Machine learning is being used in premium cameras to optimize meetings by identifying attendees and deciding on the most appropriate video conferencing display format, says Amy Barzdukas, Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer, at Poly

What kind of transition has the video conferencing market witnessed over the past five years?

While audio and video are both important in communications, video is making the largest leap in technology advancement because users are demanding the ability to meet face to face through any device and from anywhere. This is in part due to more and more organizations adopting flexible or remote working arrangements and people needing to collaborate with each other across global borders.

Businesses are increasingly looking for rich, interactive ways for employees to work collaboratively, regardless of where they are located and video conferencing removes any barriers.

Through video conferencing, every space can become a meeting space — whether it’s at your office desk, the spare room when working from home, or a table at a coffee shop. State-of-the-art cameras and headsets bring high-performance HD audio and visual clarity to every user that allows for deeper engagement and more effective meetings.

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Features include being able to clearly hear and see any subtle body language or reactions. As well as people tracking when multiple people are in one room for a more natural and productive conversation.

Can you elaborate on some of the top challenges in the video conferencing market?

The video conferencing market is extremely competitive, with a large number of providers vying for the same enterprise audiences. Interoperability becomes a big challenge as the adoption of video conferencing increases.

For example, if you are a Zoom user but someone outside of your organisation sets up a Microsoft Teams meeting, you want to be able to join that call just as easily as if you were using the meeting tool that your company has chosen. That’s why, at Poly, our headsets and solutions easily integrate conferencing solutions like Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Cisco Webex and Amazon Chime, making any collaboration experience smooth, easy and highly productive.

In some cases, adequate technological connectivity in rural areas is also holding back video conferencing growth, but with rollouts of 5G forecasted, we should see the use of video for collaboration increase exponentially.

I see more opportunity than challenges. The continuous developments in technology and reduction in costs will propel the global video conferencing market forward. For corporate enterprises, the increase in flexible working is demanding powerful tools for communicating effectively and at the same time decreases office space expenditure, which is a win-win.

For critical applications in sectors such as education and healthcare, we are seeing some incredible examples of high-quality video conferencing that weren’t possible even a few years ago. Students and workers residing in one part of the world can avail the skills of others regardless of where they are located, which is invaluable.

How has AI transformed the video conferencing industry?

Machine learning is being used in premium cameras to optimise meetings by identifying attendees and deciding on the most appropriate video conferencing display format, for example automatically panning out when larger groups are detected or zooming in on active speakers.

This layer of intelligence in AV solutions will increase, bringing personalisation to every individual meeting. By analysing meeting interactions, cameras will be able to make decisions to create a better, more contextual meeting experience, for example showing a split screen if two remote participants are having an on-going conversation.

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Machine learning is also aiding noise reduction in AV solutions by tuning in to the background noise of each piece of equipment and adapting to what it hears—reducing distractions and enhancing the voices of those who are speaking to greatly improve the quality and flow of conversation.

Everyday background sounds in the office, such as loud typing or air-con, can be significantly reduced and for those joining calls on the move, noise like traffic and even wind diminishes into the background. Further advancements in machine learning will see the ability to remove human voices in the background from the on-going call so that the speaker has everyone’s full attention.

As per your survey “Gen Z and Millennials tend to prefer open offices compared to Gen X and Baby Boomers and that more than half of Gen Z say they are most productive when they were working around noise”. Please comment?

More than one in two workers prefer open offices, with the number increasing with younger generations. The drawback to an open office is the increase in ambient noise and distractions and organisations are looking for ways to enable group collaboration in these spaces.

Huddle rooms are an appealing option for office locations, creating spaces for spontaneous, productive collaboration with in-person and remote participants. These huddle rooms accommodate up to six people and when enabled with the right technology can transform small spaces into mini boardrooms for video conferences. Plug-and-play video bars like the Poly Studio X enable convenient, compelling communications through a single device, no matter what video collaboration software and with no special apps or tools needed to share content wirelessly.

As for productivity, easy to use, platform-agnostic, stand-alone communication devices with built-in Active Noise Cancelling (ANC) means no tech hurdles to jump through for younger generations used to ordering a food or a taxi in seconds. And no background noise, so they can focus on being productive.

How has the workplace environment changed over the years and what are some of the top trends we will see in 2020 in terms of flexible working?

With only 6% of people in the UK working a traditional 9am to 5pm work day, remote and flexible working is becoming the new normal. And as technology advances to take on repetitive, process-driven tasks, the focus will continue to be on enabling the workforce to do what humans do best — connect, interact, share ideas, and create meaningful connections that ensure we can all do our best work — from anywhere.

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We live at a time where we have come to expect technology to work fast and efficiently and just the way we want it to. One-touch ordering in our consumer lives has led to the expectation that this convenience should also feature in the workplace. Digital natives expect consistent, seamless audio and video experiences for meetings. Easy to use, one-touch access, platform-agnostic, stand-alone communication devices that just connect will gain rapid adoption in organisations. Technology has to simply work behind the scenes and need not get in the way of getting things done.

Environmental considerations are also becoming an increasingly powerful beacon for both businesses and workers, especially younger generations. The use of video conferencing is a great way of reducing CO2 emissions. HD video and crystal-clear audio brings remote meetings to life with an almost in-person experience. The need to travel to meet colleagues, clients or suppliers is removed but productivity and focus are ensured.

“One-touch ordering in our consumer lives has led to the expectation that this convenience should also feature in the workplace. Digital natives expect consistent, seamless audio and video experiences for meetings.”

Amy Barzdukas, Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer at Poly

Amy Barzdukas serves as Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer at Poly. In this role, she is responsible for Poly’s global marketing strategy and execution. Prior to joining Polycom, Barzdukas served as Vice President of Worldwide Marketing for HP’s Business Personal Systems group and had a successful 16-year career at Microsoft with multiple leadership and general manager roles.