Selecting Whiteboards

An electronic or interactive whiteboard (smartboard, digital signage) is usually a special touchscreen monitor that is connected to a computer. The size of a monitor ranges from the size of a smartphone or tablet computer to a diagonal of 98 inches or more.

The use ranges from digital signage (e.g. meeting rooms), digital boards (such as signs, menu cards, welcome texts, advertisements, video surveillance monitors) to interactive video walls for discussion of ideas, collaborate on documents or objects, and much more.

Video walls with diagonals of up to around 600 inches are available for control centres, reception rooms or large halls.

The whiteboards can be wall-mounted or mounted on mobile stands.

Pay attention to the image or video resolution required for your application. Today, 4k (3840 x 2160) and 8k (7680 x 4320) resolutions are state of the art. Not only for your videos, but also for your content. Ask for video coding techniques according to the ITU-T H.265 / High Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC) standard, Google’s VP9 or others to lower bandwidth consumption when you stream whiteboard content, especially over wide area networks.

Alternatively, there have been white presentation surfaces for many years, especially in school lessons. A video beamer, mounted above the blackboard, on the ceiling or wall, illuminates the surface and special electronics is used for remote operation.

Depending on the physical surface and technical features of the whiteboard, you can write or draw with conventional or special pens, fingers, gestures, laser pointers or other input instruments.

You are creative and want to design your presentations creatively by selecting electronic input tools such as brush, pen or airbrush shapes and different colours? Some whiteboards support these selections.

Some solutions support the conversion of manually entered texts and graphics into words, figures and flow charts through automatic character and graphic recognition.

As speed becomes more important, you should check how quickly the whiteboard responds to your input and displays or converts text or graphics.

Ask your vendor how you can integrate videos from different sources (such as YouTube, Vimeo) into the display of the whiteboard.

Also, remember that you want to use your existing apps, but also many new ones, with your whiteboard. Therefore, check which of your apps your whiteboard supports and which other apps are available (from different app stores).

Some systems may stream the interactive information live to other locations and combine it with data from other whiteboards. This is important for e.g. spatially distributed meetings.

Ask your provider what content the whiteboard can display and combine (e.g. videos with hand drawings, presentation slides with hand notes). It can also be of interest how many whiteboards per conference room a system supports simultaneously. The maximum number (total) of all boards in a conference is also important.

Do you use the whiteboard in meeting rooms? Your participants appreciate flexible interfaces to e.g. notebooks to present their information quickly and interactively onto the whiteboard. Wireless interfaces such as WLAN, Bluetooth or Near Field Communications (NFC), but also wired interfaces such as USB, Ethernet, HDMI, DVI, DisplayPort or Intel Open Pluggable Specification (OPS) should be on board.

If you want to archive the interactively created texts and graphics for documentation purposes, pay attention to the storage capacity and storage location of the system, as well as the supported data formats and systems with which this data can be displayed again.

Do you want to combine whiteboards with augmented reality or virtual reality to work even more immersive on topics? Some vendors develop solutions for conference participants with virtual reality glasses who work on virtual objects in 3 dimensions. These solutions transform two-dimensional whiteboards into three-dimensional virtual spaces. You may pin or move notes, open and edit documents on expanded virtual pin boards.

The openness of the solution to integrate whiteboards into existing Unified Communications & Collaboration solutions is becoming increasingly important for many companies. The solution should support common platforms such as Cisco WebEx or Microsoft Teams, but also video conference systems from BlueJeans, Lifesize or Zoom to be future proof.

About the Author:

Ronald Schlager is independent trainer, consultant, and blogger covering topics of communications technologies and their applications.

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