SCN: What is your position, and what was your previous experience at the company?
Matt Nelson: My new position, director of marketing for the Connectivity and Control division at Avocent, began as of the first of this year. Directly before this I was in charge of both marketing and sales, but the division has expanded and I have shifted over to the marketing side. I've been with Avocent for three years, originally in strategic planning and investment, specifically regarding the wireless industry. I have a lot of wireless background and experience.
In addition, I am responsible for strategic relationships. One of the ways Avocent has been able to build on these is through the Digital Signage Standards Working Group within Point-of-Purchase Advertising International (POPAI). I had experience in previous companies working with DSL when it first came out, and the PCi Bus standards, so it was natural that I work with the group to see what we can do to further the industry through digital signage standards.

How has your background prepared you for your new role?
The bulk of my career has been in high-tech marketing roles, product management and marketing communications. That all comes into play now, as does my wireless experience-I was involved with one of the very first PCMCIA cards to connect to a cellular phone back in 1993. That wireless experience has helped Avocent get in a position to be the leader in wireless video distribution for the digital signage market. From a technical standpoint, it's no small challenge to do wireless VGA.
In the last year, Avocent has gotten involved in the broadcast industry with the AMX 5000 series switchers, which is a KVM switch, which has specific firmware to address multifunction keyboards, for pre- and post-processing in broadcast studios. The AMX system works over Cat-5 or UTP cable, so there are lots of possibilities there. You can direct and redirect video content from place to place. Digital signage has a wide variety of applications, from a mom-and-pop store that is looking for a single display, to enterprise-wide systems that include multiple sites with multiple systems. As the level of complexity goes up, you need to be able to process the data in a different way.

What are your short- and long-term goals?
Short-term, we continue to expand our market share in connectivity and control for professional AV. Traditionally Avocent has been an IT data center company. Our division is going in a different direction, developing some new channels, revenue and markets for the company in the professional AV space. I think we're well positioned with our products to offer some innovative solutions for digital signage. So we aim to increase awareness, since a lot of people in that pro AV section don't know this is something we offer. As such, over the long-term, we see the market being large enough to equal what we've already accomplished in the IT data center market as a company. We hope to grow in the new space and offer more solutions.
As chairman of the signage group, there are two efforts: one is the facilitating of organization, making sure people continue to be involved since it's a volunteer organization, and the other is getting new people involved and making sure the organization grows. Originally there were four or five of us on the committee, and now after six months there are 19 companies. We just finished our first Plug Fest interoperability event, and about eight large companies participated. To be able to show the industry that these companies are doing interoperability testing, and we know what different hardware or software work together, can only further the industry because the end-users and systems integrators can feel comfortable about the solutions that they're putting together.
Long-term, we want the POPAI group to serve the industry where standards are needed. We want to make sure so that no matter whose software you're running, the reporting will be consistent. Like any standards group, it's difficult to determine what everyone will be willing to accept, to figure out how to build a standard that leaves flexibility for companies to continue to innovate. We're dealing with a fast-growing market, but in order to make it grow even faster, we need to streamline it.

Are there new initiatives we are likely to see from Avocent?
Avocent has become known as the "wireless guys," but we also have ETP and Cat-5 video distribution systems as well, which are scalable from very small to more enterprise-level systems. It's new for us to be able to offer both wired and wireless solutions, and should help people recognize us as providing digital signage connectivity across the board. Avocent patented technology on sending VGA signals over Cat-5 dating back to 1987, but we did it for IT data centers. We're now able to leverage that history to move VGA signals across distance in the AV space.

Mary Bakija is a writer and editor with more than 15 years of storytelling experience. Bakija is currently pursuing a Master's degree in Library and Information Science to help others find and tell important stories that might otherwise be lost, and to ensure those stories are preserved for future generations to see.