The world of competitive gaming, also known as esports, is picking up traction and rapidly growing internationally. The fanbase has expanded to be in the millions, with an even higher potential profit.

We’re really excited about the future of esports and want to share what we know about it, so you can get excited too!

What is Esports?

Esports is competitive organized video gaming. Top-level gamers come together to play in leagues and tournaments for high-stake prizes. Some common games used in esports tournaments or leagues are Valorant, Fortnite, League of Legends, Counters-Strike, Call of Duty, Overwatch, and Madden NFL — and that list is constantly growing.

Esports tournaments rack up millions of viewers. Local fans can come watch esports live and in person at the arena, while more fans from around the world can tune in via live stream.

Who watches and plays Esports?

The esports viewership is more vast and diverse than people might think. According to a 2019 report by Newzoo, there were 380 million worldwide viewers last year, with 165 million people described as “frequent viewers.” Most of those frequent viewers are from North America, China, and South Korea, and vary significantly in age and profession.

For those who still aren’t convinced that the esports fanbase is significant, here’s a little statistic for you: the 2017 League of Legends World Championship had more than 80 million viewers. To put that in perspective, the 2019 World Series had just shy of 14 million.

Can people really make a career out of video games?

The answer is an enthusiastic yes! It takes a lot of hard work and dedication, but successful esports gamers can go from casual gamers to well-known names who make up to seven figures.

Most esports figures start their careers by perfecting their craft amongst their friends. Then, they build a fanbase on Twitch, a streaming service that allows fans to watch their favorite gamers in action. With a large enough Twitch fanbase and enough personal successes, people can start to join esports leagues or tournaments with high stakes and prizes. If an individual is good enough, they’ll also get endorsed by major gaming brands. Between tournament prize money, endorsements, and sponsorships, esports icons can easily earn over a million dollars.

How do they do it?

You’re probably thinking “Wow, how do they pull off an esports tournament or live stream where they keep everyone connected?”

Esports relies completely on technology, both the technology that allows them to actually play the game as well as the audio and video equipment necessary to run a team tournament and steam it to an audience around the world.

IVCi is so excited to be a part of the esports world by helping provide hardware and services for academic-based esports teams. Click here to learn more about our involvement!

This time last year, remote work was reserved for special circumstances or a perk employees could enjoy a couple of days per week. The COVID-19 pandemic turned that notion upside down, forcing organizations from most industries to shift to remote work.

Now, organizations around the world have rolled out long-term or permanent remote work plans, completely changing the standards by which they operate. Today we’re going to dive into those standards, for both technology and protocol.

The new standards of technology

While technology has played an important role in the workforce for some time, now it’s essential that technology is functional and efficient since it’s the only way for remote teams to collaborate. Here are the standards of technology we’ve seen for remote work:

  • Mobile hardware tools. Teams need the ability to be productive from anywhere. Having an updated laptop, phone, and internet connection might seem basic, but it’s the backbone of a successful remote team.
  • Video conferencing tools. A reliable software, good quality microphones and headsets, and high resolution cameras allow for professional, uninterrupted meetings.
  • Virtual collaboration and communication tools. Stay in touch about projects or be available for quick chats in a way that doesn’t disrupt someone’s workflow.
  • Project management and data storage. Projects should stay organized, should be easily accessible to all team members, and be structured in a way where the whole team knows their status.

In other words, without technology, successful remote work is just not possible.

The new standards for remote work protocol

While the nuances of remote work protocol will look slightly different from company to company, here’s what we’ve witnessed as standards across them all:

  • Maintaining face to face communication. Even though teams can’t physically meet together right now, you want to prioritize face to face communication whenever possible. Choosing a video conference over a phone call keeps the personal connection between you and your team members while working to combat some of the isolation people may feel when they don’t get to see other people at the office every day.
  • Keep the same amount of employee engagement events. If your organization participated in team-building activities and events before the change to remote work, they should continue after. While people might be getting tired of your standard virtual happy hours, companies are starting to get really creative with the types of virtual events they hold for their teams. You can have virtual wine and paint nights, poker tournaments, cooking classes, and group fitness classes — whatever gets your team excited!
  • Maintain the same productivity, just remotely. The goal of a long-term remote work strategy is to have the company function just as productively as before, just without a physical office. While you should definitely leave wiggle room for at-home distractions such as other family members, you should set realistic expectations for your team in terms of remote work goals that you will accomplish together.

As you can see, if your organization is making the long-term shift to remote work, it’s important to have the proper tools in place to set your team up for success. To get a consultation by experts in the field who can help you get started, contact us today.

In a world where meetings are conducted remotely and hangouts are mostly virtual, it seems like everyone is using Zoom in some capacity.

But with 300 million meeting participants per day on the platform, Zoom can be an easy target for security breaches. If you’re using Zoom to conduct business, you can’t take the risk of personal information or sensitive company data being compromised.

We’ve put together guidance that your organization can use to make sure your Zoom calls are secure.

Zoombombing: Understanding the threat landscape

 Before we get into security precautions, it’s important for organizations to understand what’s at stake. Enter: Zoombombing.

Zoombombing is when your Zoom calls are hacked into by an unauthorized user. In doing so, the hijacker can hold accounts for ransom, share inappropriate content with a vulnerable audience, or gain access to private data shared within the meeting. Zoombombing is serious enough that the U.S. Department of Justice has named it a federal offense.

While Zoom has made great strides to improve security since the first Zoombombing incident was reported, there are still things organizations can do to keep their meetings secure.

1. Use the Waiting Room feature

The Waiting Room gives you the ability to see who is trying to join your meeting, so you can admit them yourself. That way, you can have complete control over who joins the meeting. You can admit users individually, all at once, or grant certain users the rights to bypass the Waiting Room.

2. Use randomly generated Meeting IDs and password protect them

When creating a meeting, it will automatically be populated with your Personal Meeting ID. But since this remains the same, it’s easier for unwanted attendees to end up in your meeting. Be sure to schedule all new meetings with a randomly generated meeting ID so that no two are the same and only invited attendees can join.

You can take this one step further by password protecting your Personal Meeting ID and all scheduled meetings. That way, even if a malicious user does figure out your meeting ID, they won’t be able to get in.

3. Lock the meeting and manage participants accordingly

Once all attendees are admitted into the meeting, you should lock the meeting so no additional attendees can join. From there, you can manage your participants easily and with full control over whether additional people can join or not.

4. Turn off features that attendees don’t need for that meeting

Zoom has some great built-in features that help attendees collaborate and conduct productive meetings. But those features could also make it easier for the wrong person to steer the meeting in the wrong direction or steal personal data.

Unless it’s necessary for the meeting, you’ll want to disable the following features for attendees:

  • Private chat
  • Annotation
  • Screen sharing
  • Microphone

You can manage these features in real time throughout the meeting, so it’s best for security to start with them disabled for everyone and grant access as needed.

5. Consult a video conferencing expert

If you’re unsure about where to start in securing your video conferencing system, it’s best to consult an expert. The team at IVCi can be your trusted advisor for implementing technology and security measures to keep your video conferences secure.

With COVID-19 still a threat across the country, many school districts are in the process of creating reopening plans that enable learning across a variety of situations — in person, remote, or hybrid combinations.

What each plan has in common is the necessity for an advanced technology setup to help students learn effectively while maintaining social distance and limiting exposure.

The Rethink K-12 Education Models Grant is a pool of $300 million for schools to “rethink education by creating flexible K-12 models, developing postsecondary tools that aid economic recovery.” This grant was authorized as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act that was signed into law in April.

AV solution providers like IVCi play an important role in helping grant recipients (along with other K-12 institutions), implement the technology they need for a safe school reopening. As the grant describes, IVCi can help organizations:

  • Access the technology and services they need for remote learning
  • Increase their range of virtual learning through course access technology
  • Get the latest technology in remote education to ensure that every child is learning and preparing for successful careers and lives

But for us at IVCi, it goes beyond just installing and implementing technology. It’s about being a trusted technology partner that can help schools get the tools they need in the way they need it. That’s why we take a three-phase approach to make the best of specific school’s learning environments:

  1. Strategy — we help K-12 institutions decide what technology works best for them, based on their reopening plans, budget, and specific needs.
  2. Deployment — we safely install technology quickly and with safety precautions in mind, so schools can be ready before the first day of classes.
  3. Support — we provide ongoing service so students and faculty can adjust to new technology confidently.

Our goal is not only to set K-12 institutions up with technology to enable learning during the pandemic, but to set them up with tools for long-term success. Remote or hybrid learning is likely to be a part of education for years to come, so schools that make the transition with trusted technology partners by their side will see these additional long-term benefits:

  • Quicker transitions — with support for both the initial setup and on an ongoing basis, schools can make smoother and faster transitions to remote or hybrid learning, allowing their long-term plans to adapt to whatever the current situation is at that time.
  • Higher user confidence — comprehensive training programs allow users to get comfortable with the technology. Meanwhile, additional features like thermal cameras, touchless kiosks, and programmable safety displays raise overall safety confidence levels.
  • Better engagement — learning environments can be customized to better fit student needs and better allow teachers to conduct their lessons.

With the vision for the 2020-2021 school year still uncertain and likely to change multiple times, technology is set to play an important role in helping students get the education they deserve. Whether your school is a Rethink K-12 Education Models Grant recipient or not, contact us today to start rethinking your education model.

When the COVID-19 outbreak first happened, organizations had to respond quickly and move their organizations to remote work setups with no time to plan.

With COVID-19 still very much a health and safety threat, many companies have made the decision to remain remote long-term. Some major companies like Twitter have even announced the intention to stay remote permanently, which a lot of smaller companies followed.

Even organizations who do plan to eventually return to the office are taking it slow. A common move for businesses in the United States is to remain remote through the end of 2020, which is still months away.

Here are some strategies to help organizations that plan to stay remote as a long-term plan:

1. Invest in the right video conferencing platform equipment for your team

This should be top priority once the decision has been made to remain remote for a long period of time. The right equipment makes all the difference between your teams operating as usual, and technical difficulties stifling productivity.

You’ll want to make sure your whole organization uses a video conferencing solution that makes sense for your individual business goals — will you be giving a lot of presentations to clients? Will you be hosting webinars and live events? Your answers will greatly influence the solution you choose.

Regardless of the software you choose, having the right equipment will always be important. Making sure your team can video chat without lags or disruptions in audio or video quality will keep meetings productive and presentations smooth.

2. Maintain “face to face” interaction and “social” connections

While we may all be a little tired of Zoom happy hours, the concept of maintaining face to face interaction and engaging in non-work talk increases in importance the longer your team works remotely.

Whenever possible, choose video conferencing over phone calls for things like sync-ups, project planning meetings, and touch-base meetings. In addition, make it a point to add some one-on-one video chats, virtual lunches, and other activities that closely resemble the interactions you had with your team when working in the office.

3. Be flexible with schedules and respect boundaries

The circumstances surrounding this remote work situation are much more complicated than just a desire to not have a physical office. The pandemic has ransacked just about every aspect of people’s lives, including things outside of work.

Most of your team members have significant responsibilities outside their job, such as caring for children or family members. Some may even be facing financial stress due to a family member being furloughed or ill. It’s important to be flexible with your team’s work schedule and show leniency as they navigate things like the new school year.

At the same time, it’s even more important to respect boundaries now that remote work is a long-term plan. When working from home, it’s hard to keep work and life separate since it’s hard to switch mental gears when you physically stay in the same place. Work with your team to establish healthy boundaries of when they’re expected to answer messages/emails, and when they should focus on things other than work.

The key to long-term remote work success will be implementing the tools your organization needs to stay connected and productive, no matter where they are. Contact us today to set up a consultation with the experts at IVCi, who can help you find the right technology suite for your needs and business goals.

Virtual events have taken the place of conferences, concerts, and large gatherings of all sizes. While moving events to a virtual format is important for health and safety in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, it takes a different planning approach than an in-person event.

Here are some virtual event planning considerations to keep in mind for your next event.

1. Understand your audience

Understanding your audience will help you frame out all of your event details. Take some time to think about your target audience and define their age, occupation, and other demographic information. From there, you can ask key questions like:

  • How proficient is this group with technology?
  • How familiar is this group with social media?
  • What type of events will this group respond best to?

Answering these questions will prevent you from setting up a virtual event that’s inaccessible or uninteresting to your audience.

2. Choose your hosting platform

Depending on your audience and your event goals, different hosting platforms will be better suited for your event. There are a lot of resources that can help you compare event hosting platforms. Some platforms allow for only one person to speak at a time, while others allow for smaller breakout sessions to form. One is not necessarily better than the other, it just depends on your needs.

Once you’ve chosen your platform, you can define your format to be either a speaker series, a tradeshow, a workshop, or anything that fits your mold.

3. Choosing/designing your venue

Many people make the mistake of neglecting venue design during virtual events. But just because your audience is not experiencing the venue in person doesn’t mean it’s not important. You’ll want to select a venue or design a room that has the right lighting and acoustics so your attendees can clearly see visuals and hear audio. If you’re providing a slide deck, video, or other visual, you’ll also need to make sure you have the proper set up within the room to stream it to attendees.

4. Implementing the right technology

Last, but certainly not least, you’ll need to have the right technology tools in place before your virtual event. Having state of the art audio video and conferencing systems in place will help your guests experience the same audio visual quality in your virtual event as they would in person.

Having the ability to video conference during workshops and breakout sessions allows your audience to fully engage. It also adds the element of human connection that is sometimes missing from traditional webinar-style virtual events. Unreliable technology, however, can cause frustrating issues that have the opposite effect on your event, so it’s important to select your system carefully.

Prioritizing these considerations will help you plan a successful virtual event that’s just as engaging and worthwhile as an in-person event. While most of these items can be taken care of in-house, it’s best to leave the technology implementation to the experts. IVCi has extensive knowledge in audio video technology and can help your organization implement everything you need for the ultimate virtual event.

eSports has skyrocketed in popularity in the past few years, transforming from a millennial/Gen Z niche to a mainstream movement. The community has grown to the point where entire facilities are being created to host large tournaments and give eSports players and fans a truly spectacular experience.

An eSports facility relies on technology more heavily than almost any other facility. On one hand, its entire premise is around the most advanced video game technology in the world. On the other, the goal of eSports is to connect gamers and the community through immersive and interactive experiences. None of that could exist without advanced technology.

Video, audio, and room design are the three most important considerations for creating an eSports facility — and here’s why.

Video technology

It goes without saying that eSports relies heavily on high-quality graphics and visuals. But the demand for video technology goes above and beyond crystal clear picture and life-like renderings.

The video systems in an eSports arena must be able to handle multiple live streams being broadcasted across several screens. The slightest split second lag could disrupt the entire event, so it’s of utmost importance that systems are set up in a way that can handle high input and output levels.

All systems need to be properly wired, in sync, and have settings that support the busy video environment. From giant display screens, to individual computers, to interactive and VR/AR audience events, video is at the core of an eSports facility.

Audio technology

Good audio quality is also essential for creating a life-like gaming experience for both the players and the fans. But further than that, audio technology allows team members to communicate with each other to strategize in real time. Since teamwork is a huge aspect of an eSports event, having reliable audio technology is a must.

It’s important that eSports facilities focus on the right kind of audio technology. Just having speakers blasting as loud as they will end up being a distraction to the players and a nuisance to the audience.

Instead, facility designers should focus on the quality and purpose of the audio. What does that look like in action? Noise-canceling headphones with powerful microphones for the players and powerful speakers that deliver crisp audio with no delays for the fans.

Room design

eSports facilities should be designed purposefully with game quality and fan engagement in mind. Properly executed room design can help the event run more smoothly but also can create a sense of community. By having a combination of larger spaces and more intimate spaces with interactive features in each, attendees can feel like they are part of a large community yet have the opportunity to be personally immersed in the experience.

Having interactive exhibits and features is also important for keeping interest levels high. Depending on what’s being played, tournaments can last up to 12 hours, so it’s helpful to have additional activities like VR/AR exhibits to keep people excited.

And since tournaments can vary in size, length, and format so drastically from one to the next depending, the space needs to be scalable and flexible to accommodate different titles. That means placing screens and speakers throughout the arena in a way that makes sense regardless of the event size and having a central location to control and adjust system settings.

The growth of eSports isn’t going to stop any time soon. With new facilities, arenas, and tournaments being developed consistently, AV technology and design are set to play a major role in the movement.

IVCi has partnered with top quality manufacturers to provide the equipment necessary to maintain eSports facilities and expand eSports programs. Contact us to learn how we can help.

One of the biggest questions we still have regarding the coronavirus outbreak is: when people return to the workplace, what kind of workplace will they be returning to?

What we know for sure is that businesses have to make significant changes to keep employees and visitors safe — and that integrator companies will play a significant role in the future of workplace design.

Here are some expected workplace design trends and the role technology will play in their execution.

Minimizing contact in the workplace

When workplaces reopen, they’ll likely be redesigned to minimize physical contact. Organizations can invest in hands-free technology to limit touching of shared space and equipment.

Offer solutions that integrate well with voice assistants like Siri and Alexa. This empowers users to still accomplish all of their tasks and fully utilize their office’s technology, without the risk of a high-touch situation.

Fewer workstations mean smarter workstations

A common facet of business reopening plans is a reduction in the number of workspaces to promote social distancing. With fewer workstations, organizations are likely shifting to a remote/on-premise hybrid work model, so the workstations within the office need to have more robust capabilities.

Each workstation will likely need audio and video integration to communicate with remote team members. However, fewer workstations mean that upgrading each station is less of a cost. This gives organizations the opportunity to take their technology upgrades one step further, creating customizable “smart desks” that elevate the work experience.

Revamping conference and meeting spaces

The return to work post-COVID is a great opportunity for integrator companies to take a consultative approach with their clients and prospects. Conference rooms and meeting spaces are a great place to start. With capacity reduced in most workplaces, organizations are no longer holding meetings of 10 or 15 people in their conference rooms.

This is where you can step in as a trusted industry advisor to recommend utilizing the space as a huddle room to be more efficient. Remote access is no longer a luxury but a necessity, so organizations need to be set up with the proper tools for seamlessly incorporating remote attendees into video conferences.

While it may require an initial investment to set up the proper AV technology and revamp the room to be conducive to video conferencing, the returns far outweigh the costs.

Organizations that move to a huddle room model will be able to seamlessly collaborate and communicate with team members, clients, and business partners without breaking capacity restrictions or putting anyone at risk of exposure. Setting clients up with state-of-the-art AV technology will help them achieve a future-focused workplace that keeps people safe, yet connected.

With organizations now tasked with redesigning their workplaces to fit post-pandemic protocol, they’ll need to lean on technology more than ever. That’s where AV integration companies like IVCi come into play, helping organizations achieve a workplace that safely achieves all strategic business goals.

The esports community continues to grow; in recent years, participation in esports tournaments has grown from hundreds to hundreds of thousands, and the sport is being deliberated by the Olympic consideration.

With the esports community now over 300 million people, setting up an arena for an event is even more important than ever. To give participants and spectators the best possible experience, there needs to be certain elements within the arena:

  • Interaction. It goes without saying that the players need smooth, intuitive interaction with the gaming system. But in the esports world, it goes further than that. Throughout the arena, you’ll find interactive content displays that allow spectators to play parts of games, immerse themselves in displays for photo-ops and in-game experiences, and so much more.
  • Life-like displays. esports is captivating to watch as a spectator because you get a look at what’s happening through the players’ eyes. To pull that off successfully, there needs to be large displays with ultra-high resolution to make it feel life-like.
  • Advanced technology. Top-line technology not only improves the aesthetics of an esports arena, it’s vital to its function. Let’s get more into what the technology setup for an esports arena looks like.

The technology needed for an ideal esports experience

The technology needed to support a successful esports event is highly complex. There are multiple intricate systems running simultaneously — everything needs to be in sync, wired properly, and functioning at full capacity.

While the technological demand created by an esports event seems limitless, here are the main needs:

Video and audio system. esports could not exist without audio and visual equipment like video walls, projectors, video displays, surround sound speakers, and so much more. That way, both the players in the game and the spectators relying on video streams can have a lifelike experience. It also enables multi-player experiences regardless of physical proximity.

Interoperability within systems. It’s not enough to have a great video setup, a great audio setup, and a great augmented reality setup. These systems need to be able to integrate seamlessly with one another. This is necessary for real time game updates for players and fans — if there isn’t a streamlined way to share a large amount of information at once, the system is at risk to crash.

Virtual and augmented reality. What makes the esports experience unique is that you are not just playing a game or watching a game unfold, you are able to immerse yourself as if you were a game character. Today’s virtual and augmented reality technology goes beyond 360-degree videos and special effects to make each participant truly part of the experience.

The future of esports

The future is bright for esports. As the technology associated with esports becomes more accessible, the community can grow exponentially. For example, with VR headsets becoming more available to the general population, instead of watching a game on Twitch on a screen, viewers can watch via VR headset and feel like they’re part of a live audience or even part of the game map.

While there’s no way of knowing what additional technology will arise and take esports to the next level, we do know that the technological advances made so far have allowed esports to thrive.

The biggest question on every business leader’s mind is the same right now regardless of industry: how do we resume operation while keeping employees and visitors safe?

Organizations from around the world have leaned heavily into technology to help them find creative solutions for ensuring health and safety. One of those solutions is UV light technology. While UV light technology has traditionally been used in hospitals and labs to create a sterile environment, it’s now finding itself in a new role: stopping the spread of disease in offices and schools.

How does UV light technology work?

Without getting into too much of a science lesson, UV light has three wavelength categories: UV-A, UV-B, and UV-C. Because of its short wavelength, UV-C breaks apart germ DNA, rendering them unable to function or reproduce. Surfaces exposed to UV-C light are effectively rid of microorganisms like viruses and bacteria — making it an effective method of eliminating coronavirus on workplace surfaces.

Shedding light on workplaces and schools

Because of its effectiveness in eliminating the coronavirus and other contagious diseases, businesses and schools are beginning to invest in UV-C sanitizing technology. With many high traffic and shared surfaces, these types of establishments should consider the options they have for UV-C technology:

  • Portable, handheld wands: These work well for sanitizing conference room tables, student desks, counters, and other medium to large surfaces. Since they are portable, you can easily use a single wand for an entire office.
  • Device sanitizers: These are ideal for shared devices, keys, or other small objects, device sanitizers. You place the item inside the sanitizer, so the UV-C light does not reach any other areas.
  • Sanitizing cabinets: For larger shared devices or larger quantities, sanitizing cabinets are a great choice. For example, you can sanitize a dozen laptops at once to have ready for the next workday or class.
  • Lamps: UV-C lamps are powerful enough to sanitize entire rooms. Most are equipped with motion sensors to turn off when someone walks by, to protect them from exposure to the UV-C rays.

Usage considerations

When implementing UV-C technology in a workplace or school, there are a few considerations to keep in mind:

  • UV-C rays can be harmful to your eyes, so be sure to educate everyone in the building about proper safety measures. If you’re choosing a UV-C lamp, make sure to choose one with a motion-sensor shutoff.
  • UV light sanitation works best on smooth, flat surfaces. For example, it’s ideal for tables and device screens, but not so much for cloth chairs or device buttons.
  • For effective sanitation, the surface needs to be free of dust, skin cells, and skin oils. Always wipe down the surface you plan on sanitizing first.

Part of the bigger picture

While UV light technology can be an effective means for killing harmful viruses, it should be used in conjunction with other precautions. Employees, students, or visitors should still be practicing social distancing and utilizing face coverings whenever they’re on site.

But thanks to technology, these organizations can take precautions one step further. Thermal cameras can detect high body temperatures and alert people who may not realize they are ill. Implementing a body temperature detection camera system will allow visitors and employees alike to properly protect themselves.

Technology also allows organizations to limit in-person work or meetings while we learn the impacts of reopening society. Audio video conferencing solutions can help keep organizations connected, productive, and safe.

For more information about implementing a technology solution to help your organization safely transition into in-office/school or work, reach out to us at IVCi today.