Get Serious About Teleconferencing with these Communication Hubs

It’s a new dawn for videoconferencing. What was once solely associated with executive boardrooms has now made its way down to everyday home offices and classrooms, spurring many to realise that virtual meets can often be just as effective as physical ones, provided you get over the technical bumps.

Garbled audio, dial-in problems, and late starts are the unholy trio of teleconferencing woes. We’ve all experienced them at some point, but the embarrassment and laughter mask a terrible cost to time and productivity. Besides, who wants to be the person that kept upper management or business clients waiting? Welcome to the new reality (or hell?) as Singapore’s Circuit Breaker measures kick in.

The All-in-one Meeting Room Device

People using the Lenovo ThinkSmart Hub

Welcome to the world of ready-made conferencing solutions. Like a wise guru descending from the mountains to offer a safely solution to life’s mysteries, the Lenovo ThinkSmart Hub 500 ($2,000) presents an elegant solution to a complex situation. Designed and certified for Microsoft Teams or Zoom — including their room ecosystems —this all-in-one device is your new launch pad for secure, hassle-free meetings.

For starters, the Hub 500 does a much better job at audio capture than most laptops. It uses two microphone arrays for full 360-degree coverage, giving everyone in the room a clear voice no matter where they’re seated. Likewise, a pair of in-built Dolby Audio speakers keeps everyone involved in the discussion. It works great for huddled teams of 3 to 12 people in a 25-square metre room; for larger groups, you can easily scale up with curated accessory kits from Jabra, Logitech, or Polycom. These feature some of their top-shelf business cameras, microphones, and speakers so participants can focus on the message, not the delivery.

Since the Hub 500 is already preconfigured for Microsoft Teams (and Skype for Business) or Zoom, there’s no set-up or tinkering involved. Start meetings with a single tap on the anti-smudge 11.6-inch touchscreen, or quickly spin it around to hand over control to a colleague. It also has a three-colour LED neck ring to prevent confusion over call status, because we could all do without hearing another “Can you hear me?” or “Is this thing on?” during our meetings.

Yet one of the biggest advantages of the Hub 500 lies in its enterprise-grade security, a critical factor against ongoing cybersecurity threats. This suite encompasses device, identity, online, and data protection through a combination of Lenovo’s ThinkShield solutions and Microsoft’s Windows 10 IoT Enterprise. What’s more, your IT department can effortlessly deploy, manage, and monitor all ThinkSmart meeting devices through ThinkSmart Manager, a cloud-based solution. So even if your team is spread across different offices or countries, your meetings stay confidential.

So, what else is there to this souped-up teleconferencing device? Loads. It has a dedicated RJ45 port for a stable wired connection, a HDMI-in port for displaying presentations, and a locked cable management door to keep things neat and tamper-free. And even if you don’t have dedicated IT staff, Lenovo’s Smart Office Professional Services are there to make onboarding buttery smooth. From installation to operation to maintenance, they share a common goal with the Hub 500: to make your teleconferences secure and hassle-free.

The Personal Communications Hub

Person using the Lenovo ThinkSmart View

You don’t have to be in management to want better virtual communications. If remote work and online meetings are part-and-parcel of your calendar, then you will want to invest in the Lenovo ThinkSmart View (available June 2020, price TBA). Made for personal use, it offloads Microsoft Teams from your laptop to achieve two things: (1) freeing your computer’s resources for actual work, and (2) giving you a better communications platform.

Not everyone gets a nice PC or laptop for work. And while collaborative tools such as Microsoft Teams help remote teams, they can be an unwanted resource hog. Any worker will vehemently agree that few things are as maddening as a slow computer, no matter the task.

So Lenovo decided to put two and two together and give us the ThinkSmart View, a compact digital assistant for all your video and chatting tasks. Like the Hub 500, it has native integration with Microsoft Teams for seamless integration with existing workflows. It’s supremely user-friendly, too. The 8-inch touchscreen is propped at an angle so you can easily glance at it or make a quick tap or two. Connectivity-wise, it’s no different from your other devices—Wireless-AC for a more stable connection and Bluetooth 4.2 for pairing with other devices (like, say, the noise-cancelling ThinkPad X1 headset).

But as a meeting device, what we really care about is audio. In that respect, the ThinkSmart View doesn’t disappoint. It brings a dual-microphone setup that offers 360-degree pick-up along the top, and a powerful 10-watt, front-facing speaker for clarity. You could use your laptop microphone, but you’d be subjecting your listeners to all sorts of distortion, buzzing, and echoing. Ditto for the loud keyboard clacking as it reverberates around the laptop. Just… don’t.

Lenovo has our security concerns covered, too. They’ve placed a mute switch next to the volume button and installed a privacy shutter for the high-definition webcam. Both bring better peace of mind — physical, tactile confirmation leaves no doubt that the camera and microphone are off when they should be.

Then when your colleague or spouse starts giving your ThinkSmart View the dreaded side-eye, bring them aboard! You can securely sign out of Teams when you’re done with a call, letting someone else take it for a spin. This is a great “phone booth” feature for co-working spaces or dining table desks. And because the screen, webcam, and speakers are all nicely angled, it works no matter what kind of table you end up using – be it seated, standing, at a bar counter or coffee table.

Virtual or not, meetings aren’t going away anytime soon. While we can’t escape them, we can make them a whole lot less painful. Don’t just pay lip service to working smart; make it a reality with ThinkSmart.