June 20, 2017

Open for new projects

As you may or may not know I am a contract designer and some time has opened up for me to take on new projects either long term or short.

Past projects have included:

Product Design in the video conferencing space
Design and development of video conferencing cameras, room environments and other related products. I've also served as project manager for installations and product manager for individual products for the companies I've worked for. Duties also included detailed installation manuals, wiring diagrams and data sheets.

Video conference product testing
I've tested codecs (software and hardware), cameras and other ancillary video conferencing related equipment along with writing detailed results.

Architectural as built drawings
These were mainly for real estate agents needing offices measured and drafted into presentation drawings for potential purchase/lease. Drawing were also done within the scope of creating floor plans and elevations for future video conference product integration.

Commercial and residential floor plans/space planning
This included custom home design, veterinary hospital design and several other commercial interior remodeling projects. Projects have also included residential addition drawings.

Mechanical design/part modeling
3d part design and modeling. Creating assemblies. Designing parts for manufacture. 3d printed many parts in house to test for size and form.

Civil Design (master planning)
This work was done for companies wanting to build commercial, single family or multi-family developments. Duties included site visits to determine view, creating presentation drawings, creating construction drawings, lot/building layouts. Sites have ranged from less than a half acre to over 700 acres.

For design work I use AutoCad 2016 and Inventor Pro 2016
Located in Cincinnati, Ohio
I can be contacted via email at bhellard@gmail.com or via phone at 513-252-8517

I would greatly appreciate it if you shared my contact information with anyone you know who needs a designer.


June 19, 2017

Should Infocomm add a Fourth Day?

Recent Twitter chatter is revolving around adding a 4th day to the yearly Infocomm show. For clarity sake I assume this means a 4th day of the trade show as Infocomm is already longer than four days taking into account classes and lectures.

Should Infocomm add a 4th day of the trade show?


As any veteran of the show (attendee, booth worker, etc) will tell you, the show is all but over by noon on Friday. This is typically my favorite day where I can spend more time with people talking about products. Adding a Tuesday show opening will only decrease the necessity of Friday and then people will start leaving Thursday afternoon. Then in five years the debate will center around getting rid of Fridays.

Any thoughts of adding a Saturday to the show should be immediately discarded.

Here is what could happen instead. Make a bigger importance out of Tuesday. Tuesday should be the "networking" day with sponsored gatherings. Tuesday could also be the day for what could be deemed the "most important" lectures. Multiple keynotes from multiple parties can happen.

Rough Tuesday schedule:

6am open the badge receiving line
8am Sponsored breakfast for networking and meet ups
9am High importance Lecture
10am minor keynote or major lecture
11am minor keynote or lecture
noon MAJOR sponsored lunch for networking and meet ups
1 or 2 major keynote
3pm final keynote/awards
4-6 reception for networking and meet ups
6-? networking events hosted by various companies at various locations

Keep the trade show out of Tuesday or God forbid Saturday.

EDIT: I forgot this important point - opening up Tuesdays for the trade show means even more exhausted booth workers. A Tuesday networking day allows them to be part of the event in a different capacity than just working the booth.

PS - the Badge receiving area should be open early and open late. Typically I arrive on Sunday or Monday afternoon. By the time I get to my hotel, check in and freshen up, I am almost always about 10 minutes late to get my badge. Or figure out a way to use my cell phone and a stupid QR code to print my own badge. It works everywhere else...

Another Room from Hell

This is one of the dumbest pictures I've seen. Don't do this.

Even if this is a touchscreen display, using it in a video conference will give you poor results when it sits where it does (near the camera)

Let's forget for a second that there's actual people on the screen and why would you be up there touching people, you weirdo? Sit down and have your meeting.

June 13, 2017

Video conference room from hell

I'm sure someone is proud of this room. When my pen rolls off the middle of the table into the "V", it sure makes me wonder why these exist.

June 12, 2017

How to decrease your videoconference usage

Normally, we're looking for ways to increase videoconference usage. Here is a sure way to DECREASE it - by making the experience so woefully inadequate that having a video chat is absolutely pointless.

The other day I attended an event at someone's office and happened past the room that they use for video calls, I think. Who knows if they actually use it for video chats, but my guess is that it's not used much. Let's take a look.

Webcam and it's location
Poor and poor. Using a webcam for a video conference in a medium sized conference room won't yield positive results. Having a camera "way up there" magnifies the poor image acquisition.

Having no blinds on the windows will mean a constantly changing lighting "scheme" in the room, forcing the camera to work to balance itself out. Expect poor and/or inconsistent results. Plus too much sunlight in the room means you won't be able to see the display very well.

If you're going to use a dedicated computer for video calls, at least make it a good computer or one you can hide. I couldn't tell if there was a remote keyboard anywhere so people may or may not be forced to get up to go type something.

Display height
I'm going to assume the display is high because people looking at it need to see over the head of people on the other side of the table. Yeah, that makes no sense.

Table layout
If you're having a video call with a table orientation like that, you've essentially eliminated a good 40% of the available seats.

In rooms like these the usage probably isn't high. There may have been an original high expectation for video conferencing, but once it was actually used and the experience flat out sucked they may as well just use a speakerphone and have audio conference calls. The real sad fact is that it wouldn't take much money or time to fix the problems and they may actually enjoy video chatting as a result.

Huddle Rooms - again!

Study the below, non marketing photograph of the newest in new huddle room cameras.

What you see is a common huddle room situation, unlike the overdone marketing pictures that aren't real world. Let's break down a few key items to keep in mind when your company is debating huddle room products and implementations.

1. No eye contact
The person closest to the camera is too close to the screen. But, with the current design of huddle tables and huge FOV cameras, you get people sitting this close. You lose any sense of eye contact and the camera captures up your nose. Put the camera on top you say? Now you capture the crown of the head. Neither is good. The eye contact angle gets better the farther you are from the camera and displays. All huddle products with the camera below or above the display will have this problem. Note that this is also a relatively small display and any increase in display size magnifies the problem.

2. and 3. Size and proximity
See how close the two people are to each other on the right side of the picture? Now look at how disproportionate in size they look on-screen. Even though they are sitting very close to each other, the person in front is twice the size of the person in back. Add a third person (or the second person scooting back to not be so close) and the on-screen difference magnifies.

4. Audio
A common problem with on-table mics (be it huddle or conference room) is that when you're speaking toward the display, the audio will pick up some people much better than others. The person in front is facing away from the microphone. If the camera has a built in mic and works in tandem with the table based mic puck, that will certainly help.

Not numbered: Product design
Why have a camera with built in speakers when it's so close to a television that has built in speakers? You're not trying to fill a large conference room with high quality audio in huddle situations, so tv speakers would work here. Plus, adding speakers to the camera makes that camera look so much bigger. 

Even though this is a Logitech product, this is by no means a knock on them specifically. Most, if not all huddle products and setups have these same issues. It's just this particular photograph sparked this blog.


April 18, 2017

You're a winner

This is a two-part blog all within this single blog about awards, both pay to play awards and best of show awards where things are announced before the actual show.

Pay to play awards serve no real point. Be it Red Dot or some other award where the participants must pay to be in consideration serve no purpose except a few days' worth of Twitter patting on the back. Congratulations, you won the best of show of people who pay to be in best of show consideration.

With extensive marketing teams and budgets, large companies can simply throw dollars and personnel at pay to play awards. He with the most dollars win, even if the products aren't that great. We should be more concerned about what the users think of our products.

From Red Dot "In case of an award, you have to purchase the “Winner Package”. Yeah.

The winner should be the users

Best of show finalists should not be announced a month or more before the show even starts. Does anyone understand how silly that is? I'm looking at you, Enterprise Connect.

This would be a better idea:
A Best New Product award voted on by attendees beginning on the first day of the exhibition and wrapping up on the last day. The award could be presented during the "lock note". There could also simply be a "best product" as voted on by the attendees. That is more meaningful to know what users think.

Voting would be easy since at the end of every conference track we received an email to rate that talk. A simple box to write in a product could be easily added. The more conferences you rate, the more votes you get (that will also help garner more track reviews).

Do you need video

An interesting discussion took place after yet another video demonstration yesterday. The conversation revolved around the need for video conferencing itself.

Back in the day where your whole company was on-site and you needed to meet with several people, you would book a conference room then all head to that room to meet face to face. If you needed to talk to one person, you picked up the phone - typically - to get a question answered or a problem resolved. Usually, the easiest means to an end are used to accomplish the task at hand.

Then the combination of video conferencing and remote workers/satellite offices became the norm. If you need a group meeting, you can either do a conference call or better yet all get together on video. If you need to talk to one person though - my guess is that you'll still pick up the phone and not opt to attempt a video call. There are cases of 'presence' enabled apps where you can see if someone is available and reach out via video. Good luck having that work as easily as a phone though.

At the end of the discussion we were all in agreement that one to one video is not important or necessary for business. To see your spouse, kids or grandkids via Facetime (etc) - now that is valuable.

April 11, 2017

Could you ditch email?

Read the Cisco article here first, titled "Could You Ditch Email for Spark Overnight?" Then come back and continue reading below.

For "all internal communication" a room based chat app (whatever you want to call it these days) can work. However, only if you're in complete control of your entire team and their communication devices will it work fully. One key person whose device, network or ideology fits outside of the scope and it's a bust.

From the blog:
"If team members wanted to stay informed of what was happening in Switzerland, they needed to be part of the Swiss Spark room. All key information—weekly news, win messages, organizational announcements and changes, and all other official communication"

This is an interesting comment. Were all these pieces of information previously done through email?  Are they creating more unimportant things for everyone to read just "because they can"? Here lies my main issue with chat apps, you can get flooded with new things to read, some important, some not. You'll end up with people who feel the incessant need to over share so everyone else is forced to weed through the junk to find the relevant information.

Adoption, usage and productivity rely on a few key factors - and this could be said about any new form of communication tool:

1. Understanding why there needs to be a switch - is communication being missed in the current method?
2. Top to bottom buy in and a desire to switch.
3. The time to switch with the understanding that with each new tool comes a learning curve.
4. Making sure people don't use emojis or post pictures of dinner and use the tool like a professional.
5. Being able to wrangle in the people who abuse the new method of communication - remember when you first had email and all the chain letters and other sorts of bullshit you received (uh, and still get)?

Of course their line of reasoning is solid to eat their own brand of dog food and switch/ditch, write a blog about it and use it for marketing. I can't argue with that.

April 09, 2017

Trade Show Fails?

Read this blog about trade shows then read on with this.

I've done a dozen or so trade shows in the last two years (both local and remote - we do sell a video conference product) and for us it's always 'all hands on deck'. We're not Cisco, who can rotate cozy shifts between their 70,000 employees, so this blog obviously struck enough of a nerve to write about it.

Do not eat or drink in your booth

How in the hell do you think I'm going to have enough energy to get through 8 hours of handshaking and networking? I'm the engineer who is supposed to be locked up in his cubicle designing things. I need to eat, and yes I am sorry I need to drink. In trade shows it's hard to find time to take a piss, let alone eat or God forbid take a drink when you work for a company with only a handful of people. I'm not gorging on a pizza and I try to be as discreet as possible, but I need to eat something.

"Make your booth stand out, booth graphics, overhead signage, listing in the Show Directory are all good ways to help people find your booth."

Money, money, money. Getting carpet for your booth costs a ton. Overhead signage costs N+ton

"If you are from another Country, have people in the booth who natively speak the language(s) of the place you are in."

So for ISE, we should have hired someone who speaks Dutch. Got it. I'm sure hiring an interpreter is cost effective. My guess is the author is a native English speaker and pointing out non English speakers having booths.

"Break time is for email, drinks and lunch outside of the booth. NEVEReat or drink in the booth (yes I said it twice)."

Break time. That's cute. Should I leave my booth empty?

We have to do our best, no matter if the company has five or five thousand employees. Booth visitors luckily, at least in my experience, haven't been judgmental on our situation as a start up.