If your organization has a boardroom or a meeting room (or several of either), then it can be a bit of a nightmare to try and coordinate meetings. Team calendars are one way of curbing the chaos, but there are often times when you’re away from your phone or desk and need to use a meeting room for a few minutes.
Joan aims to clear all of that up, and offers a number of interesting solutions that makes room-booking truly hassle-free. Whether you’re using your own devices or investing in one of Joan’s, there’s a solution that works for any space – with an interesting price tag to boot.
Pricing and availability
Joan is available directly from their website, and pricing will depend on what options you choose. If you want to run Joan on your own displays for example, then you’ll have to fork out for a premium plan or speak to the company directly for something that better suits your needs. This will just get you the ability to see all ongoing and upcoming meetings – room bookings will still have to be done through your existing calendar or apps.
Where Joan becomes actually useful is with the Joan 6, a touchscreen e-ink tablet that shows upcoming bookings for a particular room, and also lets you quickly book a room from the device itself. However this alone will set you back $549 (£442.50, AUD$803, AED2,016), which for an e-ink tablet seems incredibly expensive. While it does come with 1 month of Premium plan for free, it’s still a high asking price.
Then there’s the Joan 13, which is a non-interactive 13-inch tablet that’s best suited for conference rooms or lobbies, and can display the status of up to nine different rooms. It comes in at $899 (£724.73, AUD$1,315, AED3,302), which again is a staggeringly high price to pay for an e-ink tablet, not matter how gorgeous it looks.
While you can use either the Joan 6 or the Joan 13 device right out of the box, the company does stress that a subscription plan is required for the best experience. A standard plan will cost $119 (£95.93, AUD$174, AED437.09) per year per device, while the Premium plan sits in at $229 (£184.61, AUD$335, AED841) per year per device.
It’s this pricing model that sets Joan up as a substantial investment if you’re a small business. You’ll need at least one Joan 6 to kick things off, and adding on top of that additional devices as well as the subscription plan will all start to take its toll. Mind you, it’s not necessary to subscribe to a plan in order to utilize Joan’s basic features, but it is advisable.
Both the Joan 6 and Joan 13 are well built, and come in slender packaging. The Joan 6 features a mostly plastic body, while the Joan 13 features a heavier metal body with a glass front.
Neither device features any buttons, except for a discreet microUSB charging port at the back. Installation is a breeze – both devices come with a sturdy magnetic mount with strong 3M tape on the back. Simply stick it to any flat surface and the device easily attaches without a fuss. You can then quickly pop it off the mount for recharging when required. There are other mounting options available such as a desk stand or stronger wall mount, but these are purely optional (and on the somewhat pricier side as well).
The major difference between the two – apart from size of course – is that the Joan 6 is touch-enabled as well as backlit. The Joan 13 is meant purely as an information display, which is a task it accomplishes perfectly.
Setting up either device requires a bit of patience, but isn’t too complicated. You’ll need to have a PC or Mac handy to download the setup tool from Joan’s website, and then connect your required device using the included microUSB cable. Once the software detects the device, you can configure the Wi-Fi settings and then continue your setup through Joan’s dedicated website portal.
Once logged in to your portal, you can dive in and start setting each device up to work within your organization. Joan requires either a calendar URL or associated email address in order to communicate for bookings, and this is fairly easy to set up.
Joan supports a variety of calendar integrations including Google, Office365, Exchange, and iCal to name a few. Once connected to a calendar through the portal, you can create rooms for your organization, which is reflected by a separate calendar for each room. So for example, you could have one calendar that handles bookings for the boardroom, and another calendar for a meeting room.
The Joan 6 is only capable of being attached to one particular room so it can coordinate bookings, while the Joan 13 can display up to nine different rooms on its display, so you can instantly see which rooms are available for booking, or which meetings are coming up.
Booking a room using the Joan 6 can be done in two ways. There’s a ‘Meet Now’ option on the display which allows you to immediately book a room for a quick meeting (up to 60 minutes). If there’s a meeting scheduled that’s coming up, it will only allow you to book the room up until that scheduled meeting, which ensures that crossovers don’t happen.
The second method is by using the ‘Meet Later’ function right on the device itself. When you tap this option, you can scroll to a particular date and time, and confirm a booking directly to your associated calendar. You’ll only get to see available time slots – any meetings that have already been confirmed will show up as greyed out.
There are two slight issues that do arise when you make a booking directly through the Joan 6. Firstly, scrolling to your particular date or time can be a bit of a chore – there’s no quick way to access a particular date other than scrolling all the way past the available times. Secondly, there’s no way to add a short note for the meeting name – it simply shows up as ‘Booked’ in your linked calendar, so you’ll have to anyway go back into your calendar app to properly name the meeting and make any further changes.
Whether used together or not, both the Joan 6 and the Joan 13 work exactly as intended. The Joan 6 was great for managing our busy studio schedule, while the Joan 13 was a good snapshot of our team’s movements during the week as well as the availability of the boardroom. The Joan 6 also offers a hot-desking mode, which is great when operating in co-working space. Simply tap the screen to book your seat, and tap it again when you’re done to release it.
The devices do have a fixed interval at which they update information, purely down to API restrictions and to prolong battery life. Once a booking has been made in a calendar, it takes a little under four minutes for the changes to be reflected on a Joan device. That’s not a lot of time to wait for, but for exceptionally busy spaces this might be a bit of a minor challenge.
There’s an option for also displaying a custom QR Code, as well as custom content such as a gallery of images or custom text. Other than this, you’re left to contend with Joan’s default layouts for content, so it’s just a matter of cycling through what’s available to figure out which works best for you.
Battery life is quite decent on both models – the Joan 6 clocks in about 3 months of usage before needing a recharge, while the Joan 13 can go nearly a year on a single charge. The system will also send you an email when a device is low on charge, which is handy.
For companies with multiple meeting rooms that are constantly in use, Joan is a painless way to manage them all. Whether relying on linking your existing calendars or routing everything through Joan, it’s a hassle-free solution for managing room bookings and meetings that companies both large and small will appreciate.
The only hurdle is the asking price – there’s a considerable amount of money to invest in what’s essentially an e-ink tablet, no matter how sophisticated it is. Small companies or startups might need to contend with just getting one device on the Free plan to begin with, but if you can afford it, Joan’s capabilities will save you from the eternal hassle of juggling meeting rooms.