It’s a New Year

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Over the past several weeks, people much smarter and more creative than I have made predictions on what 2023 will bring to the AV world. These are always fun to read and keep score of throughout the year. Rather than make predictions, I tend to think about what the important issues will be throughout the year. What will be the talking points among our businesses and on social media?

I think the economy will be at the forefront of all discussions this year. In this bucket, I throw in everything from the current labor shortages, to the supply chain problems, to the typical economic issues. All of these overlap thanks to the particularly unpredictable and unruly behavior of the economy. For example, we keep hearing that we are likely heading for a recession, yet the major indicators of a recession seem to keep rebounding. We all feel the pain of inflation, but consumer spending does not seem to be decreasing because of it. We have also seen businesses continually adjusting their budgets to deal with inflated costs. Supply chains seem to be getting better, but the COVID-19 virus is still mutating and circulating. The biggest worry about the economy is, of course, worrying about the economy. Once consumers start to lose faith, the economy will suffer. For these reasons, I think having people carefully watching the economy and reacting to signs of changes will be critical for business in 2023.

The past three years have been an enormous boon for the work from home (or anywhere) fans, but businesses seem to be slowly pulling workers back to the office. I am not predicting or commenting on whether that is a good or bad strategy, but the news continues to trickle out about businesses, most recently Disney, making these changes. Forbes has predicted that by January of 2023, 54% of workers in New York City will have returned to their offices full time. They suggest that a large part of this change is that the power has shifted from workers back to businesses. With economic issues, companies are starting to lay off workers and downsize. The labor market is not as tight and employers don’t have to cater to employees demands as much. It does seem like the hybrid office may be sticking around, so perhaps this is good for the AV industry. We now get to sell two sets of office equipment.

Security is already showing up as a driving force in everything we do in AV. The more that the industry recognizes that AV is IT, the more we recognize we are affected by breaches that previously would have been thought of as an IT issue. The breach of LastPass is a perfect example. Hopefully your company is changing the default admin password when deploying systems. Ideally, those credentials are stored in a password safe. Well, if that password safe was LastPass, you need to assign someone to start changing all the passwords. Privacy is also a significant issue that you will see this year. The boom — and then crash — of Lensa AI in 2022 showed us the perils of privacy with technology that seems harmless.

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I think one of the most interesting things to watch this year will be the actual attendance that we see at trade shows. Some analysts are predicting that the shows won’t ever fully come back because we have learned they are not necessary. Others are saying that face-to-face experiences and networking are critical and only by resuming them have we remembered how important they are. I tend to believe that the attendance will continue to grow. As an observer for the past few years, I am now starting to think that maybe it is time to start returning to the shows and we should start to see some significant jumps in attendance. If we don’t, there will be serious questions about the future of the shows, particularly to large national or international ones.

I also believe that Artificial Intelligence is going to be one of the most significant things we see and talk about this year. With the roll out of ChatGPT in November of 2022, we have a truly intelligent tool that can perform sophisticated writing and programming. While we have seen AI in products, like auto-tuning audio systems, the abilities of these AI engines are incredible.

Finally, to end on a positive note. Sustainability seems to have finally taken hold in the AV industry which is cause for celebration. The celebration, however, should lead to continued investments in sustainability, not a mindset that the battle is won. I encourage people to think beyond the packaging material, and the recycling of material, and think about the things their businesses do every day that can have lasting impacts. This includes thinking about the sustainability of facilities and company vehicles and the type of traveling your employees do and whether virtual visits could do the same.