InfoComm International officials called 2017 “a watershed year” for the organization and its annual June trade show, which set an all-time attendance record with 44,077 registrants. The mark represents a 14 percent jump over InfoComm 2016 and a 13 percent increase over the previous record in 2015.
InfoComm 2017 visitors hailed from all 50 United States and 117 countries, with 17 percent of attendees coming from outside the U.S. The show’s 950 exhibitors anchored more than 545,000 net square feet of exhibits, demo rooms and special events space, making it the biggest InfoComm show ever.
AV-over-IP is gaining tremendous steam in the industry. Are you jumping on the bandwagon?
The TIDE Conference, Center Stage, the Park and the Immersive Technology Pavilion were some of the new elements that InfoComm officials say may have helped to boost this year’s overall attendance. The overall number includes a continued growth in end users attending InfoComm’s summer extravaganza.
About 41 percent of InfoComm 2017 attendees identified as technology managers and end users —more than in any previous year and almost 40percent were first-time visitors.
“As we build greater awareness of the magic of AV, we believe the InfoComm show will continue to draw more and different market participants, from content creators to enterprise decision-makers,” said InfoComm International executive director and CEO David Labuskes in a press release. “InfoComm 2017 has proven to be a significant step in that direction.”
Other notable news from InfoComm 2017 in Orlando:
- More than 3,700 attendees took part in InfoComm training and education —up 24 percent from 2016.
- Nearly 190 professionals passed a Certified Technology Specialist (CTS) exam, bringing the total number of CTS holders to 11,105.
- More than 650 volunteers participated in InfoComm council activities, including record attendance at the Women of InfoComm Network Breakfast.
- InfoComm 2018 will be held June 2-8, 2018, at the Las Vegas Convention Center.
After a slow rollout of AV over IP-equipped products and molasses-speed acceptance of the new method, InfoComm 2017 seemed to represent a coming-out party of sorts for those who embrace the technology and a realization among those in the industry that more people should.
A slew of AV-over-IP product introductions at InfoComm 2017 demonstrate that the once-taboo AV distribution approach is nowembraced —as long as it’s done right.
Editor-in-chief Tom LeBlanc compared the slow acceptance of AV-over-IP across the industry to a phenomenon he saw a decade or so ago when covering the residential space for CE Pro, CI’s sister publication for residential integrators. At that time, many dealers in the residential channel bristled at the emergence of digital audio, saying the compression of high-end audio would hamper the quality of the listening experience.
What those integrators found, and what may be becoming more obvious for commercial integrators when it comes to AV-over-IP solutions, is the end-users don’t care as much as the integrators themselves do about that compression and don’t think it affects their experiences enough to be scared away from the emerging technology.
We saw examples of AV-over-IP and the continued growth of the SDVoE Alliance all over the floor at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, then saw SDVoE pioneer AptoVision sold to Semtech at the end of June, a sign the appeal of AV-over-IP and SDVoE is growing.
While AV-over-IP seems to have finally become an accepted standard in the integration community, it’s been a slower climb for virtual reality and augmented reality, which are still struggling to prove their worth for integrators and end users beyond gaming applications.
At InfoComm, Freeman and Samsung teamed up on the Immersive Technology Pavilion to display some of the less-heralded but important uses for VR and AR, ranging from medical applications to military training to post-enlistment therapies to simplification of viewing and changing a floor plan before a brick is laid or a sledgehammer knocks down a wall.
Stampede brought VR and AR to InfoComm 2016 and there were more examples of the ways the technology can help integrators on the show floor at InfoComm 2017. Atheer, showing in the Epson booth, demonstrated its Air Suite BT 350 smart glasses. Epson showed a typical museum guided tour/immersive meeting template, with the intent of providing more engaging animation and information related to the object viewed. A more practical example shows the system in use as a “heads-up” display for remote access information by technicians.
So, while it may still be some time before AR and VR are part of everyday life in the systems integration world, there were obvious signs of traction and acceptance at this year’s show and no doubt more companies will be showing off their version of the technology in Vegas in 2018.
Labuskes Praises PSNI Global Alliance
InfoComm’s Labuskes has been the industry’s chief advocate for worldwide expansion since he took over the job in January 2013 and that approach was obvious in InfoComm’s 2014 strategic plan.
Since then, InfoComm officials in general and Labuskes in particular have been sure to highlight that AV integration isn’t only a North American phenomenon and we’ve seen growth of InfoComm’s international show offerings and a sharp increase in international membership “from a very low base,” as Labuskes told PSNI Global Alliance members during InfoComm 2017.
The creation of PSNI’s global arm with 10 overseas members and an eventual reach of 100 or more countries within three years is a step that’s been a long time coming for PSNI but one Labuskes said is an important one for them, their customers and the industry as a whole.
“Your number one job is to figure out your primary constraint and spend 80 percent of your time working on it,” says Labuskes. “The technology model won’t last another five years. If you’re still using that model, you’ll be replaced by seedlings that will grow into trees.”
PSNI president Dana Barron, who’s also CEO of HB Communications, agrees with Labuskes’ overall assessment of the market.
“If we become less relevant, you’re going to be doing less business,” he told members, advocating for empathy in their business dealings. “We need to be doing a lot more listening than we’ve ever done. We puke a lot of technology on the table and talk about ourselves. It has to be about empathy. Customer success is what we need to be selling going forward.”
Reminder to Keep It Simple
Although there are certainly exceptions to every rule and we know of plenty of integrators who aren’t afraid of the most complex installations, the general trend in systems now is “ease of installation” and management. That became more evident than ever at InfoComm 2017, where about 40 percent of attendees were technology managers and end users.
Simply stated, this means products and solutions are intended to just work together, says CI columnist George Tucker. Installation is intended to be completed by “qualified technicians” and managed by the IT department. Over the last few years, chagrined engineering types have described nearly all of the AV industry trade shows as “evolutionary not revolutionary.” The heady days of when Ethernet was new, 3D was everywhere, and a plethora of upstart companies popped up are in a period of waning.
The technology has reached a significantly advanced state that this is more than possible, wrote Tucker. Labor is expensive, he says, and if a company can minimize its cost per degree, it can spend more on gear and additions.
“Concept-shifting innovation is an adrenaline rush, filling the senses with new possibilities,” wrote Tucker. “It also costs extra time and money –not something many institutions or corporations desire to spend willy-nilly. It is no doubt that many of these folks are not coming to InfoComm for the cutting-edge, but for the straightforward, often incremental, solutions.”