December 11, 2000, 2:12 PM —
Meeting efficiency could be the oxymoron of the decade. People have a hard
time managing the lists of results and action item they create in meetings. It's all
too common for a person to walk out of a meeting with a set of notes entirely different
from the set taken by a coworker who sat through the same meeting. Their shared memory
of the meeting is disjointed. Everyone is on a different page.
Of course, there are all sorts of groupware solutions that promise to make meetings and
follow-up more effective. Many of these concepts fail because people don't want
complicated project-management style rigor -- they just want simple solutions.
From my perspective, some of the best ways to make meetings more effective don't
reengineer the meeting process; they just improve the way people take notes. Here's
where electronic whiteboards can help.
Until recently, an electronic whiteboard was a pricey and bulky office addition.
Electronic whiteboards generally cost about $3,000 to $5,000 and required a screen on a
rolling stand to create an electronic version of the whiteboard. The company that
installed the whiteboard usually needed to redesign the entire meeting room, and the
whiteboard beame just a small portion of the final bill.
Now there's a new breed of low-cost whiteboard products. Mimio, from Virtual Ink
Corporation, and eBeam, from Electronics for Imaging, turn any office whiteboard into
an electronic collaboration tool. Priced at about $500 each, these units could provide
a low-cost, high-payback solution.
Mimio, the flagship product of Virtual Ink
Corporation, attaches to any whiteboard with small suction cups. A cable is attached to
the bottom of the device and connects into the serial or USB ports of a desktop or
notebook PC. It comes with four electronic pen holders -- red, blue, green, and black --
into which you insert your regular dry-erase pens (a starter kit of pens is even
included with the package). You also need to install the software with which the Mimio
device communicate with your PC.
To use the device, you simply launch the Mimio application and start writing on your
whiteboard. As you write, the information is translated to the PC screen, in color and
in realtime. If you make a mistake, you can use the Mimio eraser, which lets you
simultaneously erase a portion of the whiteboard and the corresponding section of the
computer screen. Mimio uses innovative infrared and ultrasound technology to track the
position of your marker or eraser.