Winter and ski season is approaching in Norway, and I look forward to going fast again. Going fast is a passion I share with CEOs and CIOs who are under pressure to get to market with better solutions, faster.

We introduced Cisco Spark Board earlier this year to help teams rapidly turn creative ideas into action. And that’s what we have seen happen, from growing companies like AvidXchange that are disrupting the financial software market to large companies known for innovation, like Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines.

Today we are introducing a set of Cisco Spark Board capabilities to improve creative teamwork. We’re adding annotation, improving how attendees see each other, and simplifying deployment.



Changing the Presentation Game

We’ve added an awesome new capability: annotation on presentation. Cisco Spark Board already lets you create and share whiteboards, plus share presentations and other content. Now teams can also draw on top of – or annotate – what they’re sharing. And we have improved how you save your work to a space for sharing or future iteration.

Annotation increases the speed at which teams can collaborate. Most meetings don’t start with a blank sheet of paper and you rarely deliver a presentation without comment or discussion. Meetings are about discussing and evolving ideas so they can become reality. Attendees may share content like PowerPoint presentations, code, spreadsheets, web pages, and documents. Annotation lets people provide visual feedback and mark up content in real time, whether on the Board itself or using the Cisco Spark app.

The opportunities for improving collaboration through annotation are pretty limitless.

Annotation changes the game no matter your industry. Think about the possibilities, such as:

  • Engineering teams holding scrum meetings
  • Architects and designers collaborating with clients
  • Marketing teams developing campaigns
  • Manufacturers working through process improvement
  • Builders working with suppliers
  • Doctors reviewing scans

We even have a coach of a professional sports team who is excited to use it to demonstrate plays to his players. Personally, I just came back from an offsite meeting with my team where we annotated shared content all the time – extremely useful!

Improving the View

When designing the Cisco Spark Board experience for conferencing, we focused on simplicity. It’s been important for us to remove any unnecessary and complex user input and adapt the experience to fit the meeting type and room.

The Cisco Spark Board already has a fantastic microphone array that picks up the active speaker’s voice and filters out background noise. Now we’ve added an enhancement that we call best overview.

Already introduced on Cisco Spark Room Series, best overview optimizes the video framing of people in the room. The intelligent digital camera evaluates the participants relative to the room space and dynamically crops and positions the image to frame them perfectly for the far-end audience. This is particularly useful, for example, when a few people are in a large room. The best overview feature automatically activates so that participants don’t appear small at the end of a long table. It’s a better experience for everyone in the involved and it doesn’t require anyone to fiddle with camera zooms or presets.

We have also just deployed another important enhancement that we call activity layouts. This adapts the video layout of the participants on the Cisco Spark Board to the nature of the meeting. For example, if the meeting is a lively discussion between you and two other participants, you will see them in equal size side-by-side. If it’s more of a presentation from one person to several others who mostly listen, you will see the presenter in full size and the other participants in smaller views. And of course, nobody has to think about this or manually adjust layouts. 

Simplifying Deployment

In addition to improving the user experience, we’ve also focused on further simplifying the deployment of Cisco Spark Board. It’s already quite easy: Plug in power, connect to the network, activate the device, and you are off to the races.

We’ve further simplified the “connect to the network” step with two enhancements – WiFi and http proxy support. Add Ethernet cables to the pile of wires, screens, phones, and other extraneous hardware that you no longer need in conference rooms. With WiFi, you need only one cable, and that’s the power cable for the Cisco Spark Board.

The http proxy support means you can allow Cisco Spark Boards to access the Internet through your proxy server like all other network traffic. The proxy solution now supports signaling (not media), configured manually, with basic or no authentication.

We introduced Cisco Spark Board with the capabilities teams need most: white boarding, content sharing, and conferencing. We’re continuing to enhance the user experience as we go. Keep watching and letting us know what you think.

Learn more about Cisco Spark Board.


Tormod Ree

Senior Director and General Manager