Tackling the Uncertainty: The AV Industry Faces COVID-19

A few short months ago, many of us would have never predicted that we would be working out of our pajamas (some of us may even have day and night pajamas at this point) and finding ways to continue working in a world that is changing by the hour. But along came COVID-19 and we are now left seeing how it is impacting not only our personal lives, but the AV industry as a whole. 

“In a strange way it’s business as usual for us, but we are adapting to remote collaboration like everyone else,” said Jeff Hastings, CEO for BrightSign. Based in Silicon Valley, BrightSign is responding to the shelter-in-place order that recently expanded to include all of California and is having their workers work from home in support of that, like many other companies during this time.  

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In the short term, BrightSign says it has plenty of inventory stored domestically and are able to ship orders as they come in. The long-term impacts? Everyone seems to be in agreement that the impact will be felt for a long time. “The lingering effects of this lockdown will depend on how long the lockdown is in place. We’re hopeful that business restrictions will begin to ease as soon as COVID-19’s spread levels off,” added Hastings. 

The Good and The Bad

Rich Ventura, NEC Display Solutions of America’s senior vice president of strategy and solutions development, has already seen the good with the bad so far in all of this. “Negatively you see areas where there are natural reductions in sales and opportunities. But the focus must shift to mission critical ways to support your business and your people. Mobility, collaboration, and video conferencing tools are immediate needs.” 

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The larger impact may start to be seen through projects that are now delayed due to the current environment and future spending that is on hold until greater certainty emerges. The industry as a whole doesn’t seem put off by these things though, and many are discovering new ways to move forward through new applications for products and tools that are already developed. “On the positive side, you are seeing creativity, agile strategies, new ways for engagement, and seeing everyone in the industry stepping up and finding new ways to help their people, partners, and customers," said Ventura.

Digital Signage and COVID-19

Digital signage in particular can serve an important role during this time, helping to disperse information and provide remote capabilities to limit human interaction and help people practice social distancing practices more effectively. 

“AV networks are being utilized by companies and municipalities to share health and safety information. The ability to deploy this content remotely is very important, especially in light of travel restrictions that hinder onsite work of IT staff,” said Hastings. BrightSign in particular happened upon some lucky timing with the launch of its BSN.cloud network management platform to control and manage player networks remotely for free through the BSN.cloud Control Cloud. 

“More than 18 digital signage solutions and CMS partners have taken advantage of this free service so that their customers can also remotely control and manage their BrightSign players," Hastings said. "The timing couldn’t have been better to offer up a no-cost solution like this to the industry.”

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The industry is also seeing self-ordering kiosks and other technology that was used within telemedicine prior to the pandemic receiving a surge of interest, especially to be integrated within drive-in testing facilities and other emergency medical environments being developed at this time. 

Ventura emphasized the importance of ensuring devices are safe to use through routine cleaning and ensuring these devices provide actual value. "The use of IoT and sensors to trigger engagement without physical contact will be impactful. I think, overall, we are going to get this opportunity as a reset and look at ways to be more agile as an industry and ways to engage better, safer, and build stronger value streams that deliver more.”

The Future After COVID-19

As we try to look forward, the impact of this pandemic will continue long after restrictions are lifted and technology will need to adapt to the lessons we have learned. “Tools like augmented reality and even voice controls will change the way we engage and we will find further uses for wayfinding, kiosks, and smart city systems,” said Ventura. 

Beyond that, there is much fear and uncertainty, but we are all facing this new reality together. “It’s being a partner with all of our customers and partners and helping them with their strategies and planning," he concluded. "There are solutions coming soon that will help address different levels of needs for the industry.” 

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Jennifer Guhl

Jennifer is a freelance writer and marketing consultant based in the New York City area. Within the AV industry, Jennifer loves to explore how technology can alter the world around us, creating immersive experiences unlike any other. She has years of experience working with AV integrators, manufacturers, and event production companies in developing engaging content to increase their overall awareness.