Keeping the Connection

The past few years, the state of the industry has looked much the same: the steady refinement of technologies, the transition to the network and an increased emphasis on experience. Things were looking good, and getting better. Then came 2020.

Dave Labuskes, AVIXA

Dave Labuskes

Today, the world is a radically different place as we wait out a global pandemic. And as people keep their distance, Pro AV is helping to keep them together. "AV was made for this," said David Labuskes, CEO of AVIXA. "Everything about the audiovisual industry is about connecting people to people. If you're doing that remotely, you're reliant upon and leveraging audiovisual technology."

Indeed, the world truly has become dependent on the solutions our industry provides. Telemedicine is allowing doctors to safely care for their patients from afar; digital signage is keeping first responders on the front lines informed; distance learning solutions are transforming living rooms into classrooms; and videoconferences are stepping in to keep life's connections together.

With large in-person gatherings on hold, the experience side of the industry is being forced to adapt. "Clearly, one of the hardest-hit segments of the industry was the live events group," Labuskes said. "But many of them are now beginning to recover, and they've worked hard to adjust their businesses to provide hybrid or virtual events." For example, as universities and high schools hold their commencements remotely, live events professionals are making sure the streams go out uninterrupted.

In the business world, AV technology is enabling remote work. But as we begin to reopen, it will also serve as an enticement to employees to return to their commutes. "We have talked for a while that the corporate office needs to be a place that draws and attracts employees," Labuskes said. "We want to create an office environment that you miss if you're not there. That is dependent upon technology and the implementation of it to deliver an experience, and it's going to become even more important." The same will be true in many other verticals, especially higher education and retail.

As people shift their habits to protect their health, a number of doors have opened for innovation. Touchless technologies are blossoming, and a renewed emphasis will be placed on control solutions that streamline the operation of systems in places like lecture halls and conference rooms. There will also be some really cool opportunities for creative custom integration. For example, take the plexiglass dividers that reopening bars and restaurants have begun deploying as a safety measure: "How long will it be until somebody upgrades those to translucent displays?" Labuskes queried.

Perhaps the most significant change that this pandemic has brought about, in Labuskes's view, is the shift in our perspectives regarding the boundaries of technology. "One of the phrases I'm trying to stop using is 'in real life,'" he said. "Because I think you have physical and virtual, and both combined is what 'in real life' is going to be. There isn't going to be differentiation, and we're going to need to deliver, connect and engage across all of those channels. And they are all real life."

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Matt Pruznick

Matt Pruznick is the former editor of AV Technology, and senior editor for Systems Contractor News and Residential Systems. He is based in New York.