A couple of years ago I wrote an article on the status of the commercial AV industry. I pointed out that while many might see the industry as mature, in a real sense it is not. In fact, the truth is that the industry is entering a new phase. Of course, in many respects we will continue to conduct business as usual by selling displays, mounts, screens, audio and even some IT (since it has finally converged). However, today there is so much more literally staring us in the face. Today it is about the big picture, and I am not speaking about a large display on a wall. The big picture refers to the “smart design” of buildings and morphing into AV, and IT systems – concepts that embrace the proliferation of big data, the cloud, and the internet of things (IoT).
Our industry’s new and ever-expanding role can be partially traced to the smart building initiatives launched in the early 2000’s and continue today. This is the thinking that currently dominates new construction and the refurbishments of existing facilities. Companies are now beginning to explore all the elements both outside and inside the confines of their buildings and quantify the effects on their employees, productivity, and profitability.
By definition, smart buildings began by delivering centrally managed building services that facilitate productivity (e.g. illumination, thermal comfort, air quality, physical security, sanitation, etc.) at a reduced cost over the building life cycle. What building owners and occupants are finding is that it is not enough for a building to simply contain the systems that provide comfort, light, and safety, they must connect the various pieces of the puzzle of daily operations in an integrated, dynamic and functional way. This is where we are heading, and in the implementation of these concepts lies the evolving role of the commercial AV integrator.
While most AV integrators will not become directly involved in implementing building management systems, they will definitely play a part in conversations (and responses to RFPs) that touch this concept – seeking improved client productivity through enhanced workload management and concepts such as unified communication and collaboration (or UCC for short). The task of UCC is to design systems where data of all kinds is received, distributed, and then shared across all platforms. As I noted in my previous article referring to cell phones, we increasingly demand information wherever we are, whenever we want, and on any device. This expectation is now porting over to our business lives, and the benefits are quantifiable in terms of ROI and at the heart of modern AV systems.
The collaboration part of UCC is the desire not to just distribute and interconnect “things” but to share all this information. This may be a one to one activity, but also one to a many. As one expert opined recently, it all starts with “two or more people (aka teams) working together (aka processes) towards shared goals (aka purpose)”. It is the “working together” part where the AV technologies are applied.
Our job is to present and sell UCC understanding the value is irrefutable. The AV integrator should sell the specific benefits
and value of UCC that all fall under a client’s assessment of ROI.
Here are a few examples:
- Better communication between all levels of an organization
- Deliver more focused communications and faster access to communications
- Save time, drive productivity, and increase interaction and engagement
- Allow communication at times and in places which otherwise would be impossible
- Allow telecommuting and minimize travel costs
- Create virtual work groups that allow a variety of perspectives and expertise
- Allow new modes of communication and interactions
When organizations embrace collaboration across their workforce, productivity takes center stage. With the collective power of the collaborators, the team can accomplish far greater things than each individual working on their own. This means to an end approach involves employing a wide variety of collaboration technologies, including an array of AV technologies including displays and mounts, video and computer sources, audio and video conferencing as well as IT related topics such network connectivity, unified messaging, instant messaging, digital signage, and more. The key is designing them in a way that they “talk” to one another. In other words, all internal systems are now becoming smart.
We are taking technologies that typically fit in a mature industry and the paradigms of boardrooms, conference rooms, and training rooms and are expanding that vision to other spaces. We are interconnecting elements that used to be stand alone. The network is the superhighway of big data and bandwidth is the speed limit.
The new world of AV is all about understanding and clarifying the objectives of our clients and discovering problems that they may not be fully aware that they have. This opens the door for the commercial AV integrator to provide the solutions to fulfill their objectives. Many of the solutions are new and fly in the face of this being a mature industry. As I said in the beginning, with new opportunities surfacing every day, it is anything but. My advice? Open new doors and explore new paths. You will enjoy the new adventure.