Technology is evolving, but our expectations are evolving faster; with the growth of the ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT) we can connect everything from washing machines to home heating systems to the internet and so to our smartphones and tablets. With this ease of connectivity comes frustration when we encounter a situation in which we can’t connect up our usual devices, be they smartphones, tablets or laptops, in the usual way.
As the enemy of productivity, frustration is one thing businesses need to avoid. There is a very real pressure on companies - and IT teams in particular - to reduce and if possible eliminate any connectivity problems when it comes to meeting rooms. The end goal here is a meeting room that enables employees, clients and guests to connect to the audio visual equipment with ease and if your company has a bring your own device (BYOD) policy, then this means enabling connectivity for all devices and operating systems.
Fortunately, connectivity solutions have evolved to the point where it needn’t be an ongoing challenge to support a variety of different devices and operating systems. In this article we’ll delve into the collaboration and content sharing solutions on the market today and look at the connectivity options available to enable everyone to collaborate, regardless of their device.
We’ve looked previously at wireless connectivity options in context with the BYOD phenomenon and noted the benefits for both business decision makers and employees, along with the potential obstacles that this growing trend presents. But it’s worth noting again that wireless is a must-have if the goal is to provide connectivity options for all devices in the meeting room.
Operating systems can be quite divisive, not least because they require different physical connectors and proprietary cables and ports. You can read more about this here. But wireless connectivity gets round this nicely and there are some excellent products on the market today that make it a go-to choice for many teams and presenters.
Content sharing solutions such as Barco ClickShare and Montage by DisplayNote are two of the most popular. Both systems enable iOS, Android and Windows devices to connect to a central display effortlessly. Both solutions also support AirPlay to make it even easier to connect Apple devices, however, do bear in mind that the base package in the Barco ClickShare product range, the CS-100, does not support AirPlay so you’ll need to step up a level if AirPlay is important to your team and you want to go down the Barco route.
That said, if the CS-100 ticks all your other boxes, then the free downloadable app might offer another wireless workaround to the missing AirPlay. The app is available for both iOS and Android mobile devices and means that teams can just tap the app to share their screen with the central display. Alternatively, Montage by DisplayNote offers the choice of a wireless Miracast connection to sync up compatible devices, or a desktop application to connect laptops to the room’s equipment.
Wireless connectivity is one of the fastest solutions to multi-device connectivity. It enables more people to jump in and share their work and ideas and there’s the added bonus of removing the need for cumbersome and cluttered cabling in the meeting space.
But … for every argument in favour of wireless, we are yet to escape the traditional view that a wired connection is more reliable. With this in mind, businesses are understandably keen to offer wired connections where they can.
To do this, there are a few buzz words worth knowing that will help check that your display screen or other AV equipment is capable of catering to the multiple operating systems and devices in use in modern meeting rooms.
HDMI is ‘the one’ here. PCs and laptops, still the most common machines connected to meeting room AV systems, nearly all have HDMI outputs and even if they don’t, a USB to HDMI adaptor is easy to find and provide. HDMI, or High Definition Multimedia Interface incase you’re interested, carries high definition video and audio down a single cable. This is great for displaying top quality video content and even ultra-high definition 4K content as HDMI will ensure that your 4K display is fed the 4K content it needs without losing data and definition on route.
DLNA is an acronym worth remembering. DLNA, or the Digital Living Network Alliance, creates standards that permit content to be shared between one compatible device and another; it’s an assurance that two DLNA-certified devices will ‘play nicely’ with each other if you like. It is based on networked devices, but covers both wired and wireless connections.
‘Plug and Play’ is another term worth keeping an eye out for; it essentially means that the device has been created with specification that allows new hardware components to be added and discovered without the need for any configuration. So long as your teams have the right cables, connecting should be quick and easy.
With so much to keep in mind, it’s not always easy to narrow down the right AV equipment for your team’s connectivity style. As the central point of the meeting room, we’ve focused on three of our top display screen choices below, taking a look at different connectivity options for different styles of teamwork.
The NEC Multisync v652 is a great option for the main display with plenty of connectivity options. With three HDMI ports, the functionality is there to connect multiple high definition devices to the display, while a VGA input provides another option to increase flexibility of use. The v652 also comes with an expansion slot for an Open Pluggable Specification (OPS) PC; this is the industry’s first standardised input for digital signage that eliminates the need for the screen to be wired up to a separate PC. It’s a useful option for a large meeting room display that might be used to showcase company projects on a loop between meetings.
But if your team don’t need such a big screen, worry not, smaller screens still boast plenty of connectivity solutions. At 48 inches, the iiyama LE4840S-B1 is far from small but it’s more modest than some of our other favourites. For a good value option, the iiyama still has plenty of connectivity solutions and a wide range of audio and video inputs ready to go including a USB, VGA and the trusted favourite, HDMI.
Some of Sony’s Bravia range of screens have yet more connectivity options including Wi FI networking on displays like the Sony FWL-55W805C. The screen is a decent size at 55 inches diagonal and boasts four HDMI connections, as well as an integrated media player to enable it to play 37 different file formats direct from the USB flash memory on the device and a built-in browser that can be controlled from a connected smartphone or tablet. If wireless is your team’s thing, the range of options with Sony make it an attractive option.
The best presentation and meeting solutions are those that offer flexibility so selecting content sharing products, screens and other audio visual equipment that support multiple operating systems and devices is essential.
For the most versatile solutions available, look out for key terms in the product specifications like HDMI, DLNA-certified, AirPlay and Miracast to help determine quickly which solutions are compatible with the widest range of devices and operating systems.
If you have any doubts about the suitability of the product in question, give the team at DisplayPoint a call and we’ll be more than happy to talk through the connectivity options of any of our products to ensure they’re suited to your needs.