I recently participated in the second annual InfoComm 100 executive conference. It was a great honor and surprise to be invited back after I got on my soapbox last year at the inaugural event and challenged AV leaders to embrace the changes that were sweeping our industry. This year the tone was refreshingly different and there seemed to be almost universal acceptance of the increasing role of IT players in AV. Most of the reactionary and protectionist vibe was gone and the group was strongly focused on embracing IT, mobility, and other adjacent technology and business trends while celebrating the unique talents that only real AV practitioners can offer. We recognized that the AV industry is at the top of the value pyramid that is built on a facilities foundation and enabled by information technology infrastructure. AV is what end users directly interact with to create experiences, to exchange information, and to facilitate meaningful collaboration. AV technology managers are responsible for delivering these user experiences and need to know more than just how to move around packets of information in cyberspace. We have learned how to manage environments by understanding things like the properties of light and acoustics that go beyond ones and zeros.
The overall theme of the conference revolved around the relationship between the AV industry and architects. I found the topics interesting and learned a lot about architecture and new construction. Shame on me, but I must admit that I hadn’t even heard of building information modeling (BIM) before the conference. Now that I know what it is I realize I’ve seen outputs of BIM, but I didn’t know how important it was in architecture and in AV by association. So much for CAD.
Another major topic was sustainability. In case you hadn’t heard, “green” is now maturing into “sustainability” which I personally find to be a good evolution because it better represents the overall value of energy and resource conservation. The AV industry, especially the telepresence/videoconferencing and control system segments have a golden opportunity to take a leadership role in the application of technology to enable sustainability initiatives. I couldn’t be happier to see sustainability go mainstream and for the AV industry to realize its own power to reduce waste and to contribute to this evolution.
The next big trend that was repeated throughout the conference was the impact of commoditization of AV hardware. The former cornerstone of our trade has eroded and is being replaced by software and services. Margins on AV equipment are shrinking, but the demand for AV knowledge, applications, and services is rising. This is forcing manufacturers, designers, programmers, integrators, and technology managers to grow and change, but that didn’t seem to bother the conference participants nearly as much as it did last year.
The one area that seemed to be in need of more adoption and understanding was social media. I felt a little strange being one of a handful of people to raise their hands repeatedly when asked how many in the crowd had a blog, tweeted, or was on LinkedIn and Facebook. I just assumed everyone had embraced social media by now and that assumption turned out to be dead wrong. I guess that is something we can collectively work on as an industry. Feel free to friend me or follow me if you want to discuss this further.
The conference also included great interpersonal networking opportunities, exceptional speakers, and an awards program that honored some of the industry’s finest. InfoComm and their sponsors put together a meaningful conference and the industry will be the better for it. But wait, there’s more…including my favorite output of the conference, visual scribing. If you haven’t seen visual scribing yet, it consists of having a talented artist represent the major themes with drawings and word art while the presentation or conversation is happening. It was an incredible tool for triggering memories and for capturing the essence of the conference. Check it out here: http://yfrog.com/5n8glj. The conference may be over, but the event lives on. Sonic Foundry is providing the presentations on-demand at sonicfoundry.com/infocomm100, there will be a free outbrief session at the InfoComm tradeshow in June, and new materials will be posted soon on the InfoComm website.