Where Will Pro AV be in 2020?

Where Will Pro AV be in 2020?


2020 is only five years away, and many AV stakeholders feel that the industry is changing faster than ever before. What trends are likely to continue from today into 2020, and what will AV and IT managers need to know to prepare? AV Technology polled some of the AV industry’s top experts to find out.


Myriad factors are shaping today’s professional AV technology landscape. The most clear trend is the “continued blurred lines between AV and IT,” said Chuck Wilson, executive director of the National Systems Contractors Association (NSCA). As a result of this evolution, “our industry will need to develop more interoperability and network standards for seamless integration,” Wilson explained.

While many industry analysts point to broader AV/IT convergence, others believe in a distinct “divergence” of AV and IT. While interoperability is a goal for manufacturers and tech managers alike, the convergence trend will see IT standards trumping AV standards, argues Justin O’Connor, Biamp Systems product manager of Audio Products. “As AV continues to deepen its integration with the IT world, our small industry’s standards, such as AES standards, will not be sufficient to satisfy IT policies and expectations,” O’Connor noted. “Standards recognized more widely—such as those from IEEE—will dominate.”

Not all industry professionals agree. Just ask Joey D’Angelo, QSC’s director of Systems Solutions. “Over the last five years, the AV industry and the IT industry were said to be ‘converging’. However, there are two schools of thought in the AV industry, and it is ironically leading to a ‘divergence’,” D’Angelo said. One of these schools is loyal to traditional AV system design—only using IP when absolutely necessary—while the other is entirely IP-centric. “As 2020 draws nearer, the school of thought that provides the most elegance, reliability, simplicity, and value will be dominant,” he added.

Jane Johnson, founder and managing partner at Pivot Communications, sees the continued commoditization of AV equipment (buying off-the-shelf components as opposed to custom-built) as a growing reality. As a result, “By 2020, we’ll see managed services as an offering from a significant percentage of integrators,” said Johnson, as they try to offset the drop in equipment sales and provide the best user support.

Another trend is customers’ demand for AV to fit into their existing environments. Unfortunately, “The design principle for AV has always been to design the technology to work in the space,” said Julian Phillips, executive vice president at The Whitlock Group, an AV systems integrator and managed solutions provider. The result? “Now we have to design technology around the user, wherever that user happens to be,” he said.

Networked management will become even more important as technology will continue to be installed in more spaces. Dan Jackson, Crestron Electronics’ Marketing and Development engineer, explained: “As systems scale up, deployment and management over the network will become increasingly important. For example, BYOD will continue to trend, and deploying applications on personal devices, network security, and cross-platform integration will be critical.”


“End-user needs always drive development,” observed Bob Caniglia, Blackmagic Design’s Senior regional manager of Eastern North America. In the push to 2020, Biamp’s O’Connor agreed. “End-user experience will need to be what dominates development and deployment. Any manufacturer, design consultant, or systems integrator who is not focused on this is going to struggle to make an impact.”

The integration of AV and IT is already influencing development, deployment, and even marketing schemes, said QSC spokesperson Joey D’Angelo. Looking ahead, “I suspect that the dominant factors in product development will be margins and bundling new revenue schemes into product suites,” he said. As well, “Enabling remote management, monitoring, diagnostics, upgrades, and licensed-based features will be a central aspect of product development.”

Crestron’s Dan Jackson takes D’Angelo’s ideas a step further. “AV and IT are already fully integrated at this point,” he said. Hence, platform standardization will dominate new product development and deployment in the years ahead. “A single platform, validated solution is easier to deploy, manage, support, and use,” said Jackson.


IT managers who find themselves now working with AV need to avoid viewing audio and video as just “another form” of IP-governable data. The reason: “There is no room for compromise in terms of continuous data during play-out,” said Blackmagic Design’s Bob Caniglia. “People don’t want to see spinning wheels and text that says, ‘buffering’ when playing back a video sequence.”

Blackmagic Design’s Bob Caniglia These IT managers will also have to accept the demands that AV will put on their LANs. “They need to keep in mind the pipeline from the more innovative manufacturers are going to require access to their networks, which often causes angst among IT directors,” said QSC’s D’Angelo. “Furthermore, a lot of the AV manufacturers will be having a more direct relationship with their IT staff to support products.”

The IT department’s obsession with price will also have to be tempered. “The lowest bid or cheapest product is not the best use of technology or the dollars invested on an AV solution,” warned Biamp’s O’Connor.

On the flip side, AV managers encountering the realities of IT must accept that “productivity of the enterprise and low total cost of ownership are king,” he said. “They should know that an enterprise network is the lifeblood of an organization and by adding AV applications to that network should be done by professionals,” added NSCA’s Wilson. “AV directors typically can see and hear if a problem has developed, whereas IT (problems) can be a complex hidden disaster that can appear and disappear in many random ways and at the most unfortunate times.”

A word of caution to both sides of the AV/IT equation: “Enterprise technology strategies will need to account for communication and collaboration solutions that have their foundation in AV principles,” said David Labuskes, executive director/CEO of InfoComm International. “Add to that the steady impact of consumer electronics in the commercial AV industry, which never ceases to ratchet up expectations for new and exceptional audiovisual experiences, and you have a situation where pro AV can grow more prominent and critical to the way organizations operate, communicate, and engage.”

Finally, AV systems must have the ability to natively integrate with IT—period. “By 2020, hopefully this won’t be a question,” said Pivot Communication’s Johnson. “No one will talk about convergence because AV and IT will have merged. We’ll just be talking about new and better ways to enable people to connect and get work done.”

In the education market, “AV technology is no longer a luxury,” according to an InfoComm International 2014 report UX MUST BE SIMPLE BY 2020

Questions remain about pure-play AV and IP-centric installs, but what about the frontfacing experience of the technology? What will the UX (user experience) for AV and collaboration be like in 2020?

The consensus was that the UX will be simple and easy-to-use, and that tech managers had better do everything they can to make this happen; especially because users are already getting this experience from consumer technology today.

“I can’t even remember my mother asking me to show her how to work her cell phone, and yet technology industry veterans are often left dumbfounded in conference room crammed with AV,” said Whitlock’s Phillips. “There is your answer: AV and collaboration need to work in the same way, and they need to be as simple to access and use as a smartphone.”

InfoComm’s Take on the Future of AV

One thing seems certain about the future of the global AM market: It is destined to grow.

According to InfoComm International’s 2014 Global Market Definition and Strategy Study (MDSS), the worldwide market for pro AV products and services grew to $91.8 billion in 2014 from $75.5 billion in 2012, an increase of 11% annually. It is projected to hit $114.2 billion in 2016, a projected increase of 12.2% from 2014. Do the math using these two percentages and 2014’s total of $91.8 billion, and the global AV market could be worth anywhere from $171.7 billion to $183 billion in 2020.

This last set of calculations are AV Technology’s, not InfoComm’s. But Info- Comm International’s 2015 Vertical Markets Studies (the InfoComm Studies), which were collected and analysed by Acclaro Growth Partners, does provide potential views into global AV’s market prospects.

Trends to watch: “The growing influence of consumer products is changing employee expectations of AV technology in the workplace,” said the InfoComm Studies. “Employee usage of technology at home in their everyday lives is driving corporations to invest in AV solutions in the workplace.”

Convergence is also affecting how corporate users buy AV products, with IT playing a growing role in their calculations. “The decision-making process has become more ‘IT-like,’ with shifting decision makers and decision-making roles,” said the InfoComm Studies. This includes a move towards buying standardized AV equipment, rather than paying more for custom-built systems. “End-users report they have been able to deliver considerable ROI with standardization of AV technology, and this has driven buy-in across their organizations,” the InfoComm Studies said.

In the education market, “AV technology is no longer a luxury, it has become a ‘must have’ in order to attract students,” said the InfoComm Studies. “Justification for technology investment is largely need-based and driven by competitive pressures, and Return on investment (ROI) is not the primary investment driver.”

As for the retail market? “Most of the growth in this segment is in the high-end of the retail segment, while the low-end is more cost-conscious and driven by the trend to lower-cost displays and out-of-the-box digital signage offerings,” said the InfoComm Studies. Nevertheless, AV is here to stay: “End users report that consumers expect to see dynamic content everywhere they look. This is driving investment in digital signage technology, with an outlook for continued strong spending.”

The bottom line: Whatever the actual market figures will be, InfoComm sees the next five years as a time of consistent growth for AV equipment and service sales worldwide. “The growing influence of consumer products is changing employee expectations of AV technology in the workplace,” said the InfoComm Studies. “Employee usage of technology at home in their everyday lives is driving corporations to invest in AV solutions in the workplace.”

James Careless

James Careless is an award-winning freelance journalist with extensive experience in audio-visual equipment, AV system design, and AV integration. His credits include numerous articles for Systems Contractor News, AV Technology, Radio World, and TV Tech, among others. Careless comes from a broadcasting background, with credits at CBC Radio, NPR, and NBC News. He currently co-produces/co-hosts the CDR Radio podcast, which covers the Canadian defense industry. Careless is a two-time winner of the PBI Media Award for Excellence.