Tag Archives: technology

AV in U.S. courtrooms

How AV is Transforming U.S. Courtrooms

The days of old-fashioned, closed off courtrooms are over. While many perceive the legal industry to be lagging behind in technology adoption, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Integrated AV technology, used widely in courtrooms and law firms across the U.S., not only improves transparency in the judicial system, it improves courtroom efficiency, lowers overhead costs, and increases security.

Understanding the Role of AV in Court Proceedings

Historically, court proceedings required everyone involved to be present in the courtroom. Before, during, and after a trial, communication plays a huge role in the legal system. In addition to courtroom activities, depositions, training programs, and many client communications required in-person meetings. Even as some communications shifted to email interactions or phone conferences in recent years, AV technology has the potential to take communications to the next level.

AV technology meets the demand for broadcast trials as well as those behind-the-scenes interactions that take place in the legal field on a daily basis. Video conferencing and telepresence systems make it possible to accomplish many pre-trial tasks remotely, and even to call in witnesses who cannot be physically present in the courtroom.

Meanwhile, broadcast technology can bring trials to a broad television or internet audience. Interactive video monitors, microphones, speakers, touchscreen control systems, and internet-connected devices and networking all play a role in the modern, technology-driven courtroom.

AV setups in the courtroom often feature:

  • Videoconferencing equipment. Video conferencing and telepresence equipment enables courts to engage in remote arraignments and interact with witnesses or court officers who could not travel to provide testimony. Video conferencing technology also supports out-of-the-courtroom interactions such as depositions and client meetings. Remote interactions with defendants, legal counsel, and witnesses reduce overhead travel costs for individuals, government, and law firms.
  • Broadcasting equipment. To improve judicial transparency, many courts are broadcasting trials on local television or via other mediums. Instead of adapting to camera crews who need to set up equipment before each trial, some court systems are investing in their own broadcast equipment. Even if the trial isn’t immediately broadcast, the video serves as an important record of the events that took place and provides more in-depth data than a court reporter’s documentation.
  • Interactive display panels. Large screens placed in strategic locations throughout the courtroom often serve dual purposes as video conferencing screens and interactive whiteboards on which attorneys can display key pieces of evidence and use electronic pens to illustrate a point. Additionally, every important person in the courtroom can be provided with a display to ensure maximum visual intelligibility including the judge, clerk, attorneys, witnesses and jurors.
  • Audio integration. Microphones, digital signal processors and audio distribution such as speaker systems play a crucial role in the courtroom setting. Many courtrooms invest in audio technology before transitioning to video components. Microphones capture the information being shared to support court records, while connected speakers amplify communications and auditory evidence. Intelligible audio is critical for all participants to understand what is being said or presented.
  • Control and connectivity. In addition to these primary AV components, many AV companies are outfitting courtrooms with multi-functional access panels that may include laptop connections, document cameras, and other integration-friendly equipment. Judges, for example, often have access to control panels with intuitive functionality to manage the proceedings from the bench. The judge and/or lawyers may have the capability to turn on specific courtroom cameras, video sources, or displays, mute or activate microphones, and operate the video conferencing system from a touchscreen control panel or even a mobile device, such as an iPad, tablet, or smartphone.
  • Managed services. As AV technology and IT services intersect, many AV providers have started to offer managed AV services. Instead of installing the equipment and relying on the users to manage it, AV companies are remotely managing every component for reduced downtime and improved security, which is a crucial consideration in courtrooms.

AV technology clearly plays an important role in the legal setting, and government entities willing to adopt new technologies have a great opportunity for long-term positive impacts in their courtrooms.





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Sound Masking

Fixing the Open Office Floor Plan

 

Not long ago, open office floor plans were the biggest trend in office spaces. Businesses believed they could spend less money creating the space, and also foster collaboration and improve employee morale at the same time. However, the plan seems to have backfired. Open floor plans make no allowance for personal space, or the need for a quiet place to work. Instead of increasing productivity and satisfaction, employees complain of constant distractions and irritation.

Problems with the Open Floor

Specific problems vary from office to office—not all employees working in open office plans experience as many issues with noise or problems with visual distractions. However, there are common problems associated with most open floor offices:

  • Productivity decreases. This happens for numerous reasons, but is generally due to the large number of distractions that occur when many people work in shared spaces.
  • Employee happiness falls. Most people like to be able to work in peace, and open offices deny them that ability.
  • Distractions abound. Distractions destroy motivation, interrupt production, and generally annoy employees.
  • Employees are sick more. Open offices not only increase stress but are also a perfect platform for spreading illnesses.
  • They foster mistrust. Employees sometimes believe open floor plans mean their managers don’t trust them and want to be able to look over their shoulders.
  • Competitions arise. In any open office plan, there are always a few private offices for the higher-ups. Employees will sometimes fight over who gets a newly available private office.
  • They end up costing more. Yes, open floor offices cost less to build. However, because they lower employee productivity so steeply, they quickly result in a net loss.

Restoring Order and Productivity

Companies can do several things to increase productivity and employee morale. These include:

  • Flexible work schedules. Companies that allow their employees to telecommute can reduce the number of people working in an open office space, leading to fewer distractions and an increase in productivity. Flexible work schedules also raise employee morale.
  • Workplace culture. Feeling like part of a larger whole improves employee satisfaction and motivation. Open floor offices can allow for a strong company culture to develop, and organizations need to encourage this.
  • Noise-canceling headphones go a long way toward eliminating noisy distractions that discourage workers.
  • Movable furniture and private spaces. An open floor plan is all about allowing people to collaborate. Movable furniture enables employees to work together as a group, and then separate for individual work. This can help remove distractions and still foster collaboration.
  • Hybrid floor plans. Similar to having an open floor plan with mobile furniture, a hybrid floor plan creates spaces for groups and more private areas for individuals.
  • Alternatives to sitting. Sitting for too many hours a day is unhealthy. Moving around promotes blood flow to the brain, increases thinking capabilities as well as improves mood. Businesses can include seating alternatives such as yoga mats, treadmills, and standing workstations as part of an open office floor plan.
  • Free seating. If a company wants to promote working relationships and collaboration with an open office, they might want to avoid specific seating arrangements. Allow people to discover which colleagues they work best with and productivity will increase.

Open office floor plans have tremendous potential, but managers and business leaders must carefully assess what kind of office plan suits the work done in the office and the company culture as a whole. Done well, an open office can strike a fine balance between flexibility and productivity.

For Company-Wide Tech Adoption, Embrace Shadow IT


Businesses are increasing employee productivity by allowing workers to use their own devices for work. BYOD (bring your own device) plans are in place for many companies, onboarding personal devices for use on the company’s systems and software. However, more employees are using their own devices and more of their own software, even without BYOD policies or permissions in place.

Companies have long feared shadow IT—applications and tools employees use to accomplish work or solve problems without the permission or knowledge of the IT department—not completely without reason. The idea of employees using unauthorized software for company purposes is risky. However, shadow IT has proven to solve more problems than it creates.

Benefits of Shadow IT

Shadow IT is a hotbed of innovation and problem solving. As employees face problems that slow productivity, they turn to alternative methods to solve them. When one person discovers a solution, it is quickly shared with others.

When companies fight against shadow IT by attempting to enforce the use of only particular programs, they make some problems worse and often create new ones. If a business bans the use of shadow IT, it may be taking away tools employees use every day and replacing them with less efficient ones.

Not only does enforcing the use of old programs reduce productivity by making work more difficult to complete, but it also damages employee morale. Instead of rigidly enforcing the use of certain software and banning others, companies need to embrace shadow IT and empower employees. In many ways, employees know what types of applications and solutions they need better than any member of IT or management. After all, they are the ones closest to the work.

The Greatest Benefit

While there are many benefits to embracing shadow IT, perhaps the greatest one is this—company-wide tech adoption. Getting every employee in a company to use a single piece of software is essential for businesses to run smoothly. However, doing so is often a long and costly process.

Shadow IT, however, can make company-wide tech adoption much simpler. One of the main ways it accomplishes this is by allowing employees to make the decision to adopt a piece of software. When their managers force a new application on them, there is more hesitation to try it than when a fellow employee shares a helpful way to improve a task or solve a problem.

When employees choose to use a new piece of software, they do so for a reason. This means employees use shadow IT applications because they provide personnel with features the company’s programs lack. Often, the shadow IT application is easier to use than the company counterpart. When it comes to adopting new software, the more intuitive it is, the quicker it is adopted.

Shadow IT programs also save companies the time and money required to deploy new applications. The purchasing and companywide distribution of software can be quite expensive and time-consuming, especially if support systems need upgrades to handle the new programs. Shadow IT software already works on the company systems, costs the company little to nothing, and can usually be distributed much more efficiently with the help of employees already using the software.

Organizations need to lose their fear of shadow IT and instead embrace it. When they do, they will have access to employee innovations that will lead to increased productivity and solutions to common problems. Shadow IT will also lead the way to easier, faster, and cheaper company-wide adoption of new technology.

cybersecurity for AV systems

Addressing the Cybersecurity Skills Gap

 

As companies turn to digital technology to solve problems and to expand, they become more vulnerable to hacking. Successful cyberattacks devastate businesses, resulting in lost data, compromised systems, and physical damage to valuable equipment.

Hiring people with cybersecurity skills is the logical thing to do. However, as companies search for employees with the right skills, they discover that there are not enough trained cybersecurity professionals to go around.

Exploring the Lack of Cybersecurity Professionals 

Cyberattacks have become more common in recent years. In 2013, Target suffered a major data breach. In 2014, there were attacks on UPS, Chase, Sony, and others. Last year, hackers successfully attacked the FBI, Experian, Scottrade, and other companies. So far in 2016, there have been several successful attacks against point-of-sale companies, resulting in hundreds of credit card numbers and other sensitive information being compromised.

It is no surprise that the demand for cybersecurity professionals is expected to increase. The Bureau of Labor Statistics is predicting a 53 percent increase in companies seeking to fill cybersecurity positions by 2018. A study recently conducted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) reveals the massive shortage of cybersecurity professionals today:

  • Eighty-two percent of participating enterprises do not believe they have adequate cybersecurity personnel.
  • Twenty-five percent admit to being victims of cyber thefts due to a shortage of skilled security professionals.
  • The three most desired technical skills for cybersecurity professionals are intrusion detection, secure software development, and attack mitigation.
  • Only 23 percent of organizations think the education their security personnel have adequately prepared them for their positions.
  • Hands-on experience and professional certifications are considered better sources of cybersecurity education than a bachelor’s degree. Participation in hacking competitions is also a good way to acquire necessary skills.
  • Global cybersecurity spending is expected to top $100 billion in the next five years.

Training new people in the necessary skills to protect companies’ information will take time. Even as new personnel are trained, the competition to hire them is fierce. While the CSIS report reveals some alarming statistics, it also suggests ways companies can better address the shortage of qualified cybersecurity professionals. 

Overcoming the Shortage

More than half the organizations reported that the best way to attract and retain talented individuals was simply offering higher salaries than their competitors. Salary was first above other important factors, including promotion potential and the organization’s reputation.

Businesses struggling to find adequately skilled cybersecurity personnel are starting to conduct on-the-job training to develop their own professionals. This not only allows them to create the security staff they need but also increases the retention rates for their skilled employees. Nearly half the companies surveyed said that a lack of certification sponsorship and continued training were common reasons for cybersecurity personnel to leave.

Many companies are simply finding other businesses to handle their security workload. More than 60 percent of the enterprises that participated in the CSIS study have outsourced at least one facet of cybersecurity. The automation of some security tasks is also rising and helping companies fill gaps as well.

Cybersecurity is becoming a more crucial need than ever before in the face of recent attacks. Yet companies are struggling to find enough properly trained personnel to increase their security. As a result, organizations are attracting professionals with high salaries, training their own workforces, and finding ways to lighten their cybersecurity burden through outsourcing. As AV Contractors for enterprises of all kinds and federal government agencies, we understand these risks. Contact Spinitar today to learn more about possible risks in your AV and/or communication systems (800) 722-6444 or sales@spinitar.com.

av technology healthcare

Healthcare Industry Discovering Multiple Benefits of AV Technology


AV technology has revolutionized how many organizations approach communication, collaboration, and ‘business as usual.’ These benefits are not specific to any certain market, as many applications for AV exist in classrooms, boardrooms, and—increasingly—even operating rooms. In fact, healthcare AV is a growing market that is changing the way providers approach patient care. Let’s take a closer look at how AV is changing the healthcare industry (and why it’s working).

AV Technologies Yield New Approaches to Patient Care

The e-zine AV Network recently reported that funding for the health IT/digital health sector reached $1.2 billion in the second quarter of 2015, a 53 percent increase from the preceding quarter. This growth—undoubtedly spurred by interest in the potential for telehealth (discussed in-depth below)—is proof that AV is impacting the healthcare industry in ways that can ultimately boost patient care.

Viewed from a wide lens, AV is impacting the healthcare industry by doing the following:

  • Enabling collaboration between doctors. Besides standard videoconferencing capabilities, many AV systems today come with digital video capturing and streaming features. This allows physicians or emergency medical personnel to collaborate more effectively—even in real time or in the operating room, a big plus in a field where seconds matter.
  • Increasing the speed in information dissemination via digital signage. AV-enabled digital signage serves a number of purposes in hospital environments. Besides offering directions to help visitors with navigation, these tools can feature touch-screen interactivity and even facilitate two-way video collaboration in the case of emergencies.
  • Allowing hospitals (and staff) to collaborate and organize electronic medical records (EMRs). Using AV technology, hospital staff can better secure, organize and even share important treatment information such as EMRs, videos of surgical procedures, x-rays and more.
  • Advancing knowledge and understanding of medical procedures through increased visual capabilities, thereby increasing the efficacy of training for physicians. Surgical environments today are endeavoring to become more “future-proof,” and many are phasing in advancements like miniature scopes. AV is also finding its place in operating rooms, and the output is helping train the future generation of healthcare providers. (Note that for these operating room systems to function properly, the AV components, data network and operating room equipment should work with each other—or, at the very least, not cause compatibility issues.)
  • Adding telemedicine capabilities to improve access to convenient doctor-patient communication. At InfoComm’s first healthcare conference, telehealth was named as a top trend due to the aging of the baby boomer generation and their collective increased demand for healthcare services. Using telehealth technology, patients can have a video ‘office visit’ with their physicians—without, of course, physically traveling to the office or sacrificing the ever-important face-time with their medical providers. These arrangements often require cloud-based solutions or special equipment to support a variety of patient endpoints.

While healthcare AV is full of promise, it’s also not without its growing pains and challenges for integrators. Due to the sensitivity of many medical AV applications, for example, integrators must take special care to ensure the quality and functionality of the technologies they’re installing are top-notch. Color and definition, in particular, must be perfect. In serious cases, poor imagery could result in misdiagnoses or consequential missteps in surgical situations. Because EMRs contain hypersensitive information (including health files and even some financial data), taking steps to bolster information security and proper network configuration are vital. To mitigate these risks, some AV professionals specialize in medical applications. 

What’s Next?

AV is certainly changing the healthcare industry by enabling communication a physician-to-physician, hospital-to-hospital, or patient-to-provider level. Whatever angle you take, it’s apparent AV technologies are a good fit for this relationship-driven industry and are here to stay.

4K Ultra HD: A New Digital Standard

FEATURED STORY – From Crestron’s Blog: “4K: The New Digital Standard”

4K is becoming one of the biggest tech terms of the year. Now that 4K product prices have dropped, people are more interested in what it is and how it’s different from full HD. So, what exactly is 4K, how is it going to change the way we watch TV, and what does it mean for Crestron?

What is 4K?

The term 4K refers to the amount of pixels in a display and comes in two resolutions: the cinema standard and Ultra HD. The cinema standard has a display resolution of 4096x2160p, while Ultra HD, made for bigger consumer displays, consists of 3840x2160p. Even though both of these resolutions are considered 4K, the cinema standard has slightly more pixels for the larger theater screen. 4K ultimately got its name by having roughly 4,000 pixels.

A 4K display has four times the amount of pixels in a 1080p display, totaling in about 8.3 million pixels. The pixels in a 4K display are smaller than lower resolution displays, which makes the picture sharper, and gives smoother motion and tighter detail. Even 2K content being played on a 4K display shows a clearer picture.

crestron infocomm booth

The Switch

Many people are starting to notice that more 4K products are hitting the market and at a lower price. So, is making the switch to 4K now worth it? Absolutely.

If you’re in the market for a new big-screen TV, odds are most of the displays you will see are 4K. If you walk into a Best Buy®, finding a 2K television is going to be difficult. Many companies are pushing 4K displays since prices are affordable, causing lower resolution displays to become obsolete.

While 4K content isn’t everywhere, streaming services like Netflix® will continue to offer more 4K shows and movies over time.  Sources, such as UHD Blu-Ray™ players, should be released by the end of 2015. Cable services will also be joining the 4K movement by the end of the year with ‘over-the-top’ services, where they use internet streaming to a set-top box, rather than cable TV.

Business wise, many new laptops come with resolutions higher than 2K. Presenting something from a high resolution laptop to a 2K display during a business meeting will often distort what’s being presented on the screen. Hooking a laptop up to a larger display is becoming more popular, making screen compatibility extremely important.

Here at Crestron, we understand the importance of seamlessly displaying high definition content from 4K sources throughout your organization or home. Crestron DigitalMedia™ is the only fully engineered, field-proven, end-to-end solution for managing and distributing digital AV and control signals. Whether you have one room or a thousand rooms, DM® delivers pure high-definition, including 4K Ultra HD, to every display.

Crestron and 4K

crestron 4k certified jpg

Crestron is always ready to handle the next big thing. In fact, Crestron DigitalMedia switchers are capable of handling 4K and have been since 2008. If you haven’t made the switch to 4K yet, get started with the complete line of 4K DM products. As the first end-to-end 4K distribution system, 4K DM ensures the highest video quality with zero latency. Along with the recent price drop in 4K displays, Crestron also lowered the price of select 4K DM products to provide you with an affordable and reliable system.

If you already have DM, you don’t need to buy a whole new system for 4K compatibility. To upgrade an existing system, simply swap in new 4K I/O cards and 4K endpoints.

To eliminate 4K compatibility issues, Crestron offers a 4K certification program where Crestron engineers test 4K sources and displays in the DigitalMedia Lab. Products that become certified  work perfectly with an integrated system and have the Crestron 4K certified logo. Some companies with Crestron certified products include Apple®, Sony®, Panasonic®, and more. To learn more about Crestron 4K certification, click here.

ISE 2014: 4K Products from Crestron Electronics, Inc. on Vimeo.