From Communication to Action
To most business people, the phrase “collaborating technology” conjures up virtual meeting rooms, voice and video conferencing, and perhaps share data. To those who’ve been closely following this space recently, though, collaboration tech has been redefined to encompass virtual meetings in which people not only talk about the work, but also perform it together; actually co-labor, if you will, in real time.
The new developments that have made this possible include the obvious cloud and mobility trends, but they also center around interactive, guided visualization. One leader in this field is SMART Technologies, a Calgary, Alberta-based firm that’s applying large format touch, zoom and gestures interfaces to its interactive digital displays. The company’s meeting software shares this functionality with remote users on other SMART Boards, desktop PC’s or tablets.
Equally important, SMART has integrated whiteboard annotation, in “digital ink,” deep within some commonly collaborative applications, so that users can resize, rotate and zoom in n markups, annotations, sketches and notes along with an application’s other objects, and so the application itself can even interpret these items. Someone can , for example, write, a number with his finger on an84-inch 4k SMART Board, tap it to turn it into text drop it into a spreadsheet, and zoom in to make sure everyone’s examining the same cell.
Design Reviews and Changes in One Session
The architecture, engineering an construction (AEC) disciplines illustrate this enhanced collaboration well. “One of the construction firms we work with is building a tower in Taipel,” says Warren Barkley, SMART Technologies CTO. “And on the 32nd floor, a big piece of conduit came out in a place that they didn’t expect. Because it’s $30,000 an hour to stop the project, they used to put people on a private jet and flu them to Taipei. The engineers and the architects would go up in the elevator and look and decide what needed to be changed.”
But because of SMART’s integration with 3D engineering applications, no one had to fly around the world.” The notes and annotations made are more effectively embedded into the design drawings and remotely, instantly shared,” explains Barkley. “Contractors on site with an iPad could see the same drawings that the architects and engineers were looking at in Florida, and also send images from the site to compare to the 3D models.”
They were able to make the real-time change to the project that rerouted the conduit. “It took them an hour to sign off on it,” says Barkley, “and then construction could continue.”
Integration Offers Significant Advantages
SMART Technologies’ annotation tools are integrated with a number of leading design applications, and together with SMART’S interactive displays, they achieve significant advancements over simple digital displays. They turn images drawn with a SMART pen or a finger, for example, into native 3D file elements, and translate handwriting into moveable text. They allow dispersed teams to collaboratively make changes to building information modeling (BIM) files, which AEC firms have widely adopted. And with shared rotating, circling and zooming enabled, everyone focuses their attention on the most relevant part of the design.
The technology applies equally well across a broad range of industries and use cases, from working collaboratively on the design of a new magazine to preventing costly design errors before manufacturing new engine components . The solution is flexible enough so that you can interact with the content of your choice, regardless of your location or device information is all in one electronic format, and people working on the same file can make their comments and changes simultaneously.
Travel savings make up a surprisingly small share of the hefty ROI for these visual collaboration innovations, says Jeff Lowe, SMART Enterprise VP. “It turns out that risk reduction is the highest variable, three times higher than travel cost savings,” he says. The second – and third-ranking ROI factors, he adds, are accelerated rates of innovation and faster, more informed decision-making.
“Our software allows team members to work in an infinitely sized canvas, enabling them to pan , zoom and interact with complex data and images to truly collaborate and create tangible outcomes,” says Lowe.
“Forbes Magazine” July 21 – 2014 Edition By Ellen Muraskin