There were plenty of amazing products launched and on display at ISE2017 in Amsterdam in early February. But in the background buzz there was a common theme of an industry in transition. While many talked about convergence between AV and IT, some fear the risk that it will actually be more of a ‘collision’. This will have a consequential impact on jobs and revenues.
None of this restrained the exuberance of showcasing the best of the audio visual (AV) sector. The event brought in a record number of over seventy-three thousand attendees. In many quarters, there was also a more upbeat assessment of the new opportunities that might be created as the AV and IT sectors move closer together. There was also an acknowledgement that this would require some work.
Now the dust has settled and the exhibition paraphernalia is dismantled for another year, it is possible to take a pragmatic view of where the opportunities may lay.
The AV industry is undoubtedly undergoing change, but the IT sector is by no means static or settled. There has been a significant and ongoing shift towards the utility or ‘as-a-service’ model, which some find unsettling for both job security as well as data security. There has also been the liberation of IT into the hands of consumers. Mobile, wearables and the internet of things (IoT) have seen IT shift from the easily managed desktop into a voracious hydra of access options. Great for users and customers, but adding to the already challenging IT operational burden.
Is now a good time then for IT to work more closely with AV?
Historically, the focus of AV could be characterised as the experience within the room and an increasingly spectacular ability to convey information. For many, that meant presentations and over the years, the technology that this encompasses has grown in capability and usability. It has also become more connected.
This is where the overlap with IT, with its focus ‘beyond’ the room and across the network, becomes more apparent.
AV is all about the user experience and supporting media-rich communication. With recent advances in large touch screen and interactive displays systems – mirroring the advances in mobile IT with tablets and smartphones – this user experience has expanded into the important, but often elusive, area of collaboration.
This is high on the agenda for IT. The word ‘collaboration’ has been added onto the end of the term Unified Communications, and peppered liberally across many PowerPoint presentations. Making it a reality that delivers its anticipated value has proved difficult.
Making collaboration a reality
IT is very used to tackling the challenges of integration, security and resilience. It has also been unifying the communications plumbing with the help of major IT vendors. But turning this into seamless simple experiences that people delight in using every day is rarely a core competency. Here is where a closer relationship with AV would be beneficial to both sectors – collaboration rather than collision.
Tools for enhancing communications, by unifying or incorporating different strands of media such as video is only one of the areas where the AV world is moving away from point products toward solutions and building broader relationships in open ecosystems of partners. The industry is now showcasing integrated systems to specific business problems. This is not just for collaboration, but also with omni-channel commerce solutions for retail, tools for education and smart buildings as well as the more obvious sectors focused around entertainment.
This was evident at ISE2017, not only in the way that halls oriented around these business topics as themes, but also in that the discussions and presentations on stands and in the conference, had moved on from form and features to addressing business needs and challenges. With this positive attitude, the AV industry does not need to fear convergence along with IT, but embrace it as this will be good for both sectors.