Increased resolution, accessible bandwidth and available charging are challenges for technology managers and space designers who are, with increasing frequency, working together to develop functional environments.
Users’ expectations are typically defined by their experiences with their own consumer grade equipment like phones, home control, and plug and play systems. Simply put, they want easy to use technology for seamless meetings, classes, consultations and events. Compounding the stress on designers, installers and managers to “get it right” is the now common demand for flex-spaces- rooms that are effectively multi-purpose.
To understand current and future room technology requirements, this year the IACC polled over 150 meeting planners from around the world. Interestingly, over 85% of meeting planners said that “access to interactive technology” will be the most important element of a meeting venue over the next 5 years. Second to that, about 50% of respondents indicated “flexibility of a meeting space” will be very important. Additionally, all respondents “strongly agree” that “high quality broadband is critical in meeting venues.
The fact that broadband is considered the top physical aspect needed at a meeting venue is telling. Venues need to insure that the investment put towards upgrading this element is directly proportional to the value placed on it among planners and delegates.”
Bigger is Better…And Still Easy to Hide
The process of designing for future technologies doesn’t have to include a crystal ball. Since much of the content will be sent over CAT cable, using larger conduit and wire ways to support the potential for future cabling requirements is an easy way to hide a future-ready design. Chaz Porter of FSR notes that users are looking for a visual experience. Porter notes, “As video resolutions increase, the bandwidth needs increase.”
Porter recommends adequate pathways for your video signal and to ensure ample ducting for cabling requirements-including anticipating the fact those requirements could increase in the next few years as source resolution continues to increase. Finally, he notes that you need storage placement for extenders and decoders, in the space where cabling enters the room. Ken Clarkson, System Integration Designer at BSA Lifestructures, agrees- noting that you want to use “adequately sized pathways to allow the contractor or owner to make changes in the future without the need to install additional pathways.”
Pay Some Now or Pay More Later
Of primary concern to the owners is cost. Is the cost of creating a future-ready room or building significantly higher than a room designed for today? With technology eaching and Technology continued advancing quickly, obsolescence and shorter upgrade and refresh schedules are regular, not to mention costly, worries. To mitigate the cost and extend refresh schedules, designers must consider current trends for future infrastructure requirements. While it may be difficult to ensure that equipment, like displays, will support future resolution requirements, it is far more costly to modify infrastructure post-build than to upgrade a display. Therefore, planning and designing infrastructure for the future is essential to reducing the total cost of ownership and maintenance of a building’s technology.
From experience, Clarkson understands, “cost is the most frequent obstacle, but in most situations, the cost of the pathway is negligible to the overall AV installation. If you just need a monitor in a break room, you can justify a simple rough in. If you have user inputs and interfaces, you add more cabling than needs to be installed and concealed in a pathway.”
Communication is Key
It is hard to place the responsibility of understanding future trends on any one facet of the industry. It is imperative that those in the AV and IT industries communicate opinions, ideas, requests and requirements in order to create products, designs, installations and fully functioning spaces to meet the user’s needs today and tomorrow. Therefore clear coordination of efforts between consultants, designers, installers, manufacturers, managers, users (and even security and facilities) will result in better future-ready rooms with superior user experience. Porter adds, from a manufacturer’s viewpoint, that rapidly changing technologies force manufacturers to design products that adapt to those new technologies, so you want to establish a strong relationship with your technology consultant community.
As an industry, AV/IT members have aresponsibility to educate decision makers about best practices when planning a future-ready room or building. External equipment may be the most evident and exciting piece of the user experience; but the infrastructure necessary for the room functioning reliably and for growing with the ever expanding requirements of new technologies is arguably the most important and hardest (read: most costly) to upgrade. Knowing the products available, understanding future trends, and creating comprehensive designs will help to ensure a future-ready, successful technology installation.