ISE 2024 Panel Discussions: The main talking points

Inavate hosted a series of panel discussions at ISE 2024, covering topics from sustainability, managed services, and the design of Microsoft Teams Rooms. We pick out some of the highlights.

Once again, the Inavate booth at ISE was home to a TV studio, inside which we gathered a series of integrators from around the world to get their insights into the hottest topics in the AV world.

The first panel asked the question; Does the AV industry really care about sustainability? “Some suppliers are really doing a good job, from an integrator point of view, I think there are a lot of steps to be made,” says C-Touch CEO Remmelt van der Woude. It’s a two-way street agrees says Simon Watson, head of innovation at systems integrator Kinly. “We need to be leading as an industry, and if we’re not leading, then our clients need to be pushing us as well. We’re now getting to a stage where clients have signed up to Net Zero targets, ESG targets, and they’re working out right now how they’re going to achieve them. We make up a big part of that ecosystem. The (carbon) footprint of AV in real estate is huge.”

Clients will be the driving factor agrees Loek Wermenbol, retail strategy director from integrator First Impression audiovisual, “If you look at RFPs that are going out right now in the markets, sustainability is becoming a bigger part in every RFP that is coming in.” Watson is another seeing change driven by clients, “Twenty to thirty per cent of public sector contracts are now weighted towards ESG and CSR. HR are taking the lead, and IT are making sure the right technology gets deployed, they make the decisions, and then they put in what technology should be evolved from there. It’s a whole new landscape.” All three agreed doing nothing about sustainability can seriously damage your health. “I think you’re going to be out of business in the future if you don’t act now,” says Wermenbol. “It’s not a one day process. It is a process that takes time and keeps on taking time because you have to show compliance every step of the way.” Not going green will eventually put you out of business confirms van der Woude. “Maybe not next year, or perhaps in 2026, but if you look at it from a three to five years perspective, it’s a no brainer. At least in Europe.”

Thankfully some are taking action, Kinly has recently created its own Sustainability By Design framework, which will look at the whole of the value chain, “everything from procurement, installation, lifecycle of endpoints,” says Watson. First Impression has created a new way of deploying devices in a project called Smart Deployment. Wermenbol explains how it works: “We do pre-production in our own facilities, so that we only have to send one package out on jobs on the other side of the world, it’s all guided by an app that takes you step-by-step through the process, that way we don’t need to send out teams all over the world, we need only one person, sometimes none.”

At ISE 2024, it seemed like every manufacturer was showcasing a remote management and monitoring platform. One of the reasons for this trend is the fact that managed services have become a core part of the AV business worldwide. James Hart from Snelling says: “Services are a part of our whole business and mission. They’re essential to everything we do from the way we look after our customers to what we deliver, service underpins all of that. Services also make sure that we build customer trust and that they are happy with their invest ment which means that they come back to us for more work.”

Christopher Miller from PSNI Global Alliance puts it succinctly: “The service component is a mandatory part of the technology business today.” Jeremy Elsesser from Level 3 Audiovisual adds: “Technology has become ubiquitous and today it is less about what tech I can get from one business compared to the other. Differentiating yourself in a market where it is a much flatter playing field comes down to the human elements and the customer experience you deliver.” He also highlights the challenges being faced in delivering managed services: “We are behind the IT industry in terms of maturing the way we deliver services. But today, our buyers are IT and they expect us to deliver AV in a way that looks like IT.”


Elsesser identifies what needs to change: “Our industry is used to a service contract being something that is equivalent to having someone to call when something breaks. This mindset needs to change and there must be a shift in the market. We need to move from a reactive place to a proactive place.”

Hart from Snelling adds: “Services are like the referee in football, you only notice what they do when something has gone wrong and that is when they get the most attention. It is our job as service providers to change the conversation and show the customer what is going right.”

The first steps towards changing the conversation are identified by Hart: “We need to look at how managed services are talked about with the customer, they can’t be an afterthought. Businesses have gone through a transformation and thankfully services are at the forefront of the conversation. You need to talk about them at the start of the project and nail down what are the desired outcomes from the installation. Then you can start looking at the data you get from monitoring and also from the experiences of the end user on the ground and you can look to achieve the desired outcomes with services.”

The last panel looked at the design of Microsoft Teams Rooms and the question was posed: are we spending too much time on the installation and not enough time
on the design? It’s easy to assume there’s nothing to design, says Stephen Barker, AV director at Cordless Consultants, but that’s not true. “Because it seems like a simple system, people think it’s simple to install, but it still needs to be installed properly. We should spend more time than we do on both designing and installing as an industry.”

The amount of time spent designing these spaces has increased insists Stuart Harris, technical sales manager at integrator GVAV. “We’re now looking at the spaces with a holistic approach. We’re not just looking at the camera technology or the microphones or speakers, we’re looking at the room acoustics and the absorption factors of the space. At the same time, we need to spend more time integrating the systems, so the client can walk into the room, press a button and everything works perfectly for them.”

It all begins from that first meeting says Barker. “As a consultant these elements all go in our very first report, often before the building has been built or fitted out. We have to have controlled lighting, that’s not reflecting off screens and cameras. We may need to make differently shaped furniture so the technology can create a good experience. The environment is absolutely key. You may put the best kit in but if it’s a bad environment, it’ll be a bad experience.”

Putting that early work in is absolutely key adds Steve Hudson, COO and workplace technologist at Project Audio Visual, “In a new build project you can look at the acoustics and lighting, because certain cameras don’t work with certain lighting. For rooms we’re refreshing we go for an acoustic survey and a lighting survey before we specify what’s going in.”
If mistakes were made early on, are we closer to finding the right formula for MTR design? The difficulty is working across different sectors says Harris. “They like to keep uniformity within the AV design but that does not fit all spaces, so you have to consider they want this core standardised design, but it may have to be adapted, or enhanced to make it work in the different locations. What works in one room is not always going to work in another room.”

Having Microsoft Teams as the core platform has helped adds Hudson, “If you look back you’d go into a building and there’d be 17 meeting rooms, and every one would have a different system. Microsoft has levelled the playing field with Teams. But now it’s no longer just small meeting rooms, we’re looking at divisible spaces, town halls, and much more spaces with Microsoft Teams.”

Could AI help in the design and user experience of MTRs? Maybe, but not just yet says Barker. “Clients are still negotiating AV in simple rooms, let alone adding AI. For me it’s about getting rooms right and setting standards in both installation and support.”

Final word goes to Steve Hudson, with what seems like a hugely sage piece of advice for all integrators. “We’ve got a 44-page document that goes to every client with a Teams room before we install and that document covers everything they need from licencing to networks to the difference in their responsibilities and our responsibilities, so everything’s covered off

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