AV technology ushered in a revolution in teaching, making learning a much more enriching experience. However, instructors had to become confident in managing this technology for it to be a successful resource. Unfortunately, typical technology more often than not, actually distracts from teachers’ ability to fully engage with and impact their students’ learning.
To empower instructors’ focus on teaching, AMX introduced Jetpack, a 3×1 AV switching, control, transport, and amplification solution that simplifies technology use in classrooms and small meeting spaces. We recently sat down with Jeff Burch, HARMAN Professional Solutions, Director of Product Management, Video and Control, to better understand what led to the design of Jetpack and how it eases technology usage by classroom teachers.
So Jeff, how would you best describe the need AMX Jetpack solves for classroom spaces?
Simply put, Jetpack is designed to make it affordable and easier for instructors to interact with technology in their classrooms. In a single kit, Jetpack includes everything you need to get a classroom quickly converted into an easy-to-use AV-managed learning space. First, we included a very straightforward keypad UI that makes room controls, source selection, and volume – really the most-used and needed adjustments simple. Next, is a switching wallplate transmitter that conveniently connects the most popular 4K60 USB-C and HDMI source devices. A powerful multi-function receiver provides control ports, a mic/line audio input, analog audio output, remote mute, and amplification to manage all the technology behind the scenes. All your instructor needs to do is press a button or rotate a knob to manage their now-connected classroom and for typical scenarios, Jetpack does the rest. This lets instructors really do their best work of keeping their classroom focused and eliminates the frustrations of using complicated technology.
AMX is focused on developing tools to simplify and solutions to connect, why was this the right time to introduce Jetpack as part of the wider AMX portfolio?
AMX has a long history of designing some of the most innovative video, switching, and control products to solve the needs of primary, secondary and higher education. But we felt that there was room for added support. We wanted to develop a solution that could solve the needs of spaces that were never considered for AV management because initial costs were too prohibitive.
There are so many rooms in buildings around the world that aren’t quite at the threshold of justifying a full AV system but there is still a deep need for connectivity and basic control, such as classrooms and small meeting spaces, so we put a lot of thought into what kind of a solution we could build to address these needs. What we came up with was a very simple package at a price point that is often shocking to people that are familiar with the heritage of our brand. And that initiative became AMX Jetpack.
What were some of the features that make Jetpack especially impactful for these spaces?
We really focused on trying to make a product that was simple, robust, full-featured and an incredible value. Those were our core objectives and when we finally had a solution that combined a powerful price point and great value, we felt like it was going to be something that many enterprise users could benefit from.
We also knew that these units were going to go into spaces that would be heavily used so we needed to ensure really solid build quality that was truly professional grade. They are well-built and highly reliable to take on the continual, all-day usage that these types of spaces typically encounter.
How simple is it to get these units online and supporting instructors?
We built Jetpack to be as simple as possible to install so that more users can install more rooms and scale the install to their specific needs. The connections are simple. It starts with connecting a single cable from the receiver module to the wallplate. From there, you connect a single cable to the keypad. You power the receiver and you are up and running, making it a truly plug-and-play product. The keypad works as it should, the control pad does what it needs to and you can directly select source devices, adjust volume, mute, and more with simple buttons and knobs.
And there’s no programming required, just a few minutes with the included Jetpack Manager configuration tool to set up the room to your needs.
So Jetpack sounds simple to install but what about usefulness – are instructors going to discover features that are really helpful in the classroom?
At AMX, we try to design products that are really unique to the needs of the space or application. One of these for Jetpack, was the inclusion of a microphone connection at the receiver and a built-in amplifier to support voice lift in the space. More and more spaces are needing and even requiring voice lift technologies to amplify the voice of the instructor so that they can easily be heard by everybody in the space.
If the level of amplification isn’t enough for your space or you need to connect a larger amplifier, you’ve got that option as well – we want Jetpack to work however best you need it to. Additionally, Jetpack includes a contact closure input that allows you to easily mute speaker audio when you have a PA announcement or a fire alarm that needs to be heard by people in the room.
Jetpack also supports HDMI ARC technology. So, if the classroom has a smart display with a built-in streaming app that the instructor is using, audio from that app will be sent back over HDMI so that it can be played over the speakers connected to Jetpack.
We included USB connectivity at the receiver to support hidden devices and smart panels so that the instructor tapping on the Smart Board can get those taps transmitted back to the PC device. And it supports up to 220 Mbps USB transfer so if you have 1080p or 720p USB cameras, you can confidently transmit and display those resolutions.
Being able to package these features at this price point reinforces our goal to support classroom spaces with many more capabilities than have traditionally been possible.
Since its launch, how is the market reacting to Jetpack’s ability to address the varied needs of these more cost-conscious space requirements?
We’ve been hearing that many users are appreciating that we were able to include modern features that these spaces would expect like USB-C which is obviously quickly becoming the standard. We are also hearing that they love how scalable the product is. Jetpack can be paired with nearly any on-wall or in-ceiling speakers to provide clear audio in every space. Whether you need to install 20 rooms or 200, the free configuration tool streamlines the transformation of these spaces into powerful collaboration centers.
And once again, when people put these little units in their hands, they can immediately feel in the build, that they are getting an enterprise-grade product that’s built to last. A product that can handle the rigors that these spaces require to be effective, without worrying about downtime.
Jetpack has a ton of potential for classroom impact and we look forward to assisting teachers improve engagement with their students and hopefully further ease their interaction with technology.
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