An excellent adventure

Chris Fitzsimmons reports from the inaugural xSolutions event held in London’s ExCeL, 19-20th October. He asks if the show delivered on its promise to bring together the UK’s AV, IT and communications businesses in one place and what can be done going forward to build on the debut event.

The 19th and 20th of October saw the beginning of a new venture for the UK and Ireland’s AV, IT and communications industries as the inaugural xSolutions trade event and conference took place in London’s ExCeL exhibition venue.

The organisers aimed to bring together the key strands of modern business communications whilst fostering an atmosphere where visitors and exhibitors from a variety of disciplines could exchange ideas and form new partnerships.

The intention was also to encourage learning about technologies and companies somewhat outside the traditional comfort zones. To this end the extensive seminar programme, spread across three theatres, was designed to deliver technology and business advice as well as some blue sky thinking.

The other key tenet of the show was to keep things strictly commercial. xSolutions 2011 was billed as being all about communications and business technology, with the intention of avoiding the clash of entertainment and commercial solutions that often plagues national shows of this nature.

For the exhibitors there was the promise of direct exposure to the decision making end user – the facilities or IT manager and the C-Level management - as well as the integrator and reseller channel, whilst providing a far more focused event than is currently available in the UK.

There’s no doubt that given such ambitious goals, expectations amongst both visitors and exhibitors would be high as the show opened. But did it deliver?

As far as the visiting trade was concerned 60 exhibitors were on view including everything from loudspeaker manufacturers to mobile videoconferencing solutions. What was particularly commented on was the standard of booth from many exhibitors. This wasn’t a shell scheme only affair.

projectiondesign’s booth featured a full motor racing simulation, whilst Radvision demonstrated its SCOPIA videoconferencing product from remote sites in France, its London office and mobile devices on the booth. Elsewhere Crestron exhibited its full range of control and digital media distribution solutions.

It wasn’t all about big booths though, several companies made launches at the event, delivering on the promise of genuinely new technology. Mitsubishi demonstrated new projectors for the business and education markets, whilst previewing its new narrow bezel 55” LCD panels due for launch next year. In IPTV Exterity demonstrated new features for its AvediaPlayer end points, including a new media browser. Software specialists Stardraw gave a public debut to Stardraw Design 7 following its recent release from public beta in early September, whilst iKon AVS and projectiondesign also both had new products.

That being said, this wasn’t ever meant to be a new product-fest. The intention was to provide integrators with an opportunity to invite their clients to see some of the latest technology in action.

In addition to the exhibition ran an ambitious conference programme. With hindsight it was over ambitious –31 sessions in three theatres across two days, unfortunately meant a fair few empty seats despite some excellent speakers and topics.

Being myself responsible for the content of the InAVate Live theatre, I can say we’ll be looking again at what time we start the sessions in the morning, and how many we try to fit into a day.

Despite those challenges there were some genuine highlights. Julian Treasure’s keynote on Wednesday morning on the effects of audio on behaviour and also productivity was something that every office manager and MD should be made to watch. Joining that audience should be those responsible for putting sound into our retail environments.

Julian's entire presentation can be viewed now on the InAVate TV section of the InAVate website.

Keith Warburton’s excellent panel discussion on trends in collaborative technology featured a strong panel including John Masters from AVM, Andy Nolan from Radvision and Wayne Perkins from Steljes. Topics covered included how the installed base of products is currently being used, and feedback from the integration community about the requirements of the market place.

For the 60 exhibiting companies, representing several more brands a total of 1,257 unique trade visitors passed through the doors over the two days. I asked IML’s group director Dan Jago his thoughts on those numbers and how he felt the show went in general.

“We are delighted with the support from the quality of exhibitors through to the quality of attendees over the two days. We have had some extremely positive feedback all round, with the overriding factor for exhibitors being the heavyweight AV buying power in attendance. From end users we had positive feedback on the opportunity to discover products on offer that they were unaware were available in the UK.

"Personally I would have felt more comfortable with more unique visitor numbers, however unique is the important factor in these figures as is the UK regional focus. It's year one. The majority of exhibitors have already committed to 2012 and considering that  economic climate that is a testament in itself."

And what about some of that positive feedback? Well, there was plenty of it. Edward Cook, MD of Audio Visual Machines remarked: "The UK market is a heavy consumer of AV and IT, as well as a driving force for innovation in the application of these technologies. It's fantastic that there is finally a dedicated event for our industry held in the UK."

Also in attendance was proAV’s Mike Philpott who added his praise to Cook’s: “The AV industry was well represented by several key manufacturers and suppliers and it was encouraging to see some emerging names at the show too.”

Matthew Horwood, Regional Director, UK & Ireland at projectiondesign said: "As a proud sponsor and exhibitor of xSolutions, we enjoyed a busy few days. The show organisation was very good and we were very pleased. It enabled us to spend valuable time with new and existing partners to show them the latest innovations on our stand such as the new F35 AS3D projector. Visitors also had a bit of fun with the stunning Formula 1 racing simulator provided by PureTech.”

Meanwhile, Canon Europe tweeted: “A second busy day at #xsolutions2011 Congratulations @InAVate on a successful first show!”

“A particular highlight of the event for me was Dr Ali Sadri's presentation on WiGig. It was an exciting new technology and its potential in our market is enormous. 7Gbps reliable Wifi, Wireless HDMI, USB & PCI-Express all in one chip – all at the same time – means no more data cables. Incredible!! It should have been the keynote presentation for the entire show," remarked David Snipp, CEO of Stardraw.

Distributor Anders + Kern’s managing director Derek Kuziw remarked: “Over the two days there was a steady flow of well-informed visitors who had focus and specific needs that we were able to help with”

Andy Hogg BMS group FM management, divisional director remarked: “Having all the main vendors in one room and at the same time was very beneficial. I had a particular interest in Video streaming and what options are available to me. Attending the show not only gave me live demonstrations of the products but also answered all of my questions regarding this subject. A worthwhile event, anybody that works in AV and could not attend missed a great show."

All in all these represent great feedback for a launch show, and as Dan Jago noted, “Later start times, a streamlined seminar programme and the introduction of more interactive features are just the start of improvements for 2012's event."

Lest we forget, neither trade organisations nor trade show organisers nor publishing houses make up the industry. We exist to serve the industry by delivering the tools and the venues and the knowledge to help the industry grow. Shows don’t work without the good-will and support of the market, be that manufacturers or visitors. However, successful well put together events have the potential to benefit both of those groups. It’s my belief that with the continued support of integrators and vendors, xSolutions can develop into the event that the UK market needs and deserves. If you went, and you have an opinion, then express it. If you didn’t go, why not? The organisers want to know too. It’s your industry, it's your business and its your show afterall.

xSolutions 2012 will take place October 3-4 2012, ExCeL London.

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