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#39 Watercooler Talk in a Remote Workforce
on Wed Feb 17 2021 16:00:00 GMT-0800 (Pacific Standard Time)
Darren Pulsipher, Chief Solution Architect, Public Sector, Intel, and Sean Heiney, co-founder of SignalWire, Inc., discuss the companies remote work policies of cameras on and their new remote collaborative workspaces technology that fosters ad hoc communication for their completely remote workforce.
On this episode, Darren and Sean Heiney, co-founder of SignalWire, Inc., discuss new remote collaborative workspaces that break down the tiresome video meeting conferences that go on all day. Their Cameras on policy and SignalWire Work technology allow for ad hoc communication like never before.
SignalWire is the developer of the largest open-source communications platform in the world. For the last three or four years, SignalWire has focused on building the next generation of video and voice in real-time communications applications, which led to SignalWire Work for remote offices.
A predecessor of SignalWire Work was SignalWire’s own tool that they built for themselves since the company has been distributed since inception, working remotely for three years. The existing remote collaboration tools did not satisfy their needs, with more than 60 people spread over a number of countries and continents. Some were already using always-on audio, but since many of their engineers were also sharing Unix screens, it evolved into always-on video. When COVID hit, customers wanted access to this tool, so SignalWire Work was born, along with a version for live events.
Working in collaborative remote spaces is not only a technological innovation, but a social experiment as well. For some people, always-on video might seem weird or scary. Once everyone has subscribed to the philosophy, however, it can be more efficient than sitting in a physical office. There are inefficiencies in a world like Zoom where people are only talking in scheduled meetings with specific agendas. A lot of the important, informal communication is lost.
With SignalWire tools, coworkers can see inside people’s rooms, as if they have a glass wall in a physical world. You can see how busy they are, what kind of mood they are in, or if they are talking to someone else. You can pop in and ask a question. There is social interaction, water cooler talk, that is not possible with scheduled meetings. When you log into SignalWire Work, it’s like stepping into a physical office.
There are features that assure privacy. You can fog out your video so people can’t see your face, or go in a heads-down mode where people can’t interrupt you, but they still know you are present and can knock on your virtual door.
Another benefit is that there can be clearer boundaries between home and work life. When you log off from the office, it’s a clean break.
SignalWire has created the technology that powers everything from the Ring doorbell to pieces of Amazon Connect and Netflix’s customer service engine; they’re basically in every major telco. Now, they are focusing on enabling that technology to get in the hands of regular folks and have them build off of it. One example is the most popular virtual church platform in the world was built about a year ago on SignalWire.
A unique aspect that gives SignalWire a strategic advantage is that video muxing is done in the cloud. A traditional video conference application will encode and transmit the video to every participant in a conference. If there are seven people, there are seven streams. That’s a lot of work on the processor. It’s work on your device to transmit the data and you’re subject to jitter and packet loss on all those individual streams, so you may have a great connection to someone, but the other person looks horrible.
With SignalWire, the clients send one feed to the cloud. The cloud takes everyone’s feed, muxes it together, and then sends that one feed back out to everyone so there’s only one transmit and receive. This has many advantages such as better battery life, lower data consumption, and a lower amount of work on local device processors.
For the user experience, SignalWire can make the audio great when it’s muxed together, or control the layout so everyone sees the same thing in the same orientation. When you point at someone on the screen, for example, everyone can see that. For events such as live exercise sessions, the platform allows users to hear the background music and the host at the same time, along with being able to see, say, thirty other participants. All of this adds up to a more connected feeling and experience.
SignalWire can run on any cloud or platform, down to an individual handset or an atom-based device. Companies can use it on their own infrastructure, which is important for security and controlling data at the highest level. SignalWire can deploy its nodes inside a secured network to protect sensitive data from traversing in the public internet.
The platform is fully flexible with users’ tech and applications, allowing even a major broadcast studio to use it to produce and edit one of their shows, bringing in extras for voice-overs on existing recordings because the real-time quality is that high.
The key to making this new type of workspace viable is jumping in, and make it company policy. The benefits become quickly apparent. When you come into work, you come into video and are present and interact with your coworkers, just like you did pre-COVID.
When people went into the office pre-COVID, they probably dressed nicely to make a professional impression. In this world, that impression is made more through a good audio and video set-up: good microphones, lighting, a high-quality environment. Employees are putting on a their best using tech because this is now a tech world. It’s an evolution from the informal remote work environment of sitting on a beach or at the kitchen table while dinner is being made. More professional conversations can take place in a more professional remote work environment.
The best way to experience this technology is to try it out. There is a 30-day free trial at https://signalwire.com/products/work