AV in the next 10 years: Cordless Consultants

With InAVate EMEA celebrating its 10th birthday this year, Tim Kridel canvasses opinion from distributors, integrators, manufacturers and consultants about what they thought would be the biggest changes in pro AV over the next 10 years?

In the Jan/Feb edition of InAVate magazine Tim Kridel looked ten years into the future with a cross-section of the AV industry. As an online exclusive you can also read some more detailed viewpoints from some of the people he interviewed for the article. 

In this article he hears from Nigel Miller, managing director, Cordless Consultants

NM: The next 10 years will hold the biggest change we have ever seen in the Professional AV industry.  It is without doubt that technology in general is on an exponential curve of advancement and as we get further to a point where technology designs technology, this will only accelerate.  For a long time AV has been the poor cousin to IT.  IT handled the important stuff, the core applications, the blood of any business together with the ever increasing safeguards to keep the crown jewels safe. AV was the human interface in meeting rooms for display and more recently Video Conference, but otherwise, safely out of the way as part of the FM function, providing convenience but little of concern to corporate security.  Now we are seeing AV move much more to centre stage, but why?

I believe it starts with the underpinning infrastructure. IT corporate networks almost became self-defeating in that security was so robust, users were often unable to use their chosen device on the network, which in turn led to users in some organisations circumnavigating the corporate network and using public networks to communicate – thereby defeating the whole point of network security.  This has provoked a major re-think for network security in many organisations and has led to the ‘Bring Your Own Device’ phenomenon, with multiple levels of network security supporting new devices and services.   This in turn has started to open the door for new AV based communications being accepted onto the previously ring-fenced corporate network, leading to today’s IT/AV collision.  Personal devices will be increasingly able to seamlessly hand off to room based AV technology all supported by a common network.  Unified Communications (UC) provides a platform for personal, desk and room based communication or collaboration mediums to operate via a common interface.

The change to corporate network (security) thinking has also opened a second channel related to AV – Smart Technology or Smart Buildings.  Suddenly AV has a whole new playground to expand into – the interface between a buildings’ previously siloed technology (such as room booking) and the human interface – the natural place for AV.  Smart buildings, able to report and respond, ultimately without intervention, to the human activities within the building are becoming reality.  This in turn will lead to a change in the services, reporting and convenience available to building occupiers, building managers and developers, ultimately on a city level – true digital cities.  Beyond that, new ‘digital assets’ will become a tradable commodity – providing us with new services and convenience – for example automatically offering to provide a taxi because the building knows you are late to depart for the airport.  These digital assets will become increasingly sophisticated and will use a variety of interfaces – personal and building, and across the IT and AV functions to communicate with us.

So, with a radical change to corporate network security, now more accepting of traffic and devices beyond the core applications, the collision of IT and AV applications together with the introduction of new smart building automation, professional AV is set to significantly change.  
For a start the term Audio Visual is not really fit for purpose, Multi-media or Building Collaboration Technology seeming a more accurate description.  With everything moving increasingly to software, we will see the current myriad of black boxes converge and commoditise.  The AV services will become more discrete, automated and natural, to some degree disappearing into the building fabric.  Less boxes and panels, more services that just happen to support you as you move around a building, with the technology seamlessly moving between a personal and building level.

With corporate networks handling much of the traffic, some wirelessly, network bandwidth requirements are set to explode and a thorough understanding across network, security and more traditional AV technology/codecs is already required.  We are likely to see organisation IT departments and AV merge, potentially also with Corporate Real-estate and HR, as all of these areas are becoming increasingly intertwined and need a holistic view for planning, delivery, maintenance, training and whole life financing.

Integrators will need to have the rigour and standards that are currently applied to IT (such as ITIL), transposed into AV design and operations.  Maintenance offerings will need to encompass IT network, AV and personal devices, again a holistic offering in place of siloed finger-pointing, with suitable SLA’s underpinning a true critical response.

Manufacturers will doubtless converge from todays’ vast range of niche or single service offerings to larger players offering merged hardware/software core services with bolt-on solutions across broad specialisms such as Staff and Guest security and support. 

In summary, there has never been a more exciting time in technology and especially in professional AV.  The industry has moved swiftly into the building automation arena and is set to increasingly merge with IT.  What it needs more of is technical standards, operational standards and people/companies (manufacturers and users) who look and learn beyond the traditional AV deployment.  As services move to building and then city level, demand on broadband networks will, and is already, moving to unprecedented levels of traffic.  UK limited needs to radically improve network capacity and developers (building and city) need to consider IT infrastructure in line with this.

The industry also needs a new name – Audio Visual really does underplay what is coming.

Other Q&As in the series:
Hewshott International

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