Product Evaluation: BlueJeans Network

Product Evaluation: BlueJeans

The Challenge of Successful Video

Building a successful video collaboration environment for your business is not easy. Thanks to a workforce rich with young, tech-savvy workers used to good quality video in the consumer world, expectations are higher than ever. Yet due to a rapidly changing landscape over the past few years, many businesses feature a patchwork of solutions, leading to confusion and inefficiency rather than increased collaboration.

As the person in charge of your company’s video solution, where do you turn? The article in our knowledge base covers a variety of options: hardware-based endpoints offer high quality video but are expensive and still lack key features including mobile and desktop integration; infrastructure-backed hardware systems, while more feature-rich, are extremely expensive and complicated to deploy and manage; and software-based systems are affordable and come with many collaboration features but lack the reliability and security a business situation demands as well as interoperability with other systems.

An ideal video solution, then, would combine the “best of all worlds” mentioned above:

  • High-quality video
  • Collaboration features
  • Mobile & desktop integration
  • Interoperability with other systems
  • Easily deployable & manageable
  • Reliable, secure & professional
  • Cost effective

A Single Solution?

BlueJeans is a video collaboration service that offers multi-party bridging as well as its own software-based conferencing platform. Let’s take a look at how it fares in those seven key categories (and for reference, here’s a link to our matrix comparing other popular software-based solutions):

  1. High-Quality Video: BlueJeans offers 1080p video, which is as high a resolution as is offered by any video conferencing platform today. Hardware solutions from companies like Cisco and Polycom often offer a “high resolution upgrade” to get to 1080p – with BlueJeans, it comes standard.
  2. Collaboration Features: BlueJeans provides many features that enhance efficient collaboration with other users.
    1. Multipoint: 25 users can join a meeting (an upgrade is available to allow up to 100), and the most recent 9 speakers will be shown on the screen. Skype and Hangouts max out at 10 users per meeting, and a even a 10-port multipoint control unit (MCU) from Cisco or Polycom would cost around $50k. The upgrade option provides easy day-two scalability, a rarity in the AV world.
    2. Recording: BlueJeans offers the ability to record meetings and store up to five hours of downloadable, mp4 video in the cloud as part of its basic package. An upgrade provides unlimited storage and other features.
    3. Content sharing: BlueJeans offers the ability to share content, including videos, to the far end of the call in a separate 1080p stream. While content sharing is pretty standard across video collaboration solutions, high definition video sharing is not.
    4. Advanced collaboration: BlueJeans also offers other collaboration features that are generally only seen in products focused more on data conferencing like Webex. These include chat and moderator controls.
  3. Mobile & Desktop Integration: BlueJeans is fully compatible with desktop, tablet, and mobile use. If users have previously-installed desktop or mobile systems, they can simply dial their BlueJeans number and use BlueJeans as a bridge. Or, they can use BlueJeans’ own software, available on browsers and as mobile apps.
  4. Interoperability: BlueJeans rose to popularity as a cloud-based meeting host and bridging service, providing transcoding that enables any platform to talk to any other. This is its number one feature, and it’s the only major service available that allows true “any-to-any” collaboration. H.323 codecs like those made by Polycom and Cisco, consumer-level codecs like Google Hangouts, and many more can all join BlueJeans meetings and communicate with one another (see the full list here). This in itself made BlueJeans an attractive product before many of its other features were deployed. Many businesses have come to feel pigeonholed after choosing a proprietary video conferencing solution; with BlueJeans, your business is free to communicate with virtually any other video platform available.
  5. Easily Deployable & Manageable: Traditional video conferencing systems require a months-long lead time: hardware needs to be ordered, on-site installation needs to be scheduled, technicians need to do the installation, and the system needs to be configured. Since BlueJeans is hosted in the cloud, no hardware purchase or on-site installation is necessary. BlueJeans systems are up and running in days or weeks, not months. Once deployed, they are easily manageable with Command Center, a management platform that comes with BlueJeans. Command Center comes with usage data and historical meeting analysis, so that IT Managers can easily monitor who is using BlueJeans, when, and where. An upgrade is available for more statistics.
  6. Reliable, Secure & Professional: BlueJeans also comes with a branding option, adding your company’s logo to your BlueJeans landing page, email invitations, and to the in-meeting screen. This makes your company look more professional and gives an impressive meeting experience to video participants. BlueJeans also offers a high level of security: participants are required to enter a nine-digit meeting ID number and a meeting password; an “encrypt meeting option” restricts the meetings to endpoints that use encryption; and “lock meeting” and “expel participant” options are available once the meeting has begun. As BlueJeans meetings are cloud-hosted, all meetings are outbound, meaning no participants ever dial in through your company’s firewall. This “dial-out” style routinely meets security standards set by financial institutions and other high profile BlueJeans clients.
  7. Cost Effective: BlueJeans’ pricing structure varies based on the size of the business. BlueJeans is certainly in a higher price bracket than free options like Skype and Hangouts, but is priced competitively with other enterprise focused collaboration platforms like Webex and GoToMeeting, and provides many more features and capabilities than these competitors. BlueJeans’ feature set is simply unrivaled for its price – a six-figure traditional videoconferencing infrastructure investment is necessary to even come close to its wide range of features. BlueJeans is no small investment, but its effect is profound enough for it to often be purchased as an annual capital expenditure. A free two-week trial is available to evaluate BlueJeans.


Statistics available from BlueJeans Command Center


A BlueJeans meeting utilizing the recording feature

An Enhancer More Than a Competitor

It’s important to realize that BlueJeans can be utilized in two different ways. Scenario one is a company unhappy with their video solution, or a start-up looking to enter the video world for the first time. In this case, the company can use BlueJeans exclusively, both as a multi-point bridge and as a software platform for conference room, desktop, and mobile use.

The second scenario is a company with an existing video system that works, but that is limited (as many of them are). Perhaps company A uses Skype, but wants to communicate with company B that uses Lync. Company C has five conference rooms with Cisco hardware and wants to have a call with all five at the same time. Company D might have Polycom infrastructure, but even that won’t allow them to talk to Company E who uses WebEx. A BlueJeans subscription solves all of this, allowing companies A-E to talk to each other using all of the features described above.

In this way, BlueJeans is not a strict competitor to the other video conferencing platforms out there: its actually more of an enhancer. BlueJeans can be the catalyst that spurs the strong utilization of existing systems that were previously only being rarely used.

BlueJeans in the Conference Room

Despite being a well-rounded offering, BlueJeans does bring challenges to the table (as virtually everything in this industry does). Whereas pre-configured Room Systems for Lync and ChromeBox systems for Google Hangouts are available, no pre-configured systems for using a Blue Jeans browser client in your conference room exist.

There are two things to consider on this topic. First, BlueJeans works with virtually any video system you may have in your conference room, so any pre-configured room systems, or any custom video conferencing system you may have in your conference room already, are more-than-likely already BlueJeans compatible. Secondly, if your conference room isn’t outfitted for video yet, this allows AV integration firms like PPI to design a custom a system based on your individual conference rooms with BlueJeans usage in mind.


The Interoperability of BlueJeans


Unlike hardware manufacturers usually do, BlueJeans offers a free trial before any purchase is made. Contact a PPI Account Manager today to discuss your company’s video environment, and to see how BlueJeans fits in.



SMART kapp Wows at CUNY IT

Presentation Products was front and center at the CUNY IT show last week and everyone loved the kapp. About half of all of the attendees watched a demo or tried it themselves. It’s ready. It’s shipping. Get yours now!

Presentation Products Featured in K-12 TechDecisions


Published in the May 2015 edition of k-12

A Look at One of the Most “Teched Out” Schools in the Country

The classrooms at Lèman Preparatory School have Apple TV’s, SMART boards, touch panel controls, iPads and more.

By Chrissy Winske

November 20, 2014                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            

When Léman Manhattan Preparatory school moved into a new facility to accommodate its growing size, it also invested in new classroom technology like SMART Boards, IP clocks, a Crestron Control system, Apple TV’s and more. AV integrator Presentation Products, Inc. handled the install.

The facility’s new classrooms feature fully digital signal processing and a custom wall mounted equipment rack that houses all AV equipment and the classroom PC. The Crestron touch panel controls the entire system and along with the rack, is connected to the school’s network so that Léman’s technology department can easily control and monitor all AV systems from one central location.Tech staff can turn equipment on/off at preset times, monitor system components like projector lamps and run diagnostic tests.

Students at Léman also have iPads in the classroom, which are used in conjunction with classroom presentation technology.

“We have multiple inputs on each of our SMART boards so teachers either airplay their work or they use a computer that’s in the room connected to the SMART board,” says Julius Blakeny, Technology manager, Léman Preparatory School.

Teachers are using the interactive technology to drive collaboration in the classroom and to enhance language courses. For example, the Mandarin teacher uses an iPad to demonstrate how to draw Mandarin characters. Léman’s lower school uses a document camera that is connected to a laptop to airplay images to the SMART board. Although the school has provided access to a document camera for each classroom, it did not standardize on one platform.

“There’s a mixture of products. We have some from SMART and we acquired some from Presentation Products, but we have two technology coaches that train teachers how to use them,” Blakeny explains.

The school also invested in digital signage that hangs in hallways, elevator banks and communal spaces like the weight room and cafeteria. The signage is used to promote school communications and content is developed the by the MAC department, which stands for Marketing, Admissions, Communication. In the future, Blakeny says he’d like to see some of that digital signage replaced by Apple TV’s.

“I’m moving towards Apple TV because it’s going to give the marketing department an opportunity to get more messaging out. It’s easier for me to work with the Apple TV and use an iTunes playlist. All the marketing department has to do is come up with the content and upload it.”

Léman Prep also recently purchased several Epson interactive projectors that were installed on the school’s newly opened 19th floor. The projectors are wall mounted and they use a traditional whiteboard as their projection surface. This means instructors have interactive functionality when they want it, but also retain the use of that basic whiteboard.

“The teachers love the dual functionality of the display that allows them to be old school and write, but still have use of that technology,” Blakeny says. With the projectors, there has been hardly any downtime and fewer support calls from teachers. In the past, the interactive whiteboards would occasionally fail to orient properly prompting issues with touch recognition. That isn’t a problem with the projectors.

Having an array of technology in the classroom has really helped to transform the learning environment for Léman students and make collaboration a lot easier.

“The teachers are loving that there are new ways to teach the kids and immerse them,” Blakeny says. Students can actually share their work with the entire class on a screen as opposed to people squinting their eyes to look at a piece of paper and see what it is.”

About the author

Chrissy Winske – Site Editor

Chrissy Winske is the K-12 editor for TechDecisions Media. She is also a contributing writer for Commercial Integrator, TechDecisions’ sister publication. Chrissy joined the TD family in 2012 and has covered AV and IT trends, mobile learning, safety and security and the digital classroom.

SMART Technologies Begins Shipping Revolutionary SMART kapp

 Groundbreaking replacement for the dry-erase board is now available

 CALGARY, Alberta – Nov. 17, 2014 – SMART Technologies Inc. (NASDAQ: SMT) (TSX: SMA) is now shipping its innovative SMART kapp digital capture board through select channel partners. A remarkable transformation from the dull, outdated dry-erase board or flip chart, SMART kapp combines true ease of use with the ability to share and save work in real time, on any device, anywhere in the world.  The many customers who already placed pre-orders after its award-winning debut at InfoComm will be among the first to receive SMART kapp.

Recently industry analysts Frost & Sullivan honored SMART kapp with its 2014 New Product Innovation Award in the Interactive Whiteboard Market. “True innovation is when a company creates something it immediately sees a need for, and then develops a solution to meet that need,” said Rob Arnold, program manager, Unified Communications and Collaboration at Frost & Sullivan. “SMART Technologies has demonstrated its vision to improve upon a much loved collaboration tool and reinvent it for the modern day. A practical human approach and an in-depth understanding of the needs of everyday collaboration have enabled SMART Technologies to maintain its pioneering and market-leading status in the collaboration market.”

Patrick Neeman, director of Product Design at Apptio, and his user-interface team have been using SMART kapp, in their collaborative workspace. “The ability to take the ideas you sketched and share them is really powerful. People have a lot of trouble visualizing an idea unless somebody sketches it for them; they have to see it before they know that it’s right,” Neeman said. “SMART kapp will be really, really good for that, because not only will you have your idea on the board, but you can take it away, go back to your desk and say ‘this is what we mean.’”


  • Use real-time sharing by inviting remote participants to view content on smartphones, tablets and computers as it happens using any browser
  • Easily save and share anything written on the board in JPEG or PDF formats
  • Automatically share snapshots to shared accounts like Evernote®or Google Drive or OneDrive
  • Write and erase on the sleek surface without ever staining it


“When I arrived at SMART in October of 2012, I saw the need for a new piece of collaboration technology that would be as simple to use as a dry-erase board but with the benefit of digitally capturing, saving and sharing information,” said Neil Gaydon, President and CEO, SMART Technologies. “We’ve achieved those goals and more with SMART kapp.”

SMART kapp builds on over a decade of SMART’s research and innovation in proprietary DViT® optical touch systems and digital ink technology. This includes 16 issued U.S. Patents relating to kapp technology in a portfolio of families with 57 issued patents in 12 countries worldwide and more than 10 patent applications pending. Recently, SMART has filed patent applications relating both to kapp’s system and operation, as well as the products’ design.  We continue to document and protect key innovations in kapp’s ongoing development.

Order Yours Now!!


About SMART Technologies


SMART Technologies Inc. (NASDAQ: SMT, TSX: SMA) is a world leader in collaboration solutions that are redefining the way the world works and learns. We are an innovator in interactive touch technologies and software that inspire collaboration in both education and enterprises around the globe. To learn more, visit


A Comparison of Conference Room Microphone Solutions

You Don’t Have to See it To Believe It

When assessing how best to outfit a conference room with technology, some decisions are fairly straightforward. A 90” display is larger than a 70” display, and thus allows viewers further away from the TV to see content. A 6,000 lumens projector is brighter than a 3,000 lumens projector, meaning the lights may not need to be turned off in order to see what’s on the screen. These concepts make sense, regardless of whether or not you have a background in AV.

Not every decision, however, is quite as intuitive. Boardrooms, meeting rooms, and huddle rooms can feature many different styles of microphones to capture in-room audio. Mics can be wired or wireless; table-mounted or ceiling-mounted; large or small; omni-directional or uni-directional (more commonly known as cardioid). And as is the case in the world of audio, you can’t actually see the difference in sound quality between your various choices. So how do you decide which path to choose? There isn’t one magic answer – each room is different and requires individual consideration from a professional. But there is some basic information that anyone considering this type of decision should know. This article will break down the typical conference room microphone choices, and examine the ins and outs of each.

Conference Room Mics

A variety of conference room microphone styles

The Basics

Before getting into the specific styles, it is important to understand why microphones are so often a necessity. Microphones are usually installed in a conference room for one of three scenarios. The first – and most common – is a room with integrated conferencing (either audio teleconferencing, video teleconferencing, or both). Audio teleconferencing is simply a phone call, but with a room full of people on one or both ends of the call. In these situations, the low audio quality and lack of processing provided by a speakerphone won’t cut it. The solution is to install microphones, loudspeakers, and a digital signal processor into the room – the microphones capture the near end of the call, the loudspeakers play the far end, and the DSP processes the signals, provides noise cancellation, and eliminates echo. This type of audio system is also used for video teleconferencing, augmented with a camera and a display.

The second scenario where mics are necessary is in a larger room that is in need of “voice lift.” Voice lift takes the same signal from the microphone, but instead of sending it to the other end of a call, it sends it to in-room loudspeakers, allowing everyone in the large room to hear the person who is talking. The third scenario is a recording system – audio from the mics is captured and sent to a dedicated device that records and saves the files.

Microphone Styles

When evaluating microphone styles, there are four main categories of information to consider: pickup pattern, location of microphone in relation to the person talking, form factor, and wired vs. wireless. Different combinations within these categories can lead to a lot of different possibilities, and indeed, there are many different styles of microphones. It’s fair to wonder: if the simple goal is the best sound quality possible, then why are there so many different variations? Aesthetics, furniture style, cable pathways, and seating plans are some of the many factors that necessitate these varieties, and a good AV designer will consider all of these when choosing microphones. This article will examine four common styles in detail:

  1. Table-Mounted Boundary Button Microphones

The single most important concept to keep in mind with regard to mic choices is a simple one: the closer the microphone is to the person speaking, the better he or she is going to sound to those hearing it. For that reason, the conference table is a natural place to install a microphone. Some have a problem with the aesthetics of a microphone on the table – it’s permanently installed, it takes up space that can be used for laptops, and it obscures the flat surface sometimes used for laying out large sheets of paper. But as far as sound quality for an installed mic goes, it’s usually the best option. The video at the end of this post shows what a table-mounted microphone sounds like.

Table-mounted microphones exist in a variety of form factors, but due to the aesthetic concern and the importance of tabletop real estate, the most common style is the button microphone. A sub-classification of the boundary microphone (or one that is designed to be installed onto a hard surface), the button mic is about as small as it gets, typically at around an inch in diameter. Gooseneck microphones are a very good option too, as they get the mic even closer to the talker, but these usually are ruled out for aesthetic reasons.

Button Mic

Table-mounted boundary button microphone

1A. Omni-Directional

Table-mounted button microphones typically come with one of two different pick up patterns: cardioid or omni-directional. Cardioid mics pick up roughly 120 degrees in front of them (see pickup graph below), and omni mics pick up a full 360 degrees around them. Because of this, microphone counts can double or triple when comparing cardioid to omni-directional. So, off the bat, it sounds like omni-directional mics are the way to go. And indeed, many inexperienced AV designers go down this route – the picture of a conference table with a couple omni-directional mics down the center is something everyone in the AV industry has seen. End users are often quick to bite on this strategy: three mics on the table cost less and take up less space than eight, right?

This strategy, however, can lead to calls with more ambient noise and less intelligibility. Omni-directional mics pick up everything around them, including HVAC noise, whispers, or other ambient noise. Since the goal of an omni-directional mic is to capture 360 degrees of audio, there is little ability to differentiate from the sound you are trying to capture (the talker) and the undesirable room noise. This greatly limits what audio engineers can program the conferencing processor to do – if you turn up the talker, you’re turning up the HVAC noise along with it. According to Polycom, one of the video conferencing industry leaders, while some systems “achieve lower prices using less-expensive ‘omni- directional’ (non-directional) microphones, they also pick up all of the room noise and room echo the entire time, which is extremely distracting and makes it hard to understand what is being said. Such systems should be avoided.”

1B. Cardioid

Cardioid microphones provide something much different. Very little outside of the mic’s coverage area (also outlined in the below graph) is captured, greatly reducing ambient and unintended noise. In turn, each mic is only responsible for one or two seats at the table. This directionality means that the difference between speech and unintended audio – or the “signal to noise ratio” – is much starker than that of an omni-directional mic. A higher signal-to-noise ratio allows programmers to put a “gate,” or a bottom threshold, on the entire system. Only audio that comes in above the threshold is let through, which eliminates most non-speech.

In sum, cardioid mics provide the individualized pick-up areas that allow programmers to fine-tune the system, amplifying speech and cancelling out unintended audio. Omni-directional mics do not allow this flexibility.

Cardiod Pickup Pattern                                         Omni-directional Pickup Pattern

              Cardioid pickup pattern                                                                Omni-directional pickup pattern

  1. Ceiling-Mounted Microphones

So far, we’ve established that cardioid microphones provide better sound quality than omni-directional microphones when mounted on a table. But what if a C-level executive cannot abide by the aesthetics of microphones on the table? What if the table is modular and re-configurable? Or what if the client is an architect who uses the table to lay out large drawing sets that might cover the microphones?

These situations are when AV designers – begrudgingly – turn to ceiling microphones. Ceiling mics occupy otherwise unused space, and newer models are visually less obtrusive as well. But when held against the key philosophy mentioned earlier – the closer the mic to the talker, the better – they don’t fare so well. According to the ClearOne publication Optimal Audio for Conference Rooms, ceiling mics “add unnecessary ambient noise and because they are further away from the participants they may make it more difficult to pick up all audio.” Shure, a highly respected microphone manufacturer, puts it even more blatantly in a bulletin: “Shure feels strongly about not placing microphones in the ceiling.” The comparison video below shows what most ceiling microphones sound like.

Many of the key characteristics of ceiling mics are influenced by the long pickup distances they have to cover. They’re typically cardioid mics, as an omni-directional ceiling mic would pick up far too much unwanted noise. They also often hang down from the ceiling in order to “cheat” twelve inches or so towards the talker. To reduce the amount of microphones necessary, ceiling mics often come as “arrays” – multi-element units that point a variety of cardioid mic elements in different directions, all under the same grille. Three-element microphone arrays are the most common, however there are new products out such as ClearOne’s 24-element Beamforming array that will be major players in ceiling microphone solutions moving forward.

Ceiling Mic

A typical ceiling microphone array

Ceiling microphones aren’t going to sound as good as table microphones. They can, however, get the job done in some situations. The main thing to keep in mind is that, because of the amount of reflections they pick up from around the room, if you do have ceiling mics, you are at the mercy of the acoustics of your space. And indeed, audio industry leader BiAmp lists “considering room acoustics” as its number one “Ceiling Mic Best Practice.” A ceiling mic in a room with a dropped tile ceiling, a carpet, and acoustic tiles might very well sound decent. A ceiling mic in a room with ten-foot ceilings, glass walls, and a wood floor is not going to provide acceptable audio. It will simply pick up too much reflected sound. If ceiling microphones, for one reason or another, are the way you’re going to go – do everything you can to improve the acoustics in your room. Start by adding acoustical tiles to the walls – they are inexpensive, they can be hung artistically, and they will help your sound quality significantly. Dropped ceilings, window curtains, carpets, and any other soft, absorptive surface helps as well.

Room Reflections

Typical sound reflections in a conference room

  1. Wireless Microphones

Every microphone mentioned thus far is a wired microphone. Put simply, wired mics are more reliable than their wireless counterparts. Wired microphones rely on tried-and-true analog cabling, whereas wireless mics transmit their signals as radio waves. Thus, they are subject to interference and the politics of the ever-changing RF spectrum allocation (see the below chart). This is a real issue – according to InfoComm, in 2015, the FCC will put a large portion of the 600 MHz range up for auction. The 600 MHZ range also happens to be where most professional wireless systems reside. This would force users to re-invest entirely in a new system that occupies a different frequency range.

Beyond this, wireless systems are also subject to dropouts, distance limitations, and channel count limitations within a system. All this is to say: the most expensive wireless system out there is almost as good as a regular old mic and cable. Sound quality for wireless mics is less of an issue – they’re typically positioned close to the talker since there is no cabling to worry about – but their reliability and longevity vis-à-vis RF allocation are the main concerns.

US RF Allocations

The US Radio Frequency Allocation Spectrum… It’s Crowded

This does not, however, mean that there aren’t situations where wireless mics make a lot of sense. In many ways, they are an extremely compelling option. Not every conference room is outfitted with AV during construction – many projects in the industry are retrofits and do not offer any opportunity to run cabling. Wireless table mics work extremely well in this scenario, as they can be installed at any time. Trainers often need to walk around the room with both hands free – wireless earworn or lapel mics make sense here. Larger meeting rooms feature question and answer sessions – passing around a wireless handheld mic is a reasonable solution in these cases. Cabling is one of the biggest challenges in an AV installation, and a wireless microphone system takes that worry out of the picture entirely.

The main thing to keep in mind with wireless microphones is this: they require managing. If you’re going to invest in wireless mics (they are also much more expensive than wired ones), make it part of someone’s job description to look after them. These mics either require new alkaline batteries every six or so hours of use, or need to be charged on a stand. Either way, someone needs to closely monitor their usage so that they don’t cut out mid-meeting. Someone should be able to instruct users which way wireless table mics are supposed to face. And someone needs to make sure that the mics don’t get lost or stolen. Anything in the AV world that isn’t permanently installed is going to be less reliable – so if you do go wireless, make it someone’s job to manage the mics.


A multi-channel wireless microphone system

Moving Forward

Microphones aren’t an easy topic – that’s why professionals like PPI’s Account Managers are there to help you through it (and why this blog post is at 1900 words and counting). In all seriousness, it is always wise to be as informed as possible on your decision. Keep what you’ve learned in this article on cardioid table mics, omni-directional table mics, ceiling mics, and wireless mics in mind, and you’ll be well on your way to making an informed decision. Contact an Account Manager today to user your new knowledge and to take the conversation to the next level. Please also check out the video below for a demonstration of what was covered in this post.

How Modern Architectural Trends Have Turned Sound Masking Systems from a Luxury into a Necessity


Bucking The Trend

The bigger, the better; the bolder, the better; the louder, the better. These philosophies permeate countless aspects of today’s world, and in many ways, the audiovisual industry is no different. 90” TVs, multi-display video walls, and beefed up sound systems are all current hot-ticket items – just ask any AV designer. Few things in life – and fewer in the AV industry – are meant to operate without being noticed. Yet, one style of system does fall into that category: it’s called sound masking. A proper sound masking system functions entirely in the background, outside of conscious sight, and – more importantly – conscious earshot.

What is Sound Masking?

Sound Masking ABCs - Copy   Sound Masking Graph - Copy       Sound Masking Speaker Layout - Copy

Sound masking systems are comprised of strings of small speakers than emit white noise. The object is to raise the noise floor of a given area with a continuous sound that blends in as background noise. The speakers are either installed above a dropped tile ceiling or high up in an open ceiling, and connect back to a small head end unit installed in a closet or a cabinet. The system provides enhanced privacy for sensitive conversations, reduces sound distractions across the office, and provides employees extra confidence and comfort in knowing that not every word they speak will be overheard. Installations are typically quite effective: the International Commission on the Biological Effects of Noise (ICBEN) conducted a three-year study on employees’ recall abilities across offices with and without sound masking. The commission found an 8.7% increase in employees’ ability to recall a series of numbers and a 7.8% increase in their ability to recall words in offices with sound masking systems versus in those without.

New Directions

Still, for a long time, sound masking systems tended to land in the “wants” column of a CTO’s checklist rather than “needs.” Recent architectural trends, however, have made these systems more of a necessity than ever. Here’s why:

The Open Office

Open Office - Copy

Perhaps the most overwhelming trend in today’s world of commercial architecture is the emphasis on larger open workspaces. Modern business        philosophies emphasize team-based operations that require consistent interaction, and business owners are tailoring their offices to reflect this style.    According to a 2010 survey by the International Facilities Management Association, 68% of offices feature an open seating plan. Within these offices,  “cubicle farms” are being abandoned in favor of tables and desks. In offices that don’t have an open floor plan, modular partitions are often being  installed in lieu of proper walls as a cheaper and flexible alternative. This shift towards openness means louder workspaces with more auditory  distractions and significantly less privacy. This tradeoff has not gone not unacknowledged – according to Building Design & Construction magazine,  “An open office has one major drawback: lack of acoustical privacy.” This is one of the exact problems that sound masking systems were designed to  fix.

Glass Walls

Glass Walls

Another striking feature in today’s commercial architecture is the prevalence of glass conference room walls. The advantages are plentiful: they look chic, they make spaces look bigger, they maximize daylight, and they allow a more transparent – literally and figuratively – workspace. However, any acoustician will tell you that glass walls are a nightmare. Sound waves bounce off glass like a rubber ball, creating a cacophonous and echoed sound. More pertinently, glass allows much more sound to travel through it than sheet rock does. This can be quantified via a measurement called Sound Transmission Class (STC). An STC rating, usually between 30 and 60 decibels for any type of wall material, reflects the reduction in decibels from one side of the wall to the other as sound waves pass through it. In other words, the higher the rating, the lower the percentage of sound that makes it through the wall. Typical sheet rock walls have an STC of 35. ¼” monolithic glass has an STC of 30. This may not seem like a big difference, but these measurements are logarithmic, and a 5 dB change, as defined by, is “clearly noticeable.” All this is to say – sound from inside conference rooms with glass walls leaks out significantly more than it does from those with sheet rock walls. Closed-door, conference room meetings are very often sensitive, private, and proprietary, and executives cannot afford to have their content overheard. Raising the noise floor solves this problem.

Smaller Offices & Workspaces

Square Feet Per Employee - Copy

As items born of the technological world tend to do, computers have gotten a whole lot smaller in recent years. In some cases, desk phones are being abandoned in favor of cell phones. These trends have allowed workspaces to shrink: offices, desks, and cubicles are all smaller now than ever before. According to a 2013 survey by corporate real estate association CoreNet Global, within the next five years, the average allocation of workspace per employee in the USA will fall to an all time low of 150 square feet. And while more people in smaller spaces means more productivity, it also means more conversations, and thus, more distractions. In 2008, ICBEN surveyed 689 employees across 11 companies on work performance and office acoustics. According to the survey, speech is the number one cause of reduced productivity, and the average employee wastes 21.5 minutes per day due to conversational distractions. The addition of background noise can help eliminate these distractions.

Is Sound Masking Right for Your Office?

Open floor plans, smaller workspaces, and glass walls aren’t the only considerations when it comes to sound masking. PPI’s Account Managers have the experience to make an informed recommendation as to whether this type of installation is right for your office. Systems can be installed as part of a new build or in a fully finished office, and installations can be done outside of work hours so productivity is not compromised. Contact PPI to start the conversation today.

UF70 Projector Upgrade Promotion Ends Soon

UF70 Upgrade Offer

Get improved shadow reduction and enhanced brightness with the UF70 projector though the SMART UF70 Upgrade offer. This exciting offer introduces a discount of 45% off the Manufacturer Suggested Price on the SMART UF70 ultra-short-throw projector.


Offer Details:

  • Offer open from now until September 15th, 2014
  • For existing UF55 or UF65 Models
  • No need to return your SMART Projector, just provide the serial number on the unit being upgraded
  • No Quantity limits
  • No application required
  • Use your existing UF Projector Extended Control Panel with your new UF70 projector
  • Begin a brand new warranty period when you upgrade!

Special Offer Pricing
**Includes projector, assembly hardware, shipping AND installation! 


The SMART UF70 ultra-short-throw projector offers improved shadow reduction and enhanced brightness, and is HD ready. It has a throw distance of approximately 25.75″ (65.5 cm), provides 3,000 lumens in standard mode and projects crisp images with high contrast and color quality. The projector displays high-definition video, and has an HDMI input.

The projector’s extended control panel makes it easy for teachers to control other audiovisual devices in the classroom from the front of the interactive whiteboard. With one touch, they can switch between inputs and control power and volume. The UF70 is also energy efficient, consuming 0.5 watts of power in standby mode. And it offers a long-lasting lamp life (up to 4,000 hours in Economy mode) and filter-free design which reduce maintenance costs. The UF70 is compatible with standard and widescreen models of SMART Board 600, 800 and M600 series interactive whiteboards.

  • The UF70 is compatible with standard and widescreen models of SMART Board 600, 800 and M600 series interactive whiteboards.
  • UF70 is energy efficient, consuming 0.5 watts of power in standby mode. It offers a long-lasting lamp life (up to 4,000 hours in Economy mode) and filter-free design which reduce maintenance cost



How Creative Minds Use Lync

Microsoft Lync connects employees, partners, and customers wherever they are, helping you reduce costs while increasing productivity and responsiveness. Lync delivers a unified communications solution and gives users a consistent experience for presence, IM, voice, and video across PCs, Macs, phones, and browsers.

Check out this great video on how Lync helps businesses connect, collaborate and create

More SMART kapp News – Awards and Distinctions

Everyone is getting excited about the September release of the SMART kapp and it doesn’t look like that’s going to change any time soon. Critics love it. Techies can’t wait for it. And the awards just keep coming. Here’s the latest news on the SMART kapp buzz. And remember, you can pre-order yours at today!!



media release

SMART kapp Earns Multiple Honors Following InfoComm Debut

  • SMART kapp wins Best New Product at InfoComm 2014
  • Audio-visual industry influencer rAVe also names SMART kapp as Best New Presentation Product
  • SMART kapp named in multiple “Best of InfoComm” coverage


CALGARY, Alberta – August 14, 2014 — SMART Technologies’ new SMART kapp digital capture board has earned multiple awards since debuting at InfoComm 2014, North America’s largest audio visual trade show. After reviewing thousands of products from over 700 vendors, the influential AV industry publication rAVe honored SMART kapp with two of its “Best of InfoComm 2014 Awards”; Best Overall New Product and Best New Presentation Product.

A dramatic upgrade to the dowdy dry erase board and flip chart, SMART kapp lets users share work sessions in real-time and to save the work at any point to be shared in the cloud or by email. In beta testing now and available for pre-order with select channel partners, SMART kapp is scheduled to ship in September, 2014.

“Our staff members comb the InfoComm floor looking for the best and most interesting products. We talk to attendees about what they saw, reviewed and liked as well.” said Sara Abrons, Editor at rAVe Publications. “SMART kapp was our consensus winner for Best Overall New Product. It was one of the products attendees were all talking about and were most excited about this year.”

Industry buzz around SMART kapp had started even before InfoComm opened. Telepresence Options included SMART kapp in its preview article “15 Hot Exhibits You Need to See at InfoComm,” writing “we’re so excited to see SMART Technologies new SMART kapp digital capture board.”

After the show Wainhouse Research featured SMART kapp in its “InfoComm14 Topline,” writing, “SMART Technologies drew an impressive crowd with its new SMART kapp system, a very simple whiteboard/ink marker system that captures, saves, and pushes content to mobile clients in real time.”

Corey Moss, blogging in rAVe, highlighted the SMART kapp launch in “Disruptive at the InfoComm—My Top Ten,” calling it “A product launch of a different kind at InfoComm and fun to watch…SMART kapp digital capture board is as easy and intuitive to use as a dry-erase board, but delivers much more with features designed for today’s workplace.”


 Tech Target’s Gina Narcisi wrote “SMART is focused on giving users a familiar, standalone tool that enables quick collaboration, while including remote employees, too.”

Educators also recognized the potential in SMART kapp. Dennis Pierce, Editorial Director of eSchool News included it his “Top new AV product worth noting” with the headline “SMART kapp ‘disrupts’ the traditional dry-erase board.” In a Tech Decisions article entitled “Why K-12 Should Take a Look at SMART’s Latest Product: SMART kapp,” Chrissy Winske wrote “this combination of dry-erase board and interactive learning app offers exciting possibilities for small group instruction.”

“We are gratified to see the enthusiastic response SMART kapp is getting from these influential commentators,” said Neil Gaydon President and CEO, SMART Technologies. ”It really was a thrill to be at InfoComm, to preview the product to attendees and to see their eyes light up when they realized just what SMART kapp can do, when they see the magic happen.”

Priced at $US899 MSRP, the 42” SMART kapp will be shipping in September 2014 (a larger size board will be available later in the year). Customers can pre-order SMART kapp today via and be one of the first to own a SMART kapp board as soon as shipping commences.

View images of SMART kapp.


For more information visit or follow SMART kapp on Twitter at @SMARTcollab.

SMART Technologies a leading provider of technology solutions that are redefining the way the world works and learns. SMART products enable inspired collaboration in schools and workplaces by turning group work into highly interactive, engaging and productive experiences. SMART delivers integrated solutions of hardware, software and services designed for superior performance and ease of use.

Reader’s advisory
Certain information contained in this press release may constitute forward-looking information or statements. In particular and without limitation, this press release contains forward-looking statements pertaining to cost and resource reductions associated with the implementation of the platform and the availability date of such platform. By their very nature, forward-looking information and statements involve inherent risks and uncertainties, both general and specific, and risks that predictions, forecasts, projections and other forward-looking information and statements will not be achieved. We caution readers not to place undue reliance on these statements as a number of important factors could cause the actual results to vary materially from the forward-looking information or statements. We do not assume responsibility for the accuracy and completeness of the forward-looking information or statements. Any forward-looking information and statements contained in this press release are expressly qualified by this cautionary statement.






SMART kapp Wins Best Overall New Product and Best New Presentation Product at InfoComm 2014

The SMART kapp™ isn’t even shipping yet but already it’s getting a lot of attention for its innovation and style. It has been featured by news sources like IT World Canada, Gadgetify, and Tech Target. The SMART kapp™ is being applauded for its simplicity of use and functionality.

David Maldow, analyst and associate publisher at Telepresence Options, states, “This is an upgrade from the classic dry erase board behind the desk or in a meeting space.  Up until now, there was no middle ground — it was either a $10 dry erase board, or a $5,000 smart board that also has collaboration and video conferencing integrations that [businesses] might not need.”

Last week SMART kapp was listed as one of the Top 10 Disruptive Products at InfoComm2014 by the voice of InfoComm, Rave Publications. They also won “The Name Fits” award at the show. This all led up to SMART kapp™ being awarded Best Overall New Product AND Best New Presentation Product at InfoComm 2014!

The experts and industry leaders loved using this  cutting age presentation tool and so will you. Pre-Order your SMART kapp™ now!

Available on