Tech at InfoComm: Dumbed-Down for End Users or Bright Future for Industry?

George Tucker explains why many InfoComm 2017 attendees were not AV industry experts, and wonders if end users will control manufacturing more than ever.

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Tech at InfoComm: Dumbed-Down for End Users or Bright Future for Industry?

InfoComm International published a comprehensive report on the AV industry and its trade show following InfoComm 2017. While there is much to chew on, one of the demographics appears to be chaffing a vocal segment of the industry: just over 40% of the 2017 show attendees listed themselves as Technology Managers or ‘end users’. It is fair to presume that these ‘end users’ are not always designers or engineers. Their jobs aren’t necessarily specialized enough to understand how systems work.

The Trend Towards Ease of Use in AV

Nearly half of InfoComm 2017 attendees is no insignificant number.

It very well may impact who is showing, what they are showing, and how those products are developed. Are the products at InfoComm becoming simpler because the show’s attendees have a narrower understanding of how it all works? Whether or not this is a chicken-or-the-egg scenario is still to be borne out.

The general trend in systems now is “ease of installation” and management. Simply stated, this means products and solutions are intended to just work together. 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.

Why? The technology has reached a significantly advanced state that this is more than possible. To be frank, labor is expensive; if a company can minimize its cost per degree, it can spend more on gear and additions.

Is Engineering Dead?

No, not quite — the need for integrators will always be there, perhaps not where some of us would like it.

Concept-shifting innovation is an adrenaline rush, filling the senses with new possibilities. 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.

The growth in attendance at the shows is built upon these end users. It may not be what some of that vocal segment desire, but it may be what the AV industry needs.

AV-over-IP is gaining tremendous steam in the industry. Are you jumping on the bandwagon?

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  • Tom Stimson says:

    George, I love your take on this. Many years ago when InfoComm “allowed” Technology Managers to become Members (and actually sit on the Board of Directors), there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth that this would be the end of Pro-AV. Nothing could be further from the truth. I think this has re-energized and professionalized AV in ways we never imagined. Technology will continue to become easier to apply – that does not diminish the need for effective design or implementation. The AV Industry is changing. AV Pros need to change with it.

    • Thanks Tom – Good to hear from you! (I will be contacting you on side channel soon to catch up).

      Yeah, while the ‘engineering types’ are remarkable individuals and contribute remarkable assets to the industry – Not everything needs to be built like a Utopian superstructure. This, in many cases, excludes many from seeking a solution in the first place. The headaches of complexity and cost can quickly overwhelm a client.

      Do you think there is another group who has been excluded and should be allowed to partake in at least the show floor? Technical Students, Architects, Designers?

  • Shyam Devadas, CTS-D, PMP says:

    Nice article. I don’t see this as an either/or situation. George is quite correct about the market’s thirst for ease of use. I would put it even more simply: The market wants to understand what they are paying for…and our industry has done an abysmally-bad job at providing that understanding. Four years ago, I first began to discuss the concept of a “rebellion in the user community” with my clients. In the age of iPhones, Roku boxes, and Siri it has become ever-more difficult for them to digest the tradition diet of black boxes and double-talk that the pro-AV industry has troweled out for decades. In my opinion, this has done long-term damage to our industry. So, it really isn’t that surprising when other sectors of the electronic and information technology industry see an opening and decide to “take matters into their own hands”. All we’re seeing now is the market responding to that and making a choice between pro-AV opacity and consumer electronic transparency.

    The good news for us is that this leads the high end consumer back to us. Sure, most of them can get by with a semi-DIY approach, but the ones we traditionally pursue want more.

    • Shyam;

      I am also flummoxed by the lack of clear documentation and ‘easy (x) step ‘ diagrams showing basic set up and connection.

      Granted we are not Dell or Gateway computer but heck, if we can provide a way for Tech managers and their IT dept folks a single page cut sheet to run with… how many more systems can we sell? (A lot, I would suspect) .

      Support, both remote and in person, will still be needed when it comes to the higher end platforms, topology, and presentation format. Regardless the KISS concept is urgently needed.

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