Joan is the office booking tool you need

If you need hardware to help manage the booking of your meeting rooms, Joan may be the ideal solution.

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Image: Joan

If your office booking system is in need of an upgrade, consider Joan. What is Joan? Imagine you could attach a purpose-built tablet to a wall and have that tablet display upcoming meetings for a room. Imagine that tablet was e-ink only, so battery life wasn't an issue. And imagine there was a piece of companion hardware that allowed you to, with a single tap, book or release a room or reserve a room for a specific time.

That's what Joan is--this tool is way overdue. 

The official description: Joan is the simplest solution for managing meeting rooms, optimizing your conference room use, and displaying relevant information where you need it the most.

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Joan links to a calendar you've created for a particular meeting room and then displays current and upcoming events for that room. The companion device, the Joan 6, allows you to either book or release a room with a single tap in Hot Desking mode or book a room in advance using Real-time Booking mode.

Sound impressive? It is.

Although here in my home office, I do not have a need to book the room I work in as I am the only person who uses it, I was able to connect Joan to my Google calendar and kick the proverbial tires.

I have to say, I'm sold. Joan is as impressive in functionality as it is in aesthetics. You might think an e-ink display out-of-date with today's rich color displays. Drawing such a conclusion would be unwise, because Joan is, in a word, elegant.

How Joan works 

Joan works by syncing with one of the following calendars:

  • G Suite (although I did get Joan connected to a standard Google Calendar)

  • Office 365

  • Microsoft Exchange

  • iCalendar

Those are out-of-the-box solutions. It is possible to sync with a third-party scheduling app. The only requirement is that the app in question must include a "connector" that links one of the officially supported Joan calendars with the third-party system. Either that, or the third-party calendar can be integrated via an .ical file.

An Outlook account can also be used, so long as it functions as an email client for managing a supported calendar.

Upon unboxing you must connect Joan to a computer via the supplied cable and run the Joan Configurator tool (Figure A).

Figure A

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The Joan Configurator can run on Linux, macOS, and Windows.

With this configurator tool, you connect Joan to your Wi-Fi network. Once you've done that, your device will display a PIN to be used to add the device to your Joan Portal account, which you must then create. With your account created, you will be required to select the type of calendar to be used and link the calendar in question--how you link will depend on the calendar type chosen. To add your Joan device, type the displayed PIN and Joan will start syncing to your calendar. Do this for every device you have.

After your device fully charges, you can then remove the sticky backing and attach it to a wall outside (or inside) the meeting room. One word of caution: On the Joan 13, the charging port is somewhat challenging to plug the supplied cable into. Once you've attached the device to the wall, there'll be no way to plug that cable in. Because of this, you'll need to account for this and run power either from behind the wall (as a permanent solution) or mount the device in a location that allows you to plug the power cord into an outlet. Once you see how the power cord is connected to the Joan 13, you'll understand. 

Your Joan device will display the events for all to see. If you also purchased a Joan 6, that room can then be easily released or booked with the tap of a button (Figure B).

Figure B

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Both the Joan and Joan 6 ready to work for you.

One caveat with the Joan 6

Joan is one of the most brilliant meeting room booking systems I've ever experienced. However, it does come with one caveat I've discovered. The issue has to do with the Joan 6. When used in the Hot Desking mode, anyone can come by and tap Release on the Joan 6. What this does is delete the calendar event for that time period, with no way of recovering it. So if you have an important meeting on a calendar and someone taps the Release button on the Joan 6, that event is gone. No permissions are needed for this, so anyone can release and book a room at will. 

Because of this, when used in Hot Desking mode, the Joan 6 device should either only be accessible by the person who actually manages the calendar and not placed in a location where anyone can randomly delete meeting room bookings, or it should be used in the Real-Time Booking mode. The differences?

  • Real-time Booking allows users to see the current and upcoming meetings for a room and book the room for later events. This mode does not allow for the overwriting of currently scheduled meetings.

  • Hot Desking allows the booking and releasing of a room on the spot. This mode does allow for the overwriting of scheduled meetings.

Of course, the Joan 6 is optional, so you don't have to either use or purchase it.

How much does Joan cost?

Joan isn't cheap. The Joan 13 (the non-interactive display board) is $899 USD. The Joan 6 is $549 USD. You can also purchase Joan On Display for $21/month. With a device purchased, you then must add a monthly plan. There are three types of plans:

  1. Basic (Free): Offers no-frills booking (Joan 6) and schedule board (Joan 13).
  2. Standard ($11/month): Adds Language selection, logo customization, Slack integration, Mobile app, and meeting check-in/automatic release.
  3. Premium ($21/month): Adds room usage analytics, built in CMS, welcome emails, enterprise integrations (Amazon, Alexa, Cisco Webex), support for Joan on digital signage screens, service requests via custom buttons, and support for Joan on tablet devices.

Should you buy?

The answer to this question comes by way of two follow up questions:

  • Do you need a solution for the management of meeting room bookings?

  • Does your budget allow for such a solution?

If you answered yes to both of these questions, stop reading now and buy Joan. If you answered "no" or "unsure" to either of these questions, hold off until you are 100% certain. Joan isn't cheap, but it's an elegant solution any business would be proud to display outside of their busy meeting rooms.

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