Collaboration tools are huge in tech right now, with heavyweights (think Microsoft, Google, Cisco) young upstarts (such as Slack and Zoom), and veterans (think Poly) alike all vying to get in on the action. This flurry of activity is due in part to technological advancements in video and audio services, and to other factors such as the increasingly connected conference room and an increasingly mobile workforce. Lenovo is another company with its hat in the ring. The PC maker has its own line of meeting room solutions which I’ve been keeping an eye on over the last few years (see my take on the ThinkSmart Hub 700, which I called the “Switzerland” of UC devices, here if interested). Last month, Lenovo announced another addition its collaboration portfolio over the summer, the Lenovo ThinkSmart Hub 500 for Zoom Rooms. Let’s take a closer look at the new offering.
Partnering with Zoom
The new product represents a partnership with Zoom, whose Zoom Rooms offering is a software-based solution for conference rooms that features one-touch joining, one-click wireless content sharing, and integrated HD video and audio. The ThinkSmart Hub 500 itself is an all-in-one meeting room hub that features an Intel vPro processor, a rotatable touchscreen control display, integrated speakers, dual microphones (in a 360-degree array), and built-in Dolby Audio. It takes up very little space on the table, helping to keep the conference room less cluttered. Lenovo claims that set-up is easy and intuitive—a must for the conference room in my opinion. Nothing kills momentum in a meeting like technical difficulties.
The ThinkSmart Hub 500 is designed for smaller “huddle rooms,” but it can be utilized in larger meeting rooms with the addition of accessories. On this note, the company highlights partnerships, such as the one it has with Avocor. Customers can purchase Avocor’s Zoom Rooms-certified, 4K interactive displays via Lenovo’s Vendor Label Hardware Program. Another example of partner technology that can be used with the ThinkSmart Hub 500 is the Huddly IQ AI-powered conference camera, which features a neural engine that allows it to respond to its environment. On a related note, Lenovo also announced a partnership with Maverick AV Solutions to deliver Zoom Rooms bundle kits for various sizes of conference rooms.
Lenovo also announced its forthcoming ThinkSmart Software, which should enable easier, automated setup of ThinkSmart Hub devices and provide real-time dashboards to monitor, manage, and update devices from a single console.
All in all, the ThinkSmart Hub 500 for Zoom Rooms looks to be a useful addition to Lenovo’s smart meeting room solutions portfolio. I appreciate Lenovo’s willingness to reach out and partner with other innovators in the collaboration space, such as Zoom, Avocor, and Huddly, to deliver unique, practical solutions for the conference room. While the solution targets the huddle room (a good niche), I like the fact that it can be scaled up with accessories to service larger spaces. It’s also worth noting that a version of ThinkSmart Hub 500 is available for Microsoft’s popular Teams collaboration suite. Giving customers these sort of options is smart and in the long run will do much to get Lenovo’s collaboration hardware in more hands.