Coincidentally held around the same time the azaleas are in bloom in Augusta, April 10, 2018 kicked off the 17th year for the annual Crestron Masters.
For the past three years at AV Technology, we’ve been moving the conversation beyond the AV and IT conversion to data. But data is really nothing without the ability to parse and deliver it in a way that can be analyzed and visualized. Without it, a data dump is exactly what it sounds like.
All About the Cloud
Could this be the year that AV firmly plants both feet into the IT world? I think so. The groundbreaking news at Masters 2018 was the official launch of Crestron’s XiO Cloud hosted by Microsoft Azure. When XiO Cloud, Crestron Fusion, and Microsoft Power BI are used together, an incredible visualization of collected data is available.
“If a company already uses O365 (MS Office 365) then they will not have a problem with XiO because it’s hosted in the same data centers,” said Jon Ottesen, enterprise solutions architect at Crestron. “We use the exact same transport mechanisms, queuing, and security that Microsoft uses.”
This is a significant step forward in the evolutionary ecosystem of a 12-year-old product—Crestron Fusion.
“This effort actually started about seven years ago,” Ottesen said at the Designing for Enterprise Management session at Masters 2018. “It required us to reorganize and restructure our entire firmware library from the first variable up. Now if that doesn’t mean anything to you, disassemble your life to the moment of conception and start over. That’s what we did to get to this.”
Ottesen then went on to explain where Crestron XiO Cloud fits into the hierarchy of the company's platforms, beginning with Crestron Fusion, with its primary job of providing proactive monitoring and data collection. With Crestron Fusion Cloud, users can manage and monitor devices. To get devices setup quickly and easily, Crestron XiO Cloud allows the integrators the ability to claim the devices via MAC address and serial number to configure the equipment.
“Crestron Fusion is still needed to manage systems and device status,” said Richard Sasson, global director of technical services. “But the bottom line is that XiO Cloud is a cloud-only configuration and management tool that enables large-scale deployments in warp-speed. Combine XiO Cloud with Crestron Fusion and Power BI, you get real-time analytics.
“We have created dashboards so that we can own the experience without having to own Microsoft Power BI,” Sasson said. “In essence, creating templates and dashboards that our customers can use to have a good experience but were not going to maintain Power BI.” Templates can be customized for a service fee.
An Industry Evolves
Approximately six years ago, Crestron Authorized Independent Programmers became known as Crestron Services Providers. “We’re telling you, you need to offer services beyond programming,” Sasson said. “Will programming exist? Sure. The bread-and-butter is going to be mass deployments, configurations, reporting, creating a service that customers want and real value that customers need—a real return on investment.”
Programming of custom-controlled, one-off boardrooms and auditoriums isn’t going away. The paradigm shift is that systems such as XiO Cloud can now enable the configuration of 50, 100, or thousands of rooms at a time.
Power BI was introduced at InfoComm 2017, and at the time, the interest came more from end users. This makes sense given that technology managers, facilities managers, and CIOs need real information for lifecycle and real estate planning. “After we explained the benefits of the MTA program, we had unprecedented spike in people wanting to change their coursework to obtain the MTA certification,” Sasson said.
“We realized we wanted to offer Masters level training to a wider audience,” he said. “By creating the Masters Technology Architect program, we can really help the industry. We must be able to create a great experience for the end client by having the design community and the programming community work together to create the best solution.”