Poly has responded to the Work from Home trend with the launch of a new series of personal conferencing products, backed up with remote management and 24/7 video support
There are two schools of thought when it comes to video communications. The first is that the novelty and speedy implementation of Work from Home initiatives last March has made people more tolerant of fuzzy video quality, noises off, inappropriate muting/unmuting, poor lighting etc.. The second is that in Lockdown 3 there can be no excuse for such practices and that by now we should have learnt how to project a professional image with high quality video, crisp audio, good lighting and good image framing.
No prizes for guessing where Poly stands.
As Neil Fluester, Senior Product Manager at the conferencing specialist, said: “In the first lockdown there was a lot of tolerance. Whatever you had was OK; you could get away with a lot more. But I have heard from several people recently that in this new lockdown things are getting a lot more serious. This is the new norm and good enough is no longer acceptable.”
All the evidence suggests that Fluester is right to describe home working as ‘the new norm’. Even after lockdown restrictions are lifted, it is likely that one third of employees will continue to work from home either part-time or full-time, and to do so productively they will need a working set-up that supports business-quality video communications.
Designed for home workers
Poly identified that home workers were poorly served by existing solutions and so last year it set about developing a new range of products designed to meet the needs of remote workers and employers.
“Poly has had great success in the office space, but many of the users that consume Poly equipment are no longer in large meeting rooms,” said Fluester. “They are in their bedrooms, their lounges, their kitchens.
“We decided to take all our experience in premium, high-end, professional-grade office solutions – our immersive telepresence solutions, our big meeting room cameras and sound systems, all the artificial intelligence we have around noise suppression and the tracking and framing of cameras – and distil that down into devices for personal spaces at home and in the office.”
This is not just a question of providing high quality hardware. Poly realised it was equally important for these solutions to be:
*easy to distribute to remote workers, with direct delivery to employees’ home addresses;
*simple for non-technical users to set up and use;
*supplied with a cloud management tool giving visibility and control over remote systems for improved manageability and health and safety/compliance; and
*wrapped up with a service agreement with 3-year hardware replacement, cloud management software updates and 24/7 video helpdesk support.
Management and control
“Employers, IT teams and HR need visibility over workers who are no longer sitting at a desk in the office, to make sure they are taking enough breaks away from the screen, that the equipment is working correctly and that they are not being exposed to too much audio from a health and safety point of view,” said Fluester.
“They also need to support them from a network point of view. When workers are at a desk on the office network with QoS and SLAs, IT knows the network is going to work, the firewall is going to work and that there is enough bandwidth for video. That is more challenging when people are at home, on their BT or Virgin broadband. So, it is essential to have visibility into home networks and home set-ups to be able to support remote workers.”
Lens Desktop management software provided through a Poly Plus service and management subscription, which also includes 3-year hardware replacement for devices and 24/7 live video helpdesk support, offers two-way communication between the remote worker’s PC and the IT department, enabling IT to manage remote devices and provide home workers with an appropriate level of support.
“What’s really powerful is that IT can look at my network. If I am having problems with my video, I can run a test and the results will be sent back to IT so they can see my network latency, the bandwidth I have available to me; they can see how many network hops I am going over at Virgin or BT; they can look at my CPU usage, the memory usage on my device. When I am having problems with my video systems, rather than saying try turning it off and on again, IT can provide a level of remote diagnostics to help me,” explained Fluester.
“What’s also powerful is that HR and the employer can set up compliance for me as a home user, programming things like hydration reminders to remind me to have a drink every 30 minutes or to take a break away from my screen or to take a break away from my desk. We have also added in some best practices, telling home users how to set up their headset, how to mount and centre their camera, how to get the best lighting for their camera or the best background. There are also some ergonomic settings. We can limit the amount of noise people are exposed to through their headset, so they don’t damage their hearing.”
This capability, suggests Fluester, elevates the Poly Studio P Series from a set of hardware into business-grade tools that employers can deploy to a remote workforce.
All needs catered for
The Poly Studio P Series includes three main products:
1. The Poly Studio P
A level up from cameras built into laptops and monitors, the Poly Studio 5 features a 1080p camera with a directional microphone that can cut out background noise, such as the sound of typing or a barking dog. The P5’s larger aperture enables it to let in more light than an in-built laptop camera, for better image quality in low-light conditions. It also boasts a status LED, so you can see at a glance whether you are muted or unmuted, and integrated privacy shutters – important for people with a home office in the kitchen or bedroom.
Other useful features are direct pairing with a Poly headset and a built-in USB port so that the user can connect the camera and headset to his/her laptop with a single USB cable, reducing cable clutter and freeing up a laptop USB port.
The P5 is available on its own or in a choice of four specially packaged Work from Home bundles (mono, stereo, Bluetooth, speakerphone) containing the camera, a Poly headset, single manual and management software for the user or the company IT department.
2. The Poly Studio P15
For executives, people who do a lot of video calls or for those who have a big screen set up in a dedicated home office, Poly recommends the Poly Studio P15. Placed on top of a computer monitor, this all-in-one audio and video bar combines a 4K camera, offering exceptional low-light performance, built-in speakers and microphones. It can be used with or without a headset.
The P15 uses AI to improve video, through automatic camera tracking and framing, which keeps the user in shot as they move around; and audio, through Noise Block technology, which completely blocks background noise, e.g. vehicles, leaf blowers, rustling, keyboard taps, when it detects no human voice – this overcomes the problem of extraneous noises from non-speakers who have forgotten to mute their microphones. If a user is speaking, noises picked up by a P15 at their end will be muted.
In addition, the P15 makes use of acoustic fence technology, which automatically suppresses noises that emanate from beyond a pre-set acoustic arc in front of the soundbar.
Although the P15 is designed as a personal device, a 90-degree field of view means it is also suitable for use in small meeting rooms and private pods in offices. For larger spaces, Poly recommends other soundbars in its portfolio, like the Poly Studio USB, which has a 120-degree field of view, 4 speakers, 6 microphones, WiFi, Bluetooth and an extension microphone.
3. The Poly Studio P21
This fully enclosed unit integrates a 21in USB-C monitor, the camera of the P5 (with privacy shutter and LED status light), the soundbar of the P15 (including Noise Block and Acoustic Fence technology), a lighting ring (for illuminating the speaker), control buttons on the front of the device, a wireless phone charger in the base and a built-in USB hub for simpler cabling.
With a single USB cable to the laptop, the P21 is designed for people who don’t have a dedicated home office space with a dual screen set-up, who might require a second monitor for a small Surface laptop or Macbook that also has great audio and video. It can also be used in offices, for hot desks and personal spaces.
On their own, Poly Studio P Series devices are attractive options for home workers and prosumers, one reason why Poly plans to sell them through retail as well as its reseller network. For enterprise customers with a large number of home/remote workers, they have the added attractions of remote visibility and control, plus 24/7 support, that will help them stand out in a crowded marketplace and give business buyers confidence that their remote workers are properly looked after.