Interactive whiteboards aren’t exactly new technology, but when a big company like Cisco takes it on itself to revolutionise the idea, the results can be spectacular.
And that’s exactly the case with the Spark Board, a new interactive whiteboard from Cisco that takes a lot of really cool ideas, and makes them even better.
Of course there’s an app
The first innovation comes from the board’s app integration: all people need to do is download the Spark Board app, and they’re able to draw on or otherwise mark the white board in real-time, all at the same time.
That’ll make meetings a lot more interesting, and possibly even more productive as meeting attendees will be able to engage in new and fun ways… and they won’t even have to be in the room to do it, as the app facilitates remote collaboration as well.
No remote control is required, either, as the Spark Board app lets people control everything using their phones’ touchscreens for that instead.
There’s even a full Spark Board application suite called Cisco Spark Meetings that includes popular functions from Cisco’s WebEx platform. Meetings can be scheduled, and team spaces can be created for whoever wants to set the agenda and include all the right people.
Sharing content and being able to chat with participants is also possible through the suite, but more importantly it also means all documents and notes generated in the meeting can be kept in one place for easy access after the fact.
People don’t even need to be on the corporate network to make use of it, either – the Spark Board works over Bluetooth as well as Wi-Fi. More than that, it also automatically connects nearby devices using what Cisco calls “groundbreaking new ultrasound wireless pairing” technology. Laptops, PCs and Macs that don’t have WiFi (for whatever reason) are thus not cut out of the connectivity loop. Handy!
And anyone who’s been in meetings where an expensive microphone array has occupied a prominent position on the meeting room table will be happy to know that the Spark Board has cutting-edge microphones built right into the device itself. Those mics are advanced enough that they can adjust automatically to each participant’s voice volume and position in the room.
That’s made possible by clever “beam-forming” technology that focuses on whoever is speaking in the room, even when the room is quite large. It works like the beam forming tech in Wi-Fi routers, where those devices concentrate the Wi-Fi signal on connected devices to ensure the signal remains strong and doesn’t drop.
There’s also a 4K camera built right into the 55-inch model that provides a crisp, broad view of the room and its participants. A 70-inch screen is planned for release later this year.
API for partners
Cisco has created a “Spark API” for its partners to use to customise Spark Board content as well, which is a lovely addition to an already-extensive suite of applications that will let creative partners add to the board’s capabilities over time with new features.
Because Cisco Spark was originally a messaging app, the Spark Board has extensive built-in messaging capabilities. They’re handy for meeting participants to talk before, during and after meetings, and do things like following up on topics and tasks covered in meetings.
The ayes have it
So there you have it. The Spark Board is a new kind of interactive whiteboard that has the potential to make meetings easier, more interesting and ultimately more productive, thanks to the clever application of all the relevant tech by Cisco.
It should make its way to South Africa in the coming months, but as of early May there’s no word yet on timing or pricing.
Want to see the Spark Board in action? Check out the video below: