AVIXA, Open Standards and the HOW Market

When an organization with the legacy of the International Communications Industries Association (ICIA) changes its name to AVIXA (Audiovisual and Integrated Experience Association), it heralds not only a branding move but also signals a shift to an agile approach for aligning to the rapid changes in the audiovisual industry. Perhaps above all, AVIXA represents a new opportunity to set new open standards for industry-wide protocols as well as specific market segments (such as the house of worship market) with a clean, objective slate.

I submit that with open standards and protocols instead of the proprietary control languages used by audiovisual manufacturers, the industry could take a giant leap forward in creating standardized systems, processes, and application programming. Plus, it would also allow systems design standards to be adopted by systems integrators.

AVIXA can directly learn from another group that has seen the value of creating open standards: the Information Technology industry. Within IT, perhaps the single greatest example of open standards that has a direct correlation the audiovisual industry is the Information Technology Infrastructure Library, better known as the ITIL framework. ITIL is a set of detailed practices for IT Service Management that focuses on aligning IT services with the needs of businesses. ITIL describes processes, procedures, tasks and checklists which are not organization-specific but is helpful for establishing integration with an organization’s strategy, delivering value and maintaining a minimum level of competency. It allows the organization to establish a baseline from which it can plan, implement and measure. Further, it is used to demonstrate compliance and to measure improvement.

For example, the ITIL framework is often defined first within in two key functional areas: management and operation. As such, there are extensive libraries built around key areas common to all IT services, including:

The IT service management sets:

  1. Service Support
  2. Service Delivery

Other operational guidance:

  1. Infrastructure management
  2. Security management
  3. Application management
  4. Software asset management

The beauty of ITIL is that it is not dictated by manufacturers, though manufacturers can help speak to new methodologies and security issues, for example, to keep the framework up-to-date with advances in technology.

I submit that AVIXA should leverage the success of ITIL as a blueprint for describing the processes, procedures, tasks and checklists that should be adopted universally across the AV industry.

To highlight the value of this with a common example, the security protocols for IT networks have multiple flavors, if you will, but they are each addressed and understood within a larger framework. As such, it would be highly valuable for end-users to have the same level of tooling included across all networked AV devices for security protocols.

Similarly, while the GUI of menus will look different based on the operational functions, there could be a pattern for mapping features to common terms and protocols. Without this kind of shared open standard, the mess that currently exists between manufacturers (and sometimes even within model lines of the same manufacturer) when it comes to accessing certain features seems as if it was dependent upon the mood of the engineer during the manufacturing process.

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While the term “open standards” is, well, open to some level of debate depending upon the industry, there’s a general understanding that states that an “open standard” is only open if it can be freely adopted, implemented and extended. While open standards are considered non-proprietary in the sense that the standard is either unowned or owned by a collective body (like AVIXA), it can still be publicly shared and not tightly guarded. The three biggest examples today of open standards include the GSM phones (adopted as a government standard), Open Group that promotes UNIX and the like, and the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), which created the first standards of SMTP and TCP/IP. Buyers tend to prefer open standards, which they believe offer them cheaper products and more choice for access due to network effects and increased competition between vendors.

There are significant upsides to identify a framework of best practices and technology standards so that manufacturers, systems integrators and end-users alike can benefit from agreed-upon technology methodologies. And while open standards would be clearly beneficial in general terms, I submit that the house of worship market could be one of the earliest vertical segments to reap the benefits of certain open standards because of the high percentage of volunteers operating audio, video and lighting technology at church venues. The greater the agreement upon technology implementation standards, operational management, and application management, the easier it is to standardize training and operational preparedness for staff and volunteer users alike.

Manufacturers and systems integrators willing to be early adopters of these new open standards under AVIXA would have a significant sales advantage to church clients who are worn out from the inevitable finger-pointing that frequently happens when something goes wrong with an AV technology integration.

Further, the vertical markets themselves benefit directly from a set of open standards that follow the ITIL model of determining service and support models. This level of clarity ensures the expectations are known and documented as part of an industry standard and is not left up to the integration firm. As a result, it becomes much, much easier to sell service as part of the technology solution when there is a clear set of standards that both identifies the best practices and provides the client with a set of expectations for operational stability that’s based on real-world parameters. Of course, these types of open standards make it crystal clear for church purchasing decision-makers to understand the cost-per-service value of service with holistically documented protocols for ensuring high availability of audiovisual technology.

While AVIXA is brand new, it’s welcoming to already see the newly-named organization promoting some standards today, as well as active working groups to come up with new standards. Perhaps best of all is a way to submit a new standard via a button on the bottom of the page.

AVIXA is listening. It’s up to us to push for more than new standards, but an open standards framework like ITIL.