Welcome to my 21st annual Kayye’s Krystal Ball! I love writing this annual predictions article — it’s both humbling and rewarding. It requires me to stop and research anything new, evaluate the potential impact it will have and then articulate it in a way that matters to readers. If you’re a regular reader of my content, you already know this, but for those who don’t, my Kayye’s Krystal Ball piece is an annual article where I not only tell you what I think is going to happen in the AV, UCC and Digital Signage markets for the upcoming year, but I also look back and review the previous year’s predictions — sort of a scorecard of accuracy, if you will. 2020 sucked and surprised us all, so it was more than humbling to start this article by reviewing what I predicted for 2020.
Author’s note: Kayye’s 2021 Krystal Ball Predictions was actually delivered as an Almo Pro A/V exclusive webinar earlier this week. So, if you prefer to watch instead of read, go here (after Feb. 3) — it includes a slide deck along with a recording of Gary’s live delivery of the webinar.
Before we begin, let’s address the so-called elephant in the room: COVID-19. No one was prepared. However, some companies pivoted beautifully, some already had fluidity built into their business models and some floundered or were caught flat-footed. I will address each one of these with examples of companies in our market that experienced each scenario. The good thing is that we have survived what is likely the worst part of its impact on the business climate. And, with the exception of live events, if you’re still limping along and not seeing growth, you might want to check your business model and (quickly) readjust it. If you are reading this and your company is growing again, congrats! Your company pivoted or already had fluidity built into its DNA. So, consider that.
With regards to live events, there was nothing you could really do other than pivot to virtual. But, no one really wants to watch an online rock concert or Broadway play. “Hamilton” may have been incredible in person, but it was TERRIBLE on Disney+. I am confident that we will see some live events return by the later half of the year. (Not big ones quite yet, but manageable small ones, for sure.) By mid-2022, we will see live venues return to 75% and maybe even 80% occupancy! Some of you may see this as being too conservative, but I see it as reality. Don’t believe me? Well, then read this from McKinsey & Company as it has way, way more data and research analysis than I do — I am counting on this research to keep me informed: https://www.mckinsey.com/featured-insights/leadership/the-next-normal-arrives-trends-that-will-define-2021-and-beyond.
Anyway, enjoy reading and stay positive, as the market will have a way, way, way better 2021 than 2020.
First, let’s review my 2020 predictions and see how well I did:
My first prediction was that AV-over-IP will be THE THING that everyone talks about all year long. Well, it certainly started that way with the ISE (Integrated Systems Europe) show in Amsterdam in early February. At that show, there were more than 70 manufacturers with AV-over-IP solutions — nearly double that of 2019. Also, at the end of 2019, Extron started shipping its NAV Series AV-over-IP products, and we started to see a plethora of really high-end AV-over-IP systems where entire universities were integrating NAV campus-wide. Plus, you had Crestron dominating the 1G infrastructure battle with a room-based AV-over-IP solution in the NVX lineup. And, by ISE, there were over 60 companies selling SDVoE AV-over-IP solutions, as well as two network switch companies shipping SDVoE 10G and even 50G switches, too.
But, as with many of the things that I predicted in 2020, COVID-19 surprised us all and dominated the AV, UCC and Digital Signage landscape.
I also predicted that Zoom would rule videoconferencing in 2020. Wow, that was an understatement — since it experienced 30 times (yes, 30x) growth in meeting participants in 2020 — from 10 million to over 300 million. COVID-19 was a blessing in disguise for Zoom, as when you factor the free and consumer accounts into videoconferencing, Zoom literally has a nearly 80% market share. According to Statista, some days this fall, Zoom recorded Zoom meeting counts up to 400+ million. As a point of comparison, Microsoft is hovering at around 80 million with all its video platforms aggregated together, and Google Meet — the platform preferred by a lot of my students at the University of North Carolina — is up to around 7 million.
I predicted NEC, Avocor, Newline and Sharp would dominate the collaboration board market in 2020. They did — for what was sold. No company saw an increase in room-based collaboration displays in 2020, and most saw declines that they tell me, privately, were in the range of 40-70%. But, the creative ones like DTEN and Newline saw an opportunity in personal collaboration displays and introduced at-home or desktop-based interactive personal collaboration boards. The best, by far, is the Newline Flex. I’ve been playing around with that one and it’s a big-time hit, in my opinion. When businesses start to reopen with scale, collaboration boards will make a huge comeback but that will NOT be in 2021. This year, look for that market to be 50% of what it was in 2019. But, move up to 80% of the 2019 numbers in 2022. The idea that when we start to reopen we’ll see companies adding more meeting rooms to accommodate people who need more online meeting spaces (or to combine meeting participants) is a myth. Companies aren’t doing this, according to the top four consulting firms working with AV facility managers.
In fact, I am currently working with the world’s fourth largest advertising firm to help with its “back-to-work” collaboration strategy — the firm plans to dismantle many of its conference rooms and open the spaces back up, not build more.
I predicted that USB-C would emerge as the connector of choice for everything AV and UCC. That was an easy prediction, and you’ve seen companies like Logitech and Poly switch out USB-A for USB-C in 2020 — everyone will follow. Crestron, Kramer, Extron and Aurora all have USB-C interfaces, too.
One that I was way, way off on was that image mapping would move indoors. Welp, we all know why that didn’t happen. When we all can go back indoors, I still think that will be a big trend in experiential marketing thanks to the partnerships like Epson and Lightform have using products like the LightScene.
In one of my bolder predictions, I said that digital canvassing would start to push out the projection screen in classrooms and training rooms in 2020. Well, that happened, but not the way I had predicted. We are naturally digital canvassing every day by using Zoom while working on email, browsing the internet and messaging — all on one screen. People are getting used to this new way to work, thanks to the commoditization of video, that, when they meet and train back in person, we will see this happen. But the driver of this may not be projection. In fact, it could be the move toward the commoditization of what is known as dvLED — or the term used to brand all of those all-in-one LED walls that connect up just like projectors and LCD TVs — using one single HDMI (one of my fav’s is the LG LAA series). These are dropping so quickly, it’s possible that, by the time we start to get back to working in a more normal environment in 2022, we could see prices competitive to projection and large-format LCDs. Once that happens, digital canvassing will explode.
I also thought the content cloud might start to take off in 2020 — nope! At least, not so far. Barco and Crestron have made the biggest plays there, but no takers yet. I really think what’s happened here is that COVID-19 derailed every manufacturer’s plans — so they all had to look at resources and reassign them to places where a pivot would help produce solutions they could sell during the lockdown. For example, Crestron came out with an at-home UCC solution. So, this has been put on the back burner of sorts, awaiting a climb out of the deep virus hole.
That said, sending and managing content over an AV cloud IS THE FUTURE. We will, eventually, be at a place where we are not physically connecting sources to destinations, but instead sending content to rooms to be “played” out on the displays. Stand by — as this will eventually be a big part of the market.
Zoom had all the intentions of entering the educational space with a dedicated solution — think Zoom Rooms for classrooms. But, as COVID-19 sucked up every resource the company had — filling security holes and then keeping up with demand — this as definitely been shelved until later in 2021. But mark my words: You will see Zoom Classrooms by the end of 2021.
Next, I predicted display market consolidation – whoa. Did I get that one right or not? Only a few months after I published my Kayye’s Krystal Ball 2020, NEC Display and Sharp announced a joint venture where they would become one entity in display. A giant-sized consolidation. Ding! Ding! Ding! Ding!
This consolidation trend will continue in 2021. In fact, you’ll see more on that below in the 2021 predictions section. I can guarantee you that. I see companies like Avocor being purchased or merging with a company like Planar, or maybe even a company like Biamp. I can also see a company like BenQ merging with Absen or one similar. I’ll give you more specifics of who is buying and who is selling if you read on.
A second-to-last prediction from me came in the form of thinking we’d see PC-less room-based UCC platforms. Although we aren’t seeing exactly what my vision is (something where, for example, the Zoom Room client or the Teams Room application is actually built into a product like the Logitech Tap, the new Mimo Myst Link or in the form of an app itself that can run on an iPad as the controller and the application), we will — in 2021. Right now, however, we do have solutions like Barco’s ClickShare Conference and the forthcoming Lightware Taurus UCX.
Finally, my last prediction was that 8K is all hype — at least for right now. I said to not focus on anything 8K and that there would be no content to care about. Check!
So, now on to my 2021 predictions!
Collaboration software is the killer app of 2021: For the past three years, everything UCC has focused on is rooms. It all started with collaboration boards, which all started to roll out in 2017 with companies like Avocor, NEC and Sharp leading the way. Then they shifted to room-based UCC platforms from Zoom, MS Teams, BlueJeans and Pexip. All this said, the next big thing in UCC will be collaboration software. And it will take two forms.
First-up, analytics. UC Workspace (aka: UCCentral) and TierPM (aka: AVInsite) have, by far, the best solutions here, if you’re looking for stand-alone or third party universally compatible options. The nice things about these two solutions is that they work with ANY room, ANY display, ANY collaboration board and offer centrally managed IT platforms for seeing who’s using a room, how long they’re using it, how often rooms are abandoned, what gear they used, how many people met, HVAC issues — and both have integrated COVID-necessary features like people counting and social distancing warnings, etc. Just last week, Avocor integrated its WCD (Windows Collaboration Displays) with something called Aquarius that adds this functionality natively into those boards. And, Sharp has a ton of analytical functionality and IoT sensing tools, too, in its own Windows Collaboration Displays. In fact, it ships with an integrated IoT sensor to even detect movements and subtle changes in the environment — and could be programmed, eventually, to detect people’s temperatures, if a company wanted to — maybe in the hospital? Expect more in 2021.
The second part of my killer-app story is true collaboration software — like Bluescape. THIS IS SOMETHING EVERY AV DEALER SHOULD BE SELLING. I will make this guarantee: If you sit through a demo, you will wish your company was using it. So, sell it. My prediction in this section is simple: Bluescape will dominate the UCC market in 2021. Much like everyone was talking about Zoom in 2018, we will likely all be talking about Bluescape by the end of 2021. This company literally doesn’t even know what it has on its hands. It might be the best-kept secret in our industry — and the company needs to step up its marketing to let the masses know it’s out there. It doesn’t replace Zoom, Teams or any UCC platform. In fact, it integrated with them all — simultaneously. For example, imagine a fully interactive document, presentation and cloud-based collaboration with Teams, BlueJeans, Zoom and Google Meet inside of it — oh, and calendar integration, too. You never have to leave Bluescape to jump between a Zoom or Teams call, and you can all collaborate on the same documents while on different platforms. It works with desktop, mobile and tablet interfaces, too.
Watch the video below — as of writing this, it has fewer than 200 views, but I expect that number will soon climb. I am telling you, this is the best-kept secret in AV!
There is a reason Bluescape is literally listed first in my 2021 predictions!
No one is going to say, “Hey We Need More Audio Conferencing.” (Aka: video everywhere and the death of audio conferencing): 2020 will forever be known as the year videoconferencing was commoditized. Everyone’s doing it — even our grandparents! Who the heck will ever build an audio conferencing room or suite? Nobody — audio is dead. Video everywhere will be the mantra of 2021 from the aspect of the consumer/buyer. As companies slowly reopen, you’ll be asked to put Zoom, Teams, Meet, etc. everywhere in every room. I think that greater than 90% of the time it will NOT be room-based systems consumers want, though. Integrating Zoom Rooms may be easier for the user but it’s not what most companies will want. Companies will instead want video added to every room and open space (so they have open-air ad hoc meeting areas) but they will want the user to bring his or her own device and connect it. Therefore, the explosive growth of BYOD solutions is on the horizon. Barco may have accidentally invented the future with ClickShare Conference. This solution in particular will be copied over and over and over again. Expect to see that functionality, like what Logitech did with the Swytch — a genius of an idea. Yes, it requires wires, but simplicity of connectivity is paramount, and people will appreciate it. In conclusion, you’ll see Crestron, Extron, Kramer, Lightware, Vivitek, Mersive and everyone else in the wireless collaboration market add this capability.
Video will be the queen bee of AV for 2021.
The invasion of UCC bars and the computerless UCC room: 2021 will, finally, bring us completely computerless UCC rooms. Right now, if you want to top build a Zoom Room, a Microsoft Teams Room, Google Meet, BlueJeans or Webex Room, as I am sure you know, you are required to have both a room license as well as a computer to connect everything to. By the end of this year, not anymore. By May, you will see a few companies debut Android-based room solutions that can be embedded into other devices in the room — a mic/speaker bar, a table-top controller and even the option to have it reside on a smart TV (via SoC — system-on-a-chip). In addition, this will also bring the capability for you to have a Zoom Room that, with the touch of one button, can switch over to being a MS Teams room. Need to make a BlueJeans, Webex or Meet call? No problem; they will be able to do that too.
This will change the UCC landscape forever. For example, this simplifies IT management of the room — as the room system software will, technically, in some cases, reside in the cloud. But, in addition, it will allow room system to share IoT analytics and insights between platforms, too.
By the end of the summer, there will be at least four major companies offering these solutions. By the end of 2021, there will be six. And, a by-product of this is a less expensive room-based UCC solution.
This trend will bring a lot more players into the speaker/mic array bar market — you know, those things that look like consumer TV speaker bars that also have a mic array and a camera embedded into them? Well, Yamaha, Bose, Poly and Logitech will have more competition in that space, but they will offer those PC’less solutions to room connectivity themselves, too.
2021 will be the YEAR OF PEXIP: If you haven’t heard of Pexip; you’re about to. In case you don’t know, Pexip is THE ONLY universal UCC platform. In other words, if you use Pexip as a UCC client, you can have people join from any other UCC client (Zoom, Teams, BlueJeans, Meet, etc). Yes, you read that right — it solves the biggest issue in UCC today (“How do I get cross-platform compatibility?”). Since 2013, the answer has been Pexip. But in 2021, the company will roll out Pexip Rooms and that will be a real game-changer. If you have a Pexip Room, you’ll be able to connect Zoom and Teams callers together in the same meeting! Oh, and Meet, BlueJeans and whatever other UCC platform that comes along, too! Still not selling Pexip? You should be!
The emergence of the UCC cart: I am consulting with a rather large advertising agency to integrate a cart-based UCC solution globally. I think I may have the perfect mobile UCC solution. As the year rolls on, I will publish the specs and as-builts for the final solution free of charge for you to copy, but the key component is currently the Barco ClickShare Conference CX-20. I expect to see more competition there in 2021. As the corporation opens back up this fall, I believe we will see a great need for prepackaged mobile UCC solutions, as I do not believe companies will be building more rooms. To the contrary, they will likely be tearing down more walls and wanting to open up office spaces more — better airflow, less confinement, less of a need to intentionally social distance, etc. So, expect 2021 to bring a host of room-based UCC solutions mounted to carts made by companies like Peerless-AV.
Cameras built into the center of displays: The commoditization of video meant, well, thousands of horrible video calls. Network issues, audio connectivity and audio feedback issues, video-stuttering issues … the list goes on and on. However, one issue that’s plagued nearly every video call in 2020 (and even before the pandemic), is the fact that none of us look at the camera. Unless you’ve fastened a camera to the center of your monitor, you are either looking above, below or to the side in every call you’re in — you all know what I am talking about. In 2021, this issue will be solved by a handful of companies readying debuts of monitors and displays for collaboration spaces with integrated cameras — in the center of the screen.
How will they do it? The solution is relatively simple. Using an array (as in multiple) of cameras all clustered in and around the center of the display — located between the LCDs and LEDs — each shooting a part of the image, you can “sum” them together to make up the entire image. So, you don’t actually see the cameras, but they are there. The tough part is the processing used to “sum” the cluster of cameras together to address motion. In any case, we WILL see solutions for this in 2021, starting with solutions from LED companies, then LCD companies! This will disrupt the external, third party camera business, eventually, in fixed installs. But, you’ll see it in conference-room-sized displays first, then in desktop displays later.
The rise of AV integrators adding cybersecurity services: Much like I pleaded with you, back in 2012, to add digital signage as a service of your company, I am going to recommend that you, quickly, add cybersecurity as a service. Here’s the deal: This is going to become a big thing in 2021 — heck, Joe Biden even mentioned that it was a priority of his administration on his first day in office. Biden is even setting aside billions to help accelerate it. To further my point, every company we serve as an industry is afraid of a hack — just ask Draper or Legrand | AV what that’s like. Who are these companies supposed to turn to? Do you just Google “cybersecurity expert?” How can you trust those returns? Your clients, however, trust YOU, and you’re already working inside their organization. You’re a trusted partner. If you offered this service, logically, they’d pick you for it! This all means that not only will there be money to support it but, there’s a demand coming, if it’s not already there. So, add this as a service in 2021!
dvLED’s Year: Although we’re certainly not done with LCD yet — in fact, we’ll see even larger LCDs come out later this year — believe it or not, 2021 will likely be a break-out year for LEDs. This will be especially true within the all-in-one solutions from companies like LG, Samsung and Planar. Not only will prices be cut in half from 2020 pricing, but we’re going to see more sizes. Currently, the market leaders in all-in-one solutions are LG with sizes from 110” to over 200” and Planar with the TVF Complete line. LG also has a series that’s on wheels! Almost all all-in-one solutions are 1.2-millimeter and 1.5-millimeter pixel pitches but, Planar has a 0.9-millimeter one, too.
We’ll also see Sony’s CLED (Crystal LED) make a big play for the all-in-one market in 2021. CLED has garnered nearly every display award for quality over the past three years and, just a month ago, Sony debuted two new series in the CLED lineup: the B-Series and the C-Series. Both are modular and capable of being ordered in all-in-one configurations.
Oh, and in case you haven’t heard of an LED company called INFiLED, you might want to check them out: http://infiled.com. If you’ve been to a Nike store, you’ve seen this company’s amazing work!
2021 will be the biggest year in digital signage history: Two factors are ensuring that 2021 will be, yet another, breakout year for digital signage:
- Nearly every corporate and retail operations reopening plan post-COVID includes digital signage. Digital signage not only can help with people counting, way finding, directional signage, taking temperatures and emergency messaging, it’s an advertising platform. And, nearly every display company making a digital signage line has integrated SoC technology that adds a signage media player integrated into the monitor. And as all of them are Wi-Fi, too, this is allowing retake to already reopen — wait until you go back to the mall, you’ll see them everywhere. If they aren’t in your mall yet, you need to use that as a starting point for a relationship to help them solve a major issue.
- Advertising dollars have been shifting away from the traditional TV to what’s known as DOOH (digital-out-of-home) for the past three years. The biggest segment of DOOH is digital signage.
Digital signage can also be used for sooooo much more. Here’s where AV companies should focus: higher education, K-12 and corporate ad hoc meeting and signage combo solutions. What do I mean? Well, there are already a host of digital signage solutions integrated and installed already — all over companies and schools. Why not consider adding wireless sharing products to them and allowing them to be ad hoc UCC displays. You can use products like the Intel Unite platform, the Barco ClickShare Conference (CX-20) or even adding something like the Apple TV to any signage screen to make it shareable by anyone?
The key here is that, while selling a signage solution, consider selling it as dual purpose; signage and UCC together — Intel’s Unite is something you can deploy facility-wide and it can actually manage all your signage content, too.
The opportunity to address the hybrid employee: According to a recent article from the New York Times, a majority of employees want to still work from home (at least part of the time) for the next two or three years. That means, there is the opportunity of a lifetime for us, as AV companies, to address the consistency, professionalism and security of the hybrid employee. You see, back in March 2020, the mantra was “just go home and jump online however you can and use a UCC platform for meetings.” What wasn’t addressed was everything from the quality of the camera workers were using, the security of their at-home network, the lack of a good quality mic and the personally embarrassing surroundings of working in the kitchen or bedroom.
As an AV integrator, you should offer a good, better, best solution to address all of these and then consider the client. Companies like VDO360 and Logitech offer a lineup of WFH solutions that integrate both a camera and a mic array, but depending on who the employee is — like C-suite — you may want to consider your “best” to include something like the Poly Studio X30 or the Aver VB342+ all-in-one solutions for the home. Yes, for the home. Execs have the money to address video and audio quality and the step-up options will be appealing. When I spoke to three C-suite level execs at the ad agency I am working with to help them upgrade their UCC options, they had no idea that there was a high-end at-home option other than the Logitech Brio.
The market for room signs will explode in 2021: The room sign segment of AV has been around 10 years now. But it’s considered a luxury, not a necessity. Now, with the uncertainty of the workplace, as well as the limited availability of meeting spaces, this is THE YEAR it will explode. If you don’t already have a room sign vendor, get one. My favorites are Evoko, Visix and Extron.
Voice control will finally be available for ProAV: No company has done voice control right in ProAV, UCC or Digital Signage. No one. It’s been terrible. Actually, it’s been downright awful. But, thanks to Amazon and Alexa for Business, that’s about to change. Amazon’s Alexa team has been working with companies like Zoom, Microsoft, Crestron and QSC already; I expect that group will multiply quickly in 2021. Watch the below video so you can understand what’s coming:
It’s taken almost three years to gain traction, but we’re finally going to see the integration of Alexa into office environments, thanks in part to the “I don’t want to touch anything” post-COVID workplace but also because the tech is ready for the IT prime time. The IT departments of the world are finally saying the consumer-based Alexa tech is OK to go on corporate networks.
So, how should you use it? Well, as I mentioned, a number of companies are already working to integrate voice control (using Alexa) into their products. But, you can use Amazon’s Honeycode technology yourself to offer solutions for hospitality, hospitals, government and corporate applications. It’s not harder to program than adding APIs to devices, and anything connected to the network can be controlled, managed or operated via a voice command, after you deploy it.
You need to add streaming solutions to EVERY system: I am not joking here. Video streaming is about to become commoditized; everyone will want to do it from nearly every room you install. I’m talking conference rooms, meeting rooms and certainly every training and classroom you will build and install. There is an expectation that content can be delivered anywhere, any time. And, software-based solutions are NOT ready for prime time. Sure, streaming via YouTube and Facebook works from a phone, but doing it reliably and consistently in a professional application requires a hardware box that can steam to two or more places (sites) at once, in addition to local storage. Most software-based solutions are limited to only 720p, too. Our clients need 1,080, and some will even want 4K. So, if you aren’t already a dealer for one of the streaming hardware platforms — like Extron’s SMP, the Matrox MAEVEX, the Blackmagic Web Presenter or the Magewell Ultra Stream — become one! This is going to be a hot segment of the market in 2021.
Here’s what will happen with the __________ market: I’ve been spending a lot of time researching where money is and where it’s likely to go when specifically addressing the AV, UCC and Digital Signage markets. I’ve looked at reports from over 15 companies in our industry — including AVIXA’s own tracking. I’ve also looked at over 25 comprehensive surveys and market analysis reports that are tracking various data points regarding who is going back when, how, what will change, etc. This covers everything from consumer goods, transportation, hospitality, corporations, government, higher ed and manufacturing. I feel as though some of my numbers below may be conservative but none are too liberal with the projected growth or decline. Finally, I also tell you when we will likely see a return to live events. The increases are over 2020 levels, not 2019.
K-12: We will see at least a 25% increase in spending/buying from K-12 globally. Governments are nearly universally pumping money into the infrastructure issues preventing schools from going back live, as well as making the hybrid and online experiences better for kids.
Higher Education: This will see an 8-9% increase in spending in and around higher ed coalitions with digital signage and classroom technology gaining most of the spend. Every classroom will be adding hardware-based streaming solutions — something like the Extron SMP series.
Corporate: We will not see significant traction in this area with hardware spending until April. We will, however, see opportunities in software — specifically around collaboration, analytics and IoT insights. If you’re in these three areas, they are already spending money to add services to the tune of +55% over 2020. But, hardware integration will pick up in late April and May and for the year, we will be up around +10%, no higher. So, if your primary work is in corporate AV, you need to pivot quickly, unless you can financially withstand another 2020.
Hospitality: All indications are that hotels and conferences will not start to rebook significant amounts of business travel until at least October. So, this will likely result in a +5% for the year. The opportunity is in adapting new functionality in the existing functionality — adding Alexa control and UCC capabilities to the signage networks and safety options to digital signage, plus temperature sensing and wayfinding.
Healthcare: Everyone would have thought that 2020 was a boon year from serving hospitals. It was not. At least, not for AV, UCC or signage. Services, yes, hardware, no. But, 2021 will be. This is where some money will be spent and the opportunities are as big in this segment of the market as nearly any. We will see a +45-50% increase in spending here for 2021.
Government: Here’s where there’s a lot of immediate opportunity. Most state and local governments will start to get back to somewhat normal operations by the second quarter. This will require spending — starting now. For the year, this will be up over 20% over 2020 but the project lifecycle will be the slowest of any category.
House of Worship: That segment will see growth in 2021 in the most obvious areas — accommodating hybrid services, lighting and some houses of worship have started to offer facilities for meetings and small events because their spaces are large and open, in many cases. We will see growth in that market in the range of 15%.
Live Events: Decimated by COVID, most that are still standing have turned to virtual events. But, in those cases, you are trading dollars for dimes. Live events will not make any sort of significant recovery in 2021, I am sad to say. I miss them as much as anyone, but the earliest we can hope for anything to return that’s larger than a thousand or so people is October. Then we will start to turn a corner and move upward. The revenue in live events for 2021 will be up 15-20% in 2021, but remember, that is over a dead 2020. It’s not a large increase even though it’s a double-digit number.
Merger mania will continue in 2021, along with COVID tracking: Like 2020, we will see a bunch of mergers in 2021. Most will be due to the financial ruins of 2020, but some will be aimed at getting com panies into new markets. For example, someone’s going to buy both T1V and UC Workspace in 2021. Both of those companies have THE technology everyone wants right now in UCC and education and they will be purchased.
Also, 3M is looking to get back into AV. They will do it via an acquisition — so it depends on what segment of the market the company decides to enter. However, 3M has money and is shopping around to buy someone.
Finally, Steelcase is likely to buy a company in our market, too. QSC is actively looking for some acquisition partners. In Steelcase’s situation, the company wants to go into the distributed UCC market. It aims to integrate UCC tech into its furniture line and obsolete stand-alone conference rooms. In the case of QSC, it wants to beef up its video presence, and will be actively shopping. If the merger wasn’t impossible because of cultural issues, QSC would have already tried to purchase Kramer. Kramer would be worth purchasing just because of a little-known product it just debuted called Corona Tag. It’s a very creative way to help companies track COVID infections and address infection tracing — an opportunity for AV integrators as we will be looked to help with all information services — not just AV.
QSC will finally be #3: Currently, the number three position for AV control belongs to Kramer. AMX is number four and QSC is number five. But, recent additions by QSC to address the missing link (aka: video) will assure that, by year’s end, it will be the number three control system company behind Crestron and Extron.
Epson will debut a new technology: Forever the 3LCD projector company (the biggest in the world, no less), Epson has branched out in recent years with, for example, the OLED-based Moverio AR glasses. In 2021, I hear rumors we could see the company enter a new market. It has projectors in every segment of the industry — even digital signage and collaboration. But, I suspect the aim will be at the UCC market with an interesting bundled solution.
Speaking of display technology — here’s what’s going to happen there in 2021: Of course, projectors had a tough 2021 as most people stayed home — with the exception of portable home projectors. Sales were down, in projection, anywhere from 40% to 80% depending on the brand. But, 2021 will see a comeback of sorts. Each school in the world will be looking to upgrade at least 30% of its displays and some will be looking to beef up 50% of its classrooms. That said, this will not exclusively go top projectors. A host of large-format flat-panel LCDs will debut — including new 100” LCDs and more 90” size options. Companies like NEC, Sony and LG will lead this charge. The most unique display company out there, Jupiter, with its PANA Series 21:9 aspect ratio displays, will also be adding touch to the next version of its 105” display at the end of Q2, as well. So, watch for it to be a bigger play in 2021.
I’ve already talked a lot about dvLED and how that will be dominated by all-in-one options competing with projection, but look for more flexible and thin-form LEDs to debut in 2021. Planar, Barco, Daktronics, Absen, NEC, Samsung and LG are the leaders in LED indoor installs right now but, Jupiter and Christie look to make some major moves in 2021. Speaking of Daktronics, it has gone inside, all of a sudden, and is growing its business with AV integrators now, after years of dominating outdoor LED in stadiums along with Samsung (formerly Prismview).
Finally, look for display companies to get creative and start adding in functionality like onboard Zoom and Teams Rooms, mic arrays built into their products and optional cameras designed to be integrated into the displays more seamlessly.
The Summer Olympics will not happen: As much as I wish this would happen — as the Olympics always trigger a focus on high-end AV technology, I predict that they will be canceled. If Olympic officials try to “push” to hold the games, it will be in an impossible bubble to maintain, and many countries will not participate. Thus, viewership will be immeasurable. We will have to wait, yet another year, to see the real debut of 8K technology at the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing.