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Top 4 tech technology trends which will dominate the AV industry in 2018


As we wrap up 2017, it’s time to get ahead of the game and ask ourselves how we can improve the audiovisual industry in 2018. What trends are we seeing and how can we prepare ourselves for the future of AV?


Open-Source vs. Proprietary


As Sundar Raman, director of creative engineering at Local Projects, said at SCN’s ThinkTank:

“Our industry is broken because there isn’t a common language. We don’t talk to each other, even within the industry; there’s no platform. There’s no Wix for AV.”

Installers have spent years trying to solve the conundrum of getting different systems to “talk” to one another. Some manufacturers, like Extron and QSC, are trying to change that.


Programmers in AV industry often spend a lot of time learning a propriety development language and are unable to take those skills and apply them to other tasks in the environment, according to Joe da Silva, Extron’s director of product marketing. The industry has started to demand an open-source platform, which is why Extron chose to develop a platform based on Python that served configuration and programming needs. 

“By choosing Python, we provide programmers a resilient, ever-improving platform that inspires creative design, provides easy implementation, and allows long-term AV system viability,” he said.

Both da Silva and Martin Barbour, product manager, installed systems, QSC, agree that propriety languages have been, and still are, useful; these innovations were critical to the success of the AV industry, allowing integrators to create and implement complicated designs.

However, “As the AV industry, and technology in general, has matured, the proliferation of ‘standard’ and ‘open-source’ programming techniques allows our industry to capitalize on a huge rate of advancements taking place in adjacent markets, such as IT”, Barbour stated. “By embracing common programming language, we can attract talent from the broad base of these markets and benefit from modern, scalable technologies.”


The Rise of AI


Artificial Intelligence (AI) can terrify you, excite you, or confuse you—but the age of AI is here, so get ready to jump on board.


When most people think of AI, they think of robots, which have a huge place in the future of the AV industry. For example, take a look at the wayfinding robots in Mineta San Jose International Airport (one of SCN’s Installs of the Year). These multilingual robots are stationed at various gates and work to engage, direct, and entertain travelers.


When we’re talking AI and sound, we can’t forget our friends Alexa, Cortana, and Siri. Many are concerned with the thought of these tools “always listening” and the invasion of privacy. Are our top-secret conversations being overheard in the boardroom? Kevin Brown, solutions manager, hospitality and large venues, Harman Professional Solutions, says we need not worry. “There is a critical distinction between ‘always listening’ and ‘always transmitting’. The more accurate phrase [in this scenario] is ‘always listening but only sometimes transmitting.’ Any well-designed smart speaker will have a ‘mic mute’ button and indicator, which is always useful during sensitive conversations.”


For the vast majority, smart speakers are acceptably secure, but, “For those who don’t trust the hardware design or the AI service, the only logical conclusion is to avoid using smart speakers and also smartphones, which pose the same theoretical privacy risks,” Brown concluded.


The UX


2017 was definitely the year of user experience, and this trend will continue to be talked about in 2018.


The UX, which was almost an afterthought, is now at the heart of the industry. In fact, the user experience has become the centerpiece of each system VCA, number 15 on SCN’s list, designs and integrates, according Lindsey Adler, the company’s director of marketing.

“It has even impacted VCA’s internal processes. We’ve invested a great deal this year on creating a better customer experience, and we intend to continue those efforts as we head into 2018,” Adler concluded.

Focus on the user experience doesn’t just lie with the end user. Manufacturers are working hard to create smooth experiences for installers and integrators alike. 


Convergence of AV and IT


Is it still AV versus IT? Or is it the convergence of AV and IT?


Make no mistake: “AV is not the IT industry,” stated Labuskes. But that doesn’t mean there’s not a place for IT in our industry; we should welcome IT professionals with open arms and view them as partners rather than the enemy. “We need to recognize that IT holds the keys to the infrastructure where AV systems will be based,” said Barbour.

And those systems are all about the technology, which is where we should put our focus, according to da Silva. 

“Decision makers want to know more about the APIs, analytics, managing devices, and user experiences,” he said. “There will always be AV experts, but many products continue to require the input, implementation, and policy skills found in IT. Also, it is impossible to consider the application of traditional AV technology without first appreciating that the management of these devices has long since moved under the IT umbrella. It’s about technology—pure and simple.”