With the webcam rolling and the special effects and augmented reality features lighting up the video conferencing screen, your group has unending space and possibilities. When the call ends, however, you’re all in an office meeting room barely large enough to seat four people.
It’s a huddle room, the current trend in enterprise communication that turns discrete, compact office spaces into boundless cyberspace. There are millions of them in operation around the world, and they’ll soon become the most common location for video conferencing.
At their best, huddle rooms are low maintenance, cheap, and take up a fraction of the space of a traditional video conferencing-enabled meeting room. They can be used by IT amateurs and shared by entire teams of staff. They’re nimble, versatile, the opposite of clunky.
And with the right huddle room video conferencing equipment, even small businesses can create public-facing video portals that allow intimate conversations with customers all over the world.
50 Million Huddle Rooms and Counting
It’s estimated there are more than 50 million huddle rooms currently in operation in offices around the world. That number will grow dramatically over the next five years, with business consultancy Frost & Sullivan predicting more than two-thirds of all video conferencing equipment will be used in huddle rooms by 2020.
The attraction is that these smaller rooms and the compact equipment that services them better fit the modern office and workforce. Around 70% of offices now employ an open plan layout, more than 40% of workers in the U.S. spend at least sometime working remotely, offices have decreased in size over the last few years by about 50 square feet per person, and the average workstation is empty 60% of the time. Those facts give rise to more unplanned video conferences and more limited space in which to host them. Offices need to make the most of the space they have, and often, a large meeting room is not the best way to do that. A smaller space, outfitted with easy-to-use video conferencing tech, is better suited to the small on-the-fly collaborations that have become more common in recent years.
The huddle room has risen to better connect these flexible workforces and improve internal communications. The next step is to use the dynamic huddle room to speak to the wider world.
Huddle Room Video Conferencing Equipment Offers Flexibility
It’s not surprising that the evolution of the huddle room has been met with a supply of new huddle room webcams. Logitech has developed two, the ConferenceCam Connect and the more advanced MeetUp, and there’s StarLeaf’s GTm 5140, Owl Lab’s Meeting Owl, and the Go, from newcomer Huddly. These webcams share common huddle room features, such as mobility, wide-angle lenses to pick up everyone in a small room, built-in microphones and speakers, and plug ‘n’ play installation.
Those features allow small groups–usually four, five, or six people–to quickly gather for a video conference without having to waste space in a large boardroom or call on the IT department to set up an ad hoc meeting.
That same flexibility could be applied to taking video calls from clients and the public. This isn’t a video version of a customer call center–those operate more as one-to-one connections dealing with large volume calls around routine questions–but a remote version of a face-to-face, in-depth meeting. They’d be valuable to complicated discussions around, for example, the installation of a home’s heating and cooling system, a mortgage refinancing, or an ongoing business-to-business relationship.
Anytime a professional service needs a personal touch, a huddle room could provide privacy and an instant visual connection.
Huddle Rooms and Customer Service
Some huddle room webcam providers are already bragging about the customer relations angle of their products. Samsung’s recent partnership with Harman Professional Solutions included the promise of an enterprise huddle room product designed specifically for customer-facing use. The system combines a typical webcam and speaker package with wireless document and screen sharing and one-touch controls.
With those added business tools–commonplace as they are in traditional video conferencing setups–a huddle room conversation can become as functional as an in-store meeting.
The conversation might begin with an initial inquiry from a customer, be it by email, phone, or a direct video calling portal built-in to a company website using a browser-based platform. From there, the customer can be connected to an account manager or senior salesperson, who, behind the scenes, could duck into a shared huddle room with a colleague to stage a digital customer experience.
That account manager or salesperson could either take their VC device with them and plug into an existing setup, or could just fire up a video conferencing suite built into the room. Using increasingly popular functions such as augmented reality effects, and integrated customer information, the huddle room could be transformed into a digital showroom. The setup would allow staff to demonstrate products, screen multimedia displays, and, importantly, speak face-to-face with a customer located anywhere in the world.
When the meeting was over, they could turn off their webcam, leave the huddle room so someone else could use it, and take all the information they needed to serve the client back to their desk on their own laptop. With a few shared video conferencing huddle rooms, everyone on the office floor might be able to create a unique, digital experience for their customers.