Internet of Things Meets ProAV
AUDIOVISUAL INTEGRATORS already understand the “wow” factor. Now Internet of Things technology is poised to put even more wow into the wow.
Businesses use AV equipment for a wide range of purposes, from site security to conferencing solutions to warehouse monitoring. Yet the vast majority of those solutions are hardwired, proprietary systems that lack the ability to integrate into business IT services or support remote access. The time is ripe for transformation via IoT-based replacements that leverage the latest technologies.
ProAV is a lucrative market. Indeed, it is projected to grow from $186 billion in 2018 to $230 billion by 2023, according to the 2018 AV Industry Outlook and Trends Analysis (IOTA) Global Summary from AV industry membership organization AVIXA. IoT for smart buildings is one of the top five technology trends driving that growth, according to the report.
It’s early though, says Andrew Milne, CEO and principal of consulting firm Kirkpoint. “ProAV is uniquely positioned to design and deliver ‘wow’ using the traditional technologies of AV, but the industry needs to seriously retool to get there with IoT,” he says. “The skill sets needed will be interwoven and interdisciplinary, but the training programs don’t yet exist because the disciplines are still being developed.”
IoT-based AV products bring a new dynamic to businesses by incorporating support for network connections and TCP/IP protocols and, of course, linking systems to the larger Internet of Things. Such capabilities allow organizations to access and control AV systems remotely, or capture and record audio and video streams in real time and then store them on traditional IT resources. Businesses can then apply Natural Language Processing technology and motion detection algorithms to the data to uncover patterns or glean insights.
In addition, IoT devices can be integrated with videoconferencing platforms, wireless communications systems, and other office technologies, enabling ProAV integrators to offer alternatives to expensive and proprietary solutions. Vendors often construct IoT solutions to be platforms tailor-made for integrating new devices into an existing IT infrastructure. Ultimately, that makes it easier to manage and secure these devices using browser-based consoles that employ TCP/IP communications over wired or wireless connections.
These examples only scratch the surface of what is possible, though. Hundreds of new smart devices that incorporate audio and video are coming on the market. Amazon’s Alexa, Google Assistant, Apple Siri, and Microsoft Cortana are becoming mainstream members of many households. Those same technologies could be used to power the IoT-based conference room of the near future, in which verbal commands can initiate videoconference calls, switch on recording, or even provide data and insights during a meeting by simply asking the AI-based assistant.
The convergence of IoT with ProAV will bring ample opportunities to solution providers willing to navigate the intricacies of integration and leverage the numerous APIs that manufacturers are increasingly making available to support customization. That, in turn, will fuel custom IoT solutions that will create new markets for solution providers.
Data visualization is an example, according to Milne. “As enterprises collect increasing amounts of data and partner with the ProAV community to develop systems for developing and presenting their analysis, there will be tremendous opportunities for consultants and service providers to guide their clients towards best practices in data visualization and collaborative work around data,” he says.
How ProAv integrators leverage the technology in the near term to create meaningful value to customers is the challenge. “This is coming at a time when we are still trying to wrap our arms around what we mean by ‘exceptional experiences’ in general,” says Milne. “Now IoT brings entirely new experience opportunities.”
For solution providers looking to make the leap into IoT-based ProAV, resources are available from distributors such as Ingram Micro to help identify technologies and opportunities, and then forge a path forward. That path will probably be a lengthy one, but like all long journeys getting started is as easy as taking a first step.
Frank J. Ohlhorst is a technology journalist and IT industry analyst with extensive experience as a business consultant, editor, author, and blogger.
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