What is a Wireless Presentation System Anyway? 2022 Edition.
Updated: Mar 10
How to improve collaboration in your classroom, meeting room or conference space.
Let's start with some basics. A wireless presentation system is a device and/or software that allows you to mirror your computer or mobile device to TV, flat panel display or projector without having to plug in a physical cable.
The reasons for doing away with the cable are numerous; greater device compatibility, faster changes between presenters, more effective meeting flow, and ultimately lower costs.
Studies have shown that 10-18% of meeting time is wasted as users struggle with the technology. Multiply that by the number of people in the room and it's easy to see a huge savings in time and productivity.
Since there are several different types of wireless presentation systems, we'll start by outlining the three basic configurations:
1. Hardware-only Presentation Systems - Just as the name implies, these wireless presentation systems use two or more pieces of hardware to send the presentation content to the screen. One of the devices acts as a receiver, and connects to the TV with a cable. The other device acts as a transmitter and plugs into the presenter's laptop. The presenter presses a button and the content is streamed to the screen. Some hardware presentation systems allow more than one presenter to share the screen at a time. In that case, each presenter will need their own transmitter.
This type of wireless presentation system is perhaps the best-known, since Barco introduced the ClickShare system several years ago, or the BenQ Instashow more recently. The Clickshare system consists of a puck-sized device they call a "button", that plugs into a computer's USB port and mimics an external display. The Instashow uses an HDMI connector on the dongle, as Barco's patent precludes any other company from using a USB connector. The stream starts as soon as the presenter presses the button on the dongle and that signal is then sent to the receiver and in turn the TV.
There are several important advantages to hardware-only wireless presentation systems. First, there is no software requirement to be installed on the PC. The presenter merely plugs in the dongle and they're ready to go. They also do not rely on the local Wi-Fi network for the connection, which is often preferred by IT & Security managers in many organizations. And finally, they are relatively simple and quick to deploy, with minimal user training required.
The downsides of hardware-only wireless presentation systems center around the transmitter, or "button". Whether one uses the USB version offered by ClickShare or the HDMI version of Instashow, the presenter needs to have a compatible PC to plug into. That's easier said than done as more PCs have moved to USB-C connectors for both control and video output, or other versions of digital video output like DisplayPort, Mini DisplayPort and others. Not to mention that phones and tablets lacking video or USB outputs are left completely out of the equation.
2. Software-only Presentation Systems - A software-only wireless presentation system is perhaps a bit of a misnomer; there is hardware at both ends of the transmit/receive system, but they are not bespoke hardware, but existing components. Take for example two Windows 10 (or 11) PCs. Built into Windows (since version 8.1) is a technology called Miracast. With Miracast a presenter can send her screen to another Windows PC where it can be shown on a connected TV. In this case, only the Windows Connect app was used on two otherwise standard computers.
If you work in a mixed hardware environment and need to also support phones and tablets, then you might turn to an aftermarket solution from Squirrels. In this case, the company offers a transmitter application (AirParrot 3) that runs on your client device and receiver app (Reflector 4) that runs on the host computer. In effect, the Squirrels apps repurpose existing hardware so that the end user only needs to license the software applications, not purchase additional hardware.
The advantages to a software-only wireless presentation system are immediately obvious--no new hardware needs to be purchased. It also means that large organizations (schools, enterprise businesses, etc.) can deploy the client software to their user base quickly and relatively easily. Users all get a consistent user interface, often with added features, not found in the Windows implementation of Miracast. Likewise, the receiver app adds more features and flexibility, making the Squirrels solution a viable alternative.
3. Hybrid Wireless Presentation Systems - This type of wireless presentation system is a combination of the software-only and hardware-only presentation systems, hence the name hybrid. As is the case with Airtame, Mersive and now even Barco, hybrid presentation systems use a dedicated receiver connected to the TV, and a software app running on the client's device, acting as the transmitter. In comparison to hardware-only presentation systems, hybrid systems add a small cost for the receiver hardware, but eliminate the need for hardware transmitters, as is the case with software-only presentation systems.
Hybrid presentation systems have moved to the forefront of popularity, displacing many of the hardware-only and software-only systems of the past. And it's no wonder, as BYOD (bring your own device), the proliferation of mobile devices like smartphones and tablets and the continuing fragmentation of physical interfaces has marginalized hardware solutions. Similarly, the dropping cost of hardware receivers has made it more affordable than ever to add a dedicated receiver, while enjoying the cost savings of "soft" transmitters in the form of apps.
The key advantages to hybrid systems are lower overall cost and scalability. A dedicated wireless presentation system hardware receiver is always going to be more affordable than an equivalent, dedicated PC that is designed to handle multiple applications. Likewise, app-based transmitters are easy to deploy at scale and manufacturers can offer the apps for free, as opposed to monetizing them as in the software-only business model. And while brands like Airtame, BenQ and Mersive have stuck to their non-hybrid models, others including Barco and KLIKBoks have embraced the need for flexibility and offer hardware transmitters wherever there is a need.
About KLIKBoks, Inc.
KLIKBoks was founded to solve the problem of how people share content in meetings, classes and conferences. From the company’s early KLIKBoks™ and KLIKStik™ wireless collaboration devices to the breakthrough patented technology found in the KORE™, KLIKBoks is still dedicated to fostering frictionless collaboration between people. https://klikboks.com/