by Todd McCandless
- Electronics have been out of the evolutionary digital goo for some time now and yet they are still growing legs, arms, eyes, heads, voices, and a strong desire for reduction in mass and form. The evolutionary path seems to be seeking a device with the most comprehensive features at a size that fits the human condition and its penchant for physical interaction.
The commercial AV integration industry has been in its own evolutionary experiment lately and we too are seeking a comprehensive feature set that positions us competitively and adds value to our proposition. Some have adopted disparate technologies while others are still finding lucrative, modest-margin work in the integration arena.
Consultants are adding services such as structured cabling, data, wireless and even communication strategies to their quiver and many of them are doing a fine job of it--a tip of the hat to AV consultants who are proving once again that they are important part of a successful evolutionary tale.
Manufacturers are looking to the evolutionary DNA provider that is the IT industry and finding that margin erosion, commoditization, and designed end-of-life scenarios, as well as new distribution channels, are tactics that could maximize product awareness and adoption across vertical markets and across industries.
Isn't this fun? Actually it is. It wasn't lightning or an alien ship that got this electronics evolutionary chain started (although Edison could be forgiven for making most of it possible and he did it in 140 characters or less I am told). No, it was the consumer who barged into the placid pool of silicon and solder and struck the surface with a powerful energy called "demand". Guess what? They're doing it again!
For years the commercial AV industry, as well as IT industry, were setting the pace on system design, features, and capacities. They did a great job of developing business-class equipment to meet the demand of the world's largest corporations and organizations.
These systems evolved and were later reduced in size and complexity in order to be smuggled across the commercial/resi border and into the home--remember the sprite-like joy you had when you launched your first wireless network at home? Time went on and the underground smuggling continued replete with "bootstrapped" DirecTV cards, "Jailbreak" iPhones, and Napster. Why these three examples? Audio, data, and video content are all represented in context with consumer experience and evolution.
When Apple designed its category killers in the Macintosh, iPod, and iPad, and revolutionized the smart phone industry with the iPhone, it made consumer electronics products sexy.
This move is important on many levels but most salient to my argument is the fact that it reversed the commercial-to-consumer system design notion. What once was a business-class solution "dumbed down" for consumer use has now become consumer demand for business-class systems that mimic or mirror their electronics experience at home. Yes, I do understand this is not new, so I will spare you the bravado of professing a Delphic oracle style revelation. It's just that the movement has radically picked up speed in the last 48 months.
While it has been happening over time, the iPad and intimacy employees have with their devices has ushered a new concept--BYOD, or bring your own device. Employees want their device, replete with the intimacy they have with it, to be able to function in the work environment.
AV integrators are poised like no other to make this happen. IT professionals, while demigods in their industry, are still looking at a Windows Media WAV file at 380 lines of robust resolution as an acceptable level of performance in their claim that they too can handle that video thing around the office. Sure, put that on a 100-inch display and we'll get back to you on that.
No, AV integrators can bring this notion of consumer experience into the enterprise level and provide an audiovisual experience customers demand based on the intimate and familial relationship they have with their devices. Have you researched what cloud-based solutions are available for your products and services to allow your customers the ability to use their devices in the conference room, boardroom, or training room?
Both Cisco and Polycom are presenting new mobility features that allow your clients to communicate from their iPads. The space between the data and the human is our world. How our clients touch and interact is the battleground and it's going to take some ammunition to cross the trenches.
IT professionals begrudgingly relented in 2011 and began the assimilation of employee-owned devices. While the challenge begat the task of building more heterogeneous mobile environments--the IT industry is doing just that. What are we doing? How are we enabling our customers to use employee-owned devices in our systems? Are we recognizing the demand that our equipment function with gestures or that it doesn't exist at all so the employee's device can now control our systems? IT relented and so must we.
In the end, we design systems that move audio, video, and control information from one point to another or many. We can be innovative in our application or accommodating in the demands of consumer-driven hardware. The choice is ours but we may need IT's help in doing so and if we don't find a way to redefine the space between the display or speaker and the ears, eyes, mouth or fingers, we may want to think about another line of work.
The "Cloud" is making this more achievable than ever before and it won't be long until the evolutionary chain for electronics breeds the newest beast in the jungle-the all-in-one device that is the center of humanities quest for connectivity, features, communication, data and productivity. Yes, it will most likely play Angry Birds too.