Three growing trends in communication and collaboration

Today, we live in a working world where communication and collaboration are everything

As technology advances to take on repetitive, process-driven tasks, the focus is on the workforce to do what humans do best — connect, interact, share ideas, and create meaningful connections that ensure we can all do our best work.

Technology is already unlocking some of these truly human-focused skills. Looking ahead in 2020, we will see its influence continue to permeate the workplace, driving three key trends to develop and enhance communication and collaboration.

Audio goes immersive

Employees are working more collaboratively and flexibly than ever before. The traditional approach of travelling to the same desk in the company office, complemented with some working from home on agreement with your employer, has given way to a new, modern way of working. 

Open spaces, complete with huddle rooms, hot desks and collaboration areas, are transforming the office environment and its purpose. At the same time, employees are expanding their work spaces beyond the office walls to work on the move, at customer sites, in shared office spaces or at home. 

One thing is critical. Whether on a train, working in a noisy office, or battling the decibels of a busy open office, crystal-clear audio is a must — and that puts voice centre stage for 2020.

New technology in soundbars is set to transform the experience in small collaboration spaces like huddle rooms, making it immersive, collaborative and productive for every participant. 

Automatic speaker tracking and directional audio technologies are emerging to ensure anyone joining remotely feels as though they are in the huddle room itself. Features like Poly’s next-generation beamforming microphone array clearly picks up all voices within a room, even in lively discussions, and technologies for noise that block out and mute distracting sounds are set to become even smarter. 

Video gets smarter 

Over the next 12 months, video and audio collaboration applications and devices will become smarter as machine learning brings a layer of intelligence to optimise every interaction, call and meeting.

For example, the introduction of machine learning into meeting room devices can give a level of insight that simply wasn’t possible before. This can include the typical number of participants, empty seats and how and when huddle rooms and conference rooms are occupied. 

As a result, the working environment can be optimised entirely for that company and its requirements, making every part of the space productive and useful.  It is also more economical for businesses to embrace the mobile-first worker, with the average cost of a seat in an office being £35,000 a year and at least a third are unoccupied most of the time.

Machine learning is already being used in some premium cameras to analyse meeting interactions, and make decisions to create a better, more contextual meeting experience. For example, PolyMeetingAI automatically frames participants in the room and can also smooth pan to focus on the active speaker. Conversation mode can also split the screen if two participants in the room are talking, ensuring far end participants can also fully engage in the conversation. NoiseBlock and Acoustic Fence technologies also reduce or eliminate distracting noise for professional-sounding communications.

In fact, machine learning will play an increasing role in aiding noise reduction, by tuning in to background noise adapting the equipment to what is heard. Everyday ambient sounds, like traffic or air-con, can be significantly reduced and in time we will see machine learning completely remove human voices in the background so that the speaker has everyone’s full attention. 

Personal, effortless user experiences

The user experience is critical to the adoption of any technology and through 2020 we’ll see significant developments in making communication and collaboration effortless and seamless.

Functionality like live verbal interaction will become much more mainstream with the rise of voice-activated technologies like Google Voice and Alexa for Business. This will increase efficiency, as workers can simply use voice commands to join a call or start a video meeting, rather than using a remote control or pushing multiple buttons. 

Personalised interactions will also become mainstream. For example, meeting room technology is developing that will recognise a person as soon as they walk through the door, know that they have an upcoming call and join it automatically based on facial and voice recognition. 

In the next few years, we expect to see basic translation services coming into effect. Employees will be able to work with non-native language speaking colleagues with ease, using intelligent translation services built into handsets, headsets and conferencing technologies. 

About the Author

Paul Clark, SVP, EMEA Managing Director at Poly. Poly is the global communications company that powers authentic human connection and collaboration. Face to face, we sift and sort millions of verbal and non-verbal cues to glean meaning. Poly is finding new ways to inject these cues into audio and video communication to replicate the face to face experience.

Featured image: ©Zeber