What is Wireless BYOM?
Understanding the latest innovation in collaboration systems; Bring Your Own Meeting.
What is Bring Your Own Meeting?
Whether you’ve heard the acronym already or not, brace for a whole new way of hosting video calls with remote parties called BYOM. BYOM simply refers to a new way of staging video conferencing calls that allows a call to start on a laptop, then seamlessly move to a big screen, webcam and audio system in a meeting room.
Up to this point there have essentially been two ways of staging video calls; from your own PC, or using a “room system.” Everyone knows how to start or join a video call on their PC, just start the app and use the computer’s screen, webcam and audio system to see, share and speak with the remote parties. This approach works great for a single user, but things get complicated when you have other people join the call in-person. More on that later.
The “room system” approach involves a separate PC that’s dedicated to the meeting room, connected to a big screen, bigger webcam and a dedicated audio system. Many of these systems also have a tablet that users access to start and control a call, something that we normally do on our own PC. To start a call, the user logs into the room PC through the tablet, launches the video app and enters the meeting code. Once started, the far-side attendees can see all of the near-side participants and hear them clearly.
So in essence, the first approach is for “personal” video calling, and the second more suited to “team” calling. Either use your personal PC to set up and conduct a call, or use the room system to accommodate several people from your team inside the same room
The Limitations of Personal Video Calling
By definition, personal video calling excludes any others from full participation in the call. With only a PC webcam to capture live video, adding more people to the frame is awkward at best. The same goes for audio, where the camera’s microphone struggles to pick up voices more than six feet away, and the PC’s speaker fails to deliver intelligible sound to all participants. And, forget about sharing content from multiple attendees, as only one PC is on the call.
In many cases, people try to work around these limitations by bringing their own laptop into the room, then joining the call as an additional party in the video app. Now they have a clear picture of what’s on the screen, their own webcam captures their image, and they have the ability to share content through the app. But wait, what about audio? That’s the point at which most realize that multiple microphones and multiple speakers, all in the same room just don’t mix, as feedback ruins the experience.
Of course, wearing headsets is one solution to the feedback problem, but what about participants who want to take part in the meeting but don’t want to, or can’t bring their PC into the room? Unfortunately, they’re relegated back to the “huddle” approach as they squeeze next to a participant who has brought their own laptop. Too bad they can’t hear or speak to remote participants though, as the laptop offers only one headset connection.
Room System to the Rescue! Or, maybe not.
And thus was the birth of the Room System, followed by Zoom Rooms, Teams Rooms, and a plethora of “room subscriptions” from the video platforms. The Room solution came in three parts; 1) Dedicated Hardware (Display, PC, Camera, Audio System, control panel) for each room, 2) a Room Version of the video calling app always running on the room PC, and 3) a hefty subscription fee for each room instance of the video calling app (>3X the individual subscription). And along with these three parts of the formula came three issues affecting users.
The first issue to confront organizations was the sheer cost of hardware, subscriptions, and maintenance of these complex room systems. The installation went from a TV, webcam and speakerphone to myriad black boxes, custom programming, and recurring support fees that made it impossible to add said systems to every meeting space. Let alone to huddle spaces, or learning pods. With hardware costs often exceeding $10,000 and monthly fees in excess of $300, room systems were relegated only to the larger and more-trafficked rooms.
The second issue that became a major impediment to adoption was the complexity associated with actually scheduling, starting and participating in a video call hosted on a room system. Users now had to know definitively which room they were going to use for a call, schedule the call for that room, then be certain to gain access to the room system in time for the call to start. Frequent users merely had to gain access to room, often still occupied by previous users. Infrequent users had the added struggle of figuring out how to log onto the system and start their scheduled call.
The third issue frequently cited as a major obstacle to use of room systems has to do with a lack of spontaneity. To a generation of users accustomed to “jumping on a call” as and when needed, the whole rigid access protocols of the room system were anathema to better communication. So, even with a floor of room systems sitting empty, users would revert to huddling around a single laptop, just because it was more conducive to spontaneity and effective collaboration.
KLIK’s Hybrid Solution to Meetings, Classes & Collaboration, Minus the Room System
The pandemic put an emphasis on hybrid environments where some attend in-person, some attend remotely, and some depend on time-shifted attendance. At the same time, video conferencing systems, with all of their complexities and idiosyncrasies became the de facto standard for the new era, thanks in part to ballooning expenditures by government and private organizations alike, as they tried to return to business as usual in the face of massive disruption.
As a company dedicated to the creation and diffusion of in-person collaboration tools, the KLIK team found themselves with some time on their hands. So, we got to work rethinking how people meet, learn and collaborate, in this new normal. After nearly two years of development, we released the all-new KLIKBoks HUB; a single platform that integrated all of the features required to meet the needs of in-person, remote and time-shifted collaboration. The result is truly a breakthrough.
The first challenge was to integrate remote attendees into a hybrid environment with minimal friction and an intuitive user experience. Sure, we could have taken the same path as others and leaned into the room system concept, but the high costs and complexity of such systems inherently limited access to only a subset of organizations. We were looking for a sub-one-thousand-dollar solution, not one that cost north of ten thousand. And, our solution had to fit nicely inside existing workflows, not disrupt the way people already work.
The result was the integration of three technologies that enabled the BYOM feature on the KLIKBoks HUB. First, we already offered wireless screen sharing, so the KLIKConnect app was update to add several new features. Among them was support for a virtual USB webcam that would act as the room camera. With UVC support, the webcam plugs into the HUB, then wirelessly connects to a laptop as if it were plugged in physically.
Then we developed a means of connecting an audio system wirelessly so all attendees could hear and be heard. Using the same virtual USB technology, the audio system would connect physically to the HUB, then transmit audio in both directions to and from the client PC. This would allow the connection of any integrated audio system, from a simple speakerphone, all the way up to sophisticated multi-microphone automated systems and distributed loudspeakers.
The result is a system where any authorized person can walk into a meeting room, classroom or huddle space with their laptop, and host a video conference using the room’s TV, Webcam and Audio system, instantly. No dedicated PC, Control System, Tablet or expensive programming required. No complex operation, no ongoing maintenance costs and no dependance on single-source suppliers. A solution that would be worth $1,000 on its own, but instead came with a host of other features that would transform hybrid collaboration forever.