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AV Control Systems - What are they and how can they benefit your meeting rooms?

Posted by Nick Yeandle, published 2nd February 2022

In today's forever changing world of technology, there are many different audio-visual products emerging that are designed for the meeting room and boardroom. These devices can all assist users with their meetings and provide some extremely useful functionality. However, with so many different manufacturers producing equipment all with different ways of being controlled, and with so much complexity in each individual device, audio-visual equipment can sometimes seem a little overwhelming to use - particularly for the less technical user. That's where an AV control system comes in.

What is an AV control system?

An AV control system is essentially a collection of devices that link together to provide control over the audio-visual equipment within a meeting room or even an entire building. It's main purpose is to simplify the use of the AV systems and to integrate them together to form one unified system that can be controlled from one interface. The control system will be designed in such a way that it will make the equipment easy to use, even for the least technical user.

Usually, the control system will have a control panel interface such as a button panel mounted on a wall, or a touch screen on the wall or meeting room table. These devices allow the user to make changes to the system configuration, and with a single button press the control system can carry out multiple actions on various devices. E.g. a System On button can turn on all devices, set the input sources and volume to the usual room configuration, lower a projector screen and even control the lighting and blinds in the room.

Automated Control Systems

In some cases where the control system is fully automated, there may be no need for a control interface at all. For example, with a room sensor, the control system can automatically switch on the system when a person enters the room, and will turn off the system automatically at a certain time of night or after a period of inactivity in the room. Source selection can be achieved with auto-switching and cameras can track people based on where they are speaking from, using microphones with beamforming technology. This makes meetings much more enjoyable, allowing employees to concentrate on delivering their presentation, rather than worrying about whether the technology will work for them.

User Interface Design

As a system designer, it is essential to consider the end user and the main use-cases of the room when designing and programming a control system. The idea of a system is to do away with the standard remote controls that come with devices, and free up clutter from the meeting room. It's important to consider all of the functionality that the products can offer, but it may not be necessary to include some of this functionality if the use-case for the room doesn't demand it.

Because the key to successful control system design is to provide ease-of-use, the UI design must reflect this, and any more complex functionality would be tucked away in a separate Experienced User menu, that may well be PIN protected. If it isn't needed then it won't be visible and can't cause any potential confusion.

At AV Xpert, we like to design control systems with a home screen that has a single Push to Start button that, when pressed, will configure the room for the normal use-case scenario. But if the room is used regularly for several different scenarios, then two or three buttons may be needed.

Once the system is running, there would then be just the fundamental controls such as mic volume, speaker volume and camera control. Although this of course depends on the exact equipment in the system.

Benefits of a Control System

A well-designed control system requires minimal input from the user and gets them set up and ready to go as quickly as possible, saving valuable time at the start of a meeting and minimising technical support calls to your IT department.

Control systems also replace the stack of remote controls and the usual mess of tangled wires, instead providing a clean and uncluttered space that creates a good working environment.

Everything is controlled from one familiar location, with simple inputs. This allows users to feel immediately familiar with the equipment, promoting trust in the system and reducing stress.

You can also benefit from custom branding and uniformity across your entire site, assuming all meeting rooms are equipped with the same familiar technology.

Obviously each system is unique, and the user requirements always vary, but with a well thought out control system, any AV equipment, no matter how complex, can be made simple.

We are specialists in audio-visual system design and installations, and will be happy to support you with your AV system upgrades. The team at AV Xpert is well-placed to help you find a cost-effective solution for your business. Call us on 01480 587 556 or click here to get in touch and arrange a free initial consultation.