Get Small or Go Large?

avclubRightfully so, there has been much postulated about AV and IT. You know: all about how they’ve “converged,” how one might not fully understand the other and which is the tail and which is the dog. And while we here in the AV Club are unabashedly biased to the “A” game we also embrace all that cousin IT has to offer! But while the multiple facets of AV/IT will continue sort themselves out, it’s not really what this month’s column is about.

So why bring it up? Well because all jest aside, a general observation is that the big AV/IT “bang” is mostly behind us. We now have products that can truly be combined into a converged  networked AV/IT system. Also, most organizations have reorganized the reorganization such that those that are still around are now fully with the new (say version 2.01.1 ?) program; there is no “them” or “us”… only a “we.” And lastly, any lingering negativity surrounding a power struggle attributable to the two cultures is mostly dismissed as wasted energy.

So if we’re accepting that this is the new normal, what is that unsettled feeling gnawing at our sides? After all, the demand for AV Pros seems as strong as ever. In fact, dare we say there is an unprecedented amount of new opportunities that have a significant AV factor?  Perhaps, yes.  Perhaps the pie hasn’t been redivided, but has become the proverbial expanding pie. Perhaps we need to further consider how to cut the pie to provide rational clarity of purpose as individuals, work groups and/or organizations.

This brings us to the “Get Small or Go Large” part. In the bigger picture of use cases for AV, two different ones are spawning another potential game changer for AV in education. In this one, there is the “get small” use case with the poster child being mobile device AV delivery. Then, there is the “go large” case, such as an AV lecture theater. Despite being a bit slow on the uptake of the AV relevance of the “get small” side of the equation, it’s clearly having a major impact. And with an enormous amount of mature infrastructure behind the “go large” side, it’s still hard to imagine a time when such is not around in a substantial way, if not still as the primary mode of delivery. Of course, as a full service industry, with small and large offerings, a medium-sized option also needs be available. Quite simply this is the use case where the same content is dually offered with mobile and a dedicated system.

So what will you serve? Small, medium or large? Pulling in what’s been learned through AV/IT convergence, I offer here that at least in the near term, there is plenty of opportunity within in each case. However, with the legacy technologies, and real end user expectations and environmental context being substantially different for each, it does seem there is room for specialists in each extreme, and then for generalists through the continuum in between.

A few more words about the “get small” use case. At its core, it really is about “social networking” as the rapidly evolving modes of delivery settle into broad real end user adoption. This is so much so that we may be nearing a tipping point (which I for one had previously not expected in this decade) for the user’s, if not also the organization’s, desired method. It now does seem plausible that “get small” could be a big bang for AV as we know it since people prefer to congregate — or gregbronsonmore specifically in our case, learn — through virtual mobile interactions. What remains to be seen is will the new normal be the “medium” (blended) environment, which is similar to our merged AV/IT? Or is this only a contributing factor in an even more substantial environmental impact theory of a potential forthcoming higher ed bubble? Whether or not it’s something of such significance, that gnawing feeling you may have is understandably worth paying attention to.

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 gregthetechie@netscape.net