Cisco recently announced its Cisco Spark Board, a meeting room smart board that enables wireless presentations and video and audio conferencing.

Cisco dubs it a “cloud-powered, all-in-one device,” according to a press release.

The Spark Board joins a growing market of office smart boards that now includes the Google Jamboard and the Microsoft Surface Hub, and a number of virtual whiteboard app alternatives. Time will tell if these boards will become a common trend in the modern office.

The biggest difference between the Spark Board and its competitors is its wireless capabilities. A user can walk up to any Spark Board in any office, and share their work in one click, according to the press release. With this feature, the company’s aim is to create a worldwide network of workspaces that can be accessed from any location, the press release said.

How does it work? When a user walks up to the board, it recognizes them and greets them–without the need for Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, or any other network connection. Instead, it’s controlled by a user’s computer, tablet, or smartphone. This is made possible through integration with the Cisco Spark platform and ultrasound wireless pairing technology, which does not require any remote control.

SEE: Will Microsoft’s Surface Hub shake up the collaboration market? (Tech Pro Research)

The Spark Board also acts as an interactive, digital whiteboard. All content on the board is shareable, and any employee can edit it–including those working remotely. So long as all users have the Cisco Spark app, they can edit simultaneously in real-time. The board also has an automatic saving feature, and allows users to take video calls while working. Other features include a 4K camera, a microphone array and VoiceTrack technology.

The Spark Board also differs from competitors in that it encrypts data before it leaves the device. The data remains encrypted when it is in transit to Cisco’s cloud servers.

Cisco also introduced its Cisco Spark Meetings this week, a meeting platform that takes some of the capabilities from Cisco WebEx to make for a more efficient meeting experience. It allows users to schedule a meeting in an app and automatically receive any information they need in preparation. It also created a team space for creating an agenda, sharing content, chatting, and follow-up information.

“Our philosophy is the best meeting is no meeting at all,” said Rowan Trollope, the senior vice president and general manager of the IoT and Applications Group at Cisco, in the press release. “We’ve shown that people who use Cisco Spark have fewer meetings–and when they do meet, it’s better.”

A 55-inch version of the Cisco Spark Board will be available at the end of January for around $4,990, and a monthly subscription of $199 that covers the cloud service, help desk, and software upgrades. A 70-inch version will be available later this year, for around $9,990.

The 3 big takeaways for TechRepublic readers

  1. Cisco announced its Cisco Spark Board product this week, a meeting room smart board that allows for wireless presentations and data encryption.
  2. Its main competitors will be the Microsoft Surface Hub and the Google Jamboard.
  3. A 55-inch version of the Cisco Spark Board will be available at the end of January, while a larger version will be available later this year.