First, Some Back Story:
For the past few months I’ve been researching several conference room system solutions mostly centered around equipment that was designed to work with Microsoft Teams since our entire organization utilizes the Office 365 platform, integration with Teams in the conference room seemed like a seamless solution.
I was sad to find that most solutions did not fit the budget that I had set aside for video conferencing. I started doing some research into building my own solution since the Teams Room System software is freely available from the Microsoft store I thought that I should be able to just install it on a regular PC running Windows with a web cam.
It turns out that it’s not as simple as that. The Teams Room System software first of all requires at least 2 monitors. One monitor to act as the remote and the other as the main display for showing video content.
Finding the Components:
I found a decently price 13.3 inch touch screen that is advertised as a Portable Monitor which I planned to use as the screen for the remote. The screen has a standard HDMI out port and uses a usb-c port for connecting the touch panel to the PC so you’ll also need to get a USB-C to USB-A cable.
For the PC, at first I wanted to go with a compute stick but these are horribly slow for anything decently priced so I decided to go with an older Dell Optiplex 7047 Micro Tower which is about the size as a Mac mini so it should be easy to hide under a table or behind the TV somewhere.
For the webcam I decided to splurge and got the Logitech BRIO which for the money is pretty much the best out there.
Keeping in mind that the PC will need to connect the webcam, main display, touch screen and remote display, you have 4 things connecting so you need to figure out where to place the PC in proximity to these devices.
In my setup, I decided to place the PC under the conference room table since I already had HDMI cables running from the main display to the conference room table all I needed to do was run a USB-3 extension from the web cam to where I mounted the PC. The rest was easy.
What to Get:
- Dell Optiplex 7040 Micro Tower – $268.00
- DisplayPort to HDMI Cable – $11.99
- USB-C to USB-A Cable – $11.49
- Logitech BRIO Ultra HD Webcam – $176.00
- Eyoyo 13.3 inch USB C Touchscreen 1920×1080 Monitor – $209.99
- USB 3.0 Extension Cable 25 Foot – $18.99
Aside from the physical hardware the only thing you’ll need is a Microsoft Teams Room license which you should be able to purchase as part of your Office 365 subscription.
How to Do It:
The first thing you’ll need to do is download and install the Teams Room System Software
Once installed, you’ll need to create a file named “skypesettings.xml” then copy and paste the following contents (replacing the usernames and password with the user you’ve created for your Teams room):
<SkypeSettings> <UserAccount> <SkypeSignInAddress>email@example.com</SkypeSignInAddress> <ExchangeAddress>firstname.lastname@example.org</ExchangeAddress> <Password>test</Password> </UserAccount> </SkypeSettings>
Save the “skypesettings.xml” file to the following location:
Now make sure that everything is connected. (Webcam – USB, Touch Display – HDMI, Touch panel – USB, Main Display – HDMI)
Note: Make sure that your main display is set as the primary monitor on Windows otherwise your remote will launch on the main display.
Make sure you’ve got a Teams Room license assigned to the user you’ve specified in the skypesettings.xml file and then launch Teams Rooms.
Teams rooms should launch and login and should be ready to go. I’ll most likely be posting a few follow up articles on how to customize and configure Teams Rooms as well as how to properly add the created user to a group of conference rooms that you’ll be able to select from when creating a Teams meeting so stay tuned for that.
I want to finish the article by stating that this system, while 100% operational, is not supported by Microsoft and they will not help you if you run into any issues. I understand their apprehension allowing customers to roll out their own solutions because you could easily put something together that could cause you a lot of problems and frustration and who would want to offer you support for that??
At the same time, I think it’s important that we can put together our own hardware and not have to rely on $3000 equipment just to do some video conferencing.