AV Network Nation Keynote Addresses the New Tech Landscape

Ben Gauthier and Manolo Almagro at AV Network Nation

AV Network Nation kicked off on Thursday morning with a keynote presentation by Manolo Almagro and Ben Gauthier of Q Division that explored the ways in which our world has changed over the past year, and what we can expect from technology going forward. 

“I think the only one good thing that came out of 2020 is the fact that we accelerated digital adoption across the board,” Almagro said. “It is now the primary way that people interact with companies and businesses, and these accelerated behaviors are reshaping consumer expectations and redefining what ‘experiential’ means across every industry.”

The pair then went on to explore some of examples of this, beginning with how we learn, collaborate, and communicate. “We’ve already moved to the point where we’re used to telepresence; we’re used to Zooming with people, but what’s different and what’s missing is the non-verbal cues,” Almagro said, pointing to some ways that tech innovators are tackling this deficiency, such as an immersive conferencing room from X2O Media. 

Gauthier also mentioned how we’ve greatly expanded the usage of videoconferencing to applications like telemedicine. “You have to start thinking about how your business is going to be able to latch onto this new behavior, where people are willing to do these kinds of things through telepresence,” he said. 

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This panel and all the others that took place during AV Network Nation are available on demand. Visit avnetworknation.vfairs.com and log in to watch recorded discussions. 

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The AV Network Nation Virtual Exhibition will be live until Jan. 7.

Another big change this year was to the way we shop: “People have moved into the place where digital is the first place they go,” Almagro said. One means of capitalizing on this is augmented reality, something to which the pandemic has given a boost. “The technology for augmented reality has been here for a while, but there’s been an uptick in utilizing it,” he said, such as to see how a couch would look in your home.

As people start returning in greater volume to brick-and-mortar stores, there are tech trends that are poised to transform that experience, as well. “Out-of-home and in-store digital signage networks have been around for a while, but retailers are now seeing opportunities,” Almagro said. “They’re taking their advertising media and modeling it after the way that Google, Amazon, and Facebook do it with their digital properties. And what we’re looking at is being able to talk to people while they’re in the store.” Retailers are also looking to increase revenue through first-party data collection by releasing their own apps. 

Deployed out of necessity for COVID safety monitoring, occupancy sensors with people counting are paving the way for the proliferation of IoT, according to Gautheir. “Right now, there’s a lot of computer vision and the ability to do tracking, and these things are being installed to show what the benefit to end users is,” he said. In terms of privacy, he pointed out ways around the contentious issue of people tracking: “If you’re not tracking people, maybe you’re tracking shopping carts to see what kinds of paths people are going down.”

Almagro and Gautheir also tackled the rise in new display technologies such as micro LED, which is poised to replace OLED, and projected how intelligence will soon infuse much of the world around us. “Connected surfaces are the next thing that we’re going to have,” Almagro said. “Not only will you be able to wear technology, you’ll be part of the environment: you’ll be able to communicate just by touching a surface or a specific object.” And, he believes that micro LED will play a big role in this. 

Overall, the innovations to cope with COVID will end up playing a large role in our normal lives once things are over. “Even though we went through a bananas time, we’re not going to be living like this forever,” Gautheir said. “What we are saying is that when we do return, it’s going to be a little bit different, and there are different types of expectations and different types of skills that you’re going to be able to use to your advantage.”

All of the AV Network Nation content—including the exhibit hall—is available on demand for the next four weeks. To learn more, visit avnetworknation.com.

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.