The Audio Ecosystem, Part 4: Software

Chris Lyons | June 19, 2020

A meeting without video is still a meeting; a meeting without audio is cancelled. In fact, 81% of IT Decision Makers say audio has the biggest impact on improving the quality of virtual meetings. Good sound is easy to overlook, but poor sound cannot be missed.  It causes fatigue, increases distraction, and reduces comprehension – all of which reduce productivity and revenue.

In this series of blog posts, we’ll discuss the importance of each part of the audio ecosystem in delivering intelligible and natural sound. In blog post #4, we’ll discuss the role of software.

While the basic functions of audio components like microphones, mixers, processors, and loudspeakers are fairly simple, the evolving demands from sophisticated users have made the power and flexibility of these products more complicated than ever. In addition, AV conferencing has expanded its presence from one or two special-purpose rooms to being a must-have feature in nearly every meeting room or classroom. A recent survey revealed that there are 11 million meeting rooms in North America and Western Europe alone, and that 49% of these are small rooms that serve six or fewer people. With AV conferencing virtually everywhere, the pressure is on system integrators and IT departments to find solutions that are quick to configure, adaptable to different needs, and easy to manage. Software has emerged as a tool that makes these goals achievable. 

With AV conferencing a must-have feature in nearly every meeting room or classroom, the pressure is on IT departments to find solutions that are quick to configure, adaptable to different needs, and easy to manage.Software makes these goals achievable.

Software Makes Setup Faster

Almost all AV hardware now has a web interface that allows operating parameters to be adjusted. But that still requires that you connect to each component individually to configure settings. With multiple microphones, amplifiers, and loudspeakers plus a signal processor in the room, going through all of these settings can be time consuming. 

The real power of networked AV components is that they can be configured remotely. Software that enables you to access the settings for multiple types of devices from one screen saves valuable time when the system is installed and commissioned.If settings can be "copied and pasted" from the system in one room to the system in another identical room, even greater time savings are realized. Setting up dozens of rooms might not take much longer than setting up one or two. If one piece of software can be used to configure multiple components at once, the benefits are multiplied. (Shure Designer software can configure Microflex Advance microphones, IntelliMix hardware or software audio processors, network interfacesnetwork mute buttons, and MXN5-C loudspeakers all from one portal.)

Software Keeps Firmware Up to Date

The reality is that today’s AV hardware is constantly being improved, with new features, bug fixes, and enhanced capabilities. To ensure that the products in every room perform consistently, it is essential to keep track of firmware releases and update firmware promptly throughout the facility. Software that automatically informs the system administrator when new firmware is available for each product, and makes it simple to download and install it, reduces the need to manually check manufacturer websites.

Software Lets You Know When Something Is Wrong

As the presence of AV conferencing systems has grown throughout the facility, so has the burden of keeping everything running smoothly. To do that, the IT staff needs information. Is everything working? Is there something I need to do? Should I go over there to check on things? Hopefully this information can be obtained before the phone rings with a call from a frustrated user who can’t start a meeting.

Managing large scale installations can be a challenge, but AV management software can serve as your eyes and ears in each room. Shure SystemOn Audio Asset Management Software can monitor device status and identify potential problems even before they become problems. Did a cable get unplugged, taking a device offline? Is the battery in a wireless transmitter running low? Is a license about to expire? These are the things we would like to know when the room is idle, rather than when a group of users has just taken their seats. Good AV management software can detect situations like these, and can even notify you with a text or email alert so you can decide who should address the issue, when, and how.

As AV systems have become more sophisticated, the job of setting them up and keeping them working has grown more complex. With more equipment serving more users more often, system integrators and IT staff can benefit from software that simplifies the task of configuring and managing these tools so that they serve users reliably.

Read the other articles highlighting the Shure Audio Ecosystem for Conferencing:

Chris Lyons

Chris Lyons is a 30-year Shure veteran who has filled a variety of different marketing and public relations roles. His specialty is making complicated audio technology easy to understand, usually with an analogy that involves cars or food. He doesn't sing or play an instrument, but he does make Shure Associates laugh once in a while.