Views from the show floor: Expert opinions at ISE 2023

Reece Webb speaks with integrators, manufacturers, distributors and consultants on the topics that matter to them on the ISE show floor.

Since the start of the pandemic, the global supply crisis has had a profound impact on the AV industry. But has the supply crisis cleared?

“It definitely is coming to the tail end of it”, says Jenny Hicks, Midwich, “It’s been a really interesting journey to watch as it has shifted in waves between different product groups. It heavily affected digital signage players, displays etc. and we are in a great stock position now but we are still feeling it in the audio category and with control [products].”

“There’s a little bit of truth to that,” says Bill Fons, PTG, “But not to the extent that the integrators feel it’s been loosened up at all. I think it’s something that we are not able to run our businesses with and there’s an interesting correlation between the brands you would use as a habit in your company versus the brands that you wouldn’t go to normally.”

Antonio Peruch, Powersoft, adds: “Frankly speaking, our industry needs to be realistic in terms of supply shortages. Of course, the shortage will change in the post-Covid era. During the pandemic, there were a lot of parts shortages, but today the main shortages are coming from powered devices.”

“I’m still very cautious about this topic,” says Sercan Atkas, Redmouse, “The supply shortage and global chip crisis hugely impacted our sector, and we still see some problems with the supply chain. For the last couple of months, it has eased, we have been able to get our shipments on a regular basis but I would still personally wait for Q2 or Q3 of this year to have a better understanding of the current situation.”

As the crisis seems to continue, George Boboc, PSNI Alliance sees a change in the way that integrators are conducting business: “What we are seeing throughout the alliance is that the integrators are trying to change their own business model,” says Boboc. “They are trying to move to a more flexible approach: a vendor free approach that can get us out of this chain and be flexible. You shouldn’t get a product from the partner that you are traditionally working with, but you should seek the market in terms of delivery and what is available right now.”

Who is buying AV?

The way we work is changing and our requirements in the workplace are changing too. So who exactly is buying AV? “There are lots of people out there realising that they need AV,” says Inesh Patel, Sennheiser. “We’re finding that there’s a lot more people involved in IT realising how much they are relying on AV. There’s a lot more interest from that sector and they are catering for lots of different departments. From education, to marketing, to HR, we’re finding that there’s a lot more than your traditional AV buyers.”

“I work in education and my clients are my users,” adds Caroline Carter, Imperial College London. “The types of people that are buying education technology are those who want to change how they teach. A lot of people just want to focus on traditional teaching, chalk and talk, but there’s a younger generation coming through that want to do more collaborative work.

“Because of Covid and hybrid teaching, the students are now saying that they want to do hybrid learning and working. The people who are actually leading it are probably the students and younger generation of academics, but the people buying it are the academics who want to change the future.”

Adam Harvey, University of Hertfordshire, believes that the lessons learned in the education sector during Covid must not be forgotten, as new learning demands become the norm. “We’ve had quite a lot of changes over the last two years,” he says. “On campus university, 30,000 students, suddenly all online and now back to campus which we are aiming to encourage positively. We’re trying not to lose the good lessons that we learned from teaching online, so we try to offer a blended delivery of teaching to give students a bit of flexibility in the way they learn.

“That means that we now have to use technology to give remote participants the same experience as if you were still in the room. That has been challenging, everybody has a different idea of what ‘hybrid’ means and we have had an interesting time trying to work that one out.”

Yannic Laleeuwe, Barco, sees the IT manager as the main client in Barco’s work, however the requirements of IT managers and the key decision makers are evolving. “We are responsible for delivering meeting experiences and meeting collaboration solutions, so our key decision maker is the IT manager,” she says. “However, we see that the IT manager increasingly needs to think about other elements apart from security and interoperability.

“They need to think about the emotional aspect, so HR related aspects. For us, business leaders and HR leaders are now playing a big part in the buying cycle.” Ben Pain, Royal College of Physicians, says: “Since the pandemic, video has become a core part of what we do. Streaming and hybrid are an essential part of all the events and meetings that we run. A lot of it is because people want to be able to leverage the content after the live event via video channels and that’s really useful for generating more income from content.”

“We need to consider what service that technologies provide to the end user,” says Faye Bennett, Faye Bennett Consultancy. “End users aren’t buying AV for the sake of it, they are buying it to enable collaboration and better productivity. We really need to get away from the functionalities and the features and really go back to basics: Understand why customers are buying AV, what they are trying to achieve and how we can facilitate that through our consultancy and supply of AV technologies.”

It's all in the experience

Technology is always evolving and today, audiences are demanding more from their experiences. Integrators and manufacturers answer how important experiential technology is becoming.

“A lot of the calls we get are asking if we can do immersive audio for exhibitions,” says Jamie Gosney, Sonosphere. “We’re doing a lot in health and wellbeing in fitness centres, so it’s everywhere. We started the company four years ago because I had an inkling that experiential technology was going to big, and it seems to be the thing now.”

While the right technology is essential, Stephen Joy, Holovis, explains that there is more to an experience than just the working parts: “We are keen to not let the product drive the solutions. We keep our eyes open, we meet with the industry and we take that feedback and think about the solutions that our customers require and use the product that drives that.

“We are using a lot more LED rather than projection, but we don’t let the product drive the experience for the customer.”

For Wouter Bonte, Barco, several changes in the market are driving what audiences desire: “Entertainment has always been about experience and it has an impact on Barco technology. Entertainment is becoming much more immersive: Larger displays, projection, LED, and to immerse people, audiences are getting much closer to the screen. Technology needs to adapt to that – it cannot be too warm, you have to see it from all angles and touch it, so that has a big influence on what we as a technology provider want to specify in those systems.”

“The crowd changed,” says Benjamin Fritsch, Vioso. “People expect way more from an experience than they did in the past, so we need to think differently. I come from the projection business, if you think about events, it has to be immersive and to let people get to a different world, that’s what AV is all about.”

“We believe that immersive sound can bring new experiences and comforts,” adds Régis Cazin, Arbane Groupe, “We consider small places like small theatres and nightclubs which need access to this technology through our free software, because all artists and sound engineers must be able to handle this technology without budget constraints. That’s our vision.”

The world of retail is increasingly reliant upon immersive technologies to fill stores as Laila Hede Jensen, ZetaDisplay, explains: “You have two types of shoppers: The ones that want to get in and get out as fast as possible and the other which wants to be engaged, have an experience and stay in the store for a longer period of time. “It’s where the content comes in: You need to have the content that targets them, and if you have that content, then you can attract them and have them stay to absorb the content.”

LED is also playing a key role in creating memorable experiences for audiences, as Mark Taylor, Samsung, explains: “If you look at entertainment, we recently created an immersive, 360-degree screen around the viewers that provided a storm-chaser experience that looked so realistic and drew the audience in.”

Another method to create memorable experiences is to ‘gamify’ technologies as Jarkko Jokelainen, Kuori, clarifies: “We are a touchscreen manufacturer, and you can ‘gamify’ an experience. Trackman, for example, makes a golf simulator that you can monitor on your smartphone and we are making 32-in Android tablets for them. You can set your range on the Android tablet and follow your strokes. It’s adding more depth into the gaming experience.

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