The Bigger Blog

Views, thought leadership, published articles & maybe even some shark facts!

GETTING TO THE HUB OF THINGS

Over a year ago I wrote about Microsoft Surface Hub (Installation magazine, October 2015), and how – delayed shipments aside – the industry expected big things from it. Revolutionary; Game-changer; Next big thing; Fundamental step change: just some of the acclamatory comments made to me about the Hub by those with a stake in its success.

Now, more than two years since it first unveiled (January 2015), and a year since it started shipping (January 2016), how has it been received? It’s fair to say it has had a somewhat bumpy start, with those initial shipping delays making way for stock shortages (resolved in September 2016, when Microsoft fulfilled all outstanding orders and the Hub moved into stock surplus for the first time), price increases, and – it’s reported by some – technical glitches.

Microsoft’s own research study, conducted by Forrester Consulting (‘The Total Economic ImpactTM Of Microsoft Surface Hub: Cost Savings and Business Benefits Enabled by Surface Hub’), was released in February 2016, perhaps a little early in the Hub’s life cycle given the shipping delays – although early adopters formed the basis for its conclusions.

Examining the “potential ROI businesses may realise by deploying Surface Hub in traditional and nontraditional spaces”, Forrester interviewed several Surface Hub early adopters, to report on the costs and benefits they experienced, “to better understand the benefits, costs, and risks associated with a Surface Hub implementation”.

Results were favourable, perhaps unsurprisingly, with improved meeting productivity – specifically for initiating meetings with remote participants and handling post-meeting tasks; reduced meeting room equipment costs and no printing costs; improved results from client meetings held in Surface Hub-enabled rooms, leading to more and larger sales; and improved collaboration and business impact.

But early, pre-shipping praise and hot-off-the-blocks whitepapers aside, how is the Hub doing ‘on the ground’, right now? AVMI, one of Microsoft’s chosen strategic partners, has recently been ramping up its Surface Hub sales/hire and marketing, and Jason Turner, AVMI business innovation director is a huge fan. “For me where the device stands out is the ability to get the meeting started from the moment you walk in the room,” he told me. “Up and running within seconds of touching the screen. Walk up and use: it is exactly that.”

It’s perhaps still early to say just how successful the Microsoft Surface Hub has been, or whether it will live up to all the hype and expectation. However, the signs are good that is may indeed be a game-changer, in terms of shaking up workplace collaboration as a disrupting technological application. It remains to be seen if Surface Hub is the product of choice after the dust settles on this mini revolution. What’s clear is that – as is the case in today’s post-Brexit, post-Trump world – things are unlikely to be ever the same again.

By Bigger Boat Chief of Police Rob Lane. This is an abridged version of a commissioned piece for Installation magazine, January 2017. Read the full version here.

robGETTING TO THE HUB OF THINGS

DISPLAYING SIGNS OF CONVERGENCE

During the opening panel discussion at this year’s Integrated Systems Europe (ISE) trade show in Amsterdam, moderator and Wired UK’s editor-in-chief David Rowan talked about how AV and IT are colliding as a result of today’s rapid technological advancements (in particular sensor technology).

“You’re in a very exciting moment of two worlds colliding,” he intoned. “The sensor connected world colliding with the storytelling tools of audio-visual. I think that’s a big moment of potential growth for a lot of people’s businesses here [at ISE].”

It is certainly true that the AV and IT markets are converging, particularly within the corporate sector as the traditional corporate demands on IT business working practices become increasingly important to AV businesses.

Many corporate-facing integrated AV solutions now require support from IT, mainly due to an increasing number of video conferencing systems being integrated into IP-based Unified Communications platforms, as part of mainstream IT networks.

In addition, the growth in the digital signage and display markets has meant that more audio-video technology is being entwined into IT networks. At the same time, the big IT and telecoms vendors are expanding their offerings to include meeting space demands, further bringing AV and IT into the same orbit.

Indeed, as AV is forced to take on more traditional IT habits and IT is increasingly working with AV products and projects, it’s becoming difficult to see the lines between the two industries.

If vendors of audio/video products that prioritise the AV channel, and the AV sector as a whole, are to enjoy the “big moment of potential growth” discussed at ISE, AV needs to get more IT savvy.

This is an abridged version of an 1,800 insight article written by Rob Lane and Steve Kilroy, UK sales manager for iiyama International, for Commercial Integrator Europe. Please click here to read the full article.

 

robDISPLAYING SIGNS OF CONVERGENCE

PULLING IT OUT OF THE HAT

Live events are hot for AV. An increasing number of live performers and broadcasters are looking to AV magic to give their shows that something special, and some of the most innovative – and not necessarily expensive – solutions are giving more permanent installations a run for their money. But installers of fixed projects aren’t resting on their laurels either.

Installers on both sides of the fence are utilising state-of-the-art, disruptive tech; finding ways of leveraging proven technology to create new and exciting twists on previous solutions; and producing eye-boggling, low-cost effects that are so good as to appear to have been added in post-production.

Renowned for their high production values, Coldplay’s live shows rarely if ever feature option three – budgets aren’t an issue when you’re one of the biggest bands in the world. For the band’s latest tour, a team of 16 took charge of a multitude of cameras, visuals, animation and LED displays – proven tech – enhancing results with a new video system specifically designed to fulfil an unsurprisingly ambitious brief.

Eight powerful Ai R6 media servers from lighting console and media server manufacturer Avolites formed the basis of this new system. These servers allowed the production crew to capture live whilst using incredible psychedelic graphic effects on almost all of the footage, apparently inspired by 90s rave culture –unsurprisingly given that many of the team started out as VJs at raves!


Putting it on the map

Projection mapping might not be considered ‘disruptive’ – at least not these days – but it still has the power to wow and to innovate. In a world’s first, 59 Productions mapped Sol Gabetta’s cello during her debut performance of Elgar’s Cello Concerto in E minor. The smallest area ever mapped by 59 Productions, the project was made even more challenging due to the fact that the cello’s surface area is difficult to map out, not least since the artist wanted full movement of the instrument.

To ensure that the projected image moved as the cello moved, small, discreet BlackTrax Beacons were subtly placed on the instrument, allowing its position to be calibrated and surface-mapped, and its movements tracked, with all data being sent to a media server.

More utilitarian and a lot less expensive, Holo-Gauze (from my client Holotronica) continues to feature as part of increasingly high profile events and performances. Accessible, portable, cost-effective, scalable to any size, highly reflective and virtually invisible, Holo-Gauze receives projections of 3D or 2D images, making visual effects more accessible for live events. It also allows broadcasters to reduce costs by negating the need for post-production, composition and effects.

Perhaps unique in its straddling of both live (Lord of the Dance, Wonder.land) and live televised (Eurovision, Grammy’s) events Holo-Gauze continues a tradition going back to Victorian times and beyond, where simple trickery creates convincing ‘magic’. Its latest success was during the latest series of America’s Got talent, where Hara, a Japanese magician, performed behind a 10m x 5m screen, with holographic visual effects projected to augment his performance. A case of magic helping to embellish magic!


Pushing the envelope
Another example of projection mapping pushing the envelope, the Farnborough airshow featured a 5m, scale model of a passenger plane flying through constantly changing weather environments on the GKN Aerospace pavilion. Mounted against a 6m x 3m wall as a backdrop, both he wall and the model were projection-mapped to create the illusion of the plane flying through multiple weather conditions and environments.

Created using complex multi-layered projection-mapping techniques, the 3D graphics were overlaid on to the contours of the plane. Nine projectors and high pixel resolution covered the model with five separate content layers, allowing the audience to experience the mapped projections from all angles at very close quarters – the first time mapping has been used on a scale 3D model in such a way, for a live audience.

Finally, this year’s Adobe Summit 2016 EMEA, held at ICC ExCel London, featured a meandering 136-metre interactive sculpture comprising 609 custom-made, individually controlled and pixel mapped 400mm square LED cubes. Super-thin cables gave the impression that the cubes were floating in mid-air (‘magic’ again!), although they were actually secured on 78 metal frames. The cubes created an airborne ‘path’ to an interactive LED display, which used a camera to recognise audience body movements, allowing participants to throw virtual cubes ‘into the air’ as if they were joining the physical sculpture. An LED floor in front of the display created the impression of immersion with the sculpture.

Whether live or televised, permanent, semi-permanent or transient, events-based AV continues to break boundaries with innovative answers to some of the same old questions. Magical solutions from AV magicians.

By Bigger Boat Chief of Police Rob Lane. This piece originally appeared in Installation magazine September 2016

 

 

 

robPULLING IT OUT OF THE HAT

CROSSING THE CHASM: ACHIEVING MAINSTREAM SUCCESS IN AN INCREASINGLY IT-CENTRIC WORLD

Historically institutions have considered AV to be a bespoke add-on, tending to utilise it on a limited project-by-project basis. But with recent spikes in demand for both collaborative solutions and more impactful staff/customer communications, pro AV is suddenly big news and the integrator sector is booming.

Many of today’s AV solutions include video conferencing or centrally served digital signage, and this has led comms or IT departments, and more recently IT vendors and their channels, to become involved and increasingly take control. This in turn puts pressure on AV businesses to accommodate IT mainstream practices such as standards, centralised support and volume procurement.

Traditional AV companies have a challenge: how to be taken seriously by these IT departments that are used to dealing with technology services businesses, having had many years of experience with working with IT vendors, integrators and service providers – and also how to dovetail effectively with the working practices of IT.

There are also challenges for facilities departments responsible both for the broader environment in which the technology resides as well as overall project delivery – since not all IT departments are familiar with facility requirements. This presents integrators with a major opportunity to help both parties work together efficiently with regard to AV.


Seismic Shift
This huge change in the way things are being done – with integrated AV solutions requiring support by IT – is largely as a result of an growing number of video conferencing (VC) systems being integrated into broader IP-based Unified Communications platforms, and being situated on the more mainstream IT networks.

In addition, the prevalence of digital signage within corporate businesses in particular has resulted in even more AV solutions being mounted on IT networks. Whilst at the same time, mainstream IT and telecoms vendors, such as Cisco, Microsoft, Avaya and most recently Mitel, have expanded their portfolio of solutions to address a broader range of meeting space requirements, mostly through acquisitions, again resulting in increased convergence of AV and IT.

Consequently, IT departments want and need to be involved, possibly taking ownership of the technology that is deployed by AV integrators within meeting and huddle spaces, or in digital signage and video wall projects.

Some commentators have predicted that this increased involvement will lead to the IT industry eventually swallowing up AV. Although this is unlikely as very few IT system integrators have genuine AV capabilities, and those IT vendors that have increased their AV tech solutions still only address a limited spectrum of applications, integrators need to be vigilant and up their game when it comes to being IT savvy.

It’s evident that AV will be working even more closely with IT in the coming years to develop models that are standardised and more scalable, whilst also meeting real estate needs. If integrators are to thrive in this evolving market they must work closely with partners to develop innovative, global solutions, helping AV to emulate its more established IT cousin in hitting the mainstream.

This is an edited and abridged version of an insight article written by Rob Lane and Ed Cook, CEO at AVMI, for Commercial Integrator Europe. Please click here to read the full article.

robCROSSING THE CHASM: ACHIEVING MAINSTREAM SUCCESS IN AN INCREASINGLY IT-CENTRIC WORLD

HITTING THE IT MAINSTREAM

Whilst most institutions have historically viewed AV as a bespoke add-on, utilising it on a limited project-by-project basis, things are beginning to change. Demand for collaborative communication solutions has pushed AV to the top of procurement lists and the sector is booming. At the same time, AV is under pressure from its bigger IT cousin, which could eclipse the relatively fledgling sector unless the AV industry adopts radical change.

AV solutions are increasingly including video conferencing (VC) or centrally served digital signage, and this has led comms or IT departments – and more recently IT vendors and their channels – to increasingly take control when AV is deployed. This has put pressure on AV companies to accommodate IT practices such as standards, centralised support and volume procurement, presenting a challenge for AV: how to be taken seriously by IT departments and dovetail effectively with IT working practices, without being simply absorbed by an IT industry that is increasingly encroaching.

The growing involvement of AV in corporate technology specification also presents challenges for facilities departments responsible for project delivery, since not all IT departments are familiar with facility requirements. Here, the AV industry has a major opportunity to help both parties work together efficiently.


Integrated Support

This shift towards integrated AV solutions requiring support by IT is mainly as a result of an increasing number of VC systems being integrated into broader IP-based Unified Communications platforms, sitting on mainstream IT networks.

Similarly the growth of digital signage has led to more AV technologies being positioned on IT networks, and mainstream IT and telecoms vendors, such as Cisco, Microsoft, Avaya and Mitel have expanded (mainly via acquisitions) solutions to address meeting space requirements, leading to further convergence of AV and IT.

Crucial to IT departments, of course, is scalability and reliability, and typically, this is where the AV sector often comes unstuck. Most AV integrators are used to installing unique, one-off systems, but big IT departments prefer standardised solutions that they know will work and will be supported on their networks in the same way as their PCs and servers.

To thrive, the AV sector needs to offer standardised, scalable solutions, whilst adopting professional, mature purchasing and support processes – in other words, the same service levels that clients demand from their IT service providers.


Streamlined Simplicity

AVMI has discovered a way of unlocking the door to huge growth for the AV industry whilst answering the questions posed by IT. The company has developed modular, standardised catalogues, balancing simplicity, consistency and flexibility, whilst meeting volume roll out requirements and strict standards. It offers customers a choice between standard, pre-built ‘catalogues’ (such as the Cisco Project Workplace) and building their own catalogue.

As a result, AVMI ensures that both facilities departments and IT requirements are met and that they work together more efficiently as a result. Either of these parties can take overall responsibility for owning the service, as it is designed to support collaboration between them.

If AV integrators are to thrive in the rapidly evolving and converging AV/IT market they must surely develop new, IT-friendly processes. Evolve or die should be AV’s mantra in these changing times.

This is an edited version of an insight article written by Rob Lane and Ed Cook, CEO at AVMI, for PCR magazine. Please click here to read the full article.

 

robHITTING THE IT MAINSTREAM

DECOMPRESSING DISTRIBUTION

I recently hosted an Installation magazine webinar on the future of AV distribution. Presented by video distribution specialists ZeeVee, the webinar explored how – thanks to 10Gb Ethernet – it’s now possible to send uncompressed 4K video over IP, why AV over IT could be set to replace proprietary AV distribution solutions such as HDBaseT as a single platform, and why the IT community and their clients are likely to be more responsive to what is a more cost-effective, ‘un-stranded’ investment.

While it’s obvious that ZeeVee, with its proprietary ZyPer4K technology solutions, sees a rosy future for AV over IP, what do others in the AV industry think? Is this the tipping point for a full convergence of AV and IT; an Internet Protocol match made in distribution heaven?

Most of those I’ve spoken to agree that the dominance of AV over IP is inevitable, although we’re not quite there yet, and that HDBaseT will eventually be usurped, although this is by no means inevitable, and it may take longer than some people think – perhaps up to 10 years (although most believe 5 years to be a more realistic shelf-life).


Hurdles to market
The perceived hurdles to AV over IP appear to be the need for a shift in emphasis in order to utilise existing infrastructures – CatX and fibre – for IP distribution of video, audio, control and POE+ lighting, as well as “eye-watering” data rates associated with UHD. Nobody I spoke to thought there’d be a problem with hardware adoption, with some noting that some HDBaseT manufacturers are already releasing AV over IP products. Indeed, it may be the manufacturers that ultimately decide when IP takes over from traditional switching, by phasing out existing tech – although most are offering both at the current time.

Of course, manufacturers have also spent millions developing proprietary standards for their systems in order to offer HDBaseT compatibility, and they’re unlikely to flush this away any time soon. Indeed, considerable ROI guarantees will be required for R&D on AV over IP as well.

HDBaseT is still highly regarded and is widely seen as a trusted, reliable solution and most see it remaining as a robust option for many years to come – perhaps alongside AV over IP.

As to whether or not the IT community will be more responsive to what could rightly be considered a more ‘un-stranded’ investment, some see security as the main persuader here; if manufactures get this right, the IT community, their clients and end-users are likely to favour AV over IP as a ‘common goal’ when compared with HDBaseT – unless, of course, they have already invested in this trusted distribution solution.

However, others told me that there is still hostility in the IT industry towards AV over IP – particularly, and predictably as a result of security concerns –whilst, at the same time, end-users are more willing to explore new solutions that utilise existing equipment, rather than reinvesting in HDBaseT. It’s worth noting, of course, that AV over IP isn’t investment free, with most solutions requiring separate switches, AV LANs and management systems, which rival HDBaseT solution investments.


Merging sectors

As to the question whether or not AV over IP will usher in the much heralded merging of IT and AV, most don’t see it as being that influential. Yes, it will undoubtedly oil the wheels of the perceived/actual nuptials, but in the eyes of the integrators, distributors and vendors I canvassed, AV and IT have either already merged to a certain extent or are continuing to do so – regardless of AV over IP – particularly with regard to the ‘video’ aspect of AV. Audio, of course, could be seen as a different conversation altogether!

So, taking their championing of ZyPer4K technology as a given, how does ZeeVee view the AV over IP debate?

“Traditional AV integrators sometimes struggle to come to terms with change, especially when it involves IP solutions – even more so if they have had their fingers burnt in the past,” opines ZeeVee EMEA Sales Director Rob Muddiman. “We have to educate them and bring them round, but the smart will adopt early. The ones that don’t may lose out as IT integrators pick up the baton.”

Scare tactics, perhaps, but if you agree that the in-house IT community is, at the very least, hugely influential when it comes to AV procurement decisions, this must be a serious consideration.

Decision makers at the business end of some of today’s high-value installations are increasingly IT departments, as opposed to facilities departments, of course, and these departments have historically dealt with ‘technology services businesses’ (IT integrators and service providers in other words). The AV industry needs its clients’ IT departments on side, and if that means favouring AV over IP ahead of existing distribution solutions, this might just be the dynamic that – sooner rather than later – heralds the beginning of the end for HDBaseT.

By Bigger Boat Chief of Police Rob Lane. This piece originally appeared in Installation magazine June 2016

robDECOMPRESSING DISTRIBUTION

4K OWN GOAL?

With the Euros set to kick off at the Stade de France on June 10th, Ultra HD TV and projector manufacturers would be forgiven for anticipating a boost in revenue. However, whilst interest in the flagship sports event is likely to contribute to a spike in UHD viewing device sales in both the consumer and pro sectors, it’s unlikely to be as a result of 4K football coverage this summer.

In the UK, the BBC and ITV are sharing the Euro 2016 broadcasts, but neither of them is set to screen UHD this summer or any time soon, despite the fact that the tournament’s opening match, semis and the final are being filmed in 4K by the UEFA EURO host broadcaster.

So, unless consumers and venues in the UK are able to access Euro 2016 coverage via one of the host broadcaster’s other European partners, they’ll have to be satisfied with regular HD footage on terrestrial TV – and not just for the football. This will be something of a disappointment to consumers and venues that have invested in UHD TVs and projectors ahead of the tournament, particularly when one considers the box office potential of the final three matches, and the fact that the BBC had reportedly promised UHD ‘as standard’ by 2016.

The broadcaster, of course, held UHD trials during the last World Cup on both digital terrestrial TV and IP and concluded that, even in 2014, 23% of viewers would benefit from 4K broadcasts. Given the number of UHD products sold since 2014, this number is likely to be much higher now, so even more people will be disappointed by the lack of UHD programming from Auntie.

 
Reasons to be cheerful
Fortunately, there is reason for optimism elsewhere. Sky’s February introduction of its new Q service has injected some much-needed UHD cheer, albeit at additional cost to subscribers. The satellite broadcaster’s Q Silver set top box is capable of receiving and displaying UHD broadcasts, which Sky says it will introduce ‘later’ in 2016 after a firmware update (it does not say what it plans to broadcast though). Q Silver boasts a 2TB hard drive with up to 350 hours of regular HD storage, and plenty of room for 2160p UHD resolution.

Elsewhere, Amazon Prime subscribers are already enjoying limited UHD broadcasts via some manufacturer’s TVs and its own Fire TV box – although a fast broadband connection is required – and there are also UHD videos on YouTube and Vimeo, although these will largely be of use only as demo material. Netflix has rightly made a fuss about its UHD broadcasts of Breaking Bad and House of Cards, and its possible to enjoy these via BT’s now established UHD service.

Indeed, the telecommunications giant turned broadcaster has something of an antidote for those suffering UHD football withdrawal this year, with its Ultra HD Sports channel promising further UHD football coverage in the autumn. The service launched last August 2nd, showing the FA Community Shield match between Chelsea and Arsenal in UHD, followed by selected live coverage from the Premier League, Champions League and FA Cup (plus Premiership Rugby and MotoGP). Frustratingly, of course, BT isn’t a free-to-air broadcaster either, and unlike the Beeb and ITV has no access to all that lovely UHD Euros coverage.


History repeating itself

We’ve been here before of course, a decade ago. At that time, the BBC was mooting a trial HD Freeview, and eventually launched it on May 15th, three weeks ahead of the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany in which every match was broadcast in HD for the first time. Ultimately, only 450 businesses and homes had access to the BBC’s trial service and HD football, and the only way the rest of the UK population could watch the World Cup in HD was if they subscribed to digital satellite or cable, and owned a ‘HD-ready’ TV.

Of course, this didn’t stop people rushing out to buy HD-ready TVs, even though many may have been bamboozled into believing the regular BBC standard-def football coverage was actually high definition. The ‘HD-ready’ tag confused a lot of people back then, despite being (initially at least) devised to clarify that the TV would be ready for HD when it was available. The same could, currently, be said of UHD, particularly with regard to this latest flagship football event. Consumers and businesses are buying UHD products regardless of what is and what isn’t available to watch in ‘4K’, and flagship sports events have traditionally encouraged further purchases; it’s always nice to watch ones favourite sporting events on a shiny, new –and doubtless bigger – TV. Whether the anticipated spike in sales would have been higher had a UHD Euros been available for UK viewers is, unfortunately, a moot point.

By Bigger Boat Chief of Police Rob Lane. This piece originally appeared in Installation magazine, April 2016

rob4K OWN GOAL?
SemiConductor1.jpg

THE FAST PACE OF CHANGE

During the opening panel discussion of this year’s ISE, IT in AV: Interconnecting for Smart Solutions, discussion moderator and Wired UK’s editor-in-chief David Rowan discussed how AV and IT are colliding in today’s breakneck speeds of technological advancement, and how sensors in particular are bringing the AV and tech worlds together.

“If you think AV is going to be what it was last year, it’s all going to change very quickly,” said Rowan. “You’re in a very exciting moment of two worlds colliding: the sensor connected world colliding with the storytelling tools of audio-visual. I think that’s a big moment of potential growth for a lot of people’s businesses here [at ISE].”

Rowan name-dropped Moore’s Law, often seen as the reference point and explainer as to how quickly technology has been advancing in the 51 years since Gordon E Moore first made the predictions that crystalised into the Law.

In 1965 Gordon E Moore, who was co-founder of what was to become the Intel Corporation in 1968, made the observations that became known as Moore’s Law. Electronics magazine had asked him to write an article predicting what would happen in the semiconductor component industry in the subsequent 10 years. He was, at that time director of R&D at Fairchild Semiconductor, making him something of an expert in the field.

Moore looked at all of the elements being used in chips at the time (approximately 60 transistors, resistors, capacitors, and diodes) and based on their use in the preceding years, concluded that the semi conductor industry would double elements every year for 10 years until they hit 60,000 per chip.

Ten years on from this and his prediction was proved to be accurate, prompting a colleague to coin the term ‘Moore’s Law’. But Moore wasn’t done, and revised his prediction to a doubling of elements in a chip every two years, and the Law eventually became a driving force in itself, encouraging manufacturers to keep pace with it. Today’s chips boast billions of transistors, and this huge mass of tech was driven by Moore’s Law. The industry still uses the Law to guide planning and set targets for R&D!

Moore’s Law’s impact on technology cannot be overstated. If there had been no Moore’s Law would personal computers, the Internet, smartphones and touch displays exist, for instance? Almost certainly not. Moore’s Law has determined our technological reality and – as David Rowan asserts –continues to do so at a faster rate than ever.

Things are certainly moving very quickly indeed. You’ve only got to look at the pace of interactive technological advancement since Minority Report (“pretty good at predicting” what the future means for AV, according to Rowan) made its bold visual predictions for interactive tech in 2002 – a lifetime away in technological terms and a full five years before Apple launched the iPhone.

It took us a few years to catch-up with Spielberg’s vision – advised at the time by a future-gazing John Underkoffler, now Oblong’s CEO – but now things are racing along at Moore’s Law pace. Virtual Reality, gesture interaction and whatever it is that the $1.3million-invested wizards at Magic Leap are leading up to (“some kind of display technology” according to Rowan): AV and IT are converging at pace in our über-networked, über-connected world.

Great news for AV, of course. But there are potential pitfalls ahead, as those AV integrators with no head for IT are beginning to find out. As Rowan explained at the RAI: “Once you network everything, there is vulnerability.” As AV and IT continue to converge and the 20-years-established, corporate demands on IT companies (security, security and security!) become more applicable to AV businesses, we’re sure to witness a sea change in the AV industry; one that will almost certainly result in a reduction in traditional AV integrators plying their trade. Survival of the IT fittest, perhaps.

In the connected world of the Cloud, security is key. As John Chambers, former CEO of Cisco, commented: “There are two types of company: those who have been hacked, and those who don’t yet know they have been hacked.”

By Bigger Boat Chief of Police Rob Lane. This is an abridged version of a commissioned piece for Installation magazine, April 2016. Read the full version here.

robTHE FAST PACE OF CHANGE
AVMI_Givency_retail.jpg

AV SURFS THE RETAIL TECH WAVE

Bigger Boat Chief of Police Rob Lane donned his journo hat to pen a feature on the tech revolution currently sweeping through retail for AV magazine’s AV in Retail Special, bundled with the mag’s Dec/Jan 2015/16 edition. This is an abridged extract; you can read and download a PDF of the full version (including interviews with Unicol and Peerless-AV) here or read the digital edition here.

According to a survey conducted for law firm TLT’s Retail Growth Strategies Report 2015, published in January, more than half of the 100 top UK retailers planned to spend more on technology this year than they did in 2014. No surprise perhaps, and no surprise that two most popular areas of investment were expected to be websites / mobile apps and improving IT systems, with improvements ensuring that different systems communicate with one another also key.

Whether or not these predicted investments were carried through this year is a moot point, but it’s clear that UK retailers are tuned in to the fast-paced changes in consumer requirements that continue to inform and evolve the retail experience, with the Internet of Things (IoT) high on the agenda and an increasingly elastic dynamic between bricks and mortar and online retail outlets.

This is a market that – like its corporate AV cousin – offers huge opportunities for technology and content providers and facilitators. Indeed, according to another UK-based survey, by Juniper Research, retailers are set to spend $2.5billion worldwide on IoT-related technologies by 2020 – approximately four times more than the $670million that was predicted for 2015.

Juniper Research’s study states that retailers are at the cutting edge of the Internet of Things impact on businesses, with many looking to create IoT ‘ecosystems’. The use of Bluetooth-equipped beacons and radio frequency ID tags RFID tags to push relevant information to customers through smartphones and other mobile devices, alongside real-time asset tracking and pricing adjustments, gives retailers a competitive edge, said the survey.

According to Juniper, leading retailers using the IoT to generate an ‘ecosystem’ will “gain market advantage” with “in-depth business insight and an enhanced customer experience”.

Steffen Sorrell, a Juniper research analyst, adds: “Retailers such as Zara and Target are already taking advantage of the benefits offered by RFID asset tracking. Meanwhile, the beacon industry is expanding rapidly, used as a method to provide consumers with contextually relevant information in conjunction with their smartphone or wearable will enormously enhance the in-store experience.”

Suppliers and integrators of AV technology are advised to pay heed to the winds of change sweeping through retail, ensuring that their solutions dovetail with Internet-connected devices that support data gathering.

 

robAV SURFS THE RETAIL TECH WAVE
IMG_7510.jpg

PROVIDERS OF AV EXCELLENCE

Bigger Boat Chief of Police Rob Lane donned his journo hat to interview James Shanks, International Managing Director AVI-SPL Limited, for AV magazine’s AV in Corporate supplement, bundled with the mag’s Oct/Nov 2015 edition. This is an abridged extract; you can read the full version here.

AVI-SPL designs, builds, integrates, and supports audio-visual and video solution environments that improve communication and collaboration for organisations of all types. Its highly-trained, certified system engineers are based in offices throughout the United States, Canada, and EMEA (England, Scotland, Dubai, and soon mainland Europe) and AsiaPac (the latter through its key approved partner program). It also boasts an international network of solution providers in 100 countries

“From our UK offices we provide design, fabrication, installation, and support throughout the UK and Europe, and act as a gateway overseeing all projects in AsiaPac on behalf of our enterprise clients through our Approved Partner Program,” explains James Shanks, International Managing Director at AVI-SPL. “We established our EMEA VNOC (Video Operations Center) and Service Helpdesk to extend our language and follow-the-sun capabilities, offering 24/7 coverage and support through over 80 dedicated personnel.”

AVI-SPL completed over 7,000 projects globally in 2014 – over 600 of these in Europe and AsiaPac. Those projects included auditoriums, boardrooms, meeting rooms, huddle spaces, training/education environments, break-out areas; reception areas, digital signage installations, and 24/7 control/operations and critical environment centres.

“We support over 6,000 endpoints on our video managed network,” explains Shanks. “And we have extended the capabilities of our proprietary Symphony video managed services platform to facilitate the monitoring of any AV equipment that is IP addressable.

“Our managed services include video and AV network system monitoring, help desk support, resource scheduling, and virtual meeting rooms (VMR). We also offer onsite support through AVI-SPL personnel working alongside our clients.”

AVI-SPL’s ability to deliver a consistent level of service, expertise, engineering, and buying power on a global scale sets it apart from its competitors, according to Shanks: “We set a standard and ensure that it is consistently applied, around the corner and around the world.”

This effort is backed up by the over-arching ethos that drives the company’s value to the corporate sector.

“Our passion is delivering on our promise,” says Shanks. “We diligently plan at every stage of a client engagement, from the technology we recommend to the engineering plans we furnish, the integration we manage, and the services we provide.”

Shanks says the next 2-3 years will see an acceleration in the implementation of technology with advanced capabilities. With continued investment in traditional environments, he expects to see even wider use of smaller, more flexible environments, such as huddle spaces. Quality expectations will spike too, particularly with regard to adoption of 4K and digital media, and there will also be a wider availability of wireless connectivity in presentation environments –such as that used by Microsoft Surface Hub and provided by Crestron AirMedia and Barco Clickshare.

“Expect a further consolidation of integrators, extending to providers across regions,” adds Shanks. “There’ll be a wider range of specialist services offered by larger network and facility/service providers, as well as an expectation of increased collaboration focusing on productivity.”

Shanks asserts that AV will also increasingly be monitored, reflecting experiences from IT infrastructures, which allow monitoring, proactive service and accelerated internal service support.

“The corporate need for superior AV solutions will continue to grow, year on year,” explains Shanks. “And AVI-SPL will continue to build, integrate, and support the best products and solutions, utilising the best team, with the widest worldwide reach.”

Shanks – who has over 22 years of industry experience – is responsible for growing the business outside of the Americas, and headed up the first operations for AVI-SPL in Europe with the Farnborough Office (its designated London office) in Jan 2013, building the business from grass roots. Within 30 months he developed a 100-strong team that is setting the standard for excellence.

 

 

 

 

robPROVIDERS OF AV EXCELLENCE