A Look at the Technology Powering Touchless Meeting Experiences

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Although the state of in-person work remains distant given Canada’s expectant second wave of COVID-19 cases, an overwhelming number of people want to return to the office at least some of the time. A survey by Envoy, a workplace technology company, shows nearly half of all workers want to return to the office full time. The same survey shows 94% of respondents say they want to spend at least one day in the office.

People miss their co-workers, the comradery, and the collaboration that comes with an in-person setting. For some, it’s when their best work happens.

That’s part of the reason why many companies have developed solutions to enable touch-free meeting solutions for conference rooms.

In an effort to help workers transition back to the office and take advantage of in-person collaboration, companies like Microsoft, QSC, Crestron, Extron and others have been hard at work engineering solutions to help those transitioning back to the office create a frictionless, touch-free meeting experience that will help keep everybody safer at work.

“When we return to our physical workplaces, we need to rethink how we introduce interfaces that aren’t just frictionless, but also touchless,” writes Lee Billington, director of Gensler’s Digital Experience Design practice, in this article. “We should start by looking strategically at the various technologies already available to us.”

For IT and business leaders, new and existing touchless solutions should be a part of your return-to-work strategy, especially when it comes to meeting rooms. By cutting down on shared surfaces and touch points, it’ll help keep meeting participants safer and demonstrate that the organization takes the health and wellbeing of its workforce seriously.

Returning to work? Start by reading our guide.

Read about the different ways you can incorporate touchless solutions into your meeting rooms.

Give Meeting Participants Control Using Their Smartphones

Many companies aim to give individuals total control over meeting rooms using their smartphones. This solution helps reduce the number of shared devices meeting participants could come in contact with when joining a meeting in person.

QSC developed a solution especially fit for a COVID-era workplace. The company refers to it as “Bring Your Own Control,” and it’s powered by the company’s Q-SYS Ecosystem, an IT-friendly technology management platform. The basis for its touchless meeting room solution relies on QR codes.

How It Works:

After a meeting participant walks into the room, they open their camera app on their smartphone to scan a QR code displayed on the control panel, display or elsewhere, which will then bring up all of the room’s controls as they would appear on the control panel. This gives the meeting participant the ability to control the entire room from their personal device.

Both Crestron and Extron offer similar solutions that enable meeting participants to take over control of a meeting room by using a mobile app. Likewise, for those using Microsoft Teams devices in meeting rooms, participants can control the meeting from their Teams app.

With all of these solutions, there is no physical interaction with the control panel, smartboard, touch screen displays, mics or anything else. It’s all done using one’s personal device.

The simplicity of using a QR code or mobile app to grant control makes it an accessible solution, but there are more sophisticated ways to operationalize meeting rooms. Other technology companies created solutions that automate the process from start to finish for a completely touchless meeting room solution, including Microsoft’s Proximity Join, Webex’s Room Phone, and Crestron’s AirMedia wireless presentation systems.

Leverage AV Room Automation for a Truly Touchless Experience

Walking into a meeting room for the first time in months will have workers on high alert. Meeting participants will scrutinize surfaces more so than before, while adhering to COVID-era policies like social distancing and regular sanitation.

To assure those workers transitioning back to the office, it’s important for IT and business leaders to consider how they can implement a truly touchless experience by using room automation. Microsoft, Crestron and others continue to find ways of creating a seamless meeting experience for those who will return to the workplace.

Microsoft Teams drew in over 200 million meeting participants in a single day in April 2020. Much like Zoom, Microsoft experienced impressive growth as thousands began working from home. As of this spring, there were over 75 million active daily users on Teams.

Undoubtedly, the reliance on applications like Teams, Webex Teams, Zoom and other platforms spurred the respective companies to think of ways to integrate the simplicity of joining a call from one’s laptop or mobile device into a meeting room.

That’s certainly what Microsoft did.

“Today, people in the meeting room can join a Teams meeting from their Microsoft Teams Room and collaboration bar devices, share content and collaborate using their personal PC or mobile device, all without ever having to touch the shared device display,” the company said in a statement.

Microsoft created an ecosystem of Teams devices that give meeting participants a range of options to automate meetings — the most seamless of which is Proximity Join.

How does it work?

A participant can join a meeting from their personal device while in a Teams Room, which detects a call has started. The Teams Room will then bring up the call using the room’s technology, like the display, mics and speakers. The only physical interaction the participant has is with their personal device.

Crestron delivered similar tools to create a touch-free meeting room system. Its AirMedia wireless presentation systems pair with an occupancy sensor to automatically operationalize meeting rooms as participants walk in or to align with business hours. In this case, a person simply walks in, and then the room’s system wakes up and collaboration can begin.

Alternative Touchless Solutions Continue to Grow in Popularity

While the two most common emerging touchless meeting room solutions have to do with giving control to individuals or automating the operations of meeting rooms, some existing technologies are being repurposed for room controls.

Voice Command

Microsoft Teams Rooms leverage Cortana to start and end meetings, creating a totally touchless environment. As Microsoft, Apple, Google, Amazon and others enhance the technology, it’s an avenue to touch-free meetings that IT and business leaders should consider in their return-to-work plans.

Gesture and Occupancy Technology

Historically, occupancy sensors correlated to automatically switching on the lights. But, given the need for environments that require few physical touch points, gesture and occupancy technology emerge as a viable solution to contemporary workplace challenges.

Gesture recognition technology continues to grow as its use becomes more widely applicable. Likewise, occupancy can help in additional ways in today’s workplace by monitoring foot traffic in and out of meeting rooms.

Consider Touchless Meeting Room Solutions to Keep Employees Safe

The timeline for returning to the workplace varies for most, but growing consensus forms around a hybrid work environment — one where people work in the office and at home. For those employees who will return to the office, it’s important to consider their safety while they collaborate in meeting rooms.

Social distancing measures, face masks, and hand sanitizer are all foundational steps that employers must take to keep their workers safe — but can you go a step further to ensure their safety? If so, consider how touchless meeting solutions could be a part of your return-to-work strategy going into 2021.

If you have any questions about meeting room solutions or touchless technologies, please reach out to our experts at a convenient time for you. Hillman AV specializes in meeting room technology and can help you find a solution to enable collaboration in the next generation of work.