Meeting rooms used to be pretty straightforward to kit out. A table and chairs, a whiteboard, a PC and projector. Perhaps a conference phone if you expected to be including people who couldn’t be present in the room.
How things have changed. When contact centre compliance specialist Semafone moved to new premises in Guildford, its priorities for the seven new meeting spaces in the building went way beyond mahogany tables.
A company with a forward-thinking outlook on technology both in the services it provides to customers and the systems it uses internally, Semafone set its stall out for a state-of-the-art video conferencing and collaboration system. As well as seamlessly integrating the seven rooms at its new HQ, it wanted a platform which would connect employees at its offices in Europe, North America and Australia.
As well as a high quality conferencing solution which would be easy to connect to and efficient to use, Semafone also wanted an integrated system for managing room bookings and scheduling. It turned to global audio visual and meeting space pioneer Crestron to come up with the answer.
Cutting edge requirements
Founded in 2009 in the UK, Semafone provides PCI-DSS compliance and data security solutions to contact centres. The company has enjoyed rapid growth, now operating in 25 markets around the globe, and partnering with some of the world’s biggest telecoms network providers. In the UK, for example, BT provides its own hosted version of Semafone solutions, BT Secure PCI. The company also has links with more than 30 payment service providers.
Semafone’s patented payment protection technology has secured it contracts with household name brands such as Santander, Aviva, Next, Sky, Virgin Holidays and British Heart Foundation. It has built its reputation on expertise in cutting edge technology – and expects the same standards from partners who supply its own systems.
The company understands the need to move with the times with technology, and that underpinned its ambitions for a new video conferencing system.
“When we moved to our new UK HQ, with a growing number of employees and more meeting rooms, we needed a much better system for managing meetings, presenting and video conferencing,” said Mandy Pattenden, marketing communications director at Semafone.
Crestron was chosen on the basis of its reputation for high quality, secure conferencing products. The core of its solution was its latest in-room product, the Crestron Mercury tabletop conferencing console. Easy to install and set up, the main selling point of the Mercury is that it is compatible with any video conferencing or collaboration software. So whether Semafone staff, partners visiting its offices, remote workers or overseas branch colleagues happen to use Skype for Business, Google Hangouts, Zoom Rooms, Slack or any other video platform on their device, it is all one and the same. They can all connect seamlessly to the same meeting via Crestron Mercury.
The Mercury can be connected to meeting room screens and comes with a USB conference camera. It includes in-built HD microphones and speakers, and supports AirWave wireless connections to devices. To further facilitate convenient, straightforward connectivity, Crestron also installed its FlipTop FT600 tabletop ports, which support HDMI, RJ45, DisplayPort, USB and analog audio and video, as well as providing convenient AC plugs for charging.
“The Crestron Mercury system is incredibly easy to use”, Pattenden said.
“Learning the new system took very little training from the Crestron team and we’ve been very pleased by how versatile and flexible it is. For a company with international offices, customers and partners, it’s essential to have reliable channels of communication. Using Crestron Mercury has also helped reduce travel costs and time spent out of the office.”
In response to Semafone’s request for an integrated means of managing room bookings and meeting schedules, Crestron also installed its Fusion software platform. Fusion is designed to integrate a variety of different aspects of a company’s operations into a single interface, including meeting scheduling, remote help desk, device monitoring and reporting.
For meeting scheduling and room management, Fusion is compliant with Microsoft Exchange, Office 365, Google Calendar, IBM Notes and more. This means that all employees, even across a global workforce like Semafone’s, have access to up-to-the-minute information about meetings and work schedules being managed from head office.
The key to Fusion, however, is that it allows these shared calendars and scheduling tools to link directly to in-room management systems. Each meeting room at Semafone’s new HQ was fitted with a Crestron TSW 560 touchscreen. Displaying all booking schedules, the TSW 560s also allow for easy scheduling on the fly, allowing for flexible ad hoc huddles to take place as well as more formally arranged gatherings. The touchscreens are very easy to use, making bookings as simple and straightforward as possible.
“When it comes to booking a room we simply go onto Outlook and select a meeting room”, explained Pattenden. Once the booking is accepted and confirmed, Crestron Fusion stores the details and displays them on the touch screen outside each room and the larger screen inside, so anyone can easily see whether the room is booked or available. The system also counts down when the meeting starts and indicates how much time you have left in the room, which helps ensure that you don’t overrun.”
Overall, the combination of Crestron’s Mercury platform with its Fusion software provides Semafone with the agile end-to-end video conferencing solution it was looking for. Instead of being run in isolation from one another, all seven of its new meeting spaces are linked to a centralised booking and scheduling system which is available to all employees at all times. This applies wherever employees are based, as they are all able to take part in meetings via the Mercury conferencing solution. Taking part and collaborating could not be easier, as Mercury allows staff to connect from whatever video app they happen to be using.
“Crestron’s conferencing solution has provided a state-of-the-art system, which enables the team to work efficiently and effortlessly.”