Last week saw the launch of Cisco’s new meeting room collaboration device – Spark Board.
It’s an all in one presentation display, interactive white board and a video conferencing tool that can be wall mounted and includes built in microphones and a 4k camera.
Nothing new about that, I hear you say. And at first glance you’d be right. It’s not unlike Google Jamboard or Microsoft Surface Pro.
At the same time, there are 3 things that I feel set this product apart.
1. Cisco have done their homework.
Quite often with technology, it’s the clever geeks who assume the role of specifiers coming up with ideas they think are appropriate and then building the product accordingly.
This time, the Cisco teams have carried out meticulous research over the last three years into the way people meet, building in features and benefits that are relevant to make running meetings easy.
One key finding was the frustration of connecting different devices to share presentations and other content.
"We needed a product where anyone could come in the room and without having ever seeing the device or even knowing what its name is, automatically wirelessly connect," says Rowan Trollope, SVP & GM - Internet of Things (IoT) and Applications Division.
They’ve achieved this. You don’t even need remote controls as Spark Board automatically connects to any laptop, PC, Mac or mobile device with no Wi-Fi, network connection or Bluetooth needed. Gone are the frustrations of plugging your lap top in to the room system to share a presentation.
Another frustration Cisco have countered is the need for an army of technical bods to make the technology work.
Spark Board can be set up by anyone. There are no cables to worry about and it doesn’t have to be integrated with any existing infrastructure as the service is delivered directly from the security of the Cisco cloud.
The high powered directional microphones automatically adjust to the person speaking and are built into to the unit. The cameras are extremely high quality so that you really feel people are in the room with you.
It really is a simple plug and play.
2. The devil’s in the detail - Establishing new standards of performance.
Take the whiteboarding feature as an example.
“You can walk into any conference room, walk up to a (regular) whiteboard, and use it …Recent digital whiteboard attempts in the market have failed to meet the same standard for ease of use. We knew we had to do better,” said Jonathan Rosenberg, CTO for Cisco's Collaboration Business.
So, Spark Board allows anyone with the Cisco Spark app to work collaboratively on the white board at the same time. Once any content is created, it’s saved in the cloud for sharing and working on in the future as a live document and accessible from any Cisco Spark Board in the world. No more photographing the whiteboard or capturing a static JPEG image via an email.
3. It’s competitively priced.
Cisco have identified that 85 per cent of meeting rooms are not technology enabled. Headline pricing can be misleading so I’m not going into details here. However, Cisco have pitched this aggressively to encourage take up in as many rooms as possible. I think they’ve got this right.
Let the battle commence…
So, the battle lines are drawn now and we’ve seen Cisco’s play. It’s clearly going to create an impact and stir up the competitors, which can only benefit customer choice.
MeetingZone works with over 6500 organisations globally to provide workplace collaboration and communications services that improve the way they work.