Apart together: technology helps Smart Energy GB keep its people safe

It’s no exaggeration to say video conferencing and other technology solutions have enabled us to keep the business going and functioning effectively during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Peter Thorne, Head of Technology, Smart Energy GB

Smart Energy GB was established by the UK government in 2014 to support the national rollout of smart meters and help people in England, Scotland and Wales understand how to use them to become cleaner and greener with their energy use.

With its 80 staff dispersed between its London headquarters and regional offices in Scotland and Wales, it’s essential that timely, consistent messages reach all groups. Equally, that all employees, wherever they’re based, feel that they are part of one team.

With expert support from audio visual specialists Digital Vision AV, technology is playing a key role in achieving these goals.

The challenge

To enable Smart Energy GB to communicate safely and effectively with its employees throughout the UK, while cutting the time, expense and risk of travelling between its three regional offices and London HQ.

audio visual consultant to enable smarter working

The solution

BlueJeans Rooms video conferencing platform.

Reception area video wall consisting of

6 x Samsung 55” video wall displays and six individual Samsung 48” Professional DME Series displays. Content is managed and updated centrally via a webGUI and the Exterity AvediaStream IPTV backend system drives content to the platform.

Boardroom equipped with:

1 x Samsung 75” Commercial Display
1 x Dolby Conference phone with two satellite mics and a Mac mini, which acts as the local room PC.
K-Array Line Array PA system.
Kramer VIA Connect PRO allows wireless presentation from any laptop or mobile device.
AMX Enova DVX all-in-one presentation switcher controls audio volume for all presentations and video calls and gives the ability to switch inputs for at-the-table wireless presentation and IPTV.

Two smaller meeting rooms each equipped with:

65” Samsung Commercial display.
Dolby Voice Room Pro solution with BlueJeans Rooms video conference platform.
Mac mini as the local room PC.
Kramer VIA Connect PRO for wireless presentation from any laptop or mobile device.

A 19-speaker Sonos system has been installed around the office to provide background music, all aspects of which are controlled through an app.

Automated room booking system

The outcome

Video conferencing supports social distancing policy, connecting employees wherever they are based, whether a regional office or working from home.​

Digital signage used to instantly communicate news, wellbeing resources, safe working reminders and latest campaigns, boosting team morale and company pride.

Automated boardroom system eliminates potential infection sources with touch-free controls.

Productivity maintained as the technology solutions support a ‘business as usual’ ethos.

Productivity maintained as the technology solutions support a ‘business as usual’ ethos.

Improved communication and collaboration as video conferencing is used to hold regular weekly summary meetings, senior leadership team meetings, heads of department meetings and team meetings, as well as to host teambuilding social events.

One aspect of Digital Vision AV that really adds value is that they’re not tied to any one supplier. This means they can recommend the solution that’s genuinely best for the customer.

Peter Thorne, Head of Technology, Smart Energy GB

Smart Energy GB first worked with Hemel Hempstead-based Digital Vision AV when it needed help trouble-shooting acoustic problems in the glass-walled boardroom of its London office. The large, airy room, affectionately named after the campaign’s figureheads ‘Gaz n Leccy’, can accommodate up to 30 participants but, when occupied by only a handful of people, pronounced echoing made the room unusable.

Paul Mayhew, MD of Digital Vision AV, worked with a specialist sound consultant to resolve the problem. From these beginnings, the two companies have built a close working relationship.

Gold standard video conferencing

Smart Energy GB initially used Cisco Webex video conferencing but, frustrated with its unreliability, switched to Easymeeting. When the sound quality of this platform suddenly deteriorated, needing to find an alternative, Smart Energy GB called on Digital Vision AV to recommend the video conferencing platform that would best meet its needs.

With more than 20 years’ experience, Digital Vision AV has deep knowledge of the audio visual marketplace. As the company is not tied to any one manufacturer, it is free to evaluate all the products on the market and recommend the solution that genuinely best meets its clients’ specific needs.

After gaining an understanding of Smart Energy GB’s requirements, Paul Mayhew recommended a comprehensive solution that would dramatically improve communication, collaboration and team spirit among its workforce.

Given its previous unsatisfactory experiences with sound quality, reliability was a priority. Paul Mayhew recommended BlueJeans for many reasons, not least its partnership with Dolby, the world leader in immersive sound.

Baptism of fire

Digital Vision AV’s recommendation was vindicated as the coronavirus pandemic took hold. As Paul Mayhew says, “BlueJeans promises to ‘make any room a video conference room’ and this became particularly relevant with the shift to home-working during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Smart Energy GB have found its video conferencing system an invaluable communications medium during lockdown. Over two months, the company held 21,776 minutes worth of meetings attended by 509 participants who gave the system a 99% approval rating.

The system was used not only for meetings but also to host physical exercise and wellbeing sessions from experts in yoga, crunch ‘n learn and even ballet!

Peter Thorne, Head of Technology for Smart Energy GB, is delighted with how well the system has performed and the support the company is enjoying. He comments, “It’s a real partnership. We’re delighted with the service we’ve received from the Digital Vision AV team – they’re always responsive and helpful and we get 100% support.”

Reliable sound and picture quality are two of the most important considerations, alongside ease of use,” he explains. “BlueJeans Rooms requires little or no end-user training and, among its many benefits, it allows content to be shared from any laptop or mobile device without the need for dongles or cables.

Peter Thorne, Head of Technology, Smart Energy GB

A safe return to the office

Smart Energy GB will continue to use video conferencing heavily during the transition back to the office, especially to help staff work effectively while following social distancing guidelines. The requirement to sit two metres apart will prevent 100% of the workforce returning to the office so many employees will still need to work from home and continue to join meetings remotely. Even those staff who can return to the office will be unable to use meeting rooms to their full capacity so, while some will be able to gather in a meeting room, others may need to join the same meeting while sitting at their socially-distanced desks.

Digital signage comes into its own

Digital Vision AV also suggested installing a video wall in the reception area of Smart Energy GB’s London HQ. As well as creating a stunning first impression for visitors, it plays a practical role, broadcasting live news, a showreel of Gaz and Leccy’s adverts and latest company developments. All content is managed centrally via an easy-to-use system that allows Smart Energy GB to update messaging almost instantly.

This facility will be put to good effect as Smart Energy GB plans its strategy for employees’ return to the office. The video wall and digital signage throughout its offices will be used to remind people of the need for social distancing. It will reinforce how those suffering stress or anxiety can access mental health support. It will also share up-to-the-minute practical information, such as traffic levels and Transport for London statistics on public transport usage to help staff and visitors plan their safest route home.

Video conferencing proves a lifeline

The technology solutions Digital Vision AV implemented have allowed Smart Energy GB to continue something very closely resembling business as usual throughout the pandemic. “It’s no exaggeration to say that video conferencing has enabled us to keep going as a business,” remarks Peter Thorne. “Call quality has been consistently good, our team is clued up about what’s going on with the business and team spirit remains high.”

Looking to the future, Smart Energy GB will continue to work with Digital Vision AV to find ever smarter, energy-saving ways of working.

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    "It’s no exaggeration to say video conferencing and other technology solutions have enabled us to keep the business going and functioning effectively during the COVID-19 pandemic."
    Peter Thorne, Head of Technology, Smart Energy GB