Skip to content

The Pod & The TEC

By: Stephen Toback

We always envisioned the conference room at the Technology Engagement Center at Telcom to be a container for some slightly ahead of the curve technologies. This is why we installed 4k PTZ cameras, a 4k interactive video wall… and the Solstice Pod. Unfortunately, we underestimated the need for a non-school based, large, technology enabled meeting place on West Campus so quickly our need for a functioning, robust AV system has outpaced our desire to experiment.

Thus the Pod. In theory, this is a great collaboration tool and the ability to share from Mac, iOS, Windows and Android seemed very compelling. We evaluated a solution from Kramer and Crestron and felt the feature set for the POD, and it’s ability to run on hardware or on a host PC made the product superior and it was selected for integration into the TEC. Since we wanted wireless collaboration at every monitor, AppleTVs were still utilized however we decided on (3) Pods: The Conference Room (software), one of the (2) monitors in the Commons area and in the Studio (Makerspace).

Our challenges were pretty immediate and on two fronts. From a usability standpoint, we met with a lot of resistance from people wanting to install software to connect. We had several cases where the software installation did not go well and others where the users were not notified of required software updates causing prolonged troubleshooting sessions. I’ve been in more than one meeting where someone preferred to get up and change their seat to be closer to the cable rather than install software on their computer. There are also different features depending on your platform with regard to what modes can share audio, etc. The interface for management is powerful, but with power comes complexity and the ideas of someone running a meeting with several windows open, swiping and opening windows and using the “shelf” seemed like for the users of the TEC conference room was not something that was needed. It was demonstrated at every open house and orientation for the room but never a taker for these advanced features.


Technically, the issues ran the spectrum of small and annoying to fairly major. I won’t go into detail but some of the highlights include:

  • having a POD that just wouldn’t update over the network (no explanation other than “that happens”) so we’d have to connect a USB Hub, keyboard and SD stick to update.
  • Another POD that not matter what would never show the correct time
  • Audio doesn’t work from Mac laptops until you install another piece of software
  • Software on the Mac doesn’t install in the Applications folder. Seems minor but if you moved your old version into the Applications folder and then install the new version, you assume you’re running the new version but you are running the old version – or vice-versa.
  • The software POD had a strange bug that would not allow you to move around a second, uploaded video without first touching the first video. Then you’d have to repeat this to move the second video anytime. They issued a software update which then broke all support for video.

That last issue was what ultimately drove the decision to return all of the units. After working on this issue for several weeks, this was escalated to the head of Solstice on the first week of December 2016. We’d have a few days of some seemingly inane system tests and screen shot requests and then silence for weeks (unanswered emails). Escalated again, some activity, then silence. After the last round, it was determined we need a functional tool in the conference room, and I will give Solstice credit that they recognized the failure of the product for this use case and agreed to take back the product more than 6 months after they were placed into production.

All that said, I don’t think this is a bad product or a bad company. It seems they are going through some tremendous growth and perhaps they will be able to work out the issues with their support follow through. I think, a great use case for the product might be a departmental meeting room, not open to the public, where the IT admin had control over the participant’s computer and could be sure it is all working. If you are using the same conference room say once or twice per week, every week, then spending the “investment” in time in training to use the software would make sense.

For a conference room that has different people all the time, something more simple like an HDMI cable (with a ring of adapters) is probably the best solution – with a $149 AppleTV to cover those with iOS and Mac systems. We are looking into AirParrot as a solution for Windows users to also wirelessly connect to the AppleTVs – but there’s the purchase of the software, installation and configuration so we’ll see how that goes.

Categories: DDMC Info

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *