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The Race is On to Outfit the Huddle Room with Voice, Video and UC for Serious Collaboration

Posted by Kevin Gulley

Oct 15, 2015


As you may have noticed, we have been talking a lot lately at the UC Buyer about how the rapid shift towards UC and mobility has led to a spike in the number of remote workers, which has in turn led to a trend towards smaller offices with open office floor plans. All of these open office spaces have also led to another trend - a rise in the number of collaboration or conference spaces in these offices (much needed when private offices or even cubicles are on the decline and employees are sharing noisy, open bullpen spaces).  According to recent reports, there are over 55 million meeting or conference rooms worldwide, of which 24 million, or 40%, are medium sized conference rooms.  

While the medium sized conference room market is growing at a brisk pace due to these trends, it has nothing on so called “Huddle rooms”, which are smaller, dedicated collaboration rooms allowing employees quick access to conference space whenever they need one in order to meet with local or remote teammates, partners or customers.   Huddle rooms, a term I’d never heard of until a couple of years ago, are expected to grow from an afterthought in many offices to nearly 50 million spaces globally by 2050.  That’s a number that makes you sit up and take notice, and serious players are doing just that while looking to deliver solutions for outfitting them.

Delivering Powerful, Affordable, Voice and Video Collaboration in Small Conference Spaces

Some huddle rooms are just empty offices with a table, chairs and a whiteboard and I’ve seen more and more of those as I visit with companies around the country.  However, with a third of knowledge workers now working outside the office, the need to work effectively with internal and external teams means that it makes good business sense to outfit huddle rooms with the necessary voice, video and UC solutions to enable remote collaboration - preferably without the $50,000+ pricetag of setting up a large conference room with traditional telepresence solutions.   

Google is one company working to deliver just that with their Chromebox solution.  As my colleague Paul Desmond stated in an earlier post:

Chromebox takes a slimmed-down approach. You get a camera, one or two microphone/speaker devices (depending on model), a remote control and the Chromebox hardware box, which is based on a 4th generation Intel Core i7 processor.

It all integrates with Google Hangouts, which supports videoconferences with up to 15 participants. And it comes with management and support for a $250 annual fee, with the first year included in the base price of $1,999.

And they’re not the only one.  Microsoft is getting in the game and looking to deliver an integrated device that pulls together many of the solutions we are all familiar with across their various business lines with their new Surface Hub.  The release date has unfortunately been pushed back to January, but as we covered earlier:

The Surface Hub is essentially an oversized Surface tablet that is intended to hang on the wall, like a big-screen TV. It has all kinds of communications and productivity tools built in, including Skype for Business (formerly Lync), OneNote whiteboard, Microsoft Office, touch and ink handwriting. It also has dual 1080p cameras to support videoconferencing via Skype for Business.

What About Bringing UC to the Huddle Room and Medium Conference Room

Many businesses are looking to take advantage of their existing UC investments and are looking for ways to utilize those in their smaller conference spaces.  It seems like it should be a snap to grab your laptop and your mobile phone, hit the conference room and have a top notch team meeting with great sound quality and video (if necessary) using the same UC solution that you use at your desk.  Of course,things are never that easy.

That’s why I found Jabra’s recent announcement about extending their critically acclaimed speakerphone line so interesting.  In a recent market survey performed by Jabra, they identified four pain points that businesses face when it comes to holding meetings:

  1. Getting everyone together, including local and remote participants, is difficult

  2. Meeting spaces are expensive

  3. Getting meetings started is a pain (an average of 10 to 12 minutes getting a meeting going in the typical conference room setup...yeah, we’ve all been there)

  4. Poor sound quality


Their new SPEAK 810 speakerphone  is a larger version of their market leading Jabra SPEAK tabletop speakerphone and is meant to address all of these issues for huddle rooms and medium sized conference rooms  This larger speakerphone not only brings Jabra’s renowned sound quality and noise cancelling technology to bear, but is focused on enabling a collaborative mode of working, especially for companies that have already made a UC investment.  The SPEAK 810 doesn’t rely on phone lines (or even ethernet for that matter) so it allows companies to turn a huddle room into a fully functional conferencing space without buildout.  Just connect your laptop via USB, or your smartphone or tablet via bluetooth and you’re connected in 7 seconds to a speakerphone with premium sound quality that can support up to 15 people in the room.  Employees can use the UC solution they are trained on and comfortable with to make calls, or use web / video conferencing to pull in remote team members, partners or customers.  It even allows users to charge any mobile device eliminating the worry of battery life during the call.  At $599 retail, it is also a lot less expensive than traditional conference room speakerphones.

The trends towards UC, mobility, remote working and open office spaces are only accelerating.  This is where work is headed.  It is great to see solutions showing up in the market that are making it easier for businesses to outfit conference rooms and huddle rooms more quickly and affordably while enabling the type of collaboration that increases productivity.  


Topics: Voice, video, collaboration, Unified Communications,, Huddle Rooms

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