The Mobile Conundrum

Mobile Ideas for an installed industry.

Let’s face it: Mobile and its coinciding growth in untethered workplaces isn’t really all that good for the AV and systems integration industry.

No matter how much we like to call ourselves a technology industry, we are more of a fixed install technology industry. Other than our often “hidden in the back of our shop” production departments, a large majority of our companies make our hay by installing systems not meant to be moved after install. Even our cart systems are big, clunky and not so easily moved once wheeled into a space.

This isn’t something to be ashamed of. However, it is something that we need to consider moving forward. Mobility is hot, and as an industry, we aren’t built to deliver mobile solutions. So what gives?

Before we dive into ideas for embracing mobile, it is important to step back and take a brief look at the trends that are driving us in this direction:

  • Content: According to Tech Crunch, 60% of the digital content we consume is done so on our mobile devices, not on our desktops or televisions.
  • Consumerization: The hottest tech in mobile, digital and cloud (iPhone, Android, storage, messaging) is all exploding because of the consumer. It’s about want versus need, and the more popular tech brands continue to crush it. If you doubt this for a moment, let me ask you: When was the last time you saw someone pull a Blackberry out of a pocket? Exactly.
  • Dematerialization: Smaller devices are more powerful than ever. That tiny phone in your pocket already holds more computing power than all of NASA had when it started sending astronauts to the moon, and will likely soon surpass the contemporary desktop computer you owned just a few years ago.
  • Cloud: We have access to all of our apps, tools and content in the Cloud. From consumer clouds like Google Drive to the business cloud, we no longer depend on local access to data. It’s all there when we need it.
    With this in mind, where can integrators get involved in mobility while keeping their distinct market advantages and not completely killing their profit margins?
  • Mobile Video Communication: Providing solutions that put mobile workforces on video and collaborating with content is a hot button throughout just about every industry.
  • Learning Management Solutions: With technology and business processes changing at breakneck speed, fixed training time is evaporating. On-demand learning through video and other content is sought after as organizations try to cut the learning curve for new employees.
  • Mobile Designed Signage: Digital signage was an awesome idea when people were looking up. But now that people are walking into walls, we need solutions that help enterprises push signage and messaging to their mobile devices. This can be for internal networks as well as retail and consumer purposes.
  • Visual Content Creation: For years, we have sold the hardware for content distribution over digital signage networks. Moving forward, we have a great opportunity to develop the content and sell it as a service. A few integrators have picked up on this already, with a solid track record of success.
  • Mobile Control Solutions: Fixed touchpanels and even wireless ones for controlling spaces are so 2000. We need to use our mobile devices to control rooms moving forward. This should be designed with security and flexibility so employees can enter a space and quickly take control of the technology, making presentations a breeze.

I know that sometimes we like to close our eyes and hope that, if we just wait long enough, the emerging disruption will vanish, and we will go back to the days of 40% margins on projectors and when universities were happy to pay 25k for a basic smart room. Sadly, with all but a few exceptions, those days are gone.

This doesn’t mean that the ability to make a profit is gone, though. In fact, part of the reason that services have been such a great debate in this industry is because we all know they have a recurring nature and they tend to be highly profitable; they just aren’t what we are used to. As we go forward, we won’t have any choice but to embrace the new way that individuals and enterprises want to consume technology. We will just have to face the new reality that consumers today seek more connection from anywhere they are, and that meetings will always be face to face, but perhaps rarely in the same room.

Mobile is exciting as it puts the power of collaboration in the hands of all, and we as technology providers have the power to make this happen. However, I wouldn’t wait to start. Just released research from Cisco ( states that, in just five years, digital transformation will obliterate 40% of businesses; mobile is a big part of this coming change. With that in mind, we can help, or we can stand by idly. But as we all know, resting idle won’t get us where we want to go. We might as well get on board from wherever we are on any device that we want to use.

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