Having a secure and efficient video collaboration system has evolved from a ‘useful to have’ technology to an indispensable capability in 2020, allowing teams to feel more connected to remote locations and distributed team members. With travel restrictions and social distancing limiting in-person meetings, remote face-to-face video communication is more imperative than ever in security environments. Systems integrators around the globe have been upgrading technologies to support the mission of operators. Before you work with an integrator to either upgrade an existing video collaboration system or invest in a new one, there are a host of considerations. Below are the key ones that will help you with your conversations with the systems integrator.
First and foremost, define your expectations of the experience with the system? Is it enough to just be able to ‘see’ and ‘hear’ someone, or would you rather have a truly engaging communication tool that can bring you closer together and allow for the most effective dialogue with each other? Who is using the system and where is it being used? What are you using it for? These are all pertinent questions to ask before a system is designed.
To me, and most of my customers, we want as life-like and natural of an experience as possible. I want them to feel as if they are having a natural conversation as part of an engaging experience, and are not conscious to the technology used to enable that remote conversation.
There are a range of high-performance display solutions that are well suited to video collaboration and control room environments, be it projection systems, flat panel displays or video wall systems. Each technology has its own set of advantages and disadvantages for specific video collaboration applications. One is not better than the other in all applications, and a good integrator or partner will be able to provide agnostic advice to suit your environment.
A sampling of the visual factors to consider would include the size of the display, viewer distance to the display, aspect ratio of the display, viewing angles, ambient lighting within the space, coloring of the walls around the display, coloring of the walls behind the participants, effect of windows in the space at given times of the day, and much more. There are many factors that can have a significant impact on the overall performance of one display over that of another, which go beyond mere technical information on a product datasheet, and the phrase ‘you get what you pay for’ often applies.
Content Management & Processing
There is much more to a system than just the physical display. We need to get the content from a source to the display without compromise. We need to focus on the content, or signal management that is in front of the display and the processing of different sources of different resolutions and/or formats on a single display or multiple displays.
A video extension, video switcher or video processor device delivers the content to the display. And the quality of the stream of content to the display is vital for the display to look as it should. A processor that is intuitive and specifically suited to a security, control room or command and control environment, should offer end users a large amount of flexibility.
It is the content that makes the video collaboration system truly useful and aids in providing the overall experience. We need content from the sources themselves and without a strong source, the outcome will always be a disappointment.
To connect one location to another remote location, or multiple locations, you must have a good network to make this happen. Quality system components, reliable infrastructure with sufficient bandwidth, security considerations and efficient network architecture and management must work hand in hand to deliver the user experience they expect. Without it, you will suffer from the all-too-common latency issues that many of us have experienced before unfortunately, and it will again pull us out of the immersive, vivid, lifelike experience.
It is now more important than ever to have an effective video collaboration solution in our organizations to conduct business and achieve our missions.
My advice is to think of the system as being only as strong as its weakest link. If you compromise on any one aspect along the signal path (be that display, processor, source), it will significantly degrade the impact of the entire system, pulling the user away from the illusion that they are in the room together. Manufacturers producing an end-to-end range of display and processing products know that they can maintain the quality throughout the signal path, sending the highest quality signal to the display and delivering an immersive, effective video collaboration solution.