Microsoft Teams Room — Back to work — no touch solutions for a safer workplace
As the move from “Work from home” (WFH) back to working from an office, leadership is asking:
“How do we make the shared spaces safer for our employees to use the technology in the room?”
Looking at a conference room, huddle room or executive board room that is outfitted with a Microsoft Teams Room system has some of the capabilities right now and Microsoft is planning on expanding that capability in the near future as well.
WHAT WORKS NOW?
What works now is something called “Proximity join” and first I will describe it from the MTR device side settings and how to set it up and then we can look at how it works from the personal device to allow a no touch meeting to happen in the room.
In the MTR settings page under the device setting you will need to enable Bluetooth beaconing. What this will do is have the Bluetooth from the MTR device itself report to the O365 tenant a short identifier for that conference room device under the ID it is logged into. When the desktop Teams application sees that identifier in its scanning, it will then list it as a room that is close and follow the below actions.
See that second setting check box of “automatically accept proximity based meeting invitations”? Well that’s the key to a no-touch starting a meeting. With that checked, when the unit is not in a meeting and someone uses the device to send the meeting to the room, the room automatically picks up and joins the meeting without needing to touch any shared devices in the room.
Now that you have the MTR (conference room) setup, let’s look at how it works from the device side.
Using your personal device such as your Surface laptop running the Teams desktop client, when you start a meeting you will see below the screen the “Join and add thus room” label. This is utilizing a few different technologies. First would be the Bluetooth connection of your laptop and the BTLE that exists inside of the Microsoft Teams Room Systems. BTLE stands for “Bluetooth Low Energy” and it is a relatively low signal that is outputted from the device for your laptop to receive. By your laptop seeing the BTLE signal and then getting that readable name from the device in the O365 tenant, you will see the room name that you are closest to.
When you hit the button to Join and add this room, your personal device will join in what is termed “Companion Mode” if the device is already in a meeting. See below for the behavior if the device is not in a meeting.
Companion mode means that your device will join with your microphones and speakers muted to avoid the feedback loops that commonly happen when users attempt to join with their personal devices.
Above you can see the device joining a room system where the system is currently in a meeting and letting you know that it is joining in companion mode.
You can also do the same from your mobile device as seen in the screenshot below. You will see that it notices the nearby room and lists the friendly name.
Here is an example of someone using proximity join with their mobile device to start a meeting on an MTR system. Notice that the screen on the table is not even touched.
YOUR MOBILE DEVICE RUNS TEAMS AS WELL! This means you have options with these devices as you can see above!
It is likely that you have a mobile device on your person and whether that is an Android or IoS based mobile device, if it runs Microsoft Teams, then this is beneficial and Microsoft has been able to run these devices as companions to your desktop application and now these devices can be utilized in the conference room to further reduce you needing to touch a shared device.
If you look at the picture on the left here, you will see that it has the familiar icons of the MTR application that usually runs on the in room device when you are in a meeting. You can see below in the picture of this mobile application beside an in meeting MTR application that they are very similar. What the plan right now is for the users in the room to use the same BTLE signal that was described for proximity join to also be available on the mobile Microsoft Teams application, to allow users in the room to use their personal device to control the conference room shared device without needing to touch any shared devices. This is one of the ways that no-touch can be accomplished and thus making your conference room safer for the users in the room. This will be coming later this year and be available to users in the same tenant as the MTR account.
Other solutions are here as well like the setting to automatically leave the meeting when everyone else has left. This again allows a no-touch solution to shared devices making the workplace a much safer place to return to.
Yes, if you are used to asking Alexa or Hey Google to do things around your home, that same functionality is coming to the Microsoft Teams Room systems. The plan right now appears to be adding Cortana for the following functions:
- Joining a meeting
- Leaving a meeting
- Adding a participant via their name or phone number
This is due later this year, but will be adding to the ability for these devices. This really speaks to the power of the way these devices are engineered where you are not needing new hardware to run these features, but they get added via software.