I have tried to avoid writing one of these blogs. I resisted the temptation to wrap up my top moments of 2018. I stayed clear of making tech predictions for 2019. I even managed not to comment on others’ top moment lists and predictions. All in all, I was doing pretty well… until yesterday.
Yesterday I read an article about companies to watch in 2019 and it was comprised of a list that must’ve included 25-30 companies in our industry. Now don’t get me wrong, we have a lot of great companies and people in our industry, but I guarantee you that 30 companies aren’t going to change the AV landscape this year. It will be a much shorter list. As a general principle, I try not to read any list that contains over 10 things, five is even better, so I thought I’d aim for three. So without further ado, here are three AV companies that I believe are worth paying close attention to in 2019.
Before I’m accused of jumping on the news cycle bandwagon, I started composing this blog in my head before QSC announced its new video over IP products, and even without the knowledge of that, QSC was already on my list.
Anyone buying or selling QSC knows that Joe Pham has been on a mission the last several years. The first signs of that came with the introduction of QSC’s conference room CORE products in 2015, then cameras and USB I/O accessories, followed by making its DSP software available on Dell servers, enhancing the Q-Sys IP based control and routing platforms, creating its own AV networking switches and now adding video over IP encoders and decoders. To say they’ve been busy in the last 3.5 years would be a serious understatement.
The net result of all that talent acquisition and product development is QSC’s evolution from an awesome live sound and signal processing company to a true AV ecosystem that may just take a huge chunk out of the “trons” businesses as they proliferate.
Keep an eye on QSC and if you’re not using them already, you may be soon.
Biamp has always been a solid company and has traditionally been the premier name in signal processing for conference rooms. Now it may seem counterintuitive that I add them to my companies to watch right next to QSC, which has been aiming its sights on a huge portion of Biamp’s clientele, but it’s definitely a company to watch in 2019. Biamp also has video over IP distribution products that are starting to gain some momentum, but that on its own doesn’t make them noteworthy.
Biamp is owned by venture capital firm Highlander Partners and one of the key strategists in that firm is Biamp CEO Rashid Skaf, formerly of AMX and Harman. He helped Biamp acquire Cambridge Sound Management late in 2018, adding soundmasking to the Biamp portfolio. The move was impressive, but this statement in the press release is what stuck with me: “This transaction is the first evidence of that strategy being implemented but far from the last. Biamp is on the move!”
When you combine the former head of AMX control with a venture capital firm like Highlander and a respected company like Biamp and then add the statement above into that equation, why wouldn’t they be at the top of my watch list? I assume a control platform is the next natural addition, but, well — you know what happens when you assume.
I can hear you already. Mark, with so many large companies in AV, how could you include a small company like Williams AV in your top three companies to watch in 2019? Two words. Rob Sheeley.
If you don’t know Rob, he’s the cofounder of Vaddio, which he sold to Milestone AV, now part of Legrand. At Vaddio, Rob and his business partner Tom Mingo saw the early opportunity in software codecs and really started a revolution with their Easy USB products that brought ProAV quality cameras and audio equipment into the USB ecosystem to bridge the gap between expensive hard codec based ProAV conferencing and soft videoconferencing using low-end USB peripherals.
Rob is great at looking at trends in the market and identifying new opportunities. There’s no bigger trend than mobile devices in the workplace right now, so it’s no surprise that Williams AV just introduced new Bluetooth products called the BLUE POD and BLUE POD AIR.
According to Rob,
“It has long been a hurdle for many integrators to design integrated audio/video rooms that support wireless devices such as PCs, tablets and smartphones. Most wireless users expect a simple solution to wirelessly connect their devices to a room’s AV system. We challenged ourselves to design a system allowing integrators to select appropriate speakers, microphones and displays for the room — and then allow any mobile device to access them. BLUE POD and BLUE POD AIR are the first systems designed specifically for mobile-device users who demand a professional AV experience using best-in-class AV transducer components.”
You can read the whole release here.
When you have a leader like Rob Sheeley, who can see industry trends ahead of time and who has a team agile enough to get products to market before others catch on or catch up, then your company gets on my list of ones to watch.
Bonus Company: NVIDIA
I told you I was naming three AV companies to watch, and I did.
I’m adding in a technology company peripheral to our industry. I’ve written about NVIDIA before and asked why no one in AV was paying attention to them? I stand by that question, because NVIDIA’s work in AI may end up being relevant to every technology company out there. Long gone are the days when NVIDIA was a name you only needed to know if you wanted to up your PC’s polygon processing power. It turns out that GPUs are REALLY good at parallel processing, and that parallel processing is essential to AI development.
NVIDIA has been using its AI in drones and also has an autonomous driving platform, but the company just announced a partnership with Mercedes for using its AI in more ways across the whole car.
AI will be a huge part of our tech future in AV as well and NVIDIA is leading the pack. Pay attention.