Conference room displays are no longer just for PowerPoint or Keynote presentations. While projection based systems continue to make improvements, the flat panel display is likely to be the market winner for ease of installation, brightness and usability. These multipurpose displays are being used for collaboration, white boarding, visualization, training and video conferencing. Other than the obvious features such as size, brightness, resolution and connectivity, there are some not so obvious features you may want to consider to future proof your purchase.
So, to help avoid a potentially costly mistake, presented below (in no particular order) is a list of the “not so obvious features” available to enhance the functionality of your conference room display:
- OPS Slot – One of the components most prone to obsolescence or malfunction is probably the computer and power supply. If you are buying a display with the computer integrated, you will want to look for a display with an OPS slot so that the PC can be easily replaced, repaired and/or upgraded without having to remove the display from the wall or stand. The Open Pluggable Specification (OPS) was developed by Intel as a plug and play interface which allows for OPS compliant devices to be connected to the display with a standardized JAE TX-25 connector. There are a growing number of compliant devices which support this standard making this one of the most important features to future proof your display.
An OPS Slot is one of the most important features to future proof your display purchase.
- BYOD Ready – The conference room is about sharing information and since this information may reside on mobile devices, laptops or pulled from networked devices, how you connect these devices to the display is important. All displays will have various connectors for cables, but a valuable option is the ability to connect easily to your phone, tablet or laptop wirelessly. The trend is to encourage support of personal portable devices, dubbed Bring Your Own Device, BYOD. One feature of BYOD, allows a simplified connection to wirelessly stream audio and video to your display from your portable device without the need for a cable. There are a number of “mirroring” options including Airplay (iOS), Chromecast (Android), or Miracast (PC). Rather than locking yourself into say an Apple TV interface which only allows for mirroring via Airplay, a better solution is a system that works with most portable devices, (for instance, Barco ClickShare) so that guests and employees can connect directly to the display using their own device without the need for a cable.
There is a lot of hoopla and ‘specsmanship’ regarding the number of touch points necessary.
- Multi-Touch – As all our mobile devices have gone touch, the expectation is that our wall displays will too. Large format displays are probably best suited for a touch interface as the big display allows for enhanced use of the large workspace. Moreover, Microsoft’s latest operating systems Windows 8/10, fully supports touch input and has implemented many touch friendly features into their Office suite of products making a touch screen an important option to include with your next conference room display. There is a lot of hoopla and “specsmanship” regarding the number of touch points and while large format touch screens are able to track upwards of 50 points, there is very little practical use for more than a few touch points. But to be safe, and because it really doesn’t cost any more, error on the side of caution and get a least 10 touch points — the de facto standard.
- Pen Support – Annotation is just one of the many reasons you may want to use a pen. Not only is a pen/stylus beneficial in situations where a more defined input is required, but it can also improve multi-touch performance and even allow for multi-user input. There are two types, passive and active. An active pen usually has a wireless connection back to the computer and requires a power source. A passive pen, as the name implies, is simply a stylus and is used like a virtual pen. Both have advantages and disadvantages, however, a passive pen is usually preferred for ease of use, cost and maintenance.
- Multi-Display Support – Multi-display support connects several displays together providing increased workspace by extending the desktop across several displays. Not only should the displays be able to connect to the master display allowing for one AIO attached to a monitor, but the important thing is to ensure that the touch screen is functional across multiple displays. While an HID interface has simplified this feature significantly, not all vendors have implemented the functionality successfully.
There is no need for your conference room display to have the functionality of a full blown operating system.
- Multiple OS Support – The ability to support multiple operating systems at first may not seem so useful, but there is no need for the display to have all of the functionality of a full blown operating system. The wall display is for consuming information (as opposed to creation) and therefore, an embedded OS such as Android is a great way to simplify the system. Not only are the applications familiar to many users but the single purpose design of the applications simplifies the interface making the system more like an appliance. There are applications for white boarding, mapping, data analysis, and even applications for access to cloud services and data storage. The limited functionality and single purposed design of an app based system may actually be more appealing to your IT department as well.
- Anti-Glare Surface – Reflected light from windows and other ambient sources can render a display unreadable. Unlike your phone or laptop, a wall mounted display cannot always be adjusted to avoid surface reflections. The best solution is an anti-glare surface which minimizes these mirror like reflections by scattering the reflected light so that the image remains viewable. Many commercial displays now use AG glass but some third party integrated touch screens might not. Another added benefit of an AG surface is that finger prints on your touchscreen are less visible as well. AG glass can make images a bit fuzzy however, but the benefit usually outweighs the minor degradation of optical clarity.
Currently, the hardware features are probably ahead of the software. In spite of what manufacturers may lead you to believe, conference room applications are still evolving and the best user dynamics is still being worked out. There are vendors with complete solutions but many require a proprietary environment in order to get the most out of the solution. These full solution products are gaining momentum however, it is not clear as to whether any will become a standard. So to be safe, you may want to consider some additional hardware features. That way, while the applications sort themselves out, at least you can rest more comfortable knowing that your display hardware will be less likely to become obsolete.