Crestron gets a smart home tablet speaker made for your "Zoom room"

The office conference rooms are empty, and their expensive video calling systems sit idle: in 2020, we take our virtual meetings from home, and Crestron wants to bump up the audio quality, and the convenience. Enter the Crestron MM30-R, both a speaker system for your pick of the video calling apps, and a touchscreen tablet designed to control your smart home.

On the one hand, it's a USB speakerphone and microphone array. The MM30-R has a high-fidelity speaker and four microphones with long-range pickup around 360-degrees. It's designed to be app-agnostic, rather than dedicated to a single conferencing service.

At the same time, it's also a 7-inch touchscreen control panel for the smart home. There, it's designed to work with Crestron Home, the consumer IoT platform the company launched about a year ago. Unlike other home automation systems, it's professionally installed for maximum convenience, though of course you do have to pay for that process.

From the touchscreen, you can control lights, shades, music – including Sonos speakers – and more. Crestron is expecting it to be configured with scenes, effectively macros that combine multiple actions into one button-press.

An "On A Call" scene, for example, might close the shades, adjust the lighting so you look your best on camera, mute the music, and turn off the TV. Crestron even sells a "room is busy" indicator light you can install outside the office. On the other side of your Zoom, Google Meet, Microsoft Teams, or whatever else, an "Off A Call" scene could revert everything again.

According to John Clancy, VP of Residential at Crestron, the company did have a device like the MM30-R on the roadmap, but it wasn't originally meant to be released quite yet. "This is something we have planned all along," he told SlashGear, "but we sped up its time to market because of some feedback we've gotten from our dealers."

Helping there was the fact that this isn't entirely new hardware. Crestron already has other iterations of the touchscreen conference speaker, only focused on corporate spaces. This is the first set up to work with Crestron Home.

"There were times when the home office was a desk and a laptop, and that was good enough," Clancy says. Now, it's much more common to have a semi-permanent work space, up to and including a "Zoom room," where you don't have to unpack and configure your microphone and other equipment every time you have a meeting.

As such, simplicity is the key. One of the pain points of conference calls and video calls is inadvertently putting yourself on mute when you're trying to talk: so, the MM30-R has a big light bar, glowing red when you're muted and green when you're not. An occupancy sensor can figure out when you're in front of the touchscreen, automatically waking it up.

Although setup is designed to be straightforward, the MM30-R is intended to be offered through Crestron's dealer network. Still, Clancy concedes, given this time of social distancing, there's no reason why a dealer couldn't ship the speaker to a customer and then talk them through its installation remotely.

Once plugged in – using a supplied power-over-ethernet (PoE) adapter – it automatically locates the Crestron Home system either via ethernet or WiFi, prompts for the password, and then the room it's located in. Then it's a matter of plugging it into a computer via USB, and making sure the sound preferences are correctly routed. "Audio is actually the trickier thing for most end-users," Clancy says.

The convenience does come at a cost. The Crestron MM30-R is priced at $1,500, and of course you'll need a Crestron Home system in order to take advantage of the smart home control. For those execs who want maximum convenience with minimal headache, however, that may well be a relative bargain.