The Infinity Stones of AV

One of the biggest box office hits of 2019 was Avengers: Endgame. The film’s world premiere, held on April 22 in a purpose-built 2,000-seat theater with 70-foot screen in the Los Angeles Convention Center, was an all-QSC event. The film’s Dolby Atmos sound was handled by a comprehensive package of QSC loudspeakers, amplifiers, and signal processing featuring Q-SYS. 

Joe Pham at InfoComm 2019

QSC's Joe Pham, Ph.D. presenting at InfoComm 2019. (Image credit: Megan A. Dutta/Future)

Attending the event inspired Joe Pham, Ph.D., president and CEO of QSC, to think deeper about being what he calls an “AVenger.”

Comparing our industry to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Pham said, “Similar to the Avengers, AV has been on a journey to find these Infinity Stones. Maybe we haven’t harnessed them to their full power, but we have found them.

“Unlike the Avengers, we’re not here to bring these Infinity Stones together to rule the universe or save the universe, but we can use them to deliver an exceptional AV experience,” he added. “Because as AV professionals, we are passionate about what we do. We know the magic that AV can bring.”

For Pham, these are the six Infinity Stones of AV.

Stone 1: Talent

The entire pro AV industry was created by talent, Pham said. “People needed to be heard [and] we figured it out. Then, eventually, sound and sight just needed to happen. Innovators and pioneers created an industry and created a trade.”

While innovators and pioneers may have launched the industry, a different kind of talent is required to advance it, and perhaps even to reinvent it. “I think we have to reinvent what it means to be an AV professional, and I think we have to reinvent what it is our industry represents.”

[50 Years of Embracing Change at QSC]

Pham outlined the ways QSC has reinvented itself throughout the years, but emphasized that the company can’t do it alone. Every role in the industry talent pool matters in the process of industry transformation.

“There is no way one company can deliver an exceptional experience [on its own], and we get that from the Avengers 2. It’s not about one superhero. We actually need a set of AVengers to make it happen.”

Stone 2: Software

According to Pham, the AV industry has centered itself around hardware for the last 100 years. But today the industry is missing out on an opportunity because bringing together software and hardware is “where the magic happens.”

Pham referenced a 2011 Wall Street Journal article, “Why Software Is Eating the World” by web browser pioneer Marc Andreessen, that said that companies in every single industry need to assume that a software revolution is coming. When the article was published eight years ago, Andreessen’s warning was met with measured curiosity. Today, Pham said, we could look at Andreessen as a prophet.

Pham argued, “If we examine our industry, we’re getting there, but we still haven’t fully grasped the concept.” It’ll take an AVenger to help us.

Stone 3: Ecosystem

Stone three is the AV ecosystem. “A product, in isolation, is dead; it has no heartbeat. A platform is a collection of products that are integrated together in an intelligent way. Coupled with software, we can create a living platform that grows with [the client] over the lifetime of the product.”

The ecosystem, according to Pham, happens when platforms connect with one another. “We are used to this in our everyday lives—our smartphone connects to our thermostat and our email, and we can order a car service with just a few clicks. While our personal lives are entrenched in the ecosystem, we, as an industry, aren’t quite there yet.”

What AV professionals cannot do, Pham said, is “continue to think that you add value by putting a bunch of products together. That economic value is diminishing very quickly.”

Pham believes the AV industry will transition to the ecosystem mindset, but, he asked, “What will be your role in having AV get there?”

Stone 4: Data

Whatever you call it—big data, deep learning, predictive analytics, artificial intelligence, mass personalization—it’s impacting the pro AV industry in a big way. Pham claims that more data has been generated in the last 18 months than in the entire human history.

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Pham pointed to Google’s acquisition of Nest as an example. “Who thinks Google is paying $3.2 billion for a hardware thermostat company?” Pham asked. “They are using that data to enrich their understanding of household behavior. They connect that data through their analytics engine. Now they understand behavior of human beings in homes. That is powerful!”

Pham added that pro AV has recently gained the ability to truly tap into data management. “When you have access to data, if you put a little thinking behind it, you can turn data into information. If you put a little bit more analytics and thinking behind information, you can turn information into knowledge. And that knowledge can be turned into actionable insights and value.”

Finally, he added, “if you can deliver actionable insights and value to someone, they’re going to pay for it.”

Stone 5: The New Economics of AV

The economic value of the industry is shifting toward the customer lifetime value, Pham said. The relationship begins with a one-time purchase; extending that experience into a lifetime relationship is where integrators will be able to grow their business and find success in the next phase of our industry.

Pham’s slides showed the shifting economic value of AV—transitioning from a one-time purchase to a lifetime customer relationship.

Pham’s slides showed the shifting economic value of AV—transitioning from a one-time purchase to a lifetime customer relationship. (Image credit: QSC)

Pham advised AV professionals to win in the new world of AV by becoming “first movers or fast followers” and to be ecosystem players.

Stone 6: TBD

The sixth Infinity Stone of AV lies in the mysterious future of professional AV. “I think as we move on and get more clarity on data and the new economics of AV, that sixth stone will begin to reveal itself.”

In summary, Pham said, “Become an AVenger. We can do this together. The Avengers is a team. We need to get a team of consultants, technology managers, technology integrators, and end users, and we need to deliver the exceptional experience.”

Megan A. Dutta

Megan A. Dutta is a pro AV industry journalist, and the former content director for Systems Contractor News (SCN) and Digital Signage Magazine, both Future U.S. publications. Dutta previously served as the marketing communications manager at Peerless-AV, where she led the company’s marketing and communications department. Dutta is the recipient of AVIXA's 2017 Young AV Professional Award and Women in Consumer Technology's 2018 Woman to Watch Award. Dutta is co-founder of Women of Digital Signage, an organization designed to provide a pathway to promote networking, mentoring, and personal growth.