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Looking Ahead: Q&A with AV Luminaries

In April 2008, two AV integration giants consummated a pretty significant merger. Audio Visual Innovations and Signal Perfection Ltd. became AVI-SPL. So it was a fitting time to take stock of the AV industry. A virtual roundtable sheds light on a still-growing market.

GILLENWATER: It's bridging, it's WebEx, it's video-conferencing on your cell phone, it's understanding network QoS [quality of service]. But it's also something else. It's about changing internally how we operate our companies.

We have network experts, people with Nortel and Cisco certifications, all the Polycoms and Tandberg CVEs. And it can't be a case of one person does this or that. You need to have a lot of people who can converse about IT and historic AV technologies. Because a room is not just a codec. There's a lot of endpoints in a room with today's technology. And once it touches a network, you better have someone how understand that network.

LEMKE: I think the industry as a whole is aware of the AV-IT phenomenon, and I'd say some companies have embraced it. Unfortunately not enough companies have taken the steps to be able to create a companywide capacity. This is probably because at the moment we are busy, and when training is offered it's hard to take people out of the field.

But this is shortsighted, especially for any company that is worried about IT companies coming into our industry and taking away work from traditional AV companies. We have the advantage because our companies can learn and partner to be IT-capable much easier that IT companies can learn acoustics, the human factors of communication, and other information that makes the system much more than a bunch of connected boxes.

GOLDIN: There was a relatively slow start to convergence, due to a lack of trained personnel and relatively few products in the AV space that had any significant IT capabilities. Over the last three years, this has changed significantly and we are now on a very steep part of the transition curve.

Most AV systems today use significant technologies originally developed for the IT industry to control and pass information among the AV equipment. In addition, pro AV firms are adding IT experts to their staff and training existing staff in IT integration. Almost every new pro AV product released has an Ethernet port and all VTC systems now incorporate IP VTC in the standard solution. All of this has added up to a significant acceptance of IT technology in the AV space and the leveraging of these technologies to offer expanding integrated AV solutions to the customer.

WILSON: I think we take two steps forward and one back on convergence. The technology is there. The systems can do amazing things and convergence can enhance those systems immensely. However our collective industry story needs to improve. We have to prove why this is a good thing. We have to show ROI to owners and improved quality of life to those who use it. Until we can tell that story effectively, we are only part way there.


PRO AV: People talk about “disruptive technology.” Are there technologies out there in the AV industry that you find particularly disruptive?

WILSON: I thought disruptive technology meant the system didn't work. Just kidding. I think digital signage is certainly disruptive; it has the potential to change not only our industry but also the traditional sign business. Likewise on the security side, biometrics, RFID, and recognition systems change everything. Video surveillance and instant access to stored digital images has huge ramifications in matters such as human rights and basic freedoms.

LEMKE: The big disruption that would fundamentally change everything we do is technology that needs no transducer to change it from digital or mechanical to analog. Right now we are able, through emissive or projected displays, to provide via the eye the information our customers want to communicate. If there were a more “direct connect” we would not need those display devices. The same holds true for audio—the microphone, processing, and speaker technology all focus information on the ear and a “direct connect” gets around the need to change mechanical or digital information into analog sound waves.

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