Archive | May, 2014

Taking the Christie Brio for a Spin

Christie BrioAlmost a full year ago, I wrote a post about my biggest disappointments from InfoComm The first item on my list was the lack of a true enterprise wireless display solution at an affordable price.  There are a ton of manufacturers with wireless display solutions some are somewhat impressive, others are not quite impressive. Some of them are absolutely perfect but only work with specific hardware, others only certain file types. One, just one of my points with the failure of wireless display devices was the pitifully low frame rate. I spoke in broad generalizations about it in the post and Christie, a manufacturer of high quality projection and other pro AV equipment, reached out to me on twitter regarding the frame rate of the Christie Brio wireless gateway.

After almost a full year, they’ve kept in touch and finally sent me a Christie Brio unit to connect and take for a whirl. I’ve taken similar products for a test drive to see if it would be a good fit for my enterprise environment, most recently I spent a week with the Crestron AirMedia device. So here’s what I liked and didn’t like about the Christie Brio.

I LOVED IT

  • Admin interface: The administrative interface for the unit is incredibly intuitive and easy to use. Whether you need to access the ADMIN console to change an IP address, or create a splash screen the interface is easy to use, even without documentation.
  • No Lag on Powerpoint: One of my biggest gripes about other wireless display devices has been the lag on display static content. With the Christie Brio I was able to use the same .pptx file that caused significant lag on other wireless gateways without any difficulty. The Christie Brio even handled powerpoint transitions well (not that I advocate using ppt transitions).
  • Minimal mirroring lag: The Christie Brio handled desktop mirroring very well. I feel confident I could use the Brio to wirelessly mirror my desktop in a conference room and complete software training without much, if any, difficulties caused by lag. This makes it the ideal device for several of the smaller locations I have on our campuses.
  • Meeting Manager: I absolutely loved the Christie Brio meeting manager interface, allowing me to control which connected device was displaying as well as full screen, or collaborative displaying (viewing up to four sources simultaneously). Meeting manager allows everything to be selected virtually, or you can integrate the device with a control system and bypass meeting manager.
  • Whiteboarding: One of the things that I really like about the Christie Brio is the whiteboarding capability. This functionality makes the Christie Brio ideal for huddle rooms and small conference rooms where there may not be enough space for a digital display as well as a whiteboard. Also, it is an incredible feature when hosting a meeting, making it ideal for collaboration. It requires a touchscreen monitor to operate to the full functionality, but from the meeting manager it can be done using the mouse, it just isn’t as precise.

MEH, IT WAS ALRIGHT

  • Video Lag: As somewhat expected, there was slight video lag and frame rate issues when displaying a video from youtube, via a laptop, wirelessly to the device. I was watching a music video and there was noticeable the artist’s mouth didn’t match up with the words, and was a bit behind and often the video was choppy; but the Christie Brio handled wireless full rate video better than anything I’ve tested that is a ProAV product.
  • VLan issues: One of the things I loved most about the Crestron AirMedia was the way it handled IP addressing. With the Christie Brio I’m not able to plug the device into an existing LAN port (let’s say 10.28.X.X) and connect to it natively from my tablet or phone which are on our enterprise wireless network (let’s say 10.246.X.X). This is not uncommon, but It would have been a real benefit. According to the documentation if an iOS device resides on the same network as the Christie Brio it can transmit via the built in ios/osx Airplay feature. This is where it would have been extremely beneficial. These devices can be placed on the same network via configuration changes to network switch, however, if you want to involve your IT department; it just didn’t make sense for the limited amount of time I had the device.
  • Physical Size: The Christie Brio is a full RU device. While it is significantly larger than other wireless display devices I’ve tested, it does a lot more, including two wired inputs. This one RU device does a lot and makes it the ideal appliance for an integrated huddle room, however if you’re just looking for a device to hide behind a display it might be oversized.

DON’T LIKE IT AT ALL

  • Mobile Integration: The Christie Brio handles wireless display of ios devices natively through Airplay, users can find the Brio, or whatever name has been assigned, in their list of airplay capable devices if the units are connected to the same network. Unfortunately, since the Christie Brio doesn’t have the ability to connect to a wireless network. In my location, wired and wireless networks are on separate Vlans, preventing me from connecting to the device from an ios/osx device out of the box. These issues can be overcome by changing some settings on the network switch to enable multicasting, you’d just have to have your network team change the port address if this is the case. For Android devices, the only way to wirelessly display is to incorporate a miracast device, which would likely have to be adapted, since there is no support for HDMI connectors on this box.

All in all I found the Christie Brio offered a lot more functionality than other devices I’ve tested, and for the most part eliminated concerns about lag and stutter. It worked better in almost every application than the Crestron AirMedia did, but at roughly 5 times the price, I’d expect it to. This unit certainly isn’t a blanket winner for me, especially with its issues handing mobile out of the box, but I could see it being a winner for a select few projects, provided there’s room in the budget for it. My biggest disappointment in this unit is that it requires additional hardware to operate android devices, and network equipment configuration changes to enable native airplay to the unit, or an Apple TV if these configurations cannot be altered.  

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Strategy vs Planning

business planI sit in a lot of meetings, I mean a lot of meetings, whether it is in the capacity as technology manager for a university, a writer, or an independent consultant working with education, house of worship and corporate clients, there’s a common thread: the consistent confusion of the differences between strategy and planning. . This problem certainly isn’t unique to audiovisual or information technology (IT) fields as corporations often struggle with this in communication and marketing as well. 

When sitting with clients, again regardless of the capacity, I like to first flesh out their requests and get a picture of what their request looks like five years down the road. I want to know their plan, and see how I can design a system, or change a process, to meet their long-term goals. This helps me determine exactly what their plan is, what they want to implement and most importantly what they want to accomplish.

Don’t get me wrong, it is very important to have a plan. It’s important for everyone in leadership to know, or at least have a targeted vision, of what their department looks like five years down the road, ten years down the road etc. This is how companies grow and profitability expands, but the plan certainly isn’t the primary focus.

More important than the plan,  is the strategy. If the plan is the “what” in what the department and/or company looks like in five, ten or fifteen years then the strategy is the “why” it looks that way. Often times, executives build five and ten year plans that seemed to be arrived at by throwing darts at a bunch of different ideas; which results in a scattered list of strategic initiatives which reads like a list of projects.

Developing a holistic strategy makes long term planning easier and more accurate. Each initiative or goal needs to have a measurable connection to your department or organization’s strategy. Five and ten-year plans are often more accurate and reliable when they are tied to the organizational strategy and core values than if they are just a list of projects to complete and goals to check off.

Spend more time developing a complete strategy and let that be the reason and the guide for long term plans. After all, long term plans are just a blueprint to execute your strategy.

 

Image credit: LexisNexis

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