Innovative and smart rooms for the world’s largest insurer AXA

Innovative and smart rooms for the world’s largest insurer AXA

AXA, the largest insurance company in the world, relocated its new headquarters in the metropolis of Brussels. It is no coincidence that VCS was once again appointed as a partner for thinking along and deploying innovative technology and smart meeting concepts for 40,000 m2 of halls and meeting rooms spread over 6 floors. “We are particularly proud of the trust AXA has placed in us; it is still the reference project and a great illustration of our ability to combine ease of use with innovative technology,” says Monica Righelli.

Michael Bulinckx: “Even the preparation for such a large project was special. Months before the move, we invested a lot of time in figuring out and trying out new meeting concepts for their different types of meeting environments. From the small ‘bubble’ for about 4 people to meeting rooms of 26 people and more. Each room required a different approach. We built up a lot of test concepts with newly purchased and existing equipment and in the final phase of the preparation we also set up entire zones where users could get acquainted with their future way of meeting.”

Axa Room One

ROOM One: up to 150 people assemble and converse in multiple languages

The most sophisticated meeting room in the head office is ROOM One, the large auditorium, so to speak.

Monica Righelli: “In the former building, the auditorium was used very little because technical assistance was always required. Therefore, we created a high-tech space with a lot of flexibility regarding options and use and where users only need technical assistance in rare cases. A few months after it was taken into use, we saw that this space was reserved almost full-time, with the users operating the multimedia themselves in almost all cases. That is not easy when you see what is possible.”

  • Due to the shape of the space and the seating positions, the project is projected onto the 4 walls.
  • Each projection surface is fed by 2 laser (LED) projectors in an edge blend arrangement.
  • Each projection surface can display up to 4 sources (windows).
  • Each window can be freely selected in terms of size and position on the projection surface. For the “normal” user, 3 presets have been provided, covering everything: number of sources and consequently the number of windows, the size of each window and the position of each window.
  • Each window can display all sources such as 2 Barco Clickshare’s, HDMI punch-in point, Poly codec.

Recording and archiving of sessions

Each session can be recorded in full HD up to 4K quality. The projected sources such as clickshare or Teams, as well as the microphones, the far site (video conference) and the cameras are recorded. In this way, the session can be experienced again, almost live. The recordings are archived on AXA’s file platform in the cloud and can be played on standard media players.

Streaming 

In addition to recording a session, it can also be streamed on all kinds of devices such as Windows PCs, Macs, smartphones… The big advantage is that AXA can offer live content in the correct format to anyone connected to their network. The viewer clicks on the link in the invitation email and the CDN server will automatically deliver the content in the correct format.

Always in the proper language

Simultaneous translation is applied. The spoken language is sent to a translation booth where up to 3 languages can be translated as standard. Via the Dante network, these translations are sent back to the room and the attendees can follow their desired translation via infrared receivers with headphones. The translations (with imaging) can be sent as separate streams so the people who are following live can follow the stream in their desired language as well.

MULTILANGUAGE ROOM

MULTILANGUAGE ROOM: same user experience, more languages

This meeting room has a capacity of about 30 people and largely the same features and user experience as ROOM One: recording (3-language), streaming (multilingual), simultaneous translation… While it has a very different hardware setup in the backbone.

  • The user interface of the touch panel is virtually identical to ROOM One, with only minor differences that are explained via a built-in help function.
  • The display of sources (clickshare, HDMI, Skype, …) is done on 2 large flat screens of 84” (215 cm) diameter in 4K. Due to the arrangement of the seating positions at the front of the hall, recall screens were also provided so that these people do not have to look behind them.
  • Each participant has a conference station with headset on which to select translations.
  • A translation booth is attached to the room, which can also be used for translation in other rooms.
  • There are two motorised cameras that are automatically controlled by the activating of the microphones. The images from the selected camera are used with Teams sessions or live streaming.
  • The images are also sent to the translation booths. The translators see the image of the camera and the source on the flat screen on 3 monitors.

CREATIVITY ROOM: strategically placed flat screens to divide the group

AXA provides a lot of training and also encourages employees to think creatively. This has also been taken into account. Training and brainstorming are the main activities in the Creativity ROOM. It was a deliberate choice not to implement Teams in this room. And unique in this project: the touch inputs – typing and writing on the interactive screen – are transmitted to the user’s PC through a wireless connection.

  • Three touch flat screens of 84” (215 cm) diameter in 4K are strategically placed in the room to be able to split the group into 3 smaller workgroups after a brainstorming session, enabling them to each do their own thing.
  • In ‘large group’ configuration, the 3 flat screens display the same source (wireless PC) and everyone can follow the wireless actions the teacher performs on the master screen. Microphones and speakers provide local sound reinforcement, beneficial for the teacher to spare her or his voice during long sessions.
  • The room is equipped with a digital recorder identical to ROOM One and the Multilanguage ROOM, to be able to review the recorded training and/or brainstorming sessions afterwards.
  • Besides recording, the sessions can also be streamed. Again, as for the other rooms.
  • All this via can be operated by the users via a touch panel with the same recognisable user interface as in ROOM One and in the Multilanguage ROOM.

SMALL AND MEDIUM ROOMS: Setting up a meeting has never been so easy

The starting point was to give these 105 meeting rooms the same user experience.

Monica Righelli: “When setting up a meeting, participants invite colleagues and, in the same process, search for an available meeting room. They add the desired meeting room to the invitation, making the reservation of the meeting room a fact. Not that innovative so far, besides the fact that, at the start of the meeting, the users in the room see their meeting on the touch panel and when pressing on ‘their meeting’, the Teams session commences and the invitees can participate easily, in the room or remotely, in this meeting.”

  • The smaller rooms have a 46” flat screen with a static camera. The sound is output from the flat screen speakers.
  • The medium rooms have a 55” to 70” flat screen. There is a motorised camera that ‘listens’ where the person who is speaking is located and then zooms in on that person. Depending on the size of the room, the choice was made for the Eagle Eye Director or the Eagle Eye Producer.
  • In terms of operation, it is super easy. On the Polycom, the user presses the Touchscreen to start a Skype session and the flat screen turns on automatically. Or he connects his PC to the HDMI cable and the flat screen switches on automatically.
  • An HDMI cable is available on the conference table to display their content on the flat screen (s). And can also be forwarded to external participants (VC or Teams). If a user does not have the option to use the HDMI cable, he can share his content via a local Skype session.

DYNAMIC ROOMS: standing meeting or relaxed brainstorming

These meeting rooms are designed for interactive meetings and brainstorms. The participants go to the flat screen and can take (touch) notes by touching the screen, make annotations on presentations, fill in numbers on Excel sheets… A completely different way of holding a meeting.

  • 2 types of the Dynamic ROOM exist. Some have a high table, intended to hold a standing meeting, making it easier for participants to move to the interactive screen.
  • And there are Dynamic ROOMS with a more lounge atmosphere which encourages relaxed brainstorming.
  • To make this new form of meeting extra powerful, Microsoft Surface Hub was opted for in 55” size. The Hub can be described as a flat screen with a touch layer, a built-in PC with dual webcam, microphones and speakers that acts like a Teams application.

Smaller BUBBLES: better understandability and more overview

The Bubbles are small meeting rooms for short, informal meetings with four people. These rooms are also not included in Exchange and can therefore not be reserved.

  • The user has an HDMI cable to display his portable on a 27” monitor, and a USB cable to connect a webcam and table micro/speaker.
  • In this way, with 4 people, they can participate more actively in a Teams session.
  • The monitor and table microphone/speakers provide a better view of the content of the connected portable and for better understandability.

DIGITAL SIGNAGE: with meteo and traffic information

  • About 65 flat screens have been installed in the building that provide digital communication.
  • On the one hand, public communication on screens located in the customer zones. On the other hand, internal communication intended for employees.
  • The screens are set up in both portrait and landscape and have sizes ranging from 42” (105 cm) diagonal to 80” (200 cm) diagonal.
  • The graphic content and playlist are fully managed by the AXA marketing and communication service. Additionally, these are equipped with tools such as a weather widget, traffic widget (nmbs & stib), Wayfinding…

ROOM RESERVATION: continuity and flexibility

The choice has been made for a personalised meeting room reservation system based on AMX for optimal meeting room use. Both the existing and the new system had to remain operational simultaneously during the months of transition. During a period of 6 months, the new building as well as the existing buildings were equipped with the following system:

  • Linking of the AMX system via EWS (Exchange Web Services) with their MS Exchange.
  • Room locations are fully managed by them in MS Exchange. The users make their meeting requests 100% via standard tools, such as MS Outlook, so without a plug-in.
  • All meeting rooms, except the BUBBLES, are equipped with an AMX reservation panel on the corridor side of the meeting room that shows the current and next meeting. And on which they can also extend or end the current meeting. Or if the conference room is free, they can book an ad-hoc meeting directly.
  • The following has also been adapted to the user interface of the reservation panel: an ‘I am here’ button that asks the organiser to confirm attendance. In case this doesn’t happen, the meeting is automatically ended after 15 minutes and released for other users.