

ims-office-drawingIn order to make your concept a reality, the AV Designer will not only develop a list of equipment that is required, but also develop a detailed set of coordination drawings that identify:

  • Where equipment will be located in the room
  • Power requirements
  • Data requirements
  • Ventilation and cooling needs
  • Conduit and floor coring needs

The sooner these details are integrated into a project drawing set, the more accurate the construction budget can be. When these drawings don’t make it onto construction drawings, they result in additional labor costs, unanticipated construction costs, and often, a compromise on the design. When the design is compromised, the resulting system often does not have the impact on the organizational goals that the concept intended.

Sweat the Small Stuff

While the big picture details of the construction have a major impact on a system design, it is important to remember the small details as well. Once the major architectural considerations have been coordinated by the designer, they should focus on the design and finish details. The interiors and finish design is just as important to the effectiveness of the system. Some of things that can impact the user experience include:

  • ims-color-samples-office-designWall finish and color impacts the effectiveness of video and web conferencing
  • Carpeting and window treatments (or lack thereof) impact the acoustics of a space
  • Furniture selection impacts conferencing, cable management and workspace.

While these details may seem small in the overall process of a finishes plan or technology design, they do significantly impact the end result.

Set the GPS for Your Destination

Which Technology Design Model is Right for You? The design phase of the project is likely one of the only times you will have to coordinate the technology system with the space in which it will be installed. This is critical to successfully making your concept a reality. The System design has traditionally been referred to as the roadmap of a project. In more modern parlance, it is the GPS. What is the difference you may ask? A good GPS not only tells you how to get to your destination, it helps avoid delays, and prepare for alternatives more effectively. Turn on your GPS; let your technology designer out of their silo and get them engaged with the entire design team.


 

 

Continued in the next issue of IMS Connections: Turning Your Design Into Reality: The Integration Process.

The New Reality: Not Virtual…but Augmented

Posted on: November 5th, 2015

Prior to the 21st century, much of the hype about Virtual Reality was based upon the excitement of experiencing a newly imagined and artificially created world in which someone could be placed to act and experience as they wished. Grand scenarios of virtual reality were forecasted as scientists and culture experts predicted VR in ways that incited visions of the incredible worlds created in the famous “Holodecks” from the fictitious Star Trek universe.

1-augmented-realityWhat these visionaries failed to forecast was the emergence (and almost instantaneous explosion) of smart phones, tablets and other devices tunneling their way into every smallest portion of our daily lives, becoming our source of news and entertainment, becoming our replacement for our wallets and phones and creating unconscious habits that affect every facet of our lives, from banking to relationships and becoming our main mode of personal and professional communication. Today’s modern individual, both young and old alike, now expects their smart phone to be able to provide the vast majority of experiences, however advanced.

Enter Augmented Reality…a subtle, yet significant change from the notion of a totally re-created environment to a method of experiencing the here-and-now present environment enhanced by computer generated content. This content - images, animation, text and sound – can all be built into the physical pre-existing world as we see it and all made accessible via the ever-present, multi-tasking devices forever living in our pockets.

How Augmented Reality Works

The basic requirements of Augmented Reality (AR) are a device with a camera and an AR application.

The app uses the camera on the device as an “eye” to identify real-world target objects (any kind of 2-dimensional print or digital image). As a “trigger” comes into view, the augmented content is automatically activated, overlaying new content and information viewable in real time by whoever is holding the device.

The overlying content is digitally attached to the trigger, so that regardless of your distance or viewing angle, the content always moves with you. The augmented content can be any type of picture, video, or audio.

The result is a truly customized and enhanced view of the physical world, with content transforming and bringing a new experience to life before your eyes via your phone.

Augmented Reality in Action

2-ar-summer-autumnSome creative uses of AR have been seen recently at historical landmarks, where visitors can view a virtual motion diorama through their phones as they look at various buildings or settings, making the past come alive as they look at the present world. Another use includes instructional video tutorials or help screens overlaid directly over an object, making engine maintenance, furniture assembly, or appliance repair infinitely simpler. In-store branding can be taken to the next level, showing customers what is inside a box. Content delivery at events can be completely transformed for stronger retention. Professional service firms are using AR to streamline facility maintenance.

Augmented Reality is transforming events, marketing, branding, customer and end-user experiences, and corporate operations around the world.

Download this guide for everything you need to know about AR, including more than 27 real-world examples of how AR is a game-changer in the way companies market and operate.

The Ultimate Guide to Augmented Reality

 

 

 

Digital Signage – More Than an Electronic Bulletin Board

Posted on: November 4th, 2015

signage1When I was in college in the late 80’s, I worked for a large office supply retailer.  We sold a sizeable number of welcome and menu boards, the kind where you stuck letters and numbers to a framed board with grooves that aligned them and held them in place.  Our customers used them to provide a personal touch to guests visiting their office.  We also sold large corkboards and magnet boards that were used to post information internally about upcoming company events, activities, and goals.  My how times have changed, or have they?

By 2015, the message boards and cork boards have largely been replaced by flat panel displays with digital content rather than sticky letters and paper flyers.  “Digital Signage” continues to be popular technology in both corporate America and higher education.  Organizations welcome clients and partners into their office with a personalized digital message that often includes a company logo.  Internal messaging is now more dynamic with graphics about the upcoming coat drive, town hall meeting, and cafeteria menu.  Some also include weather and news feeds.

signage2Much of the digital signage I see deployed has done little more than convert an analog communication device into a digital format.  Digital signage as a tool for corporate communications is largely overlooked and underutilized.  Digital signage can be a powerful source of messaging that, while being subtle, is powerful nonetheless.  Take a minute to think about it.  A digital sign can be used far more strategically than printed poster, flyer or welcome board.

  • Instead of replacing the old welcome board with a digital version that simply says “Welcome John Smith of XYZ Company”, you now have the ability to add additional information to the signage.  The welcome note could be preceded or followed by examples of your products or services that directly relate to that specific client.  You can display the logos of the two organizations side by side on a neutral background, subliminally creating a relationship between the two organizations.
  • Digital signage can make your internal messaging more impactful as well.  Rather than simply announcing upcoming events alongside news and weather feeds, digital signage can be used to impact corporate culture.  Signage has the power to drive home the corporate mission and value statements.  Inserting video in addition to still images adds to the impact of the message.  Your brand gains value WITHIN your organization.

I recently met with a client to discuss expanding their use of digital signage.  The client has been experiencing tremendous growth, both organically and through merger and acquisition.  They have multiple offices around the country as well as a number of manufacturing plants.  Sitting across the table from me was the EVP of Corporate Communication.  She told me “Patrick, 90% of the workers in the manufacturing plants don’t have access to a computer or phone during the work day.  Digital signage is our primary means of transferring information to them.  It keeps them engaged with the company.”  In other words, digital signage helps employees feel involved.  It drives employee retention.  My client went on to say that in an environment of growth and acquisition, digital signage can be an effective means of expediting the unity of new expanded company.  Anyone who has ever been through a corporate merger knows that merging the two cultures often takes longer than merging the management and operating organization.  This client had found a way to speed up that merger.

signage3Digital signage has the power to drive your corporate message and branding both internally and externally.  It can be used for new and creative solutions such as wayfinding, or it can have a new twist on existing technologies such as going bigger and better with a video wall.

In the end, the goal is to increase your brand awareness.  That brand awareness has as much value inside your organization as it does outside.  Use your technology to its’ fullest potential, not just in place of analog components that were popular in the last century.

If you would like ideas on how to be more creative with your use of Digital Signage, your IMS Technology Services Account Manager is available to answer questions.

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Article written by Patrick Britton

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