This will be the last AV post before next week's Infocomm trade show, and a chance to look forward to what promises to be an interesting few days. Plans have been made, including social plans, booth-visits, and the always-important moment to listen to everyone's favorite professional AV rock band. I even found a ringer to take my place in the corporate 5K run I signed up for before realizing that it was the same week as Infocomm. If there's any interest I might live-blog a bit during the show, and will certainly send updates. Looking forward, I've seen a quite a few people post suggestions and previews - many of which are quite sensible. Following are my own thoughts about what I hope to get from the event. If our paths cross, feel free to grab me for a quick "hello".
Also, take a few moments to listen to what some others are saying about the upcoming event and the state of our industry. Christopher Neto had a great piece on what he sees as game changers at Infocomm 2013. I also noticed an intriguing article by David Danto (whom I've crossed paths with a time or two a couple jobs ago) on disruptions in the videoconference world. Am I in one hundred percent agreement with either of them? Not at all, but then again, I'm not usually in one-hundred percent agreement with myself, much less anyone else - no matter their experience in the industry. Below are some of my thoughts.
As I said in my earlier post on AV training, I see network integration as one of the big directions in which our industry is moving. I'm quite interested to see where various manufacturers take this, including the still-fledgling AVB standard and its older cousin Dante (and yes, they appear to be cousins, if not actual siblings). Will one of these standards eventually be able to challenge HDBaseT as the dominant form of video transport, and if so what would that mean for the topology of AV networks and systems? Will centralized server-type DSPs like those from Biamp or QSC emerge as the dominant form-factor over standalone units like those from Symmetrix or Peavey? We might be at the cusp of a fundamental shift in how our industry operates. In fact, I'd argue that we're on the cusp of many such shifts.
The Other Kind of Networking
The great thing about Infocomm is that it seems that everyone is going to be there. Consultants, manufacturers, reps, contractors, and even end-users will all be in the same big tent learning about the same technology. In addition to the sheer pleasure of putting faces to all the names (or bodies to the headshots on various LinkedIn profiles) I've interactive with over the years, knowing people just makes working in this business easier. There are so many times when the solution to a problem lies not in knowing the technical answer, but in knowing whom to ask.
Don't get me wrong on this; if you make connections purely for the professional value you're not only doing it wrong but are quite possibly a sociopath (I should let my live-in clinical psychologist make that determination). If you listen to people and just take moment to get to know them you'll have the pleasure of more connections and, as a side bonus, more resources on which to call when you're stuck.
The Missing Lync
OK, Lync isn't quite missing - but it can be a challenging kind of technology to tie into large-scale integrated systems. It's easier than it's been before - thanks in part to products like Vaddio's EasyUSB line (if you're not aware of them, they're definitely a manufacturer to check out. They're also planning on unveiling some new products with a very high level of niftiness for those who work in the small meeting room/classroom kinds of spaces) - to tie them to small to mid-sized systems, but there still are advantages to appliance-based (as opposed to PC-based) conference systems; appliances are more easily controlled, more easily managed, and end up giving a more seamless user experience. I know at least two manufacturers working on Lync-compatible appliances, including Crestron's long-awaited RL. I'm not sure that I'm quite as high on this as Neto is, but it certainly has the possibility to become an important part of the unified communications ecosystem.
Software. The PC-Centered AV System
This is another part of our big paradigm change, and a new answer to a big question: what is at the heart of a commercial AV system? At one point not too long ago, it was a matrix switch and DVD/VHS decks, with increasing need for laptop interfaces. Now, with so many software solutions for conferencing, for collaboration, and for mobile device integration there's a definite move for the PC to move towards the center of a system, sometimes replacing numerous peripherals. The videoconference Codec? Software on your PC. Blu-ray or other media player? Built into the PC. Screen-scrape from your mobile device? A mobile app and - you got it - software on your PC. That annotative whiteboard? A touch-enabled monitor and a PC. Yes, one gives up some measure of capability and some measure of simplicity. I'd certainly not try to design a large, complicated system around a PC, but those small meeting room and classroom systems of which we've all seen scores? Many of those can easily become software-based solutions with little to no loss of functionality.
This ties in with what Danto said about disruption in videoconferencing; I think that the dedicated appliance will still be with us, but that there's more
Surprises (and why I'm OK with Extron not exhibiting)
There are certainly big, well-known companies worth visiting, especially for those who've not had a chance to see their new offerings in person. I'm looking forward to brief visits with AMX, Crestron, QSC, Vaddio, and others. That said, these are companies very much on my radar whom I follow reasonably well. I've seen Crestron's three-series stuff, seen Vaddio at the Sapphire Marketting Roadshow, and had AMX and QSC around for recent visits. This is why it doesn't bother me that much for Extron to not be exhibiting; I don't need a tradeshow to know what the big players are doing.
What I more want is a nice surprise; something I'd not thought of from someone I'd not thought to find it. In other words, if I knew what I was looking for, I'd not have to be there looking.
For anyone interested in meeting your favorite pixel-ink-stained wretch in person, I'll be arriving early Tuesday for some of Audinate's network seminars. I'll be on and off the floor most of the remaining days, with various social engagements including the WAVE reception on Wednesday evening (WAVE is one of those organizations which I feel deserve all of the support and attention we get) and the Drunk Unkles performance Thursday evening. I'll also try to post news and updates as I see things which delight, surprise, or intrigue me.
Final note for any of you writers or readers out there: there'll be more writing when I get back! Carrie K Sorensen is leading another blog-hop collaborative story. Read the first part here, and stay tuned for more.