You’ve seen how smartphones and tablets can boost productivity. Now consider another technology that’s catching the eye of tech-savvy companies: interactive whiteboards (IWBs).
Already a staple in many schoolrooms, IWBs consist of a large display that connects to a computer and a projector. The most popular IWB brands are from SMART Technologies and Promethean. Prices for the board itself for businesses start at $2,000 and go to about $5,000, depending on size, which typically ranges from 50 to 89 inches. Add $1,000 to $1,500 for a short-throw projector (which works a short distance from the screen), and you’re off and running. All the latest ones support collaboration technology such as Cisco’s WebEx and GoToMeeting from Citrix.
Ken Cartier, a partner at GEC Architecture, a Calgary, Canada–based commercial architecture firm, says that enhanced collaboration was the primary reason the 60-employee company installed five SMART Board IWBs in its offices. Cartier says the interactive whiteboards take what was internal on computers and put it out for the entire group to see. In the past, when working over a set of drawings, he says, most people didn’t get to participate. “The difference is that the whiteboards make people feel free to come up to the board and participate more actively in the discussion or make a point.”
Large companies such as United Parcel Service use IWBs in their logistics operations. UPS’s Technology and Logistics Center in Louisville, Ky., employs about 14 IWBs from SMART Technologies to manage shipments for the company’s high-tech, health-care, and retail customers. For example: How many items need to be picked up in any one day? How many people are on hand to do the work? And when does the material have to ship? The IWB shows all that information on an 80-inch board.
“In the past, all the information was either on a traditional whiteboard or on a computer screen,” says Adam Meyer, the operations manager who handles the SMART account at the Louisville center. “People would crowd around small computer screens, and it was an ineffective way to work. Now, information is more available to anyone who wants to take a look at it, plus the data is more accurate.”
Cartier says that the technology has become a big selling point for clients and prospects. “We’ve become the place where people want to hold meetings,” he says. “The way I see it, if we bring in one job because of SMART Boards, then they pay for themselves, and we have seen this ROI many times already.”
That’s similar to the point Mark Elliott underscores when talking about interactive whiteboards. Elliot is CEO of Genesis Collaboration, a reseller targeting the government and business markets for Promethean. Elliott sells the products and is also a heavy user.
“What we’re finding is that it’s easier to carve out a two-hour block of time during the day to hold a meeting on the interactive whiteboards than to send people to your location or a customer’s location,” Elliott says.
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