AV/IT Convergence Fuels a Niche
Aug 9, 2007 12:00 PM, By Jessaca Gutierrez
Convergence has been the latest buzzword for quite some time. And it’s no surprise as every AV product moves towards the network. Now that AV/IT convergence has arrived, what’s next? Maybe the opportunities have already arrived at your doorstep with an impatient knock.
Essentially, AV/IT convergence is the shared vision between the AV and IT markets. While some sort of networking has been available to AV products for some time, usually these systems were isolated, a lone ranger of sorts in a tangle of complex systems that were each operated individually. But as more of today’s technology become more and more robust, allowing this technology to sit and be operated from one network and control system, corporate buildings, indeed, are becoming intelligent. Systems are being consolidated and operated from one control system. Room automation is no longer part of retro-futurism, but realistically available. The convergence of these two markets is eliminating the redundancy as well as the isolation between all the AV components.
From the corporate viewpoint, the convergence means more efficient communications as companies move to become national and multinational corporations. More and more corporations look to each other to take on more of their intended market with either mergers and acquisitions, or strategic partnerships. Many companies are no longer housed in one building, but they have multiple satellites and campuses located across the nation and over seas. Staying connected and communicating as one is a major priority. This, as well as the high cost of travel, has spurred an increase in AV solution purchases such as digital signage and videoconferencing.
The rise of digital signage systems is due in large part to the availability of digital content and informational systems. Videoconferencing, on the other hand, is just now becoming a realistic commodity, says Julia Pegg, project manager at Acclaro Growth Partners, a strategic planning and market research firm. “With improvement in bandwidth and hi-def, the technology has come up to par with customer expectations. They are interested in investing,” Pegg says. Pegg says corporations project to spend 45 percent of their budgets on digital signage and videoconferencing alone over the next three years, according to a recent InfoComm 2007 AV Market Definition & Strategy Study. “What this means is contractors with IT skills are going to be better prepared moving forward,” Pegg says. According to the survey, those numbers are up from 10 percent to 20 percent of company budgets spent on digital signage and 20 percent to 25 percent on videoconferencing.
Now that the corporate need, the technology, and the systems are all aligned, the first step to becoming conversant in IT, Pegg says, is to target a user and develop a niche with the necessary training. But don’t expect to see a return on investment right away. “There’s probably a two-year lag in offering IT-centric services and becoming profitable,” Pegg says.
Many of the industry associations have been offering courses and certifications, and AV and IT convergence has become what you could consider a cornerstone for these groups. At the recent InfoComm 07 tradeshow, for example, an Intelligent Building Forum took place to outline the opportunities and training needed to be a part of this growing arena.
Because the installations are becoming more complex, the integrator and client have to be on the same page, which can mean more time demanded from the integrator. Essentially, the integrator and the client will need to work together to realize the companies’ technologic strategic vision and needs. “Hammer down needs for the systems they are using,” Pegg says. “Walk them through the process. Spending time with the customer is a value-add. Systems today are much more complex, so you really need to keep that relationship ongoing and be proactive even after the install.”
Becoming network savvy may mean taking on a strategic IT partner. Pegg points to SPL Integrated Solutions as one company who has anticipated an IP-centric AV future by forming strategic partnerships with some companies and acquiring others. But a partnership can work both ways, with IT learning just as much, if not more, from AV.
“IT really needs to learn more about AV,” Pegg says. “IT tends to minimize the importance of AV system. They don’t understand the subtle differences between speakers for example.”
As the industry moves forward in making the necessary adjustments to fully realize all the potential in AV/IT convergence, look to Sound & Video Contractor, svconline.com, the Corporate AV newsletter, as well as our other newsletters to keep up to date with the trends, tips, and solutions to AV/IT network challenges.
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