The New Office, Part 4: Can We Achieve “Always On” AV Platforms?

Always on
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Why has it been so hard to get there? The need is felt in every office: always-on AV technology, “on” almost instantly when needed and customized for the end user organization, to avoid cumbersome manual logins, stuttered starts to meetings, and unproductive collaboration sessions.

The need for frictionless AV technology is palpable­—with software that recognizes all AV devices on the network and configures collaboration, messaging, and room management software for that day’s needs. It’s important to be able to do all of that seamlessly for the IT managers, AV staff, and end users in a communications chain.

Is this the holy grail of AV? End users respond with a resounding “yes.” And increasingly there’s a second aspect to “always on” that takes the organization’s AV ecosystem to an even higher level. It centers around the “digital signage effect,” the idea that digital screens (bigger ones, not smartphone screens) can bring you both better ROI (return on investment) and more importantly better ROO (return on objective, see sidebar below) if you also use them for things beyond individual work desk or meeting room tasks. Let’s look at each opportunity and what best practices are emerging to do them right.

Best Practice: Maximizing Return on Objective 

ROI (return on investment) is a traditional measure for any business investment, but best practices in AV deployment are increasingly centered around ROO (Return on Objective). ROO is defined as building out your objectives for the solution and then determining how those objectives are met. ROI is about the bottom line, but how the systems are used and the success in meeting defined goals is a stronger measurement. To measure ROO for your AV/digital signage network, you must clearly define your key objectives and expected outcomes—and these should be specific and measurable. Start by engaging the teams that your new network will impact directly. For example, if you’re installing a network in a school, discuss its deployment with IT, faculty, and students. They will provide indispensable insights into what the key objectives of your network should be. Then tailor your new investment by asking your team—is the planned system flexible enough to help us meet those ROO goals as our organization grows and changes? Integrating “always on” and digital signage capabilities into the AV ecosystem is a good example of how integrators and end users are meeting the challenge.

“Always on,” does that mean literally always on? It doesn’t. Wasting energy is not a good idea. What is a great idea is avoiding the pain points of all those videoconferences with three participants or thirty that just never seem to start on time. Always on is about getting rid of those stutter-start collaboration sessions, and getting all participants, wherever they’re located, to start the meeting at 2:30 p.m., not 2:39 p.m. We all know that one of the chief complaints about meetings is that they go on too long. Contributing to that sentiment is the fact that they often don’t start on time. And once the meeting has started, too often basic meeting equity issues combined with mediocre document and video retrieval/playback for the group drag down team speed and efficiency. AV systems that are always on let participants enter meetings immediately, then hit the screen running so to speak, with full meeting equity and full ability not just to see/hear colleagues but also to share files and videos with ease. Can you show a live video feed from a drone hovering over a factory floor in another country, with the click of your mouse? Or pull up a project timeline and budget at just the right time of the discussion? The goal is to keep meetings focused with relevant content that lets teams come to an informed decision or plan next steps.

To do that we need better, more seamless technology – with software that recognizes all AV devices on the network and configures collaboration, messaging, and room management platforms for that day’s needs. What kind of AV infrastructure do you need to get closer to that goal? That’s a big question. Start by asking your AV integrator or AV equipment suppliers about the new breakthroughs that are based on collaborative product development and the advances in API’s for better software-to-software communication, and cloud content management tools. Sony is very much on top of these new best practices. That’s what’s behind our Alliance Partners program, which brings together multiple vendors to deliver a complete AV ecosystem with enhanced productivity and workflow efficiencies. This is an industry-wide effort, designed for those end users who want to go beyond just sourcing random products that may or may not work seamlessly together—and get closer to robust, always-on AV ecosystems.

The other part of always-on AV? It’s what we call the digital signage effect. We all see digital signage in public spaces such as retail stores, airports, sports venues, and lobbies. The effect we’re referring to here is this: internal or staff-facing digital signage. It’s a big trend, and it’s all about using digital screens and content management software for your own organization not for your customers or the “public” to see. And the trick to leveraging the “digital signage effect,” internally for your own organization, is to get better ROO from all your work desks and meeting room, and collaboration screens. Flip those screens to morale-boosting, creative “broadcast” messaging of all kinds to your teams when they’re not being used in real-time work tasks. There are many use cases where companies, schools, and faith facilities are doing this, with a subtle touch, not intrusively, and further turning their AV systems to "always on."

Finally, using the same technology for different purposes—such as collaboration, and digital signage—helps with sustainability. In every industry, a new focus on sustainability is driving the design and use of all spaces and all systems. It starts with recognizing the importance of eco-friendly product design and reduced power consumption resulting in energy savings. But sustainability is also about leveraging the synergies of an empowered workforce and better AV and IT ecosystem flexibility to create better enterprise efficiency—a win-win for your organization and for the planet. That’s the topic of my next article in this series: Sustainability and flexibility work hand-in-hand.

Rich Ventura
Vice President, Sony Professional Display Solutions

Richard Ventura has spent 20+ years within sales, strategy and marketing organizations focusing on display solutions, video analytics, cloud platforms, display technologies, projectors and direct-view LED solutions. During that time he has helped numerous client and partner relationships flourish and spearheaded campaigns, which have elevated brand and products throughout the marketplace.

Richard is a long-standing member of many organizations within the industry as well as is a former Chairman on the Board of Directors for the Digital Signage Federation with experience in developing and supporting initiatives for the International Committee, Advocacy and Outreach Committee, Membership Committee as well as the Global DOOH Council. During his tenure within the industry, he has delivered many presentations at conferences as well as authored articles for key publications and industry trade periodicals.

Richard holds a BA in history from the University of MN-Morris and a MBA from Hamline University. He is also a retired member of the Minnesota National Guard after 10 years of service in the military.