To help answer this question, VIDEOPRO held a panel discussion with four industry heavy-weights at our recent Technology Showcase. The panel consisted of Derek Bartells from Lutheran Education Queensland, John Vikstrom from Queensland University of Technology (QUT), Peter Coman from InDesign Technologies and Bruce Leigh from Interior Engineering, each leaders in their own fields and with over 60 years experience between them to assist in shedding light on the subject. The panel discussion started very much around the ‘room’ itself, the technology that is involved and how it all works together. The panel then moved on to the ‘user’; suggesting the room is only as effective as the person using it – it’s the teacher that ultimately makes a “smart” classroom, and a presenter who delivers an effective presentation. With this in mind, other questions began to arise – what does the technology seek to achieve in the room? How is the investment justified and where is the return? The panel continued down the path now of exploring both the smart user and the “smart” room, and that it’s the synergy between the two which creates return; the two work together to create an effective, efficient, productive environment. Now that was established, how is it created?
The panel identified that a “smart” room needs to be both consistent and flexible. Whilst these may appear to be conflicting ideologies, upon closer inspection it’s easy to understand where the relationship exists. When a user walks into a “smart” room he or she expects the same experience they have received from previous rooms. Simplicity and consistency help the user to not lose time trying to figure out how the room operates, but to simply get in and start working… Furthermore it is consistency that delivers the ease of maintenance to a room. A facilitator can easily manage a room when they are all similar and they can communicate back to a central platform. When there is technology driving the maintenance of the room it has a far greater uptime and thus becomes a more effective tool. It is these time saving properties that contribute to making a room “smart”. If a user experiences poor technology and average functionality within a room, the room is considered as good as useless.
The flexibility aspect of the “smart” room really stems not from the pilot, but from the passengers – i.e. not from the presenter or teacher, but from the audience or students. With an increasing emphasis on ‘anywhere, anytime’ usability, it’s important that a “smart” room allows for this flexibility. Flexibility is being assisted by cloud-based computing, mass-scale and easy-to-access online videos and content, as well as collaboration. Further investigation of the flexibility within a “smart” room posed the question – what does the future holds for a traditionally “smart” room – with that desire for ‘anywhere, anytime’ usability it is prudent that you should not be shackled to the bricks and mortar of an actual room. Through continued discussion; however, it became apparent that a “smart” room has its place. It will always be the best arena for collaborating and bringing people together. The better and easier to use the technology, the quicker that the collaboration can get started.
Finally the “smart” room fulfils a sociological need to be around other people. We cannot strap ourselves into the seat of isolation; there is always a desire to be around others and fulfil face-to-face social needs.
“Smart” rooms are not going anywhere, and they will only seek to improve; by their very nature, they strive to increase productivity, efficiencies, and effectiveness. A “smart” room is not an end product, and does not create improvements simply by existing, but is a medium that increases the likelihood of improvements, it is an incubator for ideas and an accelerator for results.
Thanks to our panel for a fantastic session on a very topical issue.