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Minimal touch audio conferencing – are you ready for it?

 

After months of working remotely, many of us know only too well how challenging poor audio can be on conference calls. And it’s not over yet. We’re all at various stages of figuring out how to work in a post lockdown world, with some organizations encouraging employees to get back into the office – for some, if not all, of the time – and others deferring decisions until 2021. What’s clear is that the way we work and communicate has changed for the foreseeable future as both on-premises and home working meetings continue side by side.  

All of this demands new thinking about the tools we use to communicate with and collaborate. While the COVID-19 crisis has accelerated the need for this re-think, the challenges around audio conferences are not new. Back in 2017, a survey revealed that 15 minutes of an average 38-minute conference call were wasted simply getting started or dealing with distractions throughout. At that time, it was estimated that this cost US and UK businesses over £26 billion ($34 billion).  

 

Building employee confidence 

Fast forward to 2020 and the challenges are of a different nature. For very different reasons. One of these is a concern about employee safety when using audio conferencing equipment in the workplace. A recent survey of over 500 participants by innovative tech company Ultraleap revealed rapidly changing perceptions of public touchscreens and touchless technology in a post-COVID-19 world. 78% of users now think public touch screens are unhygienic, with 88% more likely to interact with touchless displays in the future. 

With understandable worries about the transmission of the coronavirus, is there such a thing as touchless conferencing? 

At Shure, we believe that concerns can be mitigated, although achieving completely touchless conferencing isn’t here yet. The simple process of rearchitecting meeting rooms to establish social distancing is a start. Then there’s the technology. We are focused on three areas in particular to help our customers ease their employees back into AV conferencing in the workplace:  

  • Remote management: Devices within the Shure ecosystem can be set up, commissioned and managed remotely. As long as you are connected to the network or client VPN, we’ve got the tools, such as our SystemOn audio asset management software, enabling an engineer to check all Shure audio devices and their peripherals from anywhere.  

You can set up text alerts for live telemetry to ensure there is minimal equipment down time. There’s no longer any need for an engineer to interrupt a meeting because issues can be resolved from outside the room.  

  • Easy to use in-room features: The status of a Shure microphone can be easily monitored via its in-built light bar, and there’s one central tool to manage your Shure audio devices on the network. This gives you a simple way to ensure your users don’t waste a moment asking if they can be heard or whether their mic is on mute. 
  • Keeping a clean workspace: Whether you’re using gesture, voice, or device-based controls, Shure can support the meeting space solutions your end users feel comfortable with. Encouraging employees to BYOD (bring your own device) is a relatively quick way to help minimize any concerns and reduce the number of shared devices that need to be handled by multiple people. We also support sensors that control lighting rather than touch panels, and room check-in via personal devices rather than shared screens, all complemented by our out-of-reach array microphones. 

From our own perspective at Shure, we encourage our customers to make the most of minimal touch solutions with our MXA range of ceiling and wall mounted microphones, along with software digital signal processing (DSP). We work with other manufacturers to support our end-users, for example our Microflex Advance - Network Mute Button (MXA NMB) is IPx1 rated (protection against some water drops) so it can be cleaned/wiped down to ensure the room is sanitized and safe for the next meeting to start. 

  

As organizations work out how best (and when) to return to the workplace, solutions designed to minimize direct one-to-one contact with devices will be hugely important in ensuring employee confidence. 

 
Explore the Shure Audio Ecosystem for Conferencing at www.shure.com/ecosystem. 

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