David J. Danto
Collaboration Industry Consultant and Analyst
Covering AV / IoT / Mobility / Multimedia / Video / Unified Communications
Technology Grab Bag – Product Reviews – December 2016
One of the side benefits of being a technology consultant is you get to preview a whole bunch of new stuff. Sometimes the system or device I get to play with is directly related to enterprise collaboration – my area of expertise. Sometimes the device isn’t really intended for collaboration but I position it for that purpose with interesting results. And sometimes I just try out what is just a cool piece of technology, unrelated to any specific focus area. I have to admit that when it comes to trying out these devices I am just the proverbial “bigger boy with bigger toys” loving every minute of it. Learning about new products is just one of the ways I work at staying current with the tech world as a digital immigrant. Here are some of the new devices I’ve been playing with recently.
· Portal WiFi Router / Access Point: Portal is by far the best, simplest to install, most effective WiFi router on the market. Period. Firstly, let’s address the ease of use. I’ve installed many network devices over my long career – professionally and personally at home. Generally, one has to know what one is doing in order to handle anything complicated. For example, when you are cascading routers, you need to know how to change the IP octets so that all your devices can communicate with each other. With the Portal, none of that was necessary. It plugged in, paired with a smart-phone app, updated and then set itself up perfectly. Just done, no hassle – not even in my multiple router configuration. Now let’s address the speed. Wow – just wow. In a congested residential neighborhood the throughput on this device is phenomenal. It’s the first WiFi router that I’ve ever used that matched the speed of my wired broadband at home. Just take a look at the Speedtest results I received on my iPhone from a few rooms away – on promised 85Mbps Verizon FIOS service. I’ve never had anything close to that in this environment. The magic in the router is its ability to detect traffic from WiFi devices around it and optimize to prevent congestion and interference. I rarely find a product that meets its promise 100%. This is one that does. Again, just wow.
· TouchJet Wave Interactive Display Device: In past blogs I’ve talked about identifying the “eras of collaboration” noting that at the time we were in the “Era of Any.” We’re now at the twilight of that period, clearly revealing an “Era of Democratization” of all technology. Things that were out of reach or expensive in the past are now readily available and inexpensive. This will have a tremendous impact on the collaboration industry in ways few organizations realize at this point. Resellers and integrators will no longer be able to make a living by marking up product sales, as products will be so inexpensive. End-user organizations will no longer receive the “free advice and consulting” that came along with buying high-priced integrated systems, as the prices are no longer high enough to contain the needed pad. If you required any more evidence that this is true, just take a look at the awesome TouchJet Wave. For about $300 US you can get a tiny, android box that sits on top of any display and turns it into an interactive display. Think about that. Microsoft announced their 55” Surface Hub a couple of years ago for $9K US. You can get about nine TouchJet Waves combined with decent 55” displays at that price (and many more for the price of their bigger one at $22K.) Then again, if you’re like the typical user organization and you already own the displays in your conference rooms, you can get about thirty of them converted to interactive displays for that same $9K. Thirty systems for the price of one. Again just think about that for a minute. As for the device itself, it’s amazing. It creates a patented infrared LASER field in front of a display and sports a camera that detects where that field is broken. It comes with a number of built-in apps including TouchJet’s own Presenter software, which enables a number of powerful features from smart devices. It allows them to “touch” the screen remotely – as in anyone (or everyone) in a classroom or boardroom being able to manipulate or annotate upon the screen images. If you subscribe to their $150/year cloud service then anyone can participate from any PC or tablet anywhere – not just in the room. Or, if you prefer to stay off the public cloud, you can buy the server and software from them for an on-premises installation. Are there downsides to this device / system? Sure. When you use it you’re touching a display that wasn’t meant to be touched – so there will be fingerprints / finger oils to deal with – either by regular cleaning and/or with a screen covering film as an add-on. Also, you’ll need to be sure that the display is mounted in a stable manner (preferably on a wall) or your “touches” can knock the display off its stand. In addition - as the soon-to-be-overhyped IWB market will learn – people generally don’t get-up from their chairs to interact with a display, so who knows how often you’ll actually use it in an enterprise setting. All that being said however, would you prefer to develop an ROI model based on three hundred bucks per install or tens of thousands per install? Take a look at my unboxing and demo video of the Wave here. I guarantee you this device will drive an aggressive correction in the prices and participants in the interactive display space – more democratization. One would have to be nuts to pay more for the same features with a known brand-name being the only difference.
· Switchmate Simple Light Switch Automation: Now here’s a product that I really, really wanted to like. The automated light switch industry generally only offers overly complex, problematic solutions. I’ve returned more than my fair share after finding out that they needed “true ground” or other typically unused wiring at the switch in order to properly function. Then, at a recent analyst expo, I saw the Switchmate. It magnetically attached to the outside of any wall light switch, and then allows it to be controlled either by a local press or via Bluetooth. No wiring required at all and installation in less than a minute. I really liked it. The device seemed sleek and the idea was simple and smart….and then I brought their sample home – and it all went downhill after that. Apparently, what a tech-geek thinks is sleek and what his wife thinks is sleek are vastly different things. Despite that, I could have successfully argued for keeping it on the switch - if it had performed reliably. It didn’t. The mechanical piece that is meant to roll-over the switch didn’t make good contact all the time – so sometimes it would run but not throw the switch. It would also become unpaired from the free app at least a few times a week, requiring one to delete the previous entry and re-enter and rename the switch each time. When my wife finally said “when are you going to finally admit that ugly thing doesn’t work” I couldn’t disagree. Great idea, poor execution. I hope they don’t give up and eventually make one that works reliably in the future, but for now, this is in the drawer of useless technology.
If you’re using these products please send me a note and let me know if you agree or disagree with my review. Also, if you have a device you’d like me to review and describe in my articles, social media updates and newsletters, let me know that as well – I’m always happy to try new devices and systems with an open mind.
This article was written by David Danto and contains solely his own, personal opinions. 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. He now works with Dimension Data as their Principal Consultant for the collaboration, multimedia, video and AV disciplines. He is also the IMCCA’s Director of Emerging Technology. David can be reached at David.Danto@Dimensiondata.com or DDanto@imcca.org and his full bio and other blogs and articles can be seen at Danto.info. Please reach-out to David if you would like to discuss how he can help your organization solve problems, develop a future-proof collaboration strategy for internal use, or if you would like his help developing solid, user-focused go-to-market strategies for your collaboration product or service.
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