The news that Microsoft plans to fill a prominent role at InfoComm 2014, June 18-20 in Las Vegas, should come as no surprise to anyone involved in the deepening convergence of the AV and IT universes.
“I think it’s a great tie in,” says Travis Lisk, VP of technical operations Advanced AV, a West Chester, Pa.-based AV integration firm.
“There’s been lots of talk about AV heading down the IT path for some time, but they are convergent now. They are just about one in the same.”
For many years, AV integrators built highly customized systems that ran on specialized infrastructure apart from a customer’s computers and networks. But over the past decade, AV products have increasingly converged onto IP networks.
Everything from projectors to display devices now operate on the corporate network. Video conferencing has migrated from purpose-built room systems to the desktop and more recently to smartphones and other mobile devices. And emerging fields like unified communications and digital signage cut across the AV, IT and telecom domains.
“There are very few systems that we install today that don’t connect to a network,” Lisk notes. “There’s either a network jack in the back or a wireless connection.”
That requires well-rounded knowledge—AC integration as well as data, network and security skills. In 2014, the integrator that understands all these elements and can make them work together efficiently and effectively has a huge advantage.
And the market opportunities are growing. According to the research firm Acclaro Growth Partners, the AV products and services market will be a $115 billion global industry in 2015, up from $78 billion in 2012.
Demand for AV technology comes from a variety of vertical markets, with healthcare and education among the fastest growing. The small business market is strengthening as price points come down and features grow. There’s also growth in the telecommuter markets— employees who work at home but want high quality desktop video capabilities to connect to the corporate office.
Sticking with just networks or only AV will severely limit solution providers because of where these technologies are heading. Companies that understand how to add AV to a network, providing one-stop integration for everything, will be successful.
Watch InfoComm executive director David Labuskes discuss AV-IT convergence: