As more consumer devices are capable of exchanging information, working together, and leveraging predictive behavior, users are becoming accustomed to smarter solutions that are automated and easy to operate. It is these IoT (Internet of Things) technologies that provide an elevated user experience and overcome the need to operate complex devices or learn to use customized integrated systems.
Although the IoT is still most prevalent in the consumer or residential markets, it is evolving and starting to impact various business markets as well. In commercial systems, for example, there is a growing expectation for system operation that is more streamlined and intuitive, and requires less user interaction. As such, there is an increased demand for “one-button-to-press” operation.
“One-button-to-press” (OBTP) functionality involves interaction between the various individual systems including information relating to users in the room, availability of a room per its schedule, technology needs for a specific meeting, as well as other meeting details such as conference call connection information. Upon pressing just one, single button to start a meeting, the desired system operation can occur with minimal user interaction or operational understanding.
WHY IS THIS IMPORTANT?
Gone are the days in which the use of technology at work is more prevalent and independent from the use of technology at home. Today, people are using technology in their personal lives just as much as they are professionally. And, they are increasingly intermingling their use of it in all aspects of their lives. Even more, technology users are used to the innovative IoT technologies found in mobile devices and are looking for the easiest and most seamless ways to live and work digitally.
Historically, the professional AV industry was accustomed to establishing expectations and pushing technology solutions to users. However, with the rate of adoption of technology and influence of the millennial generation in the workforce, the tide is changing significantly, and the script is flipped to where AV professionals are now in the position of reacting to what users expect. Users now demand the ease of operation and implementation provided by their personal and consumer solutions. What had been complex, custom, and costly in the AV world now needs to become more simplified, streamlined, and automated by leveraging IoT technology.
THE KEYS TO IOT
IoT is not magic. Although it seems to work without much effort or customization, IoT relies on the availability and support of APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) that provide programmers/software developers the tools to write code that facilitates communication of devices and exchange of data. The capability of the API dictates not only the functionality that the device can provide, but also its ability to interact with other devices.
Next, a software developer must develop a device driver, control module, or middleware to allow other programmers to easily interface with the device, exposing the features and providing the functionality needed to enact IoT functionality. Integrations with different platforms like iOS, Android, Alexa, Google Play, Crestron, AMX, etc. require unique, independent development efforts and support. Lastly, exact functionality must be programmed that leverages the IoT capabilities to provide a customized solution for the client.
This may seem like a daunting effort, but it is nothing new to the AV industry. It is very similar to what was done in the early days of programmed control systems for AV systems integration.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR THE PRO AV INDUSTRY
As AV professionals, there is a growing need to provide more value. We must create solutions that support business work flow and provide exceptional user experience. IoT technology enables the ability to elevate AV control system solutions by focusing on automation through simplified interfaces, increased features and functions, and overall smarter operation. The more devices or systems that are involved, the more valuable the offering.
That said, there is no universal solution. And the ability to customize the operation—address specific needs, solve problems, and streamline workflow for a user and an organization—is critical to achieving success and should remain the primary goal.
Leveraging IoT requires creativity, along with technical expertise and the ability to customize and design solutions that go beyond simply making a system “work.” IoT builds on the assumption that devices work together, and then concentrates on how its operation provides value to users.
The value of IoT is the enhanced user experience. And that may be found in saving time, simplifying operation, or providing more predictable outcomes such as combining various data points found in applications like calendar, location, and contact database to streamline operation.
UNCOVERING THE “WHAT” AND “HOW” OF IOT
The solution or “what” of IoT requires understanding the features and capabilities that can and can’t be done, and providing options for the client that not only satisfy needs but provides consistent and reliable outcomes. The implementation or “how” of IoT is similar to what has led to prior successes in implementing integrated systems. It stems from identifying and documenting requirements and defining solutions that tie in devices, systems, sensors, and software to create an exceptional experience.
Beyond device communications and tailoring a solution to meet a desired outcome, systems and devices need to be accessible on the network or through the Cloud in order to achieve full functionality. As a result, it is critical that technology managers, service providers, and manufacturers work together to ensure the rules and regulations set forth by organizations’ IT departments can be met with regard to security, privacy, communication protocols, and best practices in order to gain adoption.
MAKING IT WORK
IoT operation is here to stay, and adoption will continue to grow at a rapid pace. We are all living with it on a daily basis and expecting it to be the norm in both our business and personal lives. For that to happen, AV service providers, technology managers, and manufacturers need to work together to create systems, products, and software to achieve the IoT experience. The key to doing this effectively involves thinking differently, designing differently, and leveraging APIs that support required functionality. Most of all, it requires developing software solutions that deliver value.
Steve Greenblatt, CTS, is president and founder of Control Concepts, a leading provider of specialized software and services for the audiovisual industry based in Fair Lawn, NJ. He is currently a member of the InfoComm Leadership Search Committee.