Capitalizing On Custom Software
For New York City-based integrator Videosonic Systems, AV/IT convergence has not only changed the company's working environment, but has also helped create a new approach to product development with results that are boosting its bottom line.
Museums have proved to be particularly enthusiastic users of VIDS. “Museums often have single-channel displays, with video players local to each display,” Flood says. “That can be hard to manage. We've taken the IT model in designing a central control room for the entire museum, where users can control up to 12 different shows from the same server.”
By running common web server software on the PC, museum staff can connect through the facility's network and use the browser interface to schedule and control its shows. VIDS and all of the devices it serves are connected in a network by common and inexpensive Cat5 cable, which can support nearly any kind of signal distribution, and also contributes to the future proofing of installations, Flood adds.
“VIDS will run without a hitch and with no maintenance for a long period of time,” he says. “It's an easy sell once the client sees it in operation.”
Because each VIDS system is customized for an individual client, Videosonic isn't marketing the system separately for purchase and re-use by others. Instead, it's a new line item on the company's job proposals, but one with significant long-term payoffs for the client.
Clients may opt to license VIDS for a longer term than just the initial show for which it was created. In that case, they become eligible for all software enhancements and updates that Videosonic implements. Flood adds that the basic system is also fairly easy to repurpose, making it possible for clients to re-use VIDS to drive video displays in new shows and exhibitions.
So far, VIDS has made some substantial contributions to Videosonic's bottom line. While the software itself generated about eight percent of the company's revenues last year, Flood says the impact of VIDS was more extensive than that. “About 20 percent of the revenue of the company last year came from projects that hinged on this product, that is, from jobs where the VIDS software was key to getting the project done,” he says.
The unique features VIDS offers have had other important financial benefits for Videosonic. “Once the client sees the system and what it can do, you'll often get yourself specified as a sole source,” Flood adds, explaining that clients may create bid solicitation documents that require a combination of capabilities and features only available from VIDS.
In the short run, VIDS is available only from Videosonic, although Flood doesn't expect that situation to last. “I do expect people to catch up,” he says. “But we're also making what we do better for our customers.”
Still, Flood is confident that continuous upgrading of the VIDS software, coupled with customized responses to client needs should help the company maintain its edge. “We've never wanted to be a typical AV company selling hardware,” he says. “Hardware is always going to change, for example, in the move to high-definition video. But the design thinking behind these systems is the same. What we're doing is taking a designer/consultant approach to the job rather than selling hardware.”
John McKeon is an independent consultant and writer based in the Washington D.C. area. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.