AV/IT — An Aerial View Assessment

It looks as if lately LinkedIn group discussions have become the basis and inspiration for my recent blogs. The previous one I was encouraged to write by the moderator of the group discussion, this one I was not, however I saw the opportunity to put together collective thoughts, some related to the thread and some not. It will begin with a little background and then jump into issues highlighted in the discussion thread.

I have been in and about the industry for almost 20 years, starting off in computer and AV rentals at the time when three guns ruled and portable projectors were of the 20+ lb. variety. I do mention computers though as I had configured systems for rental that consisted of projectors, distribution amps, AB switch boxes and PCs (or Macs). I put together traveling road show configurations for some clients to set up and tear down in every city they presented in. After their completion of events on the tour, it would be time to design the next rental configuration for them. I was also responsible for a multitude of PC and Mac plus AV equipment rentals for one of the largest companies in the financial industry – Lehman Brothers. Otherwise I configured short-term rentals, for companies and trade show exhibitors at the convention hall and hotels, in one of the largest mass markets in the country – New York City. Above all that, I was the one who managed the whole company’s rental operations as well. I actually mentioned in a message to a gentleman I was talking with in terms of the LinkedIn discussion about how years back I spent two full days awake while overseeing and even setting up computer and AV booth rentals at one of the largest shows in the country – E3 (the gaming show) in LA. The third day, as you would expect, after configuring my last booth (a Mac setup) with my eyes like slits, came the hard crash in the convention cafeteria.

Those who participated in the post thread discussed the topic concerning the state of communications in the AV industry. What it turned into, as many seem to do, was a skirmish between those who espoused the importance of AV in projects while others talked about IT as the be all end all. I participated from the AV/IT perspective and the basis for this stems of course from my years in computer and AV rentals. However, since I have been in the AV industry for a long time I side with the people in the industry who defend the turf, to a point. Once discussion becomes AV vs. IT, I gravitate toward the side of IT (with AV still in mind), as I see the market approach in technology to be trending heavily toward IT technologies and innovations in that realm. The merger does carry significant importance; however, at the end of the day it’s IT that tends to drive the markets whereas AV needs to meld technologies and industries to properly satisfy the needs of those in companies and organizations that become project stakeholders.

In essence, while some of the dyed-in-the-wool AV veterans who claim to be almost fully AV-centric and even go as far as to claim that back in the day AV was THE game in town, just how much resistance to the full merger of technology realms can be demonstrated at this point? Is the IT industry trying to dominate market technology approaches while considering AV to be the technology “luxury” item? Is AV pushing back hard on an industry that seems extraordinarily confident in its approach to the point of being considered somewhat brash? An industry that has brought in AV integration (much to the chagrin of some in the AV industry) and now runs headlong into the business and education world driving its version of the AV/IT concept?

Last week I attended the Government IT Conference at the convention center in Washington DC, the day before GovComm. I met with companies that specialize in mobile and network security, cloud backup and recovery. I will likely be partnering two or three of them, one that works in the UC space and does UC monitoring/performance management, especially with Lync. No AV at this trade show, although some did look at my badge and see AV in the company name. Some even asked what the AV stands for and most of them guessed right — they of course know what the IT is. They’re curious as to how both can exist together. I explain how the AV market has worked for quite some time interfacing with physical network integration, and now certain other IT technologies are entering the market. However, when I discuss current IT technologies in business and government with them – cloud and virtualization, BYOD, network and mobile security and even cyber security, their ears open up.

Lunch finally came, I grabbed my box and sat at table four (there was an explanation for that) with gentlemen from IBM and CA Technologies. When they found out I was in the AV industry (of course seeing AV on my badge), discussion went immediately to “you must have a great AV system in your home.” Yes, I said, I have a pretty good one, and the discussion continued on to “what do you consider to be the best TVs out there?” I gave them a few brands and told them to look at the 4Ks. The gentleman from IBM, before he left, gave me his card and said we’ll talk further (he told me to check out a few things on the IBM side). On my way out, I dropped my card in front of the gentleman from CA and said call me if you need any assistance.

Yes, the AV in me speaking, when IT was the central focus of the event. And who knows, maybe a home automation opportunity I’d refer or maybe even a commercial AV/IT opportunity. One can only hope…