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Predictive analytics, augmented reality, facial detection: it’s time to make meetings meaningful

No-one can doubt that our world is becoming more connected. Multinational operations and the rise of flexible workers mean that many teams work in different buildings, cities, countries – often even different time-zones. At the same time, this connection is lowering barriers to entry for competitors and making the comparison of services easier. 

Now more than ever, it is vital to operate efficiently, learn quickly and prove ourselves against our competitors. The way we communicate must rise to meet these challenges. How can we support our increasingly global teams? How can we learn to adapt for the future?  The biggest thing we can learn from is data. 

We already collect so much data, from personal activity sensors to smart energy meters. Everything is a data collection opportunity. But when you think about it, the lifeblood of a corporation and the source of its intellectual property are the meetings its people have every day. They discuss, debate, decide; this human interaction is the richest form of data.

Collecting data

So how can we collect data around meetings and interactions that we can turn into something useful for the organisation and its people? As leaders, that is what we need to start asking ourselves. Of course, when it comes to collaboration and communications, you have to be careful, as the data you can collect is a lot more personal than some other forms of data. 

There are only certain examples of how you want to use that data.  For example, the Polycom EagleEye Producer camera can use its facial detection, not necessarily to track who is in the room, but to count the number of people in the average meeting. If your room is furnished for eight people, but your camera tells you that only three people attend a meeting in that room on average, you can use that data to make informed changes. 

You might turn a large meeting room into multiple huddle spaces. With this information you can optimise the technology and configuration to save wasted resources, but also to improve the experience for the users. With facial recognition you can even capture emotion, which could be immensely useful on customer service calls, but take that to the next level in an organisation, and you can see how people interact and react to certain meetings, topics, and more. This is not ‘people on machine’, it’s ‘people on people’ analytics.

Predictive analytics

This is when you start to get to predictive analytics, which allow you to adjust to the individual preferences, and create personalised meeting ‘templates’. For example, the system knows a decision-making meeting is scheduled, so it prompts you to capture actions and assign roles when there are only fifteen minutes left in the session.  

What other innovations could support our future businesses? Automation is already making a huge contribution to meetings today, allowing people to stop worrying about the tech and focus on what they have to say and do - and helping them feel more comfortable as they do so. For example, we looked at how people like to move around a room in an in-person meeting, how comfortable they are looking each other in the eye, and how engaged remote participants are when dialling into a room full of people. 

So, to enable natural movements, we made our camera automatically adjust for your individual height, your movement around the room and more. This way, there are no unnatural limitations on your behaviour.

Automation beyond equipment

Automation could even go beyond the actual equipment and synchronise with the meeting room as well, creating huge strides for user experience. We could be ensuring the user doesn’t have to do anything but swipe or sign into the environment, and the system would adjust to their preferences, pulling their usual content sharing method to the foreground, adjusting the volume and camera framing, and more. 

These kinds of advancements could even make collaboration technology-orientated meetings more effective than their in-person counterparts. On top of that, augmented reality in video collaboration is in the (not too distant) future. The ability to share and manipulate rich content easily during a collaboration is a requirement now, so the sooner we get there the better. In fact, the future of video collaboration is all about content. 

High quality, interactive content that you can move and annotate is a must. Once we have that we can embed video into everything. Some industries are getting there, such as banking where video-based customer service kiosks are being installed in branches, and video is being integrated into mobile apps. But to be successful it has to be a high quality experience (including simple content sharing and editing) if it is to embed into everyday life.

Future technologies

Of course, predictive analytics, augmented reality, facial detection – these are just the technologies we know about now. Going forward, we will have technologies at our fingertips that don’t even exist yet, but we have to make sure that the cutting edge can stay familiar if we want people to adopt it and benefit from it.  

That’s why it’s really important to have millennials in your product development environment, especially when it comes to user experience. We have millennials we regularly test our ideas on, because, as it’s regularly pointed out, they are the digital natives who adopt new technologies as long as it’s user friendly. Get your millennials on board and you are onto a good thing. We are learning from them already - they don’t want to type or click like previous generations, they want touch, swipe, pinch. 

That’s why we have introduced a lot of touch technology into our solutions. We still have a relatively long way to go. Video collaboration is in its infancy when you compare it to other technologies’ trajectories. We haven’t yet achieved ubiquitous use. One-to-one, point-to-point video is almost there, so group collaboration is the next frontier.  Ultimately, we have to stay open to change, accept it, and build from it. If we can learn as we go and innovate with our findings, the meetings of the future will not just support communication - they can teach us how to stay ahead of the competition in unchartered waters. 

Ashan Willy, SVP of Product Management & Worldwide Systems Engineering at Polycom.

Ashan Willy is the SVP of Product Management & Worldwide Systems Engineering at Polycom. He focuses on innovative collaboration technologies that create and support the workplace of the future.