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Stephen Barker discusses why AV is critical to business at ISE

At the ISE conference in Amsterdam, Senior AV Consultant at Cordless, Stephen Barker, joined a live panel discussion on why audio is critical to business.

Editor of AV Magazine Clive Couldwell led the debate, whilst alongside Stephen sat fellow panellists: Rodrigo Sanchez-Pizani, AV Manager at Kings College London; James White, Workplace Technology AV and VC Engineer at DLA Piper and John Dew-Stanley, Director of Solution Sales at Midwich.

Firstly, Clive asked where audio sits within the business portfolio.

Rodrigo explained that at Kings College, audio is high up on the business agenda at the moment. Investment in audio is important to help deliver a good student experience, particularly around lecture capture.

James shared that at DLA Piper, audio is also moving centre stage. The international offices used to deal with AV independently, but DLA is now looking to bring AV to be a centrally managed solution, bringing more AV skills in-house to do so. With many different languages spoken in both of these use cases, the acoustics have to be right to deliver a good quality of service.     

Stephen fully concurred with the importance of getting the acoustics right in a space as poor acoustics can translate into problems with the user experience – especially in a conferencing environment.

Cordless aims to give acoustic advice and guidance to workplace architects and designers at the outset of a project to ensure that minimum quality standards are met. Advice on room acoustic performance and specification appears in User Requirements reports to aid delivery of good audio intelligibility in addition to guidance on light levels and the optimum finishes for furniture and walls to achieve a good captured video image. We are encouraged to find that generally, Architects are now getting better at understanding critical audio parameters and are listening to what we have to say, so that the AV user requirements can be incorporated into the design early enough to make a difference to the user experience.

All on the panel agreed that the acoustics of the space are as important as the technical system designs used, but acoustic solutions and sophisticated audio capture and delivery systems can be expensive, so getting the balance right between cost and functionality is paramount. In terms of getting the best from the systems installed, it was noted that educating the business and the users on how to best use their systems is critical. You can have the best available technology installed in a space, but if no-one knows how to use it, it will not be used correctly and the business will not benefit.

Rodrigo then went on to highlight some of the particular audio challenges for Higher Education. Firstly, getting good clarity and speech intelligibility is very important as Universities and Colleges now operate in a multinational environment where the delivered language may not be the first language of students. Also some buildings within Education Campuses are listed buildings with high ceilings, plus other factors pose particular challenges as there is very little you can do to modify them.    

James added that in the legal sector, when clients are being charged for DLA Piper’s time, it is not acceptable to have poor quality conferencing, regardless of which space is being used - or how it is being used - at the time. With the rise of agile and task-based working, many spaces today within a workplace are now multi-use.

Stephen explained that in any space, Cordless can help use modelling to predict speech intelligibility based on the Speech Transmission Index – so that we can help plan for the right types of speakers and locations within a room for optimum performance.

Previously the panel suggested that the better sounding products aren’t always the most visually pleasing, but this is improving. There are now discrete options available – you just need to model the environment to make sure that the technology is placed correctly.

Clive then asked where the audio skills are coming from to meet this upsurge in demand.

The panel acknowledged that there are increasing numbers of acousticians coming into the market and also the users themselves are becoming more educated in terms of what they expect in the workplace, based on the technology available in the home.

The panel also considered managing behaviours – for example making sure that people do not cover or obstruct microphones placed on tables. This is why many organisations are favouring microphones in the ceilings. Stephen pointed out that in particular instances, using handheld radio microphones to capture audience contributions can be an effective way of managing audience participation. Rodrigo agreed. He suggested that lecturers tend to be less engaging without a physical microphone to focus the delivery of a lecture. 

The panel finished with a quick nod to the future, including the ability to just walk into a room and engage with it.

Finally Clive asked how far we are away from beamforming microphone systems in the workplace.

Using beamforming for speech capture and reinforcement could be revolutionary, finished Steve. Invisible tech that reinforces speech could change the paradigm and we are excited to be trialling this technology for new client environments at the moment. Of course there is a cost associated with new tech and we are not fully aware of the limitations yet, but it is an exciting time to be in AV, that’s for sure.

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Date: Thu, 23 Mar 2017 13:01:58 +0000 GMT

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