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A meeting of minds

What are the key trends in interactive whiteboards?

Business Info:What, today, are the most common applications for interactive whiteboards?

Daniela Dexheimer, NEC Display Solutions Europe: “Video-conferencing rooms are already well established in most corporate facilities. These were mainly dedicated rooms with a classic video-conferencing solution and a passive display. Now, corporates want to combine interactive working in the meeting with video-conferencing on one single interactive display. Real collaboration between participants is important – and not just for delegates within a room; they also need to connect with people remotely. The big buzz word here is the ‘Huddle Room’.

“Interactivity no longer stops at one single interactive display or projector. Some corporates are looking into edgeblended projectors or even touch videowalls that provide one big interactive surface. Companies with a focus on creative work, especially, love the idea of a space that becomes their ‘pulsing hub’, fostering creative talent.”

Business Info:What, today, are the most common applications for interactive whiteboards?
Business Info:What, today, are the most common applications for interactive whiteboards?

Lucy Meredith, Panasonic Visual System Solutions: “We have seen interactive whiteboards used in the education sector to engage students and help with peer tuition. Captivating the minds of young learners is essential in order to give them the best possible education. We are dealing with a generation of children completely at home with interactivity, touch-screen technology and instantly available software.

“There are many parallels between the interactive technology needs of organisations in education and business. For example, a classroom requires interactive technology for modern teaching aids, just as a modern conference room needs interactive technology for video-conferencing.” Business Info asks four experts for their insights into market trends and technology developments.

Chris Parker, Sharp Business Systems: “Interactive whiteboards are commonly used for corporate meetings and training and are typically housed in meeting rooms and boardrooms. Increasingly, these technologies are also fiding a home within schools, colleges and universities. There is so much more than videoconferencing to consider when using an interactive whiteboard – for one thing, it enables live annotation and interaction with Microsoft Offie modules.”

Natalie Harris-Briggs, Steljes: “Applications vary greatly according to each specifi industry. The most common use case we see is simple ‘whiteboarding’ – the back-to-basics functionality of capturing notes and picking up a pen and writing on the board. The second most common application is sharing and displaying content and presentations – the fundamental requirement for people when they use a projector is to put up a presentation on screen and go through a set of slides.

“Historically, the biggest challenge has been getting started on an interactive display or whiteboard, and the need to have software running on a dedicated PC or connected laptop. Employees would often have issues with connecting, operating the machine or even knowing the password.

“Another application on the increase is the use of interactive whiteboards with video cameras to hold video and web conferencing calls. The latest models can support a range of applications, from ‘whiteboarding’ and sharing content to audio/video calls, all within one system.”

Business Info:Have you come across any unique or interesting applications for interactive whiteboards?

Daniela Dexheimer, NEC Display Solutions Europe: “What we have found is that corporates are starting to think

more about how they use the interactive displays in their meeting rooms. In the past, you often saw meeting rooms where interactive displays were installed, but nobody was using them – some people might not even have known that the display in their meeting room was interactive. This is changing. Now, before purchasing a touch display for their meeting room, corporates have a more detailed idea of how they would like to use the device.

“Our new interactive presentation software, Reactiv STAGE, is the result of feedback from large corporates who were missing the right software for their daily work. Reactiv STAGE allows you to present your ideas, promote your products, convey your message, annotate and save your thoughts… in the original fie formats. Together with NEC ShadowSense touch displays, STAGE has the ability to auto-detect and differentiate between stylus, eraser and the user’s figer, resulting in a seamless and natural interaction.

“That said, we don’t believe there will ever be just THE ONE software for a meeting room. There are many different software solutions available and it all depends on what a corporate would like to achieve during their meetings – whether the focus is on presenting, brain-storming, project management or even sharing content with other devices, such as notebooks or tablets. Corporates need a clear idea of how they would like to use the interactive screen in their daily work.”

Lucy Meredith, Panasonic Visual System Solutions: “Whilst interactive whiteboards are still used today, engaging minds and creating more interactive meetings, interactive screens are now dominating the market and making it easier than ever to benefi from interactivity and content sharing. “When the dissection room in the Medical Biology Centre at Queen’s University Belfast, next to Belfast City Hospital, opened its doors for the new academic year in September 2015, it did so equipped with 18 Full HD 65-inch multi-touch LCD displays incorporating intuitive touch screen technology, fully interactive whiteboard functionality and the very latest in wireless connectivity to allow students to work more closely as a team.

“Built-in whiteboard software allows students to turn on the display and start work right away, with no need to connect a PC. Up to four people can write at a time, and they can save pages and email them directly to themselves for future reference or to share with anyone who missed the lecture. Notes can be made on almost any content, from video and photos to presentations and PDF documents.

“In addition to office tools and the whiteboard technology, the displays take a feed from the central teaching island, where the lecturer can transition between a desktop visualiser, a ceilingmounted fied HD camera and PC and tablet feeds. It means that 130 students can watch a live demonstration on the screens whilst simultaneously following the steps on cadavers positioned adjacent to the displays.”

Chris Parker, Sharp Business Systems: “I recently came across a request for an interactive whiteboard (IWB) or interactive flt panel display (IFPD) for a building site so that architects and contractors could examine drawings and plans and work together more collaboratively to confim building-site decisions. This was to be housed in a Portakabin, which is quite unusual!

“Across Europe, particularly in Germany, where I am based, we increasingly work on projects with large banks to help them make fiancial products more accessible for customers – for example by guiding them through options and decisions. And there is increasing demand within the education sector for technologies of this type; they make collaborative learning easier and provide a more creative and open environment.”

Natalie Harris-Briggs, Steljes: “Fundamentally, interactive whiteboards are giant display screens for PCs, so the possibilities are pretty much endless. Whatever is running on the PC can be displayed in large format and people can touch and interact with content. There are many different use cases and applications across all industry sectors. However, the one that has perhaps been the most successful is visual collaboration. Companies recognise the benefi of being able to see content and use visuals to communicate over distance, as opposed to relying solely on audio or voice. This is when the medium is at its most powerful.

“In the AEC sector, particularly in building and product design, introducing the latest interactive technology signifiantly reduces the number of steps in the building design process. Designers can access the BIM software and bring a drawing up on an interactive screen in high resolution and make mark-ups with digital ink. One of the obvious benefis, aside from the quality of the visuals, is that every team member involved in the project, including those in different locations and on-site, can interact and amend digital content at the same time.”

Business Info:What are the key market trends?

Daniela Dexheimer, NEC Display Solutions Europe:“Probably the biggest trend for corporate meeting rooms is that vendors are offering complete integrated corporate touch displays including speakers and cameras for video conferencing. Another trend we see is wireless image transmission. There are already some good solutions on the market and at NEC we will soon be launching our own wireless presentation tool called NEC MultiPresenter. MultiPresenter software will be embedded in some of our projectors, but will also be available as a dongle, which can be used on any device with an HDMI input. With MultiPresenter, up to 50 devices can connect to, and up to 16 devices can be viewed on, a large format screen or projector at the same time.”

Lucy Meredith, Panasonic Visual System Solutions: “Full HD or 4K platforms. These can deliver visually striking displays, essential for digital signage that has a marketing function. High resolution content accompanied by high resolution displays go a long way towards capturing people’s attention, the fundamental purpose of a system. “The best systems also need to be robust and versatile. For example, Panasonic displays have features such as 24/7 operation for extended periods without screen burn. They can also be positioned in either portrait or landscape format and are impact resistant.”

Chris Parker, Sharp Business Systems: “Interactive flt panel displays (IFPDs) have grown signifiantly in recent years. In fact, many older, projectorbased interactive whiteboard (IWB) technologies are now being replaced with IFPDs. The fact is that IWBs have historically been projector-orientated and do not offer the same performance and reliability as a flat panel display. They cannot compete.”

Natalie Harris-Briggs, Steljes: “Consumerisation of IT is having a big impact, with a move towards localised decision-making in different departments and regions. For a long time, the role of the centralised IT department was to fid and introduce cutting-edge technology and embed it in the business. Now, there are numerous IT challenges, from consumerisation, software-based communications and BYOD to people downloading their own apps and the dispersal of technology throughout a business. Today, the IT department has less control over how technology is used and implemented within an organisation – everyone is part of the decisionmaking process and this is affecting purchasing decisions.

“Mobility is another trend. Personal devices such as tablets and phones have started to become more prominent in conference rooms than laptops. The prolifi move towards BYOD means that the majority of workers see their phone as their primary work tool and device.

“The third key trend is videoconferencing. Historically, this was seen as very much a high-end solution reserved for boards and senior executives. The introduction of software, such as Skype for Business and Facetime on iPhones, has opened the doors to widespread video-conferencing and it is now far more commonplace to see clients on laptops and other devices. There is an increased demand for video in meeting rooms, as it is more accessible and easier to use, and there are less elitist ideals for video quality.”

Business Info:Is multi-touch becoming more important for collaboration?

Daniela Dexheimer, NEC Display Solutions Europe: “Collaboration is defiitely one of the big trends in corporate meeting rooms. Our experience shows that people not only want to interact on the screen itself, but also interact and

Business Info:Is multi-touch becoming more important for collaboration?
Business Info:Is multi-touch becoming more important for collaboration?

collaborate with each other. Using NEC’s DisplayNote software you can present wirelessly from your tablet and send the content from your computer to any connected device in the meeting room (BYOD). You can collaborate live with all participants, send messages and even conduct voting. You are able to annotate over any kind of media, software and content and take and save individual notes. NEC is currently offering a free multi-user license of DisplayNote with every interactive display sold.”

Lucy Meredith, Panasonic Visual System Solutions: “Whilst multi-touch is important for collaboration, we have seen that connectivity for whiteboards is crucial. Multi-touch allows for many interesting applications. However, being able to work without connecting to a PC and having the ability to easily send content direct from the display are some of the most important features for encouraging group collaboration.”

Chris Parker, Sharp Business Systems: “Gesturing or simply zooming with a figer pinch requires multi-touch functionality and these capabilities are vital if you are live editing a document. Increasingly, users expect their display screens to behave in the same way as their smartphones and tablets. Today’s workforce is made up of digital natives who have grown up around touchscreen technology, and they expect their working environment to reflct this. Poor touch response or diffiult-to-use equipment is a huge turn-off.”

Natalie Harris-Briggs, Steljes: “Yes, absolutely. There are two elements to consider with multi-touch. One is gesture, which is very important from a user perspective, as it makes interacting with content on a large screen far more intuitive. The way we use tablets and smartphones has set the expectation for technology in business. Employees expect it to work in an intuitive way, whether that is pinching to zoom into content or tapping and swiping to another part of the screen. Also, we are expecting the shift to Windows 10 to happen quicker than previous OS changes, and this will be another driver for multi-touch.”

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