Category AVI-SPL

Hurricane Harvey and the Importance of a Coordinated Response

In light of the continuing and record-breaking deluge brought by Hurricane Harvey — as of this writing it lingers along Gulf Coast and continues to flood wide areas of Texas and Louisiana — I asked Brad Herrick, vice president of the Control Room Group for AVI-SPL, for his thoughts about the importance of command centers as hubs for coordinating emergency operations in order to rescue those stranded or threatened by catastrophic storms.

“We know at least one Texas agency whose emergency operations center we designed, integrated, and continue to service that went active over the weekend,” said Brad. “And one major federal government EOC that we designed, integrated, and service went active as well, all in response to Harvey.”

The images we’ve seen from Texas show the immense damage that Harvey has caused and continues to cause, and how important emergency responders are at a time when resources struggle to cope with the enormity of this disaster. Response teams from across the nation — the Texas National Guard, the Coast Guard, FEMA, local police, and a host of other organizations have converged to rescue those trapped by the storm.

That urgency is perhaps enhanced by the forecast that Harvey will track back over southeast Texas on Wednesday. Before it dissipates, weather forecasters expect it will end up soaking the area with more rain than Hurricanes Katrina, Sandy, and Andrew combined. By Thursday, the Houston metro area will have likely received more than 50 inches of rain.

“Tragedies like Harvey call upon those heroes who serve in emergency operations to save lives and then help rebuild communities,” said Brad.  “It is an honor to serve these customers and support their mission in this capacity.”

Brad also recommended a LinkedIn post about the storm,  where Jon Litt of Christie Digital noted, “We have been in contact with our customers in the greater Houston area, including regional emergency management, law enforcement, traffic management, government regional communications, utilities, medical, and more, and the reports we are getting back are that the Christie Control Room solutions are working beautifully and helping a great deal.”

AVI-SPL’s Control Room Group integrates modern, advanced solutions like those from Christie so that agencies can receive the live feeds and data they need to understand disaster situations and coordinate response teams. Is your region’s emergency response team prepared for a crisis like that posed by Hurricane Harvey? Contact the Control Room Group at 888-619-9083 to speak to one of our experts about your challenges.

Sept 20 Webinar: Vaddio’s USB Conferencing and Epson’s BrightLink Pro

Sign up for this webinar to be presented by Vaddio and Epson on Wed., September 20 at 1 p.m. EST and see presentations about unified communications in meeting spaces and real-time collaboration technology.

Darrin Thurston of Vaddio will explain critical AV design elements in deploying software-based UC clients in meeting spaces ranging from huddle spaces to classrooms. This includes an overview of key considerations:

  • Application uses (future-proof rooms) – Video conferencing, local presentations, lecture capture
  • Room conditions – Sensor placement and environment
  • PC and OS consideration – Nuances in deploying software-based UC clients

You’ll also learn about design elements like:

  • Content sharing with UC soft client versus dedicated AV presentation system
  • Recording with UC soft client versus dedicated AV capture system
  • Lighting and acoustic considerations in conference rooms
  • Camera, microphone, and display placement considerations
  • USB media (audio, video) differences between operating systems and PC platforms

Darrin will also provide application examples of room designs based on Vaddio USB conferencing systems.

Michelle Rydell of Epson will focus on BrightLink Pro, which helps users annotate, capture, and share ideas in real time. You’ll learn about the advantages of the BrightLink when used in different configurations:

  • Full-HD interactive display up to 100” – Two times larger viewing area than a standard 65” flat panel for high-impact presentations with exceptional details
  • Designed to enhance productivity – Bring your own device, connect a PC or video conference device, collaborate locally or with remote participants
  • DuoLink – Install two BrightLink Pro projectors side by side to achieve a large interactive area

Register “Software-Based Clients in UC Meeting Rooms” and “Your Whiteboard Reinvented” >

Register Now for Our August 9 Webinar on Oblong’s Mezzanine

Sending this as a reminder to anyone that wants to improve collaboration in their workplace: Oblong Industries will host a live webcast  on Wednesday, August 9 at 10am PT/ 1pm ET to promote its solution for improving business outcomes by connecting teams in-room and across locations through an immersive and agile digital meeting experience.

The highlight of this webinar will be a live demo of Oblong’s Mezzanine, the immersive collaboration solution that delivers a superior meeting experience.

Register for “Better Team Collaboration Through a Superior Meeting Experience” >

Seven Steps to Successful Collaboration

This post is by Dr. S. Ann Earon, Ph.D., President
Telemanagement Resources International, Inc

Effective collaboration is an outcome, not a product or technology one can purchase. When everything comes together people can work productively without boundaries, business processes happen rapidly, and internal/external customers get what they need. It is important to note that all organization and users aren’t equal – there is no typical user, which is why it is important to know what users want and need. The user has to be the heart of the strategy. Driving use of collaboration tools is a matter of people, which is why involving users in the development of the plan is critical.

Regrettably, we often put too much focus on the technology with little thought to the needs of the people. IT managers start the process by shopping for product information, comparing features and prices, and finding the best match for what they perceive as their typical user. The process often ends without achieving user satisfaction and without gaining significant utilization or return on investment (ROI). The process has to begin with people and outcomes.

The process starts by talking to users about what is desirable, then viewing the solution through a feasibility and viability lens. This approach increases the usability of the solution, as well as ensuring that no user segment is ignored as a result of the wrong tool being selected.

Enabling employees to be as productive as possible is a constant struggle, but the solution is actually simple: remove all the obstacles and friction in their way. This can be accomplished by addressing the following seven steps:

1. LOOK AT THE GOALS OF YOUR ORGANIZATION
(immediate/near term/future)

Understand the goals of your organization and look at what value the use of technology can bring to your organization, but don’t stop there. While organizational goals are important they don’t always mean anything to employees.

2. FOCUS ON USER NEEDS, NOT NEW TECHNOLOGY

What do employees need to be more productive in the way they work and enjoy the job better? Be sure to include a focus on employee benefits from leveraging new technologies. Will new technologies provide for flexible work hours and locations? Will employees find enjoyment in the work they are doing? Will managers and peers also use the same technologies?

3. BUY ONLY WHAT YOU NEED AND WHAT MEETS AN OVERALL STRATEGY

Understand the needs of your organization. How do people work? What frustrates them about the way they work? What works well for them and may need to be expanded? What are the future plans of individuals and the organization? Select technology that meets the overall strategy and is needed by the users. Identify specific areas where collaboration can solve problems.

Example: A senior engineer was involved in chemical modeling with multiple sites. He had little interest in video conferencing, but great interest in using an electronic whiteboard to do modeling real-time and share those ideas with distant sites. Improving video conferencing was of no value to him, but providing him with an electronic writing service provided significant value.

4. BUY THE BEST QUALITY YOU CAN AFFORD AND DEPLOY THE SAME TECHNOLOGY ACROSS YOUR ORGANIZATION

Too often organizations make the mistake of installing state-of-the-art technology, with all the bells and whistles, at the headquarters, only to discover others have a lackluster experience. With collaboration technologies, it is important to realize you are only as good as your weakest link. If the audio is terrible because the CEO is driving in a car past a truck while in a meeting, the entire experience is awful for everyone. Install equally good technology everywhere and be sure users are educated on the pros and cons of using each technology.

5. KEEP THINGS AS SIMPLE AS POSSIBLE

Consumer technology does not require extensive training and is primarily intuitive. There is no reason the technology in a business, education, or government environment has to be difficult to use. Users want technology that is easy to use, intuitive, and requires minimal or no training. They also want technology that operates the same way regardless of location. Collaboration in the conference room, at the desktop, or on a mobile device should be easy to use and work the same way. Integrate any new technologies into the existing workflow to make it simple for employees to adopt.

6. KEEP THE USERS INFORMED AND EAT YOUR OWN DOG FOOD

Too often IT organizations upgrade technology without informing the users what is being installed and the value it offers. Additionally, whatever technology is installed should be used by everyone, from the top down.

7. DON’T UNDERESTIMATE THE HIGH COST OF IT MANAGEMENT AND END-USER SUPPORT

Deployment of collaboration technologies is an evolutionary process, not a revolutionary process. It takes time for people to assimilate new technologies into an organization, even if these technologies are easy to use (think iPhone and iPad). To be successful, organizations need to manage the roll-out of technology, its ongoing maintenance, and the time and cost associated with making upgrades. User support must be flexible and ongoing.

Enterprises are moving to support mobile workers across a wide variety of devices, as well as enable unified communications applications.

“The way we work has changed, with technology like smartphones emerging as a dependency, not a convenience. Organizations need to adapt – to change their approach to working and workspaces in a manner that fully acknowledges their remotely connected workforce, and develop solutions that meet their new needs.”
David Danto, Principal Consultant, Dimension Data Enterprise Services

CIOs and their support teams are interested in deploying rich media technology that is easy to deploy, use, and maintain. These technologies need to be standards-based, interoperable, simple to use, and easy to upgrade.

Users believe it is their right to use whatever technology they choose, and it is IT’s job to make that happen. The growing influence of consumer products is changing employee expectations of collaboration technology in the workplace (i.e. YouTube, Skype for Business, etc.). This means that enterprises must select technologies and services that are manageable and scalable with minimal need for training. Enterprises must also be prepared for ongoing change in technology since new apps now get adopted very quickly and proliferate within an organization almost before the CIO knows it is happening (think adoption and proliferation of Slack).

“Innovation in space planning, cloud-based unified communications, and the nomadic workforce is creating a collaboration tsunami, and there can be no air gap between workflow, culture, and technology when building bridges between individual and team productivity.” Mark Peterson, Associate Principal at Shen Milsom & Wilke.

“Millenials, ages 18 – 34, expect different ways of being taught and how they develop in the work force. It appears that they are the driving force on how most universities and industries are providing access to classes and the work environment. Mobile devices, social media, teleworking, distance education, are all becoming the norm in most industries. Technology has advanced quickly, continues to do so and no one can afford to be left behind.” Cherie Galantis, Manager, Collaborative Video Technologies at George Mason University.

Employees want the same unified communications features on their tablets and smartphones that they have at their desktop. They want single-number reachability, easy connectivity in conference rooms, and the ability to schedule and control meetings. The meeting spaces can be offices, open spaces, conference rooms, huddle rooms, boardrooms, etc. The goal is to make every space technology capable with audio, data/web, and video capabilities, along with whatever app the user selects. Users want to use whatever tool they select, in any location, at any time.

Josh Klempner, Citigroup’s Senior Multimedia Manager states, “What our most executive clients are looking for is a single ubiquitous solution, allowing them to connect to any meeting, from anywhere, managed or unmanaged with a commonly available device.”

Persistence will pay off. There may be budgetary obstacles, technology issues, non-supportive management, and employee resistance to adoption. Focus on the goals and objectives and don’t get discouraged. Adapt and evolve as needed.

For help with your collaboration projects, contact AVI-SPL at sales@avispl.com.

About the author
Dr. S. Ann Earon has been a researcher and consultant in conferencing and collaborative communications for over 35 years. She holds a Masters in Instructional Technology and Educational Administration from Northeastern University and an interdisciplinary Ph.D. from Boston College with majors in business, speech & communications, and education. Dr. Earon is the Founding Chairperson of IMCCA, the non-profit industry association for conferencing and collaborative communications. She can be reached at AnnEaronTRI@gmail.com.

August Event: Women of InfoComm Network – Tampa

Join AVI-SPL at its Tampa headquarters on August 10 from 5 p.m. – 7 p.m EST for the inaugural Women of InfoComm Network (WIN) Event- Tampa Chapter. This gathering, which is open to women and men in the pro AV industry, is focused on helping women make new connections and advance in their careers.

Be sure to register by August 7 at 6 p.m. EST.WIN advert

Register for the Tampa WIN Event >

6301 Benjamin Rd., Suite 101 (Google Map)