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Wireless presentations systems: Say goodbye to the wire
Category: Evergreen
Keywords: Infrastructure
Author: Sean McGrath
Date Written: 28 June 2013
Title: Wireless presentations systems: Say goodbye to the wire


Wirelessly transmitted video was once a fairly unpredictable affair. Analogue solutions relied on a relatively clean line of sight, were plagued with interference from the 2.4 GHz band and ultimately, the benefits of wired video far outweighed its wireless counterpart.

However, wireless video has come on leaps and bounds in the past few years and finally consumers and businesses have a viable solution which meets their needs.

The driving force behind the uptake of wireless video has been the rapid evolution of Wi-Fi technology and more specifically, the bandwidth available. The first iteration of IEEE 802.11, which was introduced in 1997, achieved very little attention due to its low transfer rate of 1 or 2 mega-bits-per-second (Mbps).

As 802.11a/g standards became ratified, transfer speeds of 54 Mbps were being achieved. However, when the 802.11n standard was approved in 2009, this figure leapfrogged to 600 Mbps, more than ten times the speed of its predecessor.

For the first time, the ability to wirelessly stream 1080p content in a multi-stream environment became plausible. With the latest iteration of wireless standards - 802.11ac - beginning to ship this year, consumers can soon expect wireless transfer rates to hit the magic 1 Gbps mark.

HDMI

The High-Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI) is without a doubt, the de facto standard in lossless audio/video transfer.

While legacy interfaces such as VGA are often found in enterprise environments, it is advisable to get a presentation system with both interfaces. Although VGA can technically carry a 1080p signal, there are increasingly few displays or projectors which will accept full high-definition video over VGA. HDMI is the most effective way to ensure that the display matches the source's definition.

Web-based administration

Wireless presentation systems have embraced Wi-Fi technologies, not only by wirelessly streaming video content in real-time, but by creating a centralised hub for the management of presentations.

The system can be administered from either bespoke software or for a truly flexible system, can be accessed via a web-based interface.

Hotspot creates easy access

Built in access points create hotspot environments, in which multiple users can access a presentation simultaneously.

Depending are hardware limitations, this could mean that as many as 254 users could have simultaneous access, allowing for a smooth transition between presenters.

One of the biggest advantages of a Wi-Fi based presentation system is the high level of accessibility it brings. Almost all devices, from laptops to smartphones, have wireless capabilities making the process of marrying a device to the presentation system effortless.

Plug-and-Show

One might imagine that the process of ensuring each device has the necessary software to interact with the WPS might be cumbersome. USB tokens allow businesses to side step such complexities. A USB device containing the installers for both Windows and OSX as well as drivers for secondary features such as interactive whiteboards (IWB), allows users to begin wireless projection in seconds.

Mobile devices

The proliferation of mobile devices is apparent across most industries. As mobile devices grow in both power and capability, business users are increasingly forgoing laptops in favour of tablets and smartphones. It therefore makes sense that a WPS should be able to communicate directly with these devices.

Third party mobile applications such as MobiShow can be used to easily integrate mobile devices into the presentation environment. While MobiShow will allow iOS users to share PowerPoint presentations, images and video, Apple restricts root access to its devices, so there is no way of mirroring what it is on device screen to the external display. On Google's Android OS however, this is possible. Apps such as MirrorOP Sender will mirror the device's display to the WPS.

Security

Despite the scalability of wireless presentation systems, they remain a highly secure platform. As well as utilising industry standard authentication protocols, a presentation system gives the administrator a granular level of control. Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP) tools allow the administrator to act as the gatekeeper, not only authorising user access to the main display but also controlling internet access via the WPS's client facing access point.

For organisations that have a secure network infrastructure, where commercially sensitive data could be exposed, this can prove a useful tool as it allows visitors to access the web in a controlled environment.

Remote desktop

Wireless systems obviously allow a greater degree of freedom. People are no longer forced to change position in order to present; however, if users are tied to their device, this inhibits the freedom that a wireless system affords. A quality WPS will bundle remote access capabilities into its software meaning that a device can be controlled both from the source and from the WPS.

The bottom line

Businesses like to know that any investment, no matter how small, will produce a return on investment. Presentations have long been a part of enterprise environments and with good reason. They enable individuals to communicate often complex matters in a format which is both accessible and digestible.

However, the format is not without its imperfections. From a technological perspective, its biggest downfall is the inability to effectively manage multiple presenters in real-time. Whoever is orchestrating a series of presentations has to dedicate a significant amount of time to ensuring a smooth running schedule. If there are multiple devices being used, there is an inevitable delay between presentations as devices are swapped out. This not only wastes valuable time but from an outsider's perspective, is unprofessional.

Wireless presentation systems negate these hassles, allowing multiple users to effortlessly switch between source displays. WPS not only ushers in a new era of professionalism, but it has a tremendously positive impact on productivity and ultimately the bottom line.

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