Did You Catch Th!nk AV? Read Our Coverage on Part II, the Consultant Panel

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Sony ThinkAV Image

The AV, UCC and Digital Signage industries are as eager as any industry (well, maybe after healthcare) to get the word out on all the greatness that will come in 2021. And it has certainly been a busy but exciting start to the year. My 2021 agenda is filled with all the virtual — maybe even physical, if trade shows happen later in the year — events I’m looking forward to this season. A three-part series I was sure to include in that was the new Th!nk AV Thought-Leadership Symposium put on by Sony. rAVe attended Th!nk AV to highlight the key takeaways you may have missed or just want a recap of.

Remind Me What Th!nk AV Is?

Sony’s new symposium gives the industry a space and place to connect with others, with an online platform to discuss shared experiences. Here are the three live events that Sony lined up, the second of which took place Tuesday:

  1. Influencer Panel (Jan. 19, 2021, 11:30 a.m. EST). “No one would argue that our market is influenced by space, time and technology. And in 2020 all three of those were at play, simultaneously. This panel will bring together the ultimate thought leaders in AV, UCC and Digital Signage.” Read the recap here.
  2. Consultant Panel (Jan. 26, 2021, 1:00 p.m. EST). “Nearly 50% of all AV and UCC projects are touched, in some way, by design consultants. No other group inside our market has more influence on how spaces are used and how technology is seamlessly integrated into spaces than AV design consultants. This panel will feature some of the leading design voices in the AV industry.” Read the recap below.
  3. End-User Panel (Feb. 2, 2021, 1:00 p.m. EST). “All of us strive to make customers happy. Happiness is what results from exceeding expectations and delivering AV, UCC and Digital Signage installs that work. This panel will feature the voice of the end-user; that group we all strive to deliver happiness for and as each one of them represents a different discipline of the businesses we serve, this panel will feature some happy users of AV, UCC and Digital Signage.”

With that, it’s time for our coverage on Th!nk AV part two, the Consultant Panel!

Consultant Panel: Recap & Takeaways

Moderated by rAVe’s Gary Kayye, the Jan. 26 panel included Heather Sidorowicz (president, Southtown Audio Video), Charmaine Torruella (global services manager at Verrex), Pete “TEC MAN” Coman (CTO at PTS – People | Technology | Space), John Garmendi (senior manager, business development B2B at Sony) and Scott Walker (president at Waveguide).

Sony Thnk AV Consultant Panel 2

And now, the key takeaways from this great session.

1. What is the “thing” AV should care about this year?

Kicking off the panel, Kayye asked: What should integrators be focused on this year? What’s the “thing” they should care about?

“The ‘thing’ is figuring out what the next thing is going to be,” Walker led. The pandemic has brought us five years into the future, he continued. The good news is, while the virtualization didn’t work perfectly, it worked. Now, we’re asking ourselves what we are going to take into the next normal, no matter the industry. Through IoT, data, analytics and insights, we in AV are tasked to help our clients figure it out in facilities.

AV design is more like digital workplace experience design, Coman added. It’s about more than just the room itself; it’s the whole user experience and journey, and the technology the enabler. Deployments like analytical systems and touchless processes, Coman continued, are already being rolled out now.

What are clients asking for?

The timing of this panel couldn’t be better, Kayye continued, as customers are feverishly asking AV for solutions for a return to the office. What are those solutions?

From her perspective, along the lines of AV design, Sidorowicz actually isn’t seeing huge changes quite yet. She thinks more changes in the story will come soon, perhaps in the second quarter of this year, to help people create a better work-life environment through technology.

Torruella sees many clients reevaluating their real estate — do they need all the offices they currently have? If not, this means reimagining our AV solutions. We need to accommodate for social distancing and make it as safe as possible for people to collaborate. Visualization of data will be big, Torruella added. We don’t know what’s going to happen, so we’re reimagining it as we go; data visualization will help property managers and clients see more clearly.

To accommodate for new processes, Garmendi echoed what Torruella said about reimagining our spaces as we integrate smart tech into things like display technology. There’s going to be a place for all three — direct-view LED, projection technology and traditional flat panels — in the new workspace, Garmendi argued. But importantly, we’ll see the blending of smart technologies, IoT, sensors and more to help identify trends and make decisions based on data. Data takes the subjectivity out of a lot of decisions, Garmendi noted, and in many cases, this is a good thing.

2. Let’s Talk About Security

Security has reached a whole new level in corporate, higher education and more. Who are the key individuals involved in security decision-making? Kayye continued.

With major changes and clients implementing things like temperature-sensing devices, we’re reconstructing security protocols, and people are trying to figure out how to get all that online in prep for a return to schools and work, Torruella said. Notably, AV houses don’t always do security though. So AV may not have been brought into these conversations quite yet.

However, AV design consultants and integrators can be looked at like workplace technology strategists — or, as Walker joked, technology wizards. How AV design started aside, consultants are now often tasked with “global AV standards,” Walker said. Regarding security, then, it behooves all technology stakeholders to bring AV in as early as possible, Kayye added. The earlier the better.

Walker agreed and added a tangential analogy. “All the puzzle pieces got thrown up in the air during the pandemic,” Walker said. Now, we need to put the pieces back in the order we want, not just put them back. In the context of the application, that means looking at the user experience — like how, in education, people want to do heads-down work at home and collaborative, “noisy” work while together. And yes, security plays into that tremendously.

3. The Future Workplace Is Hybrid — What AV Solutions Fit Within It? How Long Will “Hybrid” Last?

If, by 2022 or 2023, a percentage of people are still working remotely, what technology solutions for hybrid spaces have the potential to take off? Kayye asked.

The key component of this is engaging and asking the right questions, Torruella urged. In corporate, for instance, we know C-level executives like to do dynamic presentations: broadcasts, streaming. So these environments are now incorporating things like auto-tracking cameras for dynamic presentations. Torruella also sees a lot of training spaces being added on, in addition to the open-space concept being rethought in regards to employee safety.

We are getting more into the software side than ever anticipated, Sidorowicz added. After all, this is the first time that many small, medium and large companies have ever done what they have in regards to technology with a vast remote workforce.

Important will be providing an experience to folks that do go to the office while they’re interacting with others who are remote, Garmendi noted. With respect to accessibility and affordability, there’s a bit of a difference. Sony approaches this reality by offering various levels of product with different pricing to help deliver impactful experiences.

Rounding out the panel, Kayye prompted a few more topics — like productivity in an open office, consumerization of technology in the workplace, voice control and trends that will impact our industry this year. A big takeaway is one that Coman left us with: There’s no one system that does everything. The majority of the systems aren’t designed to talk to each other. You need something that’ll bring it all together, combining these technologies to create smart buildings and workplaces. When you analyze the data, it helps the client make decisions. But when designing and implementing intelligence in the workplace, we should learn as we go — like a Tesla, Coman added, which gets smarter the more you use it. The workplace develops too; it’s agile, constantly evolving, and the technology should be evolving with it.

By the end, it was clear the panel agreed: Things have changed forever. Like Uber did for taxi cabs, the pandemic broke “the way it’s been,” Sidorowicz illustrated. We all need to adapt to and design for the new hybrid experience.

See you on Feb. 2

You can watch the full video from Tuesday’s Th!nk AV Consultant Panel here. Sony’s next in its three-part Th!nk AV symposium will be the End-User Panel on Feb 2. I’m excited to hear more about what project success looks like from the voice of the end user — and, as Sony says, the “happy” end user. We can all relate to the glee that comes from happier customers and successful projects, right? So make sure to register for Th!nk AV to catch part three, the End-User Panel, next week. Until next time.