34,870 - ISE 2011 Report

Chris Fitzsimmons reports from a packed Amsterdam RAI on what was apparently the largest audiovisual trade event ever staged, anywhere in the world. But did ISE 2011 live up to the hype?

The figure that so many commentators have been talking, tweeting, re-tweeting and press releasing about since ISE is writ large across the top of this article. It’s a big number and one that cannot, indeed should not, be ignored in the context of judging the significance of Integrated Systems Europe on the world stage.

Whatever your opinions are on the accuracy statistics issued by trade show organisers, it probably tells us one very important thing. More people attended ISE this year, than InfoComm in June in Las Vegas. Think about that as we move on through this report and I’ll give my own thoughts on why that is at the end.

ISE 2011 was marketed under the slogan “All the connections you need”, and at this year’s show the organisers encouraged you to start connecting early. For the first time, the Monday saw three parallel, on-campus conference tracks – DiSCO, The Wainhouse Summit and the InfoComm Future Trends conference.

InAVate attended all three and whilst they were all useful, our impression is that Wainhouse was the clear winner in terms of content and networking opportunities.

After holding their event in Berlin for the previous six years Wainhouse Research agreed to co-locate with ISE 2011, holding the event on the Monday and Tuesday. Over 130 end users, vendors, resellers and systems integrators attended to take a in a presentation programme covering market overviews, success stories from vendors and, perhaps most interestingly, end-user case studies.

Many observers, including Wainhouse practice consultant Richard Norris, felt that the most impressive of all was a presentation by Ismayeel Syed of Aviva. “It was probably the best end user presentation we’ve ever seen at a Wainhouse summit,” he commented.

Running alongside was DiSCO, the digital signage conference, organised by Invidis consulting and moderated by senior analyst Oliver Schwede. I attended this myself, and felt that it too had some great content, although perhaps with a slightly odd mix.

It started very well with market overviews from both the Middle East (al Barq) and from ECE Flatmedia, a German digital signage network operator.

Later sessions in the day include some excellent content focused presentations from the likes of Bluefox, Ydreams and Softkinetic (a norwegian gesture technology company). All of these turned attention on how signage installations can be made to draw in the audience more effectively.

My personal highlight was the presentation by Intel’s Jose Avalos, general manager of the embedded computing division, who gave a detailed overview of Intel’s take on the DS market. This includes the need for standards and how to address the market’s current fragmented state. He also presented the four proof of concepts that Intel has been developing with various partners over the last 18 months or so. These were also on view on Intel’s booth in Hall 10.

The shortest conference track of the day was InfoComm’s Future Trends summit, which didn’t quite live up to the billing but still contained some useful information on InfoComm’s plans to become a standards body on the world market as AV strives to integrate with IT. Electrosonic founder Bob Simpson presented his thoughts on current and future display technologies, whilst audio networking and VC also received some attention from presenters.

But the conference programme is still just the side show. The serious business kicked off at 10:00 the following morning when the doors opened in earnest and the crowds poured in. And pour they really did. Let there be no mistake, for at least two days of the three the show floor was totally packed, even on Thursday, with its much maligned extra two hours of show opening at the end, the halls remained busy until lunch time.

But what was on show for this mass of AV enthusiasts to see?

Well, it was pretty hard to move in most of the halls without feeling like I was seeing double. That’s not a reflection on the previous evening’s activity, but more to do with the amount of 3D displays on show. Unfortunately, unless one walks around all day wearing 3D glasses, such displays are only eye-catching in the same way that a poorly focused projection is.

However, once the specs were on it’s clear that both active shutter and passive glasses technology are improving all the time. Christie, along with the inevitable mountain of MicroTiles, was showing a great interactive, 3D medical application demonstration with partner Virtalis.

projectiondesign were also in on the act, and Panasonic had 3D content running on its monstrous 152” plasma display. Barco, not to be outdone brought the same 3D LED display demo that they’d shown at InfoComm, although I wasn’t able to form an opinion on whether it was any better looking or not.

Indeed, the only major display manufacturer not to be showing off some form of 3D was Mitsubishi. That didn’t seem to cause the company too much of a problem in attracting visitors since one of the most talked about products leading up to, and during the show, was its InAVation Award winning Diamond Vision OLED display.

This year the company returned to the show with production versions of its tiles, along with a demonstration of a new curved arrangement based on a new form factor. There is also a spherical construction being built in Japan at the moment.

At this point I’m going to make a quick reference to last year’s report, in which I was less than complimentary about Prysm’s prototype LPD displays. I have to say that now it is ready. The wall configuration on the company’s stand looked really, really good.

Other display developments of note came from Sharp which made a great display from its PN-V601 video wall – building them into the five interior walls of a cube. LG’s display division had plenty officially to say, but perhaps most interesting was its 47” full-HD transparent display, which the company remains tight-lipped about. All we’re certain of is that during daylight it requires no back light at all, and that it is equipped with optical touch technology.

The IT community continues to grow its presence within the AV space, and ISE 2011 was no exception. Whilst there wasn’t a great amount of new product on show the likes of HP, Cisco and Intel were all to be found in hall 10 and 11. Alongside them were Haivision, Radvision, Vbrick, Lifesize and a whole host of other streaming video, UC and telepresence providers. You can be assured that next year most of those will have bigger booths. Hopefully HP will because this year the company’s was smaller than InAVate’s.

On the control and switching front, neither Crestron nor AMX brought completely new product to ISE – both giving European debuts to products announced at InfoComm and CEDIA.  Crestron’s Prodigy handheld remote solution played a big part on its booth, and this looks set to be able to capitalise nicely on the demise of Philips pronto in markets such as hospitality.

AMX announced the Inspired Xpert digital signage platform, a larger scale product with new software and up rated hardware for bigger signage installations.

Kramer by contrast had a massive range of new kit on show. The company demonstrated new products for the corporate and education markets, as well as increasing its range of digital routing, switching and signal extension devices.

Extron majored on its fibre ranges, and increasing the capabilities of its TouchLink control solution. Larger panels and more powerful central controllers mean the solution can now handle bigger and bigger systems.

The audio fraternity continues to pose a bit of a problem for ISE, as it has done for InfoComm. Several years back, we criticised the organisers for failing to attract enough audio brands to the show. That issue has been resolved, it’s now more of a question of what they do whilst they’re there. All the major players were present, but almost none of them launched anything.

If, as a visitor, you want to seek out and talk to PA vendors, talk ceiling speakers or see the latest conferencing solutions, you can certainly do all of those things, you just won’t see much new.

However, a few companies broke that mould. Notably, d&b audiotechnik used ISE to launch a whole range of installation products, which throughout the week were on show in a demonstration room. The White range sounded great, looks nice and should fit in well to hospitality and entertainment venues as well as outdoors.

Tannoy and Lab.Gruppen also announced cooperation within the TC Group to launch the VXP (powered) and VX (unpowered) ranges of cabinets, as well as a wider announcement from the group that it would be joining the AVnu Alliance.

AVB is certainly one of my picks of the show, winning breakthrough technology of the year at the InAVation Awards, and continuing to grow its stable of supporters. This totals around 28 members now, with the addition of the TC group of companies. The AVnu alliance also made its presence felt with its own pavilion demonstrating the technology in a number of applications.

One company that has not (yet) made any AVB related announcements, other than that it is joining the alliance, is Bosch. Both EV and the parent company were there but apart from showcasing some nice custom versions of its DCN congress system, and the new Promatrix 8000 from Dynacord there wasn’t much new. The company is being extremely tight-lipped on both AVB and EN54 at the moment, but I expect to have much more to say following Prolight & Sound in April.

The major news from the audio market at ISE was that Shure has snapped up the Danish Informationsteknik Group (owner of DIS). Apart from some rather wild speculation that this meant Shure want to get into the integration market, unlikely, it does secure them a well respected congress solution, and gives financial security and R&D clout to DIS.

So why then has ISE delivered more visitors than any other show? Well, I believe the answer lies in geography. Currently, Amsterdam offers the most convenient venue for a show of any AV in the world in terms of how easy it is to get there. It’s quicker to come from India to ISE than to InfoComm, and whilst the subcontinent is served by roadshows rather than a fully fledged event, ISE is where it's at.

Do I think bigger is really better? Well on reflection, yes I do. ISE this year delivered more than it has ever done before for visitors, but that’s not to say it can’t do more.

InfoComm in the US successfully pulls in visitors for several days before the show to training and conference events, something that ISE is beginning tentatively to do but could do so much better.

Given average space rates, and the size of the show, one could reasonably speculate that ISE 2011 made a considerable profit for its owners (CEDIA and InfoComm). Reinvesting even a modest amount of that would go a long way to subsidising training, paying presenters and generally giving a bit back to the EMEA market. A market, which is presently demonstrating an even greater appetite for audiovisual technology than anywhere else in the world.

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