Where are We Going in AV in 2012? by Christopher Maione

If I could predict the future I assure you I would be picking lottery numbers, not forecasting the ever changing trends in technology and business - however when it comes to AV I’m probably a reasonable source to peek into what this year may bring. So let me shake up MY crystal ball and see what appears.

First, the economy is still hurting our industry. I really don’t care how “good” anyone thinks their business is doing – it’s not doing as good as it could, thanks to the financial mess this country (and world) is still in. We are in a recession (no crystal ball required) and as the markets continue to struggle, money will be tight and expenditures for capital improvements (such as AV systems) will be limited.

Next, the IT shakeup is still knocking at the door. As much as we would like the AV industry to remain “independent” the reality is we are slowly but surely being “absorbed” by the IT world. In 2012, this will continue. Throughout all vertical markets (business, healthcare, government, etc.) we are seeing AV being moved into the IT department. Let’s face it; IT typically has budgets while AV struggles for funding. For years AV was the misfit department – with reporting channels through the Facilities department, food services, conference services and even the mailroom. As our technology continues to evolve and our products and systems continue to ride on the network, it just makes sense our reporting channels will land in IT. This migration should be as concerning to the IT folks as it is for the AV world. So my suggestion, today’s AV professionals need to be up to speed on changing technology and presentation tools, so brush up on how to interface your audio and video presentation equipment with that iPad and the next great tablet.

Videoconferencing systems will continue to be an important part of our business. However, if the big bad Cisco gets their way – videoconferencing facilities will just be another “endpoint” on the evil empire’s network. Telepresence rooms will continue to be included as amenities on executive floors and other conference center facilities. It will be interesting to see how the conventional “dedicated” videoconference systems will fare against the next generation of desktop and portable videoconference systems.

Digital Technology Growth
From a technology standpoint I anticipate growth in these two areas:
1. routing of digital video signals
2. audio over Ethernet (the AVB standard)

Digital audio/video signal routing continues to challenge AV systems designs. The various signal resolution and formats must be carefully transcoded and routed in order to preserve the integrity of the video signal. In the instance of an HDMI signal, it must also maintain HDCP compliancy. So until the world agrees on a video format (and this will not occur anytime in 2012) we will still need to process, route and distribute signals including:
· XVGA / WXGA / WUXGA etc. (component)
· DisplayPort
· HD Resolutions of 720p, 1080i and 1080p

With this the war of 16:9 vs. 16:10 will continue to rage on with (hopefully) 16:10 winning.

The Audio Video Bridging (AVB) standard (IEEE 802.1) will provide a new means for routing audio and video signals over the network. We can expect a variety of audio products brought to market which will utilize AVB for transporting audio signals from point A to point B. A host of new interfaces will evolve which will connect AV systems to the “network” via AVB. Microphone mixers (better known these days as Digital Signal Processors), matrix switchers, amplifiers etc. will be fitted with AVB interfaces.

Energy Management will continue to grow. Energy efficient components and complete AV systems will become more mainstream and I expect just about all AV systems designed & implemented in 2012 will have some form of power saving / energy management control. If all goes as planned, the InfoComm / ANSI standard “AV Systems Energy Management will be completed and put into practice. The STEP rating system and pilot programs will occur in 2012 – it will be interesting to see if and how STEP grows.

Energy Monitoring—and what good is energy management without monitoring? You can’t show what you’ve saved unless you find ways to truly monitor your power consumption. AMX and Crestron both continue to develop their energy management “suites”. Expect also to see growth in this area with companies which provide power control equipment (such as like APC, Furman, Lyntec, Middle Atlantic, SurgeX and Tripp Lite) For more info on this see my earlier blog: avtechnologyonline.com

Expect also to see more of a move away from conventional Building Management Systems (BMS) presently dominated by firms such as Honeywell, Siemens, and Johnson Controls and a move toward Integrated Building Technologies (IBT) where we firms such as Crestron and AMX are going after total building management controls – a large market niche outside of the AV world. I find this the most interesting topic to watch in 2012. I think Crestron and AMX have their work cut out for them, since the incumbent companies have been deeply imbedded in building controls for quite some time and what’s more – they market through the channels which provide most of the building management equipment (HVAC systems, backup generators, power conditioning, lighting, fires / alarm systems etc.) As I mentioned, IBT is a completely new and different (from AV) market niche – which involves an in depth understanding of how building mechanical & electrical systems “work” and a complex programming model which automates the processes. Big, big challenge but one probably worth pursuing.

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

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