Eva Pascoe | Digital Retailer

Gaffes on Zoom, multi-screen fest and Covid19 tech meets Glasto, it is all in the working week for your Home Alone troops.

Party for One in Zoom?

Lockdown continues and Zoom users are stepping out of the safe confines of small groups into the Great Unknown of Breakout Rooms, a transition not without it’s perils. This week’s faux pas was to be found when the host got confused setting up number of people per virtual room. You can set up Rooms and pre-allocate your groups into separate rooms using csv file – useful for some group work on larger events. However, I have found myself a couple of times all alone in a Breakout room, as uneven number of participants means someone may have be left out – rules on Breakout divisions are something of a mystery. The hippo from “Hippos Go Beserk” could not feel more lonely stuck in a Breakout room all by himself!

Pro-tip: Set up a WhatsApp group for backchat for the group in advance, so people can get in touch with you if the host banishes them unintentionally to a lonely Breakout Room. Pro-tip Number 2 – don’t take it personally, it is just tech glitches!

Why be on one Zoom when you can be on two?

We have upgraded multitasking to 21st century so with Zoom you can attend two or more virtual meetings at the same time. All it takes is to replace your Video Feed with your best office-quality ‘woman-at-work’ photo and putting your mike on mute, with participating in meeting via chat only. If you have Zoom app on your phone, you can also attend your meetings while walking the dog and posting to Chat at the same time. Win-Win. 

Tip: learn to touch-type – if you are quick, you can survive well managing two or more meeting at the same time.  My kids are native to that work mode, often to be found on different multiplayer text games at the same time via laptop and phone. It is a thing, just enter your Chess-Master mode. 

Mission control

I have started lockdown with one small laptop, curled up on my comfy sofa.  By week two I was up to two laptops and a small desk in the gym as my own den has been hijacked by home-schooling teens. By week four, I have three screens and already eyeing up jealously my friend’s gaming set up with 4. You can track multiple dashboards, see what is happening in real time on your brand’s social media, have a couple of Zooms open as well as keep an eye on Deliveroo driver en route to your house. Any wall surface with no screen on is a lost opportunity.

Pro-tip: For the best tricks in home office design follow game designers and their desk layouts, they are our Sherpas into this Brave New World of virtual working. Don’t forget that external Blue Yeti mike.

Meet me at the bar (if only…)

One of Zoom’s limitations is the lack of ability to side-chat with other participants unless the Host sets up Rooms. Private Chat is cumbersome and limited. Big events organisers are testing Animals Crossing game platform to host the first large Artificial Intelligence conference – aided by Zoom.

Apply to join, not least to check out how does the AC virtual bar banter stacks up.

Mum, are we there yet?

We are all impatient to get back to ‘normal’ live. However, despite those shiny Track-and-Trace apps in Singapore and South Korea, de-lockdown progress is slow, with new outbreakes rising and Covid bouncing back. There is no app for Covid.

Employers are getting twitchy about their bottom lines, looking at ‘forget privacy, get tracking’ mandatory apps. Microshare Universal Contact Tracker would have us wearing wristbands embedded with cheap Bluetooth beacons (remember Estimotes.com?) . This provides person’s precise location to a meter, so solves some of the problems that Bluetooth has, pinging even if the person infected was 10 meters away. 

Heat maps for social distancing

Even more precise tracking, up to centimeters , can be done by Locix with enhanced indoor micro-location tracking. If employees test positive, you can trace each room, toilet or storeroom that they visited and have it disinfected and scrubbed down if an infected employee touched the surface. You can also get heatmaps reading for the areas at your office/warehouse where there is extra dense dwell, so those areas can be scrubbed more often. Locix also can show distance between workers, to help to design better layouts to ensure social distancing.

Those are proprietary technologies, so we may end up with Glastonbury-like multiple wristbands, one for work, one for gym, one for your dentist. The apps are simple but for them to work, we would need to ensure workers are being testing daily on premises, to maintain up-to-date database. 20 mln tests per day may be a bit farfetched today but if this buys us economy back, it is a goal worth chasing. After all, we are all in it together

Finally, don’t forget to donate your old laptops to Camden Council or to your local laptop-collection scheme. They will recondition and pass on to kids from local schools. Let’s close the digital divide!

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