The Non-AV-AV Is Getting to Be Bigger than the AV Parts of AV

Since the introduction of the plethora of collaboration boards launched February at ISE, I’ve noticed a troubling and concerning trend: In some segments of AV, the non-AV’ers are doing more AV than the AV’ers are doing.

What the heck do I mean?

Well, let’s take the huddle space as an example. At first, the AV market didn’t even notice what was going on there and traditional furniture companies were actually installing and integrating AV into these so-called huddle spaces. Then came the AV products aimed at huddle spaces — products like the Biamp Devio, the Microsoft Surface Hub, the Collaborate line from ClearOne and the Logitech MeetUp camera. AV’ers didn’t really take to these products — but all the while, IT’ers, tech managers and facility managers at corporations loved them. So, they bought them online from CDW and other Internet retailers. In many cases, they integrated the products themselves.

All of a sudden, we have an entire market — branded as the huddle room market — that’s more non-AV than AV. A far greater number of non-AV companies specify and install these than AV companies.

But, it didn’t just happen in huddle spaces — that was just the low-hanging fruit for me to pick on. The it happened in the collaboration board market, too. Nearly 75 percent of the collaboration boards sold in 2017 were sold or integrated through non-AV companies.

Is AV so busy as to not have noticed this alarming trend? Or are they just writing that segment off as too hang-and-bang’y?

I hope it’s not the latter. I see the same thing happening in AV-over-IP — although this won’t happen overnight — or even in just a year. But it’s clear that well over 50 percent of the current installs of AV-overIP systems were done without touching an AV integrator and significant chunk — likely in the realm of 25 percent — were totally driven by the clients themselves. Meaning, the university didn’t just ask for it, but actually specified it and integrated it themselves — on their own.

On a positive note, there’s plenty of AV to go around. The market is growing faster than it has in a decade and the amount of new technologies and products has eclipsed the mid-1990s golden-era of AV. But, do we really want to totally give away a segment of the market as important as the AV-over-IP revolution? Not to mention the exploding huddle space segment of meeting rooms?

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Did I forget to mention how nearly no AV integrators are spec’ing Zoom Rooms? Sure, you can argue that’s as non-AV as any AV space, but these things are filled with AV products such as collaboration boards form Avocor and cameras galore. And, by the way, these aren’t $300 USB cameras. Most are integrating MeetUps or newbies like the Panacast 2 4K-resolution camera. And now I’m hearing from Cisco that we’re not even selling many of the Spark Rooms even though we sold the client on the Spark Platform in the first case.

What’s next? LEDs?

There’s no question that in the early days of the huddle space, there wasn’t much money it it. There were only $300 cameras and table-top audio systems — but now we have high-quality 4K camera and audio systems like the Nureva HDL-300 that place over 8,000 virtual microphones in a room. These are all products that are screaming “install me,” even in small spaces, and will add a significant upgrade to both the A and the V in AV.

Back to AV-over-IP. I’ve been doing a ton of research on that market in preparation for my 2018 speaking tour — it’s all about AV-over-IP and the opportunities that technology is going to bring us all in 2018. Everyone — and I mean everyone — will have it by the end of this year. But will you be ready to sell it? Will you assume it’s too low-end or too network-centric or too IP for AV? I hope not as not only would I like to see us take back the collaboration board and huddle space markets, I’d love to see us become IP-enablers and help guide the adoption of AV-over-IP. This is critical, I believe, as AV-over-IP is all about TRADEOFFS. There is no perfect solution. There is no one-size-fits-all solution. It’s very application- and situation-dirven. In reality, it’s totally a consultative-selling approach to AV integration. It’s a money tree!