Asking AV: Expert opinions on the ISE 2024 show floor

Reece Webb gets the thoughts of integrators, manufacturers, and consultants on the hot topics leading conversations at the ISE show floor.

Diversity – What are we doing?

Diversity has long been a key talking point within the AV industry, but what are companies doing about it? Christine Schyvinck, Shure, opens: “What is this show about but innovation? You can’t innovate if you don’t understand your customers. We need diversity in our companies to help design, develop and manufacture the solutions that people need. It’s an uphill battle, but I’m very happy that the industry continues to have this discussion. We partner with AVIXA’s women’s council and diversity councils to help figure out how we attract people into this industry and retain them.”

Conscious efforts for increased diversity are playing a key role, recognising the value that diversity brings by taking on board new approaches to work and interaction.

Adele Gardner, Holoplot, says: “People come from a lot of different industries to join us. We foster diversity in a way that encourages people to join us from a variety of different skill sets. In the past six months, 46% of our hires were women, but we know we have a lot of work to do, not just at Holoplot, but the industry as a whole.”

Fostering diversity can come from a variety of sources, and educational opportunities may hold the key to bring new blood to the industry that may never have considered a career in AV. Kieran Phillips, CJP, adds:

“We’re incredibly passionate about the education sector, so we want to be able to offer more opportunities to secondary and [higher] education levels, providing students from across all backgrounds the opportunity to get hands-on with the latest technology, giving them a platform to lead in to university and in to the industry.”

“[Diversity] is happening quite naturally”, adds Vicky Fox, PPDS, “Because everybody is globally and locally enabled, our teams are able to employ the people who are best for the job. We are seeing more and more women coming into the technology industry, and you can see that in our UK team which has 60% women and 40% men, we’re seeing a lot more women coming into the industry which is great news.

“We’re also making our displays  locally which helps with sustainability and helps get the people who are in need of jobs in different communities, enabling different people to come into the technology industry from all over the world.”

Face the change

The AV industry has endured its fair share of trials and tribulations, so what would integrators change about the industry?

The show floor was buzzing with talk about sustainability, and for Anders Jørgensen, Stouenborg, a green approach must be at the heart of everything that the AV industry does: “We need to take a responsibility for the footprint that we are leaving for our kids. If you look around a trade show, see all the products and manufactured [items], then I think we need to change how we approach sustainability, and how we are able to create more products that are more sustainable.”

For Mirza Mohibulla Baig, Samir Group, communication is everything and needs an overhaul from the start of the chain, all the way to the end user. Mirza says: “I think the AV industry is not organised in terms of [communicating] product launches to the end user. I would change the flow of information right from the manufacturer to the awareness of the customer [about new products], so that they get the best support in the market.”

“We talk about how products are used, but I think this year we need to ask ourselves: Why?” says Bill Fons, PTG. “At this massive show, we have focused on what’s better about this product or how products are used, but I think we need to abandon all of that. Why do business with your integration firm? Why do business with your product manufacturer? This should be the year of the why, we’ve been focusing a lot on that at PTG.”

For Matthew Wyatt, Carillion Communications, raising awareness to attract new talent and effectively marketing the AV industry is essential to addressing skills shortages in the industry. Wyatt says: “We need more awareness of what a really good industry this is, [highlighting] the fantastic career paths that are available in the industry.”

Elsewhere, diversity and education remain a key focus to driving industry change. “As a woman in tech, I am disappointed that we haven’t come any further when it comes to having a more diverse workforce in this industry”, adds Jeaneth Robøle Mørum, Kinly, “I see no reason why we can’t have a more diverse workforce.”

“There has to be more apprenticeship training”, adds Christopher Hope, The Loop Lab, “there has to be more job internships and opportunities for young people. We need to talk about how we are bringing in people that are neurodivergent, different kinds of genders and orientations, as well as different ethnicities and localities. The more that the industry can get on board with that plan and put its money where its mouth is, the better off it’ll be [and] the more demographics it will reach.”

Best tech

With 20 years of ISE now behind us, the AV industry has seen plenty of technologies flourish in this ever evolving market. This begs the question - In the eyes of integrators and consultants, which AV technology has had the greatest impact in the past 20 years?

For David Lesch, AV Media, the answer is interactive whiteboards: “This technology came along 25 years ago, and this technology has changed the way our kids are taught and learn. Through those 25 years, almost all classrooms [today] are equipped with technology. It gave a lot of work for sellers and integrators, this was a base from which we could offer some more technologies such as document cameras, audio and AR/VR.”

Video-over-IP technology has stood out as a revolutionary tool in the healthcare sector for integrators such as Ingo Aicher, Jones AV, impacting not just this sector but the wider AV landscape.

Aicher explains: “[This technology] touched home integration, broadcast and opened up a completely new world in digital signage. It has helped transform routing in major control room displays, videowall displays, everything has been impacted by it in a sense.”

“It’s AV over IP for me”, says Nathan Scott, Design Integration, “The way we can now send video campus-wide for universities and companies with the help of good networking equipment, it has to be AV over IP.”

Tom Martin, Kinly, concurs: “The AV-over-IP transition away from analogue standards to IP protocols gives us a whole new world of opportunity in the industry, to scale services, deliver different types of services and enter into complimentary services such as smart buildings.

“You’ve got security, the ability to monitor, manage and deliver value-added services which we didn’t have when it was analogue. This is the natural progression to the next phase which is going to be software-based solutions. If we have things on IP and routed networks, then we can transition to a software-based future which is inevitable and where we’re going to go.”

Another standout technology, mentioned by integrators on the show floor is Dante, delivering uncompressed, multi-channel digital audio over a standard Ethernet network. Carl-Fredrik Malmgren, Fremlab, says: “Ten to twenty years ago, everybody had different protocols, but today everybody has Dante.”

Remote monitoring solutions also stood out as a key gamechanger for Faye Bennett, Faye Bennett Consultancy Services: “These are a really key part of the technology landscape at the moment. There’s value for end users in having that solution from their partners, and for the industry, being able to see technology remotely and intervene remotely. There are opportunities for revenue, to increase profit margins through lean operations and there’s loads of scope for that. I’m excited to see some exciting use cases around that, it’s great having the tools but how do you put it into practice and create a real special offering?”

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