Sam Jackson from Technical Innovation recently loaned a 22″ widescreen Smart Podium to Susan Gerbeth-Jones for testing in Duke’s Telcom 119. A Smart Podium is an interactive screen that connects to your computer and shows its image. Using the attached pen, you can touch the screen to control applications and write notes. Smart also includes different software options, which include tools to use virtual whiteboards. Susan and Sam organized a demo with our local Smart Technologies rep, Darrin Scott. Duke participants included Carlisle Willard and Paul Zylowski from A&S – Trinity Technology Services, Susan Gerbeth-Jones – Assistant Dean of IT at the NSOE, and myself. The demo was very beneficial because it helped us determine how the Smart Podium might be used in this particular room. We all agreed the main usage of the Smart Podium would be for its virtual whiteboard functionality and annotating Powerpoint slides.
Darrin also let us know about Smart’s new software suite, Meeting Pro. While its software tools are more streamlined for higher education use, this suite presents two challenges: there is no Mac support for their GoWire add-on and a separately installed license is required for every Mac or Windows software installation. Smart’s GoWire is a USB cable that has a memory stick built into which has the Mac and Windows software and drivers installed on it. This allows users to just plug in the cable to their computers and use the Smart Podium without having to install the software and drivers. Smart does however make another software suite that offers the same functionality in a different interface called Notebook. Notebook has been available for several years and does support Mac and Windows when using the GoWire. It also can be installed on as many machines as needed without having to install individual licenses. We all felt that the GoWire option would be the best solution for this room instead of having every user install the software on their machines. For users who will be using the system regularly, installing the software to their machines may be a better solution.
A few times throughout the demo Darrin mentioned the use of Smart’s conferencing tool Bridgit. While Bridgit seemed to be a functional web conferencing tool, from the demo, it was difficult to determine what, if any additional benefit it would have over Duke’s current tool Adobe Connect. Using any web conferencing tool, a user could just simply share their desktop in a collaboration session while using a connected Smart Podium and the connected users would see the usage of the device. Adobe Connect also has virtual whiteboard functionality already built-in to it that can be used without the need for a Smart Podium.
Susan wanted to do a little more testing and asked to keep the Smart Podium a few more days. I feel the Smart Podium would be a beneficial add-on to the room’s functionality, allowing a speaker to share the Smart Podium’s virtual whiteboards much more easily than using a traditional whiteboard. They will also have the benefit of sharing annotations with virtually any application.