2011 AV Review by Christopher Maione, CTS-D

As the New Year begins, part of knowing where we’re going is knowing where we’ve been. Let’s look back at the big events that affected end-users, integrators, and consultants in the commercial AV world in 2011.

IT Continued to Take Over AV
More and more we saw “AV” being migrated into the IT department and with the proliferation of IP addressable equipment. We're also seeing facilities build AV and IT hybrid teams and what that means for the Tech Help Desk. There seems to be no end in sight for this migration. Indeed, going forward as our technologies continue to grow and become more network concentric, this is probably a logical path. However, most IT groups still do not understand the depth, complexity, and level of support required for AV systems.

As this migration continues those of us who work in and support AV will continue to be affected and we need to be prepared. Our strengths are about supporting people, not just hardware, and we understand the experience that we need to deliver clients, not just the equipment. If we use these strengths to our advantage we can find ourselves on the successful end of any AV/IT migration.

Control Manufacturers Up the Ante on HDCP-Compliant Matrix Switchers
Crestron DigitalMedia entered the market in a big way in the past year. Crestron DM 8G+ was introduced at InfoComm 2011. (Their first version is referred to as “Classic DM.") Extron and AMX now offer competing HDCP-compliant digital matrix switchers.

I believe that HDCP-compliant/digital signal routing will change the face of AV systems design going forward in the post analog sunset. Digital media routing, transcoding, and matching input and output resolutions are now critical to every AV system design going forward.

Cisco Continued to Absorb Tandberg; CODECs Will Evolve
Yes, post buy-out we see Cisco entering (or trying, unsuccessfully) to enter the AV marketplace. They even had a booth at InfoComm and tried very hard to fit in. Unfortunately, I believe that they don't know how to market, distribute and sell within the current AV industry. Cisco begins to migrate their IT distribution model into the AV industry. We are all completely enthused and excited about this distribution model (yeah, right).

Access to Cisco/Tandberg products will change how CODECs are procured and supported. In many instances, the CODEC’s will now be procured and supported through IT channels vs. AV channels. Or we will all just start specifying Polycom exclusively.

AV Distributors Grew in Importance
AV Distributors are taking a stronger hold and playing a larger role in selling AV equipment. Large AV distributors such as Almo and Stampede are now proving to be a preferred source of equipment for many AV systems integrators. In what I call a move toward “legalizing two-stepping” we see many of the larger (non-US based) manufacturers wanting to sell their products through distributors rather than with direct dealerships.

AV Distributors have provided a means for many (smaller) AV dealers to have access to equipment which was normally only available to the large system integrators. This opened the market up for the “smaller” AV system Integrator to be able to compete more aggressively (financially) against the larger AV system integrators.

Flat Panels
Flat Panels become nothing more than a commodity. Margins in selling professional flat panels lost the battle to the influx of consumer and prosumer panels which could be purchased for a fraction of the cost compared to a true “commercial grade” flat panel.

As more AV components become a commodity dealers will need to adapt services and support models to make money will survive.

InfoComm Establishes the STEP Foundation and Launches Website
Joining forces with CompTIA, The STEP rating system is presented as the model for developing “Green” AV and IT projects. This in depth rating system will (hopefully) become an industry standard in both the AV and IT worlds for how the project process from start to finish can be administered with energy conservation and sustainability in mind. As larger AV and IT projects follow STEP, we will begin to see more and more emphasis on the equipment and systems designed to meet the sustainability technology requirements. Part of STEP’s acceptance by other green organizations and industries will come from its proving its success through pilot projects, so be sure to consider if any of your projects can be targeted as a STEP pilot project.

Women in AV
Women in AV has taken hold and this group is getting a lot of momentum. They are a relatively small group compared to the size of our industry but they are growing, they are very active, and they are articulate. They started a CTS-certification prep group. They have a strong “voice” in social media and people are definitely listening.

If you are woman in the AV world I suggest you join this group, and if you are ANYONE in the AV world, I suggest you follow them. You will learn something new every day on their Linked In page. www.womeninav.com
The Earthquake and Other Important Losses

These are just a few of the events and business trends that we saw in 2011, but there were also other things that made an impact on nations, in industries and in our AV “families.” Life changing events such as the March 2011 earthquake in Japan and the resulting tsunami that followed. The loss of some much respected colleagues and friends. Kevin Collins, past president of InfoComm and leader of HB Communications, who, though he is truly missed, has left an indelible mark in this world and our industry.

We Are a Resilient Industry
What strikes me most as I look back on 2011 is the resiliency of our industry. Whether reacting to the day to day challenges as we handle migration of technologies and departments; or as we trend towards new ways of doing business and working in our market channels and through social media; or while we deal with the devastating effects of an earthquake and its impact on lives and our supply channels; or as we help each other cope with the loss of good friends—we truly band together and become stronger for it.

As an industry, we need to continue to do more of this so that we can meet the challenges and the great opportunities ahead of us in 2012 and beyond.

Best wishes for a healthy and prosperous New Year to all.

Christopher Maione, CTS-D, is an InfoComm adjunct faculty member and the president of Christopher Maione Associates, a firm specializing in all aspects of AV business, technologies, emerging trends and marketing strategy. Reach him at cmaione@chrismaione.com.