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Evolution of the AV Technology Manager
By Greg Bronson, CTS-D
(I’m Not an End User, Part II)
A year ago, for the inaugural writing of this column, the AV Club covered the topic “I’m Not an End User.” [Ed. Note: Read that original column, here: http://www.ravepro.com/education/issues/2008/05/index.html#avclub]. In reading, you might have picked up a Rodney Dangerfield-style “get no respect…” undercurrent. It also noted that professionals from both supply and demand sides (and here in the AV Club!) have many common interests. But the real point of that column was to highlight the difference between technology managers and “real” end users. This follow up explores, more deeply, the evolution of today’s Technology Manager (while again touching on the other topics).
Referencing an InfoComm International AV industry timeline at http://www.infocomm.org/cps/rde/xchg/infocomm/hs.xsl/7578.htm you’ll note that through the 70’s, the education market used individual AV products primarily purchased through catalogs. In turn, many organizations had media specialists and operators to help end users navigate the idiosyncrasy of the products. Furthermore, somewhat behind the scenes, organizations (in this context, K-12 and Higher Ed) were also hiring their own AV equipment mechanics (a specialized form of TV repair person). So, while at that time “End Users” were predominately the buyers of classroom AV, they increasingly had the assistance of internal specialists.
Then, through the ‘80s, and into the ‘90s, systems integration began to take hold in (mostly experimental) higher education classrooms, equipped with dedicated AV. Many institutions began to see the merits in this method versus the long-standing “carts and closets” method. Dr. Daniel Niemeyer, an early adopter and real End User, and others, spread the word, not only of AV possibilities but also how to improve the people/space/technology (Bermuda?) triangle. In the early days of “Media Equipped Classrooms” — the term used by my employer during this time period — many of us “rolled our own.” That is, we designed and built our own systems, and they were not always pretty. We reached out to those more skilled in such work. The shift was well under way for the primary interface with ProAV (within education) from real End Users to career AV owner representatives/specialists.
Along the way through the ‘90s, the makeup of those in-house specialists took a sharp turn. And it was not an AV industry thing. It was with our very own (Adam’s Family?) organizational cousin: IT! With the bleeding edge real End Users driving the desire to use a computer in the “Smart Classroom,” internal AV/IT support was restructured to help bridge the gap between application expectations and technology constraints. Demand for new AV products and support increased. The in-house specialists took the first forms of today’s technology manager.
So with that lead into this decade, another big step forward in the technology manager’s evolution was advanced by Joe Schuch and Infocomm International. Starting a group called the “End User Council” within Infocomm’s then Council and Committee structure, they saw the need to reach across the (vertical market) table, with both the demand side and the supply side needing better pathways to articulate what was needed in application and what was possible with technology.
Eventually the End User Council name, after considerable Motrin (you had to be there), ultimately changed to the Technology Manager Council in 2004. Technology managers, as we were now proud to be called, more closely matched who we were, what we did, and how we desired to be viewed. And why not? We were mostly AV/IT techs from the ‘90s, building on media classroom concepts from the ‘80s and finding ourselves taking over management from our real end user bosses who’d been there through the early developments in the ‘70s. And now, in the new millennium, we could mingle on the show floor without covering our name badges.
Here, in the AV Club, titles of End User and Technology Manager (or for that matter Integrator, Consultant, Manufacturer) matter less; we’re just sharing our thoughts and Tweekers. Let’s help perpetuate this spirit at Infocomm 09, this June in Orlando. From the individual technologies represented across the huge show floor to the vast selection of education showing us how to bring it all together, the opportunities abound for AV professionals to collaborate for better real end user AV experiences.
The views expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect the views of the authors’ employer(s), past or present.
Greg Bronson, CTS-D, applies AV technologies in the development of innovative learning spaces for higher education. Greg spent the first 10 years of his career as AV technician and service manager, with the past 12 years as an AV system designer and project manager. Bronson currently works for Cornell University and has also worked for two SUNY (State University of New York) campuses as well as a regional secondary education service depot. Bronson is the originator of concept for Infocomm’s Dashboard for Controls and has had completed projects featured in industry publications. You can reach Greg at firstname.lastname@example.org
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Extron Adds Flat-Field Speakers to Line
Extron has added several new enhancements to their PoleVault System, but the most substantial in our opinion is the addition of the FF 120, a full-range sound field speaker with patent-pending Flat Field technology. The FF 120 speaker easily drops into standard suspended ceilings and its low-profile design is ideal for installations with tight, above-the-ceiling space issues. The FF 120 incorporates Extron's patent-pending Flat Field Technology which basically delivers consistent sound levels across a typical classroom using only two speakers – so it’s like getting distributed audio from only two speakers. This is a major enhancement to their PoleVault system – which currently dominates K-12 installs. Go read more at: http://www.extron.com/company/article.aspx?id=pvs400pr
Yes, indeed, some of those drop ceilings aren’t “dropped” much, with tight spacing to upper deck and/or all kinds of infrastructure. The extra info via the supplied link is very helpful, as is typical of Extron’s documentation. –GB
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InFocus Launches Beta Program to Test Interactive Projectors in the ED Market
InFocus last week announced that it is collaborating with the Plano Independent School District in Plano, Texas to enhance interaction in classrooms by using projectors with built-in whiteboard capability. InFocus’ interactive projector will be generally available at the end of 2009. Additional information on InFocus’ beta program and its partner network will be announced in the coming months.
Note to Education Institutions: InFocus is opening the beta program up to selected additional education institutions in the U.S. and Europe. Educational institutions interested in participating should contact Robert Detwiler, InFocus’ LiteBoard product manager, to learn more about this new interactive projector at email@example.com or 503-685-8872.
Although reading this, you likely thought about this competing with other projector companies, this is clearly taking aim at Smart Technologies.
To read the full release on InFocus’ website, go here: http://www.infocus.com/Company/PressReleases/2009/043009_Liteboard.aspx
The technical details seem to be in development and forthcoming, so not much here for gregthetechie to comment on. That said, the idea of the collaboration is in line with the kind of thing referenced in this month's column. –GB
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Sanyo Debuts Four New ED Models
Sanyo just upped the ante on every projector company in the world with their four new wireless and wired network projectors aimed at the education market. These projectors clearly establish Sanyo as a leader in the ED market – trumping EPSON and SONY with their price/performance pairing. Dubbed the PLC-XU355, PLC-XU350, PLC-XU305 and the PLC-XU300, these projectors all have the same form-factor, design and mechanical structure. – in fact, they look identical from the outside and each weigh just 7 pounds.
But, on the inside, there are differences. The two flagship models, the PLC-XU355 and PLC-XU305 both have the ProAv industry’s first “simple” wireless setting via USB memory. It’s as easy as connecting a MAC to a wireless network – simply plug in the wireless USB adapter into any laptop (PC or MAC) the projectors are automatically connected wirelessly to the computer. Thus, you can now project from projector to computer instantly – with no VGA cable!
All four models are native XGA (1024×768), have DVI, VGA and video ports in addition to RS232 and LAN ports, but the XU355 and XU350 are both specified at 3500 lumens, the XU305 and 300 are 3000 lumens.
They will ship in a week and are priced from $1295 to $2595. See them at: http://us.sanyo.com/Projectors-by-Market-Education
Will plan to check these out… especially intrigued by the wireless “simple” setup. In the past, aside from performance limitations and networking compatibility issues with wireless projectors, getting users “connected” has been tricky. –GB
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VISIX Adds Windows XPe to Digital Signage Media Players
Every campus is aiming to use digital signage for two big reasons: 1) delivering timely content all over campus and 2) advertising revenue opportunities. So, you’ll see a lot about the digital signage market at both EduComm and InfoComm. And, it’s no secret that Windows XP is far more reliable than Vista – in fact, Microsoft has all but dumped Vista by going ahead and announcing its new OS: Windows 7. So, adding Vista compatibility for many DS manufacturers in Media Players has been nothing but trouble — in fact, most of them suck.
That’s likely what led VISIX to use XP embedded in its latest round of Media Players for the AxisTV platform. The embedded OS offers a number of security and reliability benefits unmatched by any other Windows operating systems. The most notable security advantages reduce network vulnerability and prevent installation of rogue applications or domain policies that can interrupt the delivery of visual communications content.
The new XPe Media Players are available now and you can read all about them at: http://www.visix.com/products/channelplayers/index.htm
And at the risk of sounding like a broken record (er, error corrected digital audio file) digital signage is definitely a technology that you really have to get your hands on to evaluate… like at, say, Infocomm? –GB
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Speaking of Digital Signage: Samsung Jumps into DS Market with Thin Bezel Displays
On the heels of NEC’s DSE announcement, Samsung has entered the narrow-bezel LCD market with the 460UT line of 46” monitors. Specified at 700 nits or brightness and a contrast ratio of 3000:1, the WXGA (1366 x 768) LCDs are aimed at video-wall applications, and DS apps too. But, Samsung is way behind because, although NEC and Samsung displays have nearly identical specs, their support and service of LCDs is perceptually behind that of NEC. They will have to play catch-up, as simply supplying them is not the same as supporting them and knowing and understanding the applications.
Full specs on the new Samsung line can be found at: http://www.samsung.com/us/consumer/detail/detail.do?group=professionaldisplays&type=professionaldisplays&subtype=lcd&model_cd=LH46MVTLBB/ZA
You know, bezel thickness is a small thing (Get it? Small thing…), but something that in the case of (Get it? Case of…) LCD monitors impacts perceived performance. No doubt that professional products must have professional support to compliment. –GB
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Extron Launches Online Configurator for VoiceLift Microphone Systems
Extron has just introduced the VoiceLift Microphone Systems Configurator, an online, drag-and-drop configuration utility that allows users to design VoiceLift Microphone Systems – all on your own. And, the GUI does make system customization easy. After launching the VoiceLift Microphone Systems Configurator, you will start with the standard single pendant microphone, two-speaker package and then customize that system to meet their specific requirements. For example, users can specify an additional pendant microphone and desktop charging station or additional speakers.
Extron VoiceLift is a voice amplification system specifically developed for K-12 classrooms. The VoiceLift System contains all the components necessary to evenly distribute the teacher's voice throughout the classroom, including wireless pendant microphone, IR receiver, switcher/amplifier, speakers, and cables. At the heart of the system is the award-winning Extron PoleVault System switcher/amplifier that allows the system to be upgraded to an easy-to-use video switching and control system. Simply add a projector, sources, input wall plates, and a controller to create a completely integrated system for A/V switching, control, and voice amplification.
To read more about the Extron VoiceLift system, go to http://www.extron.com/product/product.aspx?id=vls&search=voicelift
A sad reality is that many classrooms have either no AV system, or one that has been (lovingly so) patched together. Providing scaleable, cost effective, integrated systems that are designed for the application holds promise for an alternative. –GB
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EduComm 2009 is THE Education Show Now
If you can only attend one Education AV show this year, make it EduComm. Not only is it co-located with InfoComm this year in Orlando, but the EduComm team has put together a schedule of events that is geared towards not only learning about new technology, but specifically addresses cost-cutting in education.
Technology futurist George Gilder, New York Times columnist and best-selling author David Pogue, a panel on cloud computing with executives from AT&T, Amazon, Cisco, Google, IBM and Microsoft, a performance by School House Rock creators, as well as education industry experts from Crestron, E&I Cooperative Purchasing and Stamats will lead a power-packed three-day professional program.
During EduComm, top-tier executives and managers from college campuses around the nation will partake in stimulating intellectual debate on how emerging technologies are transforming today's—and tomorrow's—college campuses while they enjoy the breathtaking views of the Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes Resort. EduComm is being held there June 16-18, 2009.
Seriously, if you are not registered to come to EduComm, you’re making a mistake. We realize budgets are tight, but you need to consider being a little entrepreneurial and purchasing your own ride to come as this will be a show that will be talked about for years. Find out all the details at: http://educommconference.com/
Also looking forward to this, while in town for Infocomm! Yours truly has been asked to sit on a panel on dealing with changing technology. Scott Tiner, a rAVe ED contributor, will lead the panel (and audience) in debate. –GB
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Well, that's it for this edition of rAVe! Thank you for spending time with us as we muse the industry's happenings. To continue getting my newsletter, or to sign up a friend, click the link below. To send feedback, don't reply to this newsletter – instead, write to Contributing Editor Greg Bronson at firstname.lastname@example.org, Publisher Gary Kayye at email@example.com or Editor-in-Chief Sara Abrons at firstname.lastname@example.org
A little about Gary Kayye, CTS, founder of rAVe and Kayye Consulting. Gary Kayye, an audiovisual veteran and columnist, began the widely-read KNews, a premier industry newsletter, in the late 1990s, and created the model for and was co-founder of AV Avenue – which later became InfoComm IQ. Kayye Consulting is a company that is committed to furthering the interests and success of dealers, manufacturers, and other companies within the professional audiovisual industry.
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