Knowledge workers are inundated with information. In-house network storage of proprietary data can be delivered in moments. Outside data is just a web-search away. An individual working at her own workstation will consume this data instinctively, according to her own style and preferences. As soon as the setting is a larger room with multiple participants, or even remote participants, data visualization comes with additional challenges.
In the past, teams in collaborative meetings used whiteboards, flipcharts, and sticky notes. The data introduced to the discussion was limited to what team members brought into the meeting or what they could access quickly. Technology has allowed for our analog tools to potentially be supplanted by interactive displays, collaborative communication, and provide the visual communication conduit for remote collaboration. Intuitively, choosing the right display solution is critical, but the infrastructure and software considerations are no less important.
“In technology-equipped collaboration spaces, the AV system needs to support visualization, collaboration, facilitation for participants to make logical connections and decisions, recording of action items, and reporting and dissemination of the results,” says Craig Park, principal consultant with The Sextant Group. Achieving those goals involves more than just the display hardware. The collaboration software and the infrastructure behind the hardware are vital components.
For example, look at the use of chroma sampling (or subsampling) which is an often misunderstood and overlooked factor in sharing meeting data text. Even with a 4K display, excel spreadsheets can be difficult to read. The blame is often placed on resolution, but the real culprit for spreadsheet data that appears washed out or pixelated could be insufficient chroma sampling. While the display can handle 4:4:4 chroma sampling, if the infrastructure hardware is not full 4:4:4, text-based data may not be clear and legible.
Rights management is also a consideration for data visualization. In some deployments, the room itself has a presence and it is the room that is “logged on” during a meeting. The other method is that an individual logs on to the system in the room, typically the person who has booked the room. In the case of the room that has a presence, it would not be ideal for the room to have access to all in-house network data. The challenge then is for individuals to bring up data at their own discretion for use in the meeting with their own network rights. The same challenge exists if the meeting organizer has logged on but has more limited data rights than other participants.
There are many software options for utilizing the data in a mission-critical room, simulating whiteboards and sticky notes, for example. But effective collaboration extends beyond just what happens in the room. Visualizing and utilizing data in a decision-making process loses its impact if the decisions and action items can’t be easily captured and shared. If the AV system software doesn’t include provisions for gathering the results intuitively, the software solution is incomplete.
Park advises, “When planning a space for data visualization and collaboration, stakeholders need to think about more than the technology and ask themselves what the business goal is for the room. This should inform the decisions about how data will be used. Then, the discussion can be turned to how the AV system will support that.”
Justin O'Connor, AV Technology magazine's Technical Advisor, has spent nearly 20 years as a product manager, bringing many hit products to the professional audio world. Over that time he has served the proAV, professional sound reinforcement, permanent install, and music instrument retail markets with passion. He earned his Bachelor’s degree in Music Engineering Technology from the Frost School of Music at The University of Miami. Follow him at @JOCAudioPro.
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