By Zee Hakimoglu, President and CEO, ClearOne

The professional world has undergone significant changes in recent years, with many organizations having no choice but to adopt new technologies in order to embrace the increase of virtual collaboration that has become the status-quo. 

Leading manufacturers have raced to provide integrators and end-users with innovative solutions that made the transition easy. Particularly in the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, it was essential for businesses and academic institutions to adapt to virtual working environments, and professional organizations of all kinds relied on best-in-class technology in order to maintain uninterrupted internal and external communication. 

Today, it is clear that businesses and academic institutions alike will have to adapt to a more permanent form of hybrid work, as many still hesitate to return to their offices. It’s now essential that all communal meeting and learning spaces accommodate new working patterns, and must include high-quality AV technology to support the needs of in-person and remote attendees. Hybrid Flexible rooms (HyFlex) are the solution, as they are equipped with technology to provide the in-person and remote collaboration capabilities required of evolving professional cultures. 

Technology that Adapts to Modern Circumstances

In addition to ultra-fast internet connectivity, innovative video and audio devices, and virtual conferencing platforms, manufacturers are continuing to create products to support the rapidly changing needs of hybrid workers. 

Video conferencing and audio capture technologies have never been more in line with the needs of consumers. Product options range from stationary cameras and tabletop conferencing phones, to 4K PTZ cameras with AI-based people tracking and invisible beamforming microphone arrays designed to blend into pre-existing room designs. 

To be as successful as possible, it is important that HyFlex rooms contain all of the technology components needed for optimal video conferencing and collaboration, and are easy for users to operate. To provide the best user experience for both in-person and remote participants, all components in the room must work together seamlessly, so set-up requires little training or troubleshooting. 

Integration firms can offer reliable, robust solutions by partnering with respected manufacturers who keep user experience top-of-mind. In addition to microphones, cameras, speakers, and digital displays that are user-friendly, Digital Signal Professors (DSPs) are particularly essential for optimal HyFlex use. DSPs offer features such as acoustic echo cancellation, noise cancellation, and feedback control to ensure that each remote listener has the same audio quality as those listing in-person. 

The Ease of Implementing HyFlex

Advanced, yet customer-oriented products help make installation easier for the end-user, as well as the integrator. With beam-forming microphones, for example, integrators are able to set up more rooms in less time and create simple wire layouts to reduce the total number of components and the complexity of any future system maintenance. 

Fully equipped HyFlex rooms typically include multiple cameras, each with a different purpose. For advanced video conferencing one camera is needed to capture close-ups of the presenter, and another to capture the entire room. The most modern devices offer automatic switching and focusing between cameras in the room, based on who is speaking, which helps to create an immersive experience and allows presenters to focus on their information without concern for remote viewers. 

For clients working with internal IT or AV staff, integrating with a cloud-based AV management software platform is also a helpful option, as doing so enables remote system control and access so issues or changes can be addressed quickly at any time, from any location. 

The Future is Flexible

Manufacturers have made the potential of HyFlex rooms exceptionally dynamic, with the ability to collaborate virtually, while also utilizing stylish, unobtrusive solutions so rooms can be easily converted for non-meeting use cases. Ceiling or wall-mounted speakers and ceiling tile microphones allow organizations to optimize the space they have, potentially reducing the need for construction in the future. 

As individuals and organizations become increasingly reliant on technology to make their spaces work for their unique needs, there will be a strong demand for integrators who can provide insight on the new and updated components and software solutions available. Similar to safety regulations and protocols, remote collaboration tools are constantly evolving, and integrators can help institutions greatly improve communications and ensure utilized technology is updated and reliable, significantly increasing ROIs and overall user satisfaction. 

Although flexible video conferencing equipment was once viewed as a temporary solution, it is evident that hybrid work and collaboration will be a permanent fixture in the daily lives of leaders, staff, educators, and students. Organizations that prioritize the effectiveness and efficient use of space will likely rely heavily on the concept of HyFlex, and as a result see a large return on investment on the purchases of adaptable technology.