Japanese ‘smart city’, Sapporo, chooses Neat Frame to overhaul its video collaboration capabilities, and level-up its workstyle.
A city famed for innovation faces a new challenge
Sapporo City is a special place. Since the 1980’s, government, industry and academic institutions have worked closely together, united by a vision to improve convenience and quality of life for its 1.95+ million residents. They do this through leveraging one of the city’s core industries, ICT.
When the global pandemic struck in 2020, Sapporo City responded quickly to the overnight increase in demand for high quality video collaboration. The ‘Sapporo Digital Transformation Promotion Policy was formulated, with an ambitious goal to fundamentally reform the Sapporo City administration from the inside out, and the lives of citizens, through digital innovation. An important pillar to crack was the way people work, putting easy-to-use, high performance video conferencing front and center, not only to enable, but to truly realize the potential of remote working. Further down the line, when social distancing restrictions were lifted, the policy evolved to promote other flexible workstyles, such as staggered commuting, and telecommuting (aka working from anywhere).
The mission was clear, but it wasn’t plain sailing right away. “As opportunities for remote meetings increased, we became concerned about the quality of video communication…” shares Tomohiro Minoshima of the Digital Strategy Promotion Bureau. “Setting up each time, connecting to a monitor, camera, microphone, and a PC for internet connection was time-consuming and labor-intensive. Then the sound was often cut off or inaudible during meetings, making video conferencing a very stressful experience”.
Tomohiro began searching for a solution, trialing video collaboration devices from a range of companies. Neat’s devices performed well for many reasons. They were the first that integrated with the organization’s existing digital infrastructure, are simple and quick to install and start using straight out of the box, and have fantastic audio:
“We tried DTEN ME, Neat Bar, and Neat Frame. NeatFrame was the first digital video conferencing solution that allowed us to use the same technology as our digital products… We also found Neat Frame’s audio performance to be far superior to other companies’ products, plus it’s compact, cleanly wired, and portable – one of our main requirements. NeatFrame is also easy to set up and use, even for people who are not good with digital devices. It was the best fit for our department’s needs” – Tomohiro Minoshima, Digital Strategy Promotion Bureau.
And so it was decided, Sapporo City’s Digital Strategy Promotion Bureau proceeded with Neat, equipping both desk spaces and their more intimate focus rooms with Neat Frames. Teammates use them mainly for meetings with external companies. However, given the Bureau’s considerable size (two departments, four divisions, including three separate offices located two stations away!) they often use Neat Frames to speak with one another within the bureau too. Better than a phone call, and way more convenient than traversing the corridors to meet in-person – it saves everyone a lot of time.
The Bureau also remarked on how much they love Neat Frame’s vividly clear video, and the patented Neat Symmetry technology which automatically recognizes the participants, presenting them with equal space on-screen wherever they’re sitting or standing in the room. The way the camera also zooms in on the person who is speaking, “conveys a sense of realism in meetings too” adds Tomohiro:
“We can clearly see the facial expressions of the people speaking, and I think we are able to realize meetings with an atmosphere that is very close to a face-to-face meeting.” – Tomohiro Minoshima.
Furthermore, the noise-canceling function has been a big hit. The Bureau has many spaces that are partitioned, where people beyond the meeting can still be heard talking and walking around. The way Neat Frame removes distracting, miscellaneous sounds is a particularly “participant-friendly feature” Tomohiro explains.
Sapporo City and Neat look to the future
For Sapporo City, the benefits of remote collaboration have been huge. Besides getting Sapporo through the pandemic, it’s become a staple of working life, reducing travel time, expenses – with far less compromise to the meeting experience than people expected:
“Many people still think that face-to-face meetings are better than video conferencing, but we feel that depending on the device used, it is possible to achieve meetings that are quite close to face-to-face meetings remotely.” – Tomohiro Minoshima.
So what comes next for Sapporo City and Neat? Plenty. Tomohiro has his eye on a 65-inch multi-touch Neat Board, to supercharge the Bureau’s larger video meetings. Meanwhile, Sapporo’s Sports Bureau is now busily scoping out Neat Frame, to help them with their upcoming plans to bid for the 2030 Winter Olympics. Exciting times indeed.
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Sapporo. Data Commons.