TalkingPointz Research: Room Panels
By Dave Michels, April 28, 2021
The next big revolution in meeting rooms will take place outside the meeting room.
- In response to increased demand and low costs, 2019 was a strong year for meeting room hardware. The pandemic sent employees home, which resulted in unprecedented demand and adoption of conferencing technologies — but a drop-off in demand for meeting room hardware.
- Post-pandemic work will not be the same as it was. The remote-work genie is out of the bottle. Experts speak definitively about a hybrid future of work, as if anyone agrees about what that means.
- It is safe to assume that some, maybe even most, employees will return to the office, but not all. We can also assume that the office will be retrofitted to accommodate a more flexible and virtual workforce.
- As (some) employees return to the office, the demand for meeting room hardware is expected to return. It is very likely that companies will need more video-enabled spaces to accommodate the distributed (or hybrid) employee base.
- To simplify the room hardware decision, there are two types of solutions: appliances and USB peripherals. The main difference is that the appliance contains the processor and software, whereas USB devices require a separate computer or laptop. The USB devices are generally agnostic and work with any meeting application. Appliances are more intuitive but are typically intended to work with one primary application.
- The vendors that make appliances promote them over USB as they offer both a better experience and increased loyalty. There are various ways to make an appliance work with other solutions; however, the best experience is the native experience. A room system investment is at least a partial commitment to a specific application provider.
- In addition to in-room components, room systems are expanding to outside the room with room panels. In 2020, Crestron upgraded/expanded its line, and Cisco, Microsoft, and Neat introduced new solutions.
- Room system panels have become relatively inexpensive and intuitive. They are practical outside any shared space, even without a room system in the room.
- Room panels are typically standalone computers, often running an Android-derived operating system.
- Features supported on panels vary, but they are typically built around booking and scheduling services complemented with additional services such as usage information, wayfinding, and digital signage.
- While room system hardware interoperability has improved, room panels are largely tied to, or associated with, a single vendor. In other words, room panels equate to an expanded commitment to a meetings provider. Additionally, a single-vendor approach has the added benefit of a consistent user experience across a campus, which promotes ease of use.
- This report looks at current and new room-panel offers from Crestron, Cisco, Microsoft, and Zoom (via Neat). All of these solutions can also be used as room controllers, but this report looks at the panel opportunity.
The full report is 11 pages, and section 8, Dave's Thoughts, has 26 points.