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A Solution to the AV Industry's Supply Chain Debacle?

Stormy Supply Chain
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Today’s supply chain issues started around the time that COVID-19 began and were compounded by strong consumer demand in the pandemic’s wake. Not going away anytime soon, supply chain issues have been causing problems in just about every industry, the audiovisual industry included. The challenge for the AV industry has been exacerbated by the dependence on specialized and proprietary hardware, resulting in steep business declines for many companies in the AV space such as system integrators deploying AV solutions and vendors who have built their products on specialized AV hardware.

Unique Supply Chain Issues Facing AV Technologies

John Marshall, CEO, Userful

John Marshall, CEO, Userful

(Image credit: Userful)

"This year, during the Integrated Systems Europe (ISE) and InfoComm trade shows, I repeatedly heard that the global supply chain shortage for AV hardware was reaching full crisis mode."

AV is somewhat unique in the technology space in its dependence on specialized and proprietary hardware and the fact that even the largest of the AV hardware suppliers are small compared with the global IT hardware giants such as HP, Lenovo and Dell. IT giants like these have been able to leverage their size and product volume to maintain their global supply chain, but in a time of strains on microchip and video processor delivery, smaller companies (which even include giants in the AV industry), simply don’t have the volumes for their many different hardware offerings to maintain good lead and delivery times. I’ve recently heard from a variety of partners and customers that wait times for AV hardware coming from large hardware-centric companies in the AV space are experiencing unprecedented delays for products that used to be easy to get. Ultimately this is holding up deployments, slowing down the industry and creating business challenges for customers and integrators.

This year, during the Integrated Systems Europe (ISE) and InfoComm trade shows, I repeatedly heard that the global supply chain shortage for AV hardware was reaching full crisis mode. For example, hardware-centric industry giants are quoting lead times as much as 50-plus weeks long. This is tied both to the high demand for AV solutions as well as the industry's dependency on custom, low-volume semiconductors, which are in very short supply. 

The Answer? Software-centric Solutions

Proprietary AV hardware supply chain delays are not a short-term problem. Some say it will be five years or more until the semiconductor shortage is solved. This does not mean that AV business has to stop or even slow down. Companies no longer need to rely on specialized proprietary hardware for delivering best-in-class AV services. The increased capacity of the network and video processors has meant that AV services and applications can now be fully delivered over the network using commercially available off-the-shelf hardware. This applies to just about every application in the AV space from mission-critical command and control centers to meeting rooms that offer real time unified communications to data dashboards, digital signs, spectacular video walls.  

[ LG & Userful Offer Software-Defined AVoIP Solution for Enterprise (opens in new tab) ]

Software-defined AV-over-IP solutions have actually been growing faster than hardware-based AV-over-IP solutions, and that gap is only going to grow because companies that offer software-defined AV-over-IP solutions have been able to avoid the supply chain hold ups traditional hardware-centric vendors have experienced. The future is bright for AV because it is moving to a software model where solutions can be deployed on commercially available off-the-shelf hardware. This is the smart approach for businesses to not only remain viable in a competitive market, but to advance into the future.

John Marshall
CEO & Board Member at Userful

John Marshall is CEO & Board Member at Userful, a leading provider of AV-over-IP solutions for enhanced video communication. He focuses on developing and implementing strategic growth initiatives for Userful; launching the company into new markets, and expansion through new technology and channel partnerships. He has more than 25 years of experience building innovative, market-leading organizations.