There is a commercial making the rounds, heralding the marriage of AT&T and DirecTV. It’s been brought to my attention that this commercial might as well be an ad for the professional AV industry. It is set in and around New York City’s Times Square and aims to convey the possibilities of anywhere entertainment: on digital billboards, mobile devices or curved, transparent screens. The commercial ends with people in awe of the film Casablanca projected on the New York City skyline.
Have you executed a perfectly pixel-mapped display on an object, building or other structure? Thanks to two ginormous tech companies, the world knows how stunning they can be. Closer to home, when a prospective customer actually experiences a seamless videowall, immersive visualization lab or high-definition telepresence room, it’s the ultimate conversation starter. “Yes,” you say, “our company builds those.”
That’s where the mature, vibrant AV industry is today: in a position of continually educating tech-savvy clients, across a range of disciplines, about the possibilities of audiovisual systems. Clearly, there are many who get it; otherwise, this wouldn’t be a nearly $100 billion global industry. But as customers change, the industry retells its story. That’s why, for every InfoComm show, we seek to attract more attendees from the markets that AV professionals work in. At InfoComm15 in Orlando, the turnout of technology managers from business and industry was up by more than 50%. And thanks to our new relationship with the Church Technical Leaders organization, InfoComm15 attendees who said they managed technology for houses of worship nearly tripled.
That’s also why we try to get into the minds of the people who use commercial AV systems. Recently, InfoComm International commissioned seven in-depth research reports for the following customer segments: corporate, education, government, healthcare, hospitality, retail and venues. You can find them at www.infocomm.org/marketresearch. These studies are based on interviews with AV users around the world, describing the technologies they’ve adopted, the solutions they’re looking to deploy and the way they make decisions. The good news, it appears, is that many AV customers have upgrades on their mind, whether it’s to their conference spaces, communications infrastructure or digital signage networks. They’ve seen and heard what the AT&Ts and DirecTVs of the world have been saying, not to mention the Christies and Crestrons, and the Samsungs and Sonys, for example. They notice all around them that audiovisual communications and entertainment, in ultra-high definition or streamed over the network for face-to-face interaction, are powerful and impactful. Increasingly, when it comes to corporations, universities and other enterprises, they’re looking to familiar faces to help incorporate this technology: the IT department.
As you’ve probably noticed in recent months and years, AV/IT convergence has taken on a slightly different meaning. What was once mostly a technology discussion—from the addition of Ethernet ports to AV devices to the “packetization” of AV itself, if you will—has become a very real, almost existential, people-and-processes issue. The AV function in many organizations has become part of IT. On one hand, this raises the profile of AV systems as part of an enterprise technology strategy. On the other hand, it means AV professionals are starting relatively new conversations that have been important to IT departments for decades. How do we secure AV systems? How do we measure return on investment? Can we create standard, repeatable AV “images” that can be deployed and scaled quickly, easily and cost effectively? (See? I’m starting to sound like an IT manager.)
This is how even more new conversations begin. As InfoComm’s research suggests, IT leaders know what they don’t know. They have no intention of swallowing AV whole. Being consumers of electronics, they appreciate the wow factor; they don’t always know how to create it. That doesn’t mean they’ll rubberstamp an AV system if it requires access to network resources. It means their bosses have asked for solutions, such as digital signage, videoconferencing or unified communications and collaboration, and they’re ready to engage AV integrators to help create what those bosses want.
Where can you meet these new customers and technology partners? Many will be at InfoComm Connections, November 11-12 at New York City’s Javits Convention Center (www.infocommconnections.org). InfoComm Connections is the association’s newest series of events, created to engage technology managers and IT professionals who need to work with and understand AV solutions in a post-convergence world. InfoComm Connections New York should kickstart several interesting conversations because it will be co-located with the National Association of Broadcasters’ Content & Communications World.
Not only will integrators enjoy InfoComm training and spend time with familiar names from the AV industry, such as Aurora, FSR, Harman, IMCCA, Kramer, Planar, Prysm and others, but you will also have a chance to meet people who don’t necessarily attend InfoComm’s June show. Some are IT executives at major companies, others are the types of media specialists who light up Times Square. It should be a great event.
When the show’s over for the day (or, if you’re an early riser, before it opens), stroll the mile or so from InfoComm Connections to Times Square this November. Watch people watch the AV that’s happening all around them. It’s a great time to be doing what you do.