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Interactive whiteboards — a technology that allows files to be projected onto a screen where they can be moved around and annotated by multiple users — has expanded to more use cases in recent years, and could even be used with kiosks, according to some observers.

Interactive whiteboards are used for collaborative planning by businesses and organizations. And as collaborative work places have increased, interactive whiteboard technology is finding additional uses.

Tom Richards of Cisco Systems, third from left, explains new use cases for whiteboarding. Other panelists were (L–R) Cynthia Lee of Zoom, Simon Dudley of Logitech and Glen Jystad of InFocus.

Tom Richards, a product manager at Cisco Systems, a provider of networking hardware, said during a panel at the recent Infocomm show that he can envision a touch interactive file being shared on a kiosk at a home improvement store.

The kiosk could allow a customer to engage in a file-sharing planning session with an off-site design specialist.

Richards said the growth of collaborative meeting spaces is creating more awareness of interactive whiteboard technology, an awareness that can lead to other use cases.

Challenges call for change

How soon the kiosk scenario Richards described becomes commonplace is uncertain, though, given some of the challenges existing users are confronting.

The Infocomm panelists agreed that shared file technology needs to become more user friendly for wide-scale adoption to occur. A show of hands revealed that most attendees are using video conferencing, but only half are using interactive whiteboard technology.

While much of the session at the Las Vegas Convention Center, titled, “Touch and collaborate — the interactive experience comes of age,” focused on business meeting uses, the panelists agreed that use cases are expanding as the technology advances and costs fall.

Moderator Simon Dudley, director of product strategy at Logitech, a provider of computer peripherals and electronics, said that interactive whiteboards are 25 years old, but have come down in price significantly in recent years and have become easier to use. Richards added that five years ago it was necessary to have someone specially trained on hand in order to utilize the technology.

Systems must be easier

Paul Foschino, senior manager of visual communications at Ricoh, an imaging and electronics manufacturer, said that software needs to be easier to operate. He has seen interactive whiteboards with post-it notes attached, indicating that the device isn’t serving its intended purpose due to lack of user education.

Ricoh recently added a button to its whiteboard solution that allows a user to call a live support person who can explain how to use the whiteboard. He said it is too soon to say how much use the button is getting.

“The key here is to take out the fear factor,” Foschino said. “We’re not giving the end user enough time to accept it, use it and make it part of their work flow.”

Another challenge is integrating the technology with other business software. Richards said interactive whiteboard technology needs to integrate with apps people are using.

The lack of interoperability with other technology was raised as an issue during the question and answer period. One audience member complained that interactive whiteboards do not integrate with video conferencing.

Foschino pointed out that interactive whiteboards were developed to allow organizations to work with proprietary information. For this reason, integrating different devices can be difficult.

Glen Jystad, director of product marketing at InFocus, a company that manufactures projectors, touchscreens and peripherals, said that an open interactive whiteboard platform is needed.

An expanding technology ecosystem

Dudley said that despite the challenges confronting the adoption of interactive whiteboards, business uses have been expanding since the days when it was mainly used for high-level management meetings. At the present time, he said, the education sector is the largest user segment.

Cynthia Lee, a senior product manager at Zoom, a software provider, said that interactive whiteboarding is part of the progression of the business ecosystem.

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