By David Danto
The Interactive Multimedia & Collaborative Communications Alliance (IMCCA)

Before the emergence of interactive flat panel displays (IFPDs) — commonly known as interactive whiteboards (IWBs) — collaboration between offices often consisted of exchanging ideas via phone conferences and online screen sharing. But collaborating with these technologies was problematic. Documents could be shared online, but it wasn’t possible for workers in multiple offices to mark them up together in real time. As a result, the need to pass these documents back and forth after meetings slowed down the collaboration process.

When teams across distances meet to exchange ideas, visual elements like slideshows, bar graphs and spreadsheets are often employed to help clarify key points. For highly effective collaboration, the ability to make changes to these documents in real time — such as adding notes, deleting irrelevant elements, drawing directly onto the documents and highlighting main ideas — helps to speed up the decision-making process.

Even with the introduction of smart boards in the early 90s, this level of collaboration was not yet possible. Smart boards were also expensive and difficult to use at the time. In order for teams at two or more locations to collaborate, companies often had to purchase and install an expensive server to host the meeting. It was only after the iPhone® brought us more intuitive touchscreen technology that we started to see a notable shift that led to the intuitive interactive displays available today. With modern IFPDs, you no longer need time after every meeting to update documents used during presentations.

Here’s a look at a few use cases that provide insight into how advanced IFPDs can be used to enhance collaboration in a variety of corporate environments

Digital whiteboards in general office environments

Not long ago — and many teams still work like this today — brainstorming sessions often ended with employees gathering around a marked-up, dry-erase board to take pictures of meeting notes with their smartphones. The notes in these pictures could then be entered into editable documents and shared via email. IFPDs today let us skip these extra steps by capturing, storing and forwarding this type of information directly from the displays. Modern IFPDs also let you:
•    Connect laptops and smart devices so multiple employees can collaborate on documents you’ve already created.
•    Use preferred business apps in conjunction with the digital whiteboard to simplify project management.
•    Collaborate with remote workers in real time to keep ideas moving.
One success story in particular involves a company with teams in three branch offices that formerly used projectors for presentations, online screen sharing to enable viewers to see slideshows, and conference calls to share financial results and marketing strategies. Although these technologies took them beyond the dry-erase board, exchanging ideas was still inefficient — resulting in extended meetings and regroups.
Adding an IFPD to the conference rooms in each branch office brought immediate benefits. Now all their team members can:
•    View and contribute to presentations on their IFPDs simultaneously, making it easier to share ideas and concepts.
•    Draw diagrams and make comments in real time directly from their connected laptops or smart devices, saving their work to all three IFPDs simultaneously, and saving time as a result.
•    Exchange ideas more accurately, and make informed decisions quickly.
Design collaboration in architecture, construction and engineering
Many IFPDs available today are ideal for collaboration in architecture, construction and engineering (ACE) environments. Teams within these industries need to be able to collaborate on complex, detailed documents — including drawings and blueprints. However, passing these documents back and forth can interrupt the creative flow and lead to security concerns, especially when collaborators are located in separate offices. And when the creative process is disrupted, timely decisions are more difficult to make.
Fortunately, there are IFPDs available now that enable ACE teams, who are separated by distance or work remotely, to share these types of documents in high resolution, and work on them together in real time. IFPDs also now offer advanced security features so teams can discuss details, add comments and draw directly onto documents while helping to protect proprietary information.
Bringing designers together with interactive whiteboards
A variety of designers — from graphic designers to screen print artists to simulation designers in manufacturing companies — can also see big benefits when collaborating on modern IFPDs. One notable use case involves the challenge a manufacturing company faced with collaboration between their main office and R&D location and their main office and assembly plants. Before introducing IFPDs, the main office shared ideas with the R&D team and discussed quality-control issues with the plants by phone and email prior to each meeting. The resulting redundancies, inefficiencies and wasted time interfered with productivity, and conveying complicated ideas was often difficult.
With the introduction of IFPDs, employees at the manufacturing company’s main office and R&D location can now collaborate on designs and drawings in real time without a need for their pre-meeting phone and email briefings. Communicating with their assembly plants via the IFPDs has helped to simplify quality control, allowing assembly-line employees to connect to the IFPDs with laptops, tablets and smart devices. Now these employees can view images and documents while still onsite, saving time and reducing interruptions to productivity.
Digital whiteboard technology has come a long way to enhance collaboration, make creative processes more efficient and increase productivity by saving employees time. So you can toss those dry-erase markers in the trash, turn off that old projector, end the slow trudge of online screen sharing, and take collaboration to the next level with today’s intuitive, user-friendly IFPDs.
 
 
 
David Danto
Director of Emerging Technology

The Interactive Multimedia & Collaborative Communications Alliance (IMCCA)
Twitter: @NJDavidD
David has over three decades of experience providing problem solving leadership and innovation in media and unified communications technologies for various firms in the corporate, broadcasting and academic worlds, including AT&T, Bloomberg LP, FNN, Morgan Stanley, NYU, Lehman Brothers and JP Morgan Chase.
For the latest Ricoh InfoComm 2018 news as well as products and services coming soon to Canada, check out AV Nation’s June coverage:
1. Ricoh Rethinks Customer Experience With Smooth Collaboration Service (June 19, 2018)
2. Ricoh Refocuses on the End user (June 20, 2018)