Four Tech Trends to Look for at InfoComm

  • InfoComm 2015 is going to be an interesting show this time around. I expect to see a lot of companies take on new approaches to AV as usual, and I hope that many of the traditional AV companies embrace trends that move our industry away from hardware. Here are a few goals and trends I am going to try to address at the show this year:

1. Huddle Rooms: The phenomenon known as the huddle room is really annoying. Companies are embracing the “open office concept” and hailing it as the new breakthrough in worker productivity. To me, it’s an acoustical nightmare that hinders productivity, made a necessity by the high cost of office space in cities like San Francisco, New York, or other bustling economic centers at the heart of this latest upbeat business environment.

Since we are packing workers into office space like sardines, they need places to make private phone calls or to hold small meetings. For some reason, someone thinks these rooms need displays, so people can switch from one presentation to another.

My thought is that these rooms are generally small enough that they don’t require a display larger than those on one’s laptop. Companies install a lot of these rooms—sometimes in the hundreds, and our industry is seeing dollar signs there. There are some really cool solutions out there, but spending thousands per room doesn’t really make economic sense to me or many of my clients. We need something cool and cheap in this space while the need for this space lasts. I’m going to be on the lookout for just such devices.

2. Collaboration: Collaboration is another trendy term that is also somewhat weird to me. People like to say, “we need an environment that encourages collaboration,” and then they proceed to buy into the train of thought that somehow they need to purchase 45 displays, a videowall, an 84-input switcher, touchpanels all around, 62 speakers, surround sound, and oh yeah…we also need to be able to put our fingers on the displays and act like John Madden on Monday Night Football.

I think that having a well-sized display, an HDMI input, a VGA input with audio, and a very simple way of controlling and administering the system is the Promised Land. Oh yeah, an echo canceller if, and only if, the room is large enough to require one. Reliability, simplicity, and value. Pure and simple. If people can’t collaborate without technology, overloading them with it probably won’t help much. I really hope to find products that help our end users meet effectively.

3. Network-Centric Equipment: With the adoption of more network-centric equipment, I am hopeful that the days of purchasing rack-mounted devices—that basically house a processor and some memory coupled with proprietary software—are numbered. If I am controlling everything over the network, and have no need for RS-232, contact closures, or infrared protocols, then all I really need is a processor somewhere on the network to talk to all these devices. I don’t need a processor in every room; I just need a processor and memory somewhere. Anywhere. It could be in the cloud, on premise, hosted somewhere for $9 a month…anywhere. Just give me a processor.

I am super excited to see our industry take a hard look at this, and I’m very excited to see what is available. I’ve begun using a completely server-based approach on a few of my projects that are in construction now. In fact, in some of these projects, I have a traditional hardware-centric control processor and a server for redundancy and administration. I stumbled across this approach in 2011, and only now am I starting to be able to use it. I’m going to be looking for companies that are into this kind of thing.

4.Matrix Switching: Keeping in mind my ever-present push for value and simplicity, I am going to try to visit manufacturers that offer both 1080p and 4K switching solutions. While meeting with them, I am going to price out an 8-by-3 matrix that is being used to feed dual 4K displays, content on a CODEC, and possesses two 4K input sources, with the rest being 1080p. I am super excited to see who has the best value and approach, and I plan to publish the results.

What am I missing? Leave comments on other stuff you think I should make a note of. I really enjoyed all the comments about ceiling mics working 50 percent of the time, 50 percent of the time! I actually learned a lot from those comments, and some of my current designs with ceiling mics have gotten up to working 65 percent of the time, 50 percent of the time of the time!

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