The Record - Issue 20: Spring 2021

66 www. t e c h n o l o g y r e c o r d . c om V I EWPO I NT “This advanced technology empowers remote teams to collaborate with the same levels of confidence and clarity as if being there in person” A ny businessperson can tell you that con- ference calls are the best way to collabo- rate with fellow colleagues, partners and customers around the world. But when it comes to speakerphones and conferencing systems, not all devices were created equal. The quality and reliability of conference solutions is vital to sup- port productive virtual meetings. Today’s workforce needs audio solutions and technologies that release the potential of employ- ees. For example, advances in microphone pick-up technology can enable conferencing tools to boost the quality and clarity of commu- nication. And while the user simply experiences clear audio with the switch of a button, there is a lot happening behind the scenes to deliver that premium audio experience. Before getting into the mechanics of what happens within a speakerphone, it’s important to take a step back and consider the seemingly obvious: what do ideal speakerphones do? A meeting room speakerphone has two primary functions: first, it must broadcast remote speech through a loudspeaker; then it must capture speech in the meeting room while conveying it to remote participants. Ideally, the speakerphone must convey speech as intelligibly as possible. High performing speakerphones use ‘echo can- cellation’ to prevent sound from the loudspeaker from returning to the remote listener through the speakerphone’s own microphone. They also use microphone array beamforming to further isolate voices from both ambient noise and rever- beration. These arrays use multiple microphones and algorithmic signal processing to capture and convey speech to remote participants with the greatest intelligibility. In many meeting room scenarios, the presence of background noise and reverberation – such as the moving of paper, rolling of chairs or shift- ing in one’s seat – can interfere with the sound of people talking, which leads to a reduction in speech intelligibility. To overcome the challenge of noise, it’s important to find a way to ensure that the ratio of speech to noise received by any remote listener is weighted in favour of speech. When it comes to reverberation, a microphone picking up speech in a room will first pick up the voice – a sound which initially arrives at that microphone directly from the person speaking. This microphone will then pick-up reverber- ation as a series of additional sounds from the voice being reflected from the room’s walls, ceil- ing and floor. The differences between direct and reflected signals arriving at a microphone are a question of time and strength. Reflected sounds arrive later than direct sounds, and they arrive with less energy. When a microphone receives both Effective audio technology can be the difference between an effective hybrid working environment and a frustrating meeting room experience J E S P E R KOC K : E POS Beamforming in the hybrid workplace