We didn’t see it coming so quickly. We couldn’t know how bad it would become. And we don’t know when it will definitively end.
We’re talking, of course, about the COVID-19 outbreak. It started as a small brush fire, then roared to life in Asia, then Europe, then North America, hitting the United States particularly hard. Numerous verticals have been hammered as a result, including hospitality, live events, transportation, conventions and trade shows, and retail.
As states try different approaches to reopening, there are real questions about safe distancing and disinfecting measures. Large numbers of employees are working from home (or trying to), and many will remain there after the pandemic passes. Movie theaters and Broadway remain closed. Restaurants run at limited capacity, and baseball, hockey, and basketball teams will play truncated seasons in empty stadiums and arenas.
And now, an enormous challenge looms large. The start of the fall school year is approaching, but is it really safe to have children and young adults in close proximity to teachers? Some schools and universities are going to try opening with restrictions on class size and seating. Others have decided it isn’t worth the risk and will instead rely on distance learning and virtual classrooms for the fall 2020 and winter 2021 semesters.
Not surprisingly, the old ways of communicating and presenting won’t cut it now. “Wireless” is now more important than “wired.” Faster broadband connections and increased bandwidth are imperative. Computer and webcam sales are through the roof, with many of these products on back order. Flexible, powerful, and easy-to-use software and hardware systems for audio and videoconferencing are the hot ticket right now.
It’s become apparent that we’ll be working, learning, and socializing remotely for some time, perhaps well into 2021. Armed with a laptop, microphone or headset, and webcam, we will figure out a way to accomplish all of these things. And the AV industry is indeed stepping up to the plate with solutions that fit this unique time and place.
Wireless presentation sharing products are a perfect example. With these two-way platforms, instructors and students can easily engage in virtual classrooms, cast and share individual screens, participate in Q&A sessions, and take quizzes, all while maintaining safe social distancing. They’re ready to run popular conferencing applications including Zoom, BlueJeans, Teams, and GoToMeeting. These products can be easily inserted into a conventional, hard-wired AV presentation system using HDMI and USB ports, expanding its reach across multiple classrooms on a local area network (LAN) and beyond to remotely connected students and participants over wide area networks (WANs).
And there couldn’t be a more appropriate time to move to cloud-based AV control systems. Leave the masks and disinfecting wipes at home—there’s no need for in-person visits anymore. Each piece of AV gear equipped with a network interface card can now be accessed, operated, monitored, and updated remotely over wired or wireless networks from anywhere in the world. And cloud-based control systems can configure the necessary operational commands from large databases of device drivers, speeding up installation and reducing labor costs.
Finally, we’ve seen a worldwide increase in touch-free interactions and transactions to minimize the possible spread of the coronavirus. Wireless presentation products are a perfect fit because the only physical contact presenters have is with their own devices; only screen content is shared. As for cloud-based control systems—well, that’s about as touch-free as you can get.
The AV industry is most certainly operating in unfamiliar territory these days. Fortunately, we do have the right AV solutions on hand to navigate it successfully, now and long after the pandemic fades from memory!
Clint Hoffman is speaking at the 2020 AV/IT Summit on The Future of Pro AV—What's Next? panel as well as giving the morning keynote.