When the first commercial group video conferencing system launched in the early 1980s, the hardware for the $250,000 system filled an entire room. But in the decades that followed, advances in IP telephony and hardware made video calling more viable and affordable. By the 2010s, many boardrooms had video conferencing solutions, most laptops had built-in webcams, and many people carried a video-enabled mobile phone in their pocket or bag.

But many businesses still weren’t using video conferencing technology regularly – until the pandemic, that is. Suddenly, video conferencing went from nice-to-have to an absolute necessity, and a new world of hybrid work was ushered in.

A 2022 PwC survey of business leaders found that 43% of organisations now offer hybrid work models for their employees. However, the same poll also showed that 28% of IT managers are worried that their company doesn’t have the technology to support this. In short: while this flexible working style feels geared to the future, the technology most organisations are operating feels decidedly stuck in the past.

The good news is that the right tools for the job are not just on their way, they’re available now.

“I’ve been looking at future work now for more than seven years, and we saw this opportunity around video conferencing and the need for people to be able to connect no matter where they choose to work,” says Loretta Li-Sevilla, head of future of work, collaboration, and business incubation at HP. With uncannily good timing, Li-Sevilla and her team began working on a new product to unlock the true potential of hybrid working, and HP Presence was born.

Woman talking to people on large screen
Thanks to IT decision-makers, hybrid working has grown more collaborative and user-friendly.

HP bills Presence as a “more thoughtful, human collaboration technology”, designed to make sure everyone can be clearly seen and heard as if they were all in the same room, no matter where they are.

So, what exactly is HP Presence? In short, it’s a purpose-built set of conferencing and collaboration solutions. “No one else in the industry has this end-to-end offering,” Li-Sevilla says. For the room itself, there’s HP Presence Meeting Room Solutions – a suite of scalable hardware and services for meeting spaces of any size. Meanwhile, for those joining remotely, there’s a package of HP Presence enhanced tech, including laptops and artificial intelligence-enhanced cameras. The result? “You have the same experience if you’re in the room and if you’re remote,” says Li-Sevilla.

Audio and video quality were one of Li-Sevilla’s top concerns. Audio features include studio-grade audio capabilities powered by Bang & Olufsen, noise cancellation and dynamic voice levelling, while the video features range from auto-framing to speaker tracking.

Speaker tracking is just one of the features that’s enabled by AI. “We first use our audio AI to track who the active speaker is, and then use our video AI to actually move with the speaker,” Li-Sevilla says. “There’s a lot of engineering work behind building these types of experiences.”

When HP says this is an end-to-end solution, it really means it. “We looked at both the end-user experience and the IT decision-maker experience,” Li-Sevilla says. “We had our designers and our engineers sit down with IT and facilities people to just really understand: ‘What do you go through to set up equipment in the room? What type of problems are you trying to solve?’”

One of the issues that cropped up time and time again was around the management of this shared equipment. “It’s not like your PC,” Li-Sevilla says. “If something’s wrong with your PC you would go and call IT. But in a room? You would probably just go, walk and find another room.”

To this end, the team developed HP Presence Manager and Presence Insights, so that IT managers have the support and data they need at every stage – from initial setup to daily use. “We have a startup app that can walk the IT person through the install,” Li-Sevilla says. “We have a customisable dashboard with the different widgets so that each IT manager can prioritise what is most important for them – and then manage it all remotely. All the updates and firmware are managed remotely, and we have fleet management, so you can see how many rooms with HP Presence you have, how many cameras, how many video-audio bars, and that’s all in a nice dashboard view for IT to easily manage.”

Li-Sevilla also calls out the room assistance tool as something that differentiates HP Presence from its competitors. “We’ve allowed the capability for the customer to customise a screen so their users can flag any issues in the room. A notification can then be sent to an IT or facilities person via our dedicated mobile app, so they can go into the room, fix it and, once done, the system automatically closes the ticket.”

When the pandemic forced offices to close, IT managers were at the forefront of keeping organisations across the world running – and they did it fast. In fact, a 2020 survey from the business management consultants McKinsey found that executives expected the change from in-office working to remote working to take 454 days. IT managers up and down the country delivered in an average of 10.5 days.

Now, in this post-pandemic age, it’s time for IT managers to take the lead once again – securing the technology that will equip their organisations with the tools they need to continue to collaborate and innovate in our new hybrid world.

Discover more at hp.com/uk-en/solutions/presence.html