Our ISE 2024 show report: Baby steps at a grown up show

The Inavate ISE show report draws parallels between diverse technology launches to see where the industry is heading.

The feel of this year’s ISE show in Barcelona was akin to its busiest years (2018-19) at the RAI in Amsterdam. And the numbers would back that up. Attendance this year at the Fira was 73,891, up a huge 27% on last year (58,107). This may only put it on a par with the show’s attendance achieved back at the RAI in 2017 (73,413) but its forward momentum is so strong right now that no one would be surprised if the total in 2025 surpasses the highest ever seen at any ISE ever (81,268 in 2019). The Wednesday of the show (always ISE’s busiest day) saw 51,617 visitors, breaking the highest number ever in a single day record by more than 20%. And all this in the year the ISE show celebrated its 20th event, from a small show in Geneva in 2004 that less than 3,500 visitors attended. The show’s growth in 21 years has been as impressive as it has been steady and assured.

So what were all those people there in Barcelona doing during ISE week? Networking is obviously an essential part of the event, and more business is done during the four days of ISE than probably anywhere else during the entire year. But product launches are a key element too, and there were lots of those, even if they were small, rather than seismic in impact. ISE 2024 will go down as a show of incremental improvements of products, rather than anything brand new or earth-shattering that will change the industry forever. New launches were of products you already know, but just 5 or 10% faster or smaller or more energy efficient than before. This slowdown of innovation has been caused by the financial ramifications of the Covid pandemic, and the subsequent supply chain crisis we all had to endure. Both of which hit the bottom line and then R&D budgets significantly. What we are seeing in 2024 is a slow recovery of those two impactful forces on the number and types of new products being introduced.

Videobars were everywhere at the Fira, the most significant of which was the ClickShare Bar from Barco. It comes in two models, ClickShare Bar Core and the ClickShare Bar Pro, which adds extra functionalities like AI speaker framing, interactivity (touchback, annotation and blackboarding), as well as a wired roomdock for 4K content sharing and alternative connectivity. It also supports dual screen configurations, allowing people and content to be shown side by side on two displays. The product is impressive, and there is a large and loyal fanbase of ClickShare users already out there, the only potential block to its success could be the timing, many other manufacturers have had videobars (with AI framing) in the market for 6-12 months already, has Barco been too slow to react? Also in this product segment, Neat showcased the Neat Center, a companion device for its collaboration displays. Featuring
a microphone array and cameras, Neat Center looks to expand and extend the capabilities of meeting spaces.

Alongside videobars, AI and video/audio auto framing were the biggest themes of ISE 2024, the technologies are complementary after all. One of the best examples was Vision Suite on the Q-Sys stand. Vision Suite is the first fruits of its purchase of Swiss-based AI company Seervision in August 2023. What was initially called ‘Virtual director’ technology, ie a computer algorithm that will ape the decision made by a film director to get everyone seen and heard on camera, has been around for a while, but this is its smoothest iteration yet. Full-body autonomous camera tracking keeps the presenter in sight with pan and tilt movements, even when turned away from camera. One clever aspect was that it can predict future body movements to ensure framing, which gives all meeting participants more freedom to move around the room, without waiting for the camera or speakers to find your new location.
In a similar vein, Crestron acquired 1 Beyond a while ago, and the cameras have now become a core part of the manufacturer’s offering. At ISE 2024, Crestron showcased 1 Beyond cameras featuring optical zoom, as opposed to digital zoom which was available previously, marking an improvement in picture quality.

As you would expect, the LG and Samsung stands (the two biggest at the show) were flooded with technology, with LG taking the crown of ISE 2024’s biggest showstopper in the form of its Kinetic LED, The movement of the LED tiles added an additional dimension to the content, and crowds simply couldn’t get enough of it all week, stopping in their tracks to watch the display. It was also interesting to see a large XR/Virtual Production set up on both LG and Samsung stands, a sure sign of the potential of this particular market. In terms of new product, Samsung announced its first Google-certified interactive display, using the Android 13 operating system, the WAD series is available in 65-, 75-, and 86-in models for education. For corporates, Samsung unveiled a new 105-in, 21:9 Smart Signage QPD-5K model, compatible with Cisco Room Kit EQ, which is certified for Microsoft Teams. LG was showing a range of displays, including its MicroLED and transparent OLED. LG’s Magnit product (its direct rival to Samsung’s The Wall) was on display in the corporate section of its stand with a new 21:9 aspect ratio, 171-in LED all-in-one model. LG also introduced a 21:9, 105-in LCD panel for corporate, designed for widescreen video-conferencing platforms.

Something that worked particularly well, but again not ground-breaking or new, was its latest version of transparent OLED. The new 55-in modular OLED system allows for a typical videowall installation. The clever stand design used a selection of real cakes sitting behind the transparent touch-enabled display and was a fantastic example of this product segment at its best. Software was another area of focus for many pro-AV companies this year at the show, Barco was there to show CTRL, its new software platform for control rooms, which allows users to securely connect to sources, from any location, and interact with the content on any videowall or operator desk. One of the biggest surprises of the show was from Kramer, who unveiled Panta Rhei (the name is from ancient Greek meaning ‘everything flows’), a cloud-based platform to manage AV systems. Dovetailing with Kramer’s own offerings, including control, as well as third-party devices Panta Rhei seeks to provide a single windowpane from which to manage and monitor all the technology deployed at a facility.

Powersoft launched MyUniverso to manage and monitor amplifier platforms. The development of MyUniverso comes on the back of the launch of the Unica, which also saw development with the launch of new models at ISE 2024. Harman was keen to push its new AVX software suite, which will be a central portal through which integrators will manage the plethora of Harman products. There were two new software offerings at ISE, BSS Soundweb Omni, its next open architecture DSP, and JBL’s Venue Synthesis acoustic simulation software. It is yet another example of how much investment the big pro-audio brands are putting into software development in recent years.

Audio was heavily represented throughout all the different halls, despite the technology having its own dedicated hall too. Audio in meeting rooms has never been more important, and ISE 2024 reflected that. Shure followed up the launch of its MXA902 with the launch of the MXA901 conferencing ceiling array microphone. With a round form factor and the capabilities to provide both audio pickup and output in one device, the MXA901 seeks to continue Shure’s push into meeting and collaborating spaces.

In general, there was acceptance among exhibitors that their products do not exist in a vacuum, and to enable the functions and applications that end users require technology from a diverse set of manufacturers needs to come together and work as a whole. Xilica announced partnerships with Yamaha UC and Aver, to help simplify the installation and deployment of audio systems for collaboration. SpinetiX talked about its partnership with Q-Sys in the form of a certified plugin which seeks to simplify digital signage applications. Hitting both the pro-audio software and partnerships trend all at once was the interesting news that audio companies d&b audiotechnik and L-Acoustics are to work together to jointly develop a software platform for configuration and management of Milan AVB networks. They will co-design the software platform that addresses some of the challenges which currently discourage widespread adoption of Milan AVB technology.

One piece of innovation that possibly went under the radar at ISE 2024, was on the SiliconCore stand, and involved another partnership, this time with Virtalis. By combining either of SiliconCore’s 240hz frame rate, 1.9mm or 1.2mm XR LED displays, the Virtalis system allows two points of view to be presented in real time in the same physical space simultaneously, using an ART tracking system and Volfoni active 3D glasses to bring the complex datasets to life. This means that instead of the world just moving to the exact perspective of one participant, two people can be immersed accurately in the virtual dataset in tandem or one person can be tracked while the wider audience has a fixed point, viewing in active 3D.For those companies who didn’t have new products or partnerships to promote at ISE 2024, there was always the fall-back position of announcing new Microsoft Teams certification, and there was plenty of that happening.

Even if you didn’t have new products to show this time around, there were still ways to get people onto your stand, as Epson proved. Alongside a giant umbrella, filled with projection on the inside, it showed a wrap-around, self-standing system (it was named the Interactive Teaching System) which featured three EB-770Fi interactive UST projectors for immersive, interactive teaching in a way that couldn’t be achieved by its competitors who sell flat panel displays. It was a smart way of reminding attendees of the merits of projection.

Sustainability was another theme on the rise this year, with the vast majority keen to promote how its products were doing less harm to the world around us. The jump in just 12 months in brands willing to discuss sustainability since last year was startling. To this end Sharp/NEC had a stand made entirely of recycled materials and was also promoting a new 25-in e-paper display which have zero-power consumption during content playback. We’ve seen plenty of e-paper devices, but always in the 10- to 15-in screen sizes, so it was great to see the ‘green’ tech is moving up in sizes that will eventually replace more paper posters or digital signage screens.

Any lasting impression of ISE 2024 will be of the size of the crowds, and the deals that began, or were sealed inside those halls, rather than the majority of new products launches we saw that week. We know the reasons behind smaller, incremental innovation this year, and that will improve in the next few years. Perhaps in a more sustainable proAV industry new product launches won’t be as regular. What the ISE show does offer is networking opportunities as well as a window on new products and growing trends. And it did that well, and that’s
all we can really ask for.

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