The Connected Conference Room

Robert Maloney, Lifesize Sr. Product Manager
Date: March 29, 2018

Hello, everybody, and welcome back to Lifesize Live!, the live web show produced entirely through the Lifesize platform.

I'm your host, Julian Fields, and seated by me today we've got Robert Maloney, the Senior Product Manager here at Lifesize. We’re talking about this big movement of people going toward the “connected conference room.” They're looking for smarter conferencing equipment. Welcome to the show.

Thank you very much for having me.

Maybe you could start by answering the question, what the heck is the “connected conference room”?

Sure. The “connected conference room” is a room that has multiple different types of technology inside of it. A lot of these technologies have been split apart over the years and have not really been technologies. Think of something as simple as a whiteboard that is becoming increasingly integrated into the room, as a part of the room, and being integrated into other technologies. We're seeing wireless presentations on a huge rise right now in these rooms, so having ways to present inside of these rooms, to document things inside of these rooms and to customize the rooms are important features that a lot of people are looking for these days. The key is that whatever technology you put inside of these rooms, choose technologies with longer life cycles. One of the things that make these rooms so attractive to people, other than the technology that's inside of them, is that the features are evolving — you could take pieces of technology, like a video conferencing camera, pair it with the Lifesize video conferencing cloud-based system, and we will feature-up that system throughout the life of that product. You don’t have to refresh certain aspects of that room every couple of years when it’s paired to Lifesize.

So the hardware, you have to refresh the hardware because you've got an integrated, connected software that's —

Yeah. It's really important that these devices that are inside of these rooms are connected into a platform, into a cloud-based platform. That way, you can take advantage of any sort of new feature updates that are rolled out. For instance, just earlier this week we launched the customization feature for our Phone HD.

Right, so you have the phone that's been updated without me having to update the phone.

That's right, yeah. You have a whole new suite of features that you didn't have before. You can now update the wallpaper on the phone. The original release of it had a limitation of four custom buttons, and now you can have up to eight custom buttons. You can go in and customize the labels on the time zones. So if you don't want to have “Denver” as your time zone on the Phone HD, you can change that to say “Boise” if you want to, or your office, wherever that location is. And another thing that we're seeing as a big driver for the connected conference room is not just the technology that's in it — it's the technology that people bring with them. Most people have a phone in their pocket, and they walk into the room and want to be able to control aspects of that room via that handheld device.

Okay, so you've got these internet-of-things type devices, they're getting software updates, and there are features being requested through our community. People can go in and say, "Hey, I'd really like a custom background." And you're able to say, "That's very doable." 'Cause we can implement it through software and you don't have to do anything on your end.

That's exactly right.

So you said your mobile phones are one thing. As somebody that's working on the product development side of things, what are some other behaviors that you're seeing drive the next level of interactivity in the conference room?

That's a very good question. So we are very much analyzing these markets, and right now it’s no secret that there's a huge trend in huddle rooms in the workplace. Internet-of-things-focused companies are trying to figure out how to get their stake inside of those tiny little conference rooms. Right now, globally, there are about 32 million huddle room spaces, and of those 32 million, only about 2 percent of them are actually enabled with video conferencing. And a lot of them have little to no technology inside of those rooms.

Yeah, I know it's common to just see like a phone or something inside of these smaller rooms. They've made them so that people can go and work but that it’s such a silo that you can't connect out and work with other people.

That's right, yeah. And as meetings become more frequent, less structured and less formal, these just become drop-in spaces. For instance, you and I met yesterday — no booking. All you have to do is shoot a quick message: "Hey, do you have a minute to chat?" and then we can just find a room and start collaborating. If I was calling in on video, all I would have to do is call into whatever huddle you were in or have you call me. It’s a very simple, very quick, informal meeting just to get through a few things that we wanted to get off our chests and start working together.

Without having to go to one of the three or four big conference rooms that are video enabled.

That's right.

Now let's talk about enabling every room. The price points have come down so much — now it only costs like 500 dollars to get the 60-inch monitor that you can put in a room. Then you grab a camera, and you're connected.

That used to be the big blocker for a long time — these rooms were very expensive to implement. Now the technology prices are coming down, so we see tremendous growth opportunities for these Huddle Room spaces. We are finding ways to implement features that we already have today — such as calendaring and customization — and we're taking a look into the future of how to make these rooms more intelligent and trying to find more ways to bring more features to the table to these machine-learning, connecting in mobile devices, just making the experience — really paying attention to that user experience. The technology is extremely important, but chief among that is we focus on that user experience and the user interface. Making sure that it is as simple as possible is where a lot of other technology companies miss the mark. They come up with a great idea, but the implementation to the end-user is very complicated and therefore the technology ends up collecting dust in the corner. That's the last thing that should be happening in these rooms.

Gotcha. Okay as somebody kind of sitting as the gate-keeper of the future of the products and things like that, what are you most excited about?

There are a lot of things that I'm really excited about. Looking into the future, all the way to 2022 right now, and trying to figure out where those technology trends are going to take us. Anything I talk about, I have to always do the disclaimer.

Of course.

This stuff is totally technologist nerd stuff. But the things that are really fascinating me now are things like machine learning, especially when it comes to the camera. These cameras inside of the room that are used for video conferencing are taking in an immense amount of data that we're doing very little with. It would be really interesting to be able to understand user behaviors in a room via camera — facial recognition, voice recognition on the audio side, and being able to take those sorts of things and enhance that experience in those rooms are very interesting to me. Being able to do something as simple to us like recognizing an object in a room or understanding where the phone is, or being able to tell the difference between those objects inside of the room. It would also be interesting to have the camera be able to tell if there is a whiteboard on a wall in the room and having features work along with that. The future is really interesting, and there are a lot of neat emerging technologies that are just starting to crop up. I look forward to seeing what the future has to offer, not just in terms of technology in the huddle room, but also for Lifesize.

That's really cool. Robert, thank you so much for joining us today. For anybody out there who's curious about what Robert's teams are working on, definitely subscribe to our blog — that's a great place to see the latest and greatest things that are happening at Lifesize. Follow us on our social media platforms; they always post. You talked about how we just posted the new Phone HD customizations: it's all over our social right now. Thanks for joining and thanks for everyone out there. We'll see you next time. Bye.

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