The “Consumerization” of AV/IT

controlinterfact-1013Several days back, a virtual skirmish began on LinkedIn in the AV Industry Professionals group, with a post that posed the question “When will Crestron/AMX stop making touch panels and use consumer interfaces?” The question was introduced by Tim Albright of AV Nation, host of AV Week. I entered the conversation with the thought “They’re kidding, right?” After checking out the post, I entered my own comment concerning the commercial touch panel vs. consumer tablet approach. One of the main points to the conversation was the high cost of Crestron and AMX touch panels vs. the affordable cost of a consumer tablet. Tablet proponents want to promote it as a lead-in approach to control, but those (including myself) taking the touch panel approach deny that price point should be a major issue and that it remains as the focused approach to commercial system control.

Which then begs the question: Should the consumer tablet be considered a front-end control panel approach on the commercial side? Those opposed to the consumer device being presented as the front-end solution specified that the tablet should be used as an alternate approach or not introduced as a viable solution at all. Commercial touch panel quality and reliability vs. consumer tablet price point and flexibility are contested in the post thread. The discussion went across the globe with participants from as far away as Australia checking in. Commercial solution proponents and those who favored tablet control volleyed opinions across the net — some fairly vociferously. Will there be an end to this thread? Well, I’m not sure if it really begins or ends here at all.

Consumerization in the business world mainly refers to the approach of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) implementation within the organizational IT structure; however this now extends out to transcend technology platforms in the AV/IT realm. With that consumer device you can present wirelessly (yes, Crestron has that solution too), manage digital signage, video conference and more. However when getting to the subject of room system control, the subject gets somewhat sticky as seen in the group. Some manufacturers are now designing a direct approach to consumer device control (several were seen at InfoComm). The major manufacturers (e.g., Crestron and AMX) still move forward with their high end touch panels, but there are lesser expensive solutions in their arsenal as well. While I’m still a proponent of the touch panel approach on the commercial side and expressed this in the group thread, but I myself carry several portable devices along with my laptop (iPad, Android Tablet and Windows phone) and I use them all. However while I don’t see them as the direct approach as a system controller, it still intrigues me to know that any one of these devices can work to drive the system. Who knows, maybe eventually I can be swayed.

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Do the manufacturers want to continue to see you specify their touch panels in your scope and proposal? I’m sure the answer is yes (unless you heard differently at InfoComm) and I assume they would still consider it the standard approach to system control in most markets. However the current LinkedIn thread, which goes as far as to mention tablet usage in the digital signage realm (off course from the conversation? …maybe not), will continue on and it’s good thing it will. The thread is now leading to offshoot blogs (here you go) and commentary, and it may even get the manufacturers (dare to dream) to think about the high costs of touch panel technology as consumer device utilization builds in enterprise strategy for everything from content access over the network to mobile communications in the UC realm.

Mobility/BYOD has become a consistent technology approach in the AV industry and the consumer device has in turn been thrust into the forefront. Video conferencing, unified communications, digital signage and presentation technologies are all running on the mobile spectrum across platforms, and the company owned device is fast giving way to BYOD whereby solutions are continuously being built on this concept. Cloud hosted solutions reach out to mobile devices, even certain hardware-based solutions are migrating to the cloud – in certain instances through third party providers. And this is all based on the continuously growing profile of consumer devices in the market. So we turn back to the original conversation and while I’m still convinced that the commercial approach is still the right one, I also believe that the usage of consumer devices will proliferate and solutions will continue to be built on this technology.

Here is the link to the conversation on LinkedIn. Jump right in with your two cents, I know I’ve given mine and then some. As for the rest of those in the group, carry on…