Positive mental attitude.

Chris Fitzsimmons reports from ISE 2009, held at the Amsterdam RAI from 3-5th February 2009. There was perhaps a little more than usual riding on this, the 5th edition of Integrated Systems Europe, which is why a little positive thinking went a long way.

Exhibitors and visitors alike would have been forgiven for feeling a little apprehensive in the run up to ISE. The global economy is in the grip of what appears one of the most significant economic downturns since records began, the mainstream media had been full of doom and gloom and to cap it all, one of the world’s leading industrialised nations was laid low by a covering of snow. In winter, who’d have thought it?

And so on Tuesday morning it fell to Integrated Systems Events MD Mike Blackman to lift the mood and set the tone for an important week in the AV market’s year. His press conference address made a strong case. He argued, as other observes have, that the AV technology market is uniquely placed to provide solutions to businesses that will save them money in difficult times. For evidence look no further than the Gartner analysis that video conferencing is going to take €2.1bn from the pockets of airline companies each year until 2012. He also announced that IS Events and the RAI had signed a deal that will see the show held in Amsterdam for another five years at least.

For me the show proper started with a swift stroll through halls one and two to the InAVate booth, during which I stopped by the RGB Spectrum booth. The company was exhibiting a world first in the shape of its Linx 3300 cross format switcher. The unit can switch both RGB and DVI inputs to a DVI output. The first device to be able to do so, according to PR Director Ken Pefkaros.

Next was a quick stop over at Peavey, which made its ISE debut this year. The company demonstrated further additions to its nware software and also a new, dedicated platform for it – ncontrol. This now runs an embedded version of windows XP to provide greater stability for control systems. There was also a behind the scenes look at new wall mounted controllers for ncontrol.

And so on to the my first press appointment of the show. An excellent booth tour from Panasonic. Rather than announcing a raft of new products, the company chose to emphasise a selection of innovative solutions developed with partners. These included an air hockey table in conjunction with U-Touch, some innovative installation options for the 103” plasma developed with Flat-lift and an incredibly cool product design solution with RTT. The latter involved using panasonic PTZ cameras to focus on a particular colour or texture, and apply it to a 3D model of the new Audi R8. Fancy seeing what your trouser fabric looks like as a seat covering? No problem. Need to match your paint job to your front door? Look no further.

Fun applications, but the message was clear. We work with other people to deliver solutions for your customers.

Mitsubishi Display Solutions used ISE to announce an astonishing ten new products, the most interesting of which was certainly the, now complete, seventy series of display wall cubes. The series incorporates a slew of new features designed to make the integrator’s life easier. The automatic calibration function particularly impressed me. The other major innovation the range introduces is the built-in image processing system. This allows a multi-put display wall to be built without the need for an external processor. The range of option cards allows for multiple DVI, VGA, composite and component video inputs as well as SDI and HD-SDI.

Projectiondesign’s press call introduced the world to its new range of projectors featuring the Philips VIDI lamp technology. VIDI electronics turn the light from a projection lamp into a two pulse system; a brilliant pulse and dark pulse. The dark pulse enables enables enhance contrast delivering smoother more vivid pictures. On the other hand, the brilliant pulse boosts projection bulb brightness by up to 25% to 30% putting more lumens of brightness on the projection screen. The range includes the F12, F22 and F32 models.

Wednesday kicked off with a trip to Christie, which was giving a European launch to its (InAVation Award-winning) M-Series of projectors. Although we’d already seen these at InfoComm last year, the European market hadn't and there was plenty of buzz about them around the booth.

Next up was Harris, amongst the digital signage brethren in hall 12. The company has taken its broadcast expertise and put it to good use in developing its Infocaster Sales software suite. This complete digital signage management and deployment package does everything from organising content, allowing you to deliver it to selected display real estate by any number of criteria from postcode to likely audience demographic, to telling your sales team what time slots and locations are available. You can also do clever things like excluding certain content from certain locations. For example you can prevent advertisements for alcohol from being show on displays near children’s clothing stores.

A meeting Biamp with threw up news of a new campaign to demonstrate Bimap’s investment in its customer base – the installer. Doing Business Better it’s called and it consists of a suite of new products such as Mini-Expanders for Audia, and the VoIP-2 card. These are designed to be more flexible and efficient. There is also to be a web portal called The Dojo, which encourages integrators to submit their case studies and success stories via an online form.

As usual Extron had an enormous number of new products for Europe, but the stand outs were definitely the Annotator and the MPX Plus 866 A. The 866 is the first presentation switcher to incorporate a professional DSP processor on board. Whilst it lack high-end functionality like AEC, I can see this finding its way into a lot of boardrooms and divisible spaces.

One company, which has quietly transformed its offerings in the past couple of years is AV Stumpfl. From projection screens and its signature Wings Platinum projection software the company has expanded into media control and interactive digital signage. The Austrian innovator was showing the full range of its products as well as announcing a re-branding of its control and signage solutions. These products are now organised under the heading of ISEO, with the building and media control suite being a module of the core product known as SC LAN. A new addition to SC LAN is the iTouch control application, which has some nice features including integration with the device’s accelerometer.

Samsung went the opposite way to rival Panasonic, electing to announce seven new projectors, a large format outdoor display (with onboard computer) and also to demonstrate its slim bezel products in a video wall configuration. The LFD is available in 46”, 70” and 82” sizes.

Venturing back to halls 10,11 and 12 visits to Avocent, VFI and Sonicfoundry’s booth brought both happy exhibitors and some interesting products. Avocent’s wireless HDMI extender is now available in both 802.11b/g and 802.11n flavours, but I’m still no nearer to knowing what the USB port on the front is for. When they tell me you’ll be the first to know. What I can say is that its first function is to introduce firmware updates via a USB key. VFI is a first time exhibitor at ISE, and the team were delighted with the response they had received.

It was about this point in the proceedings that I recognised quite how busy the show was. Up until about noon the show had been relatively quiet, but once the hangovers from the Extron and Crestron bashes the night before had been shrugged off, ISE 2009 began to feel like a proper show again. Day one had been good, but probably a little affected by the snow in London. By Wednesday the stragglers had arrived and the show was really in business.

Analog Way rounded out the afternoon with no new launches but a number of feature activations on their latest products, which had been disabled at launch for various reasons. The now fully functional DiVentix II is an impressive beast.

As day three dawned it was apparent that there was no way on earth that the now 100% larger InAVate team was going to get around the whole place but we made a pretty good go of it.

Jupiter systems had brought PixelNet to Europe for the first time. If you haven’t seen this already and you are in the control room business, you need to take a look. It’s a fully networked, modular solution for taking video feeds of all kinds and pushing them out onto you choice of display. It consists of analogue and digital input nodes, a central 48-port switch unit, which can be stacked for large systems, and output nodes which feed single or multiple displays as well as full video walls.

TOA Europe was one of a number of audio companies making an ISE debut. The firm used the show to give an international launch to its new VM-3000 PA/VA solution for small and medium sized installations. Managing Director Brett Downing described himself as very happy with the results from TOA’s first outing.

LG Electronics commercial business unit continues to push for a slice of the pro cake. Its impressive stand featured several new products introduced for the professional display market. These included a special 3D flat panel display, and another innovative product called Triple View, which shows a different image depending on the viewing angle.

But what of overall impressions? The abiding sense from the show was one of relief that it was a success. All the exhibitors I spoke to were extremely happy with the turn out and with the quality of visitors. What was interesting was that despite the postponement of ISMEA, which was to be held at the end of March, there was probably the largest contingent of Middle Eastern visitors I’ve seen at ISE. To me this demonstrates that there is a demand for a truly installation focused exhibition for the region, even if the financial backing isn’t quite yet there from the major exhibitors at this point.

It was vitally important a nervous market got a good start to the year to shore up confidence and get things moving. In his opening press conference Mike Blackman also posed the question; “Is our industry robust and resilient?” On the evidence of the three days of ISE I think we can say with certainty that it is.

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