I love writing this annual predictions article. If you’re a regular reader, you already know this but for those that 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 market for the upcoming year, but I also go back and review the previous year’s predictions. Sort of a scorecard of accuracy, if you will. And, 2019 is going to be an exciting year with A LOT of changes in the AV market so I hope you’ll read them all.
Author’s note: Kayye’s 2019 Krystal Ball Predictions was actually delivered as an Almo ProAV exclusive webinar in January. So, if you prefer to listen/watch instead of read, go here — it includes a slide deck along with a recording of Gary’s live delivery of the webinar.
First, let’s review my 2018 predictions and see how well I did:
SSD lighting will be more than 50 percent of the projector market: Got that one right. In fact, well over 80 percent of the projection market is either LED- or laser-based (or a hybrid thereof) now. The big advantage may be being overlooked, however. While you and your clients are focused on ‘no lamp replacements’ as the key development in the SSD (solid state device) lighting wave, there are really two other factors that matter more — colorimetry and uniformity. These two things are what’s delivering the stunning image quality and the ability to hit the plethora of HDR standards with regard to color quality.
LCD displays will get thinner and lighter: Well, this one doesn’t take a PhD to predict — this was low-hanging-fruit as I saw the upcoming production lines for LCD and the forthcoming Samsung QLED and offerings from LG, NEC and Sony that made this easy to predict. In fact, the “thinness” is making it hard to make anything much large than 90”. But, you’ll see a new technology emerge for the 100”+ category if you’ll read my 2019 predictions — so, keep reading.
LED growth will lead the display market: A lot of people disagreed with me on this one as I predicted that 2018 would see LEDs being used in meeting rooms and even boardroom applications with more fine pixel-pitch options in the 1.2mm range and even smaller — some now as small as 0.7mm. I was right on this one and most integrators are reporting driving brightness and contrast at less than 50 percent as they are sooooo bright. So, they’ll last FOREVER. More on this development in my 2019 predictions too.
OLED will finally be able to be installed in 24/7/365 applications: Nope, I was wrong here! But, they did get better. Most OLED manufacturers, with LG being the leader, are now specifying 18/7/365 — this is up from 12/7/365 and 16/7/365 at launch.
4K will see massive growth and acceptance while 8K will just be hype: Well, I got this one perfectly. In fact, try and find a video product launch in 2018 without the term ‘4K’ in it. Even non-4K projectors and monitors are touting their 4K-readiness in that they have scaling technology to take 4K inputs and scale them to 1080p — who would want to do that? I hope no one. Anyway, 4K was huge in 2018 and nearly every AV-over-IP product launched was 4K capable — with some even handling up to 12-bit color. And, let’s not forget 4K LEDs, 4K cable (by the way, there is now a new HDMI spec that handles all bandwidths of 4K, and some 8K — known as HDMI 2.1) and we even saw the 4K spec on audio products — kind of. In December, the people behind Dante (Audinate) added video to the spec — 4K video capability. Oh, and 8K IS just hype — for now. But, we will see the upcoming 2020 Olympics shot and broadcast LIVE in 8K, thanks to Sony in Japan. But how will we watch it?
BYOD and collaboration will be the thing everyone is talking about in 2018: Again, nailed it. BYOD video products were invented by Barco with their ClickShare line but now companies like Extron have added that functionality across a wide range of products using their ShareLink technology. Add in 20 other companies with options from $199 to $5,000. And, some do true collaboration. There is a difference, you know. Collaboration actually adds, by most people’s definitions, videoconferencing, annotation, scheduling and sharing, too. We saw 20+ collaboration boards launched in 2018 with most being 55” and 84”, but a few manufacturers broke out of the mold and offered 65” and 75” too. And, Epson, with its BrightLink Pro line gives you a projection-based collaboration system that’s up to 100”.
AV-over-IP will be led by SDVoE and Crestron: In 2018, Crestron was still the newcomer to the AV-over-IP market, having just launched the NVX product line (a 1G AV-over-IP solution using JPEG 2000 compression). But in 2019 the company took over the 1G AV-over-IP space — ripping apart SVSi’s former market-leading position. In one year they went from less than 10 percent of the market to what I’m estimating is now more than 50 percent. Crestron’s aggressive pricing strategy, basically a BOGO, won over the market. But, on the 10G side of things (less compression), SDVoE still stands alone as the leader with over 30 companies making SDVoE products — nearly 160 of them so far. Christie has basically added SDVoE to nearly everything it sells (including the new MicroTiles LED lineup). Keep reading as Extron made its AV over IP launch in late 2018 and will ship in 2019. I’ll cover this in my 2019 predictions.
Videoconferencing will be dominated by soft-codec companies – hardware could die a slow death: Got it. Zoom was the darling of 2018, with more companies talking about integrating its video technology into UCC (unified collaboration and conferencing) products than any other — hardware or software — video system. Microsoft is an easy success due to its OS adoption rate — it’s now re-engineered its offering into Microsoft Teams. Between Microsoft, Zoom and the now re-branded (and rebranded again) offering from Google, Hangouts Meet, these three companies left little room for anyone to hear about anything from hardware stalwarts Cisco and Polycom — both of which actually launched cloud-based offerings too.
AVaaS – AV as a Service will catch on in 2018: Nope, I was wrong here. In fact, the offerings were slow to debut and then stalled out. Some integration firms like AVI-SPL have launched their own AVaaS service platforms and so did a few manufacturers (Barco sort-of, and Crestron, barely). But nothing had any traction in 2018 with regard to true AVaaS. So, nope, I missed this one.
So, on to my 2019 Predictions!
AV-over-IP will be THE THING that everyone talks about all year long: There is little doubt in my mind that 2019 will be the year the ProAV market transitions primarily from traditional signal routing and distribution to AV-over-IP. Sure, not every system, but most large integration projects will be specified as AV-over-IP. In talking with some major system designers, every single project they have where they are doing facility-wide or campus-wide design projects, they are specifying AV-over-IP. Of course, there are still ‘legacy’ products in those systems, too, to accommodate the plethora of analog and digital-only accessories, but there is no doubt that, if you aren’t already familiar with routing and distributing systems over an IP network, you need to be. And, for everyone awaiting Extron’s entry into the market, wait no more. Extron launched its NAV system in Q4 2018 with an anticipated ship date of Q2 2019. And, unlike what you’re likely thinking, both the current AV-over-IP market leaders are glad Extron is in the market now too — merely because it validates the trend of sending AV over then IP network in the future. So, now, there’s ZERO reason for integrators to not be in AV-over-IP.
Extron’s hook is interesting. The company says its designed and built its own chip, called PURE3, to be able to handle all AV-over-IP standards from H.264 to 1G and 10G (and everything in-between — in fact, you can select any bandwidth you’d like to use on the IP network and their bit rate is very, very low comparatively). So, no doubt this will be THE YEAR for AV-over-IP.
Using Apple’s 1984 strategy, Zoom will rule videoconferencing: Apple’s famed 1984 strategy was to grow market share, long-term, by seeding computers to the youth so they’d grow-up hooked on Apple gear. It worked. Apple’s marketshare back then was less than 3 percent. Now, it has a 25 percent marketshare in smartphones, a 10 percent marketshare in worldwide total computer use and a 27 percent marketshare in tablets. Zoom is quietly using that same strategy. For example, if a university campus will pay for Zoom licenses for the faculty, then every single student attending gets to use it for free while they’re enrolled at the university! That’s going to ensure they own the market in the long-term. But, in the short-term, their strategy is all about partnerships and integration. Zoom has reached out to partner with every collaboration board manufacturer except one (Google). All of them either come with Zoom natively or are one click away from being integrated with Zoom. Zoom is also partnering with everyone else too — Extron, Crestron, AMX, Kramer, you name it, they are partnering. We may very well see Zoom go public in 2019 too.
There are too many wireless collaboration boards: There are literally 25+ companies marketing interactive collaboration boards. This is not sustainable. 2019 will see the consolidation of that market and some of the players there will likely go out of business. If I were in the market to buy a bunch of them, I would be VERY CAREFUL who you choose. Who has good distribution and who has a good brand? Those should be factors when making a decision to buy — and not just based on price or compatibility. The way I see it now, there are three different platforms to choose from: WCD (Windows Collaboration Display), Google or OS agnostic. Microsoft seems to have bailed on the HUB and is partnering with everyone to integrate WDC into as many displays as possible. Sharp and Avocor are the leaders there, so far. And, if you’re a Google G-Suite company, you’ll likely choose the Jamboard but the rest is the wild-west. Some of the big brands making them will obviously survive and thrive, but the smaller brands may see a tough 2019.
Another note about collaboration: BYOD and collaboration will move from boxes to system and ecosystems in 2019: For the first six years of BYOD and collaboration, it was all about adding in boxes that made existing systems wireless — or that were capable of allowing content to be shared from a laptop, tablet or phone wirelessly using MirrorOp (owned by Barco, by the way) application, through Chromecast or Apple’s AirPlay. But 2019 will see a greater focus on wireless systems — not just boxes. And, it’s unlikely you’ve noticed this but, Vivitek may have the better approach for a systems-focused BYOD than Barco — the current BYOD market leader. The company’s NovoConnect series of products lends itself more towards a systems approach from top-to-bottom. Barco, on the other hand, is doing a system with only its CSE-800 product. This will be interesting to watch as I think barely anyone’s probably noticed what Vivitek has built with the NovoConnect lineup. On the other hand, obviously you can’t discount Extron, Crestron and Kramer. But, for now, they each mostly focus on stand-alone products added to a system. The Extron ShareLink Pro 1000 is the probably the top wireless 4K stand-alone box on the market right now.
Consumer products are steering the ProAV market: The consumer market’s influence on ProAV has been slowly building over the past couple of years. But, in 2019, it will explode. The impact of Amazon’s Alexa can’t be overstated. And, it’s not just with their sell-direct moves either — although of course, that is a factor. Companies like Lutron are selling lighting control and shades direct and more will follow. But, this isn’t what I am referring to. I am speaking of the plethora of consumer devices that are good enough to use in ProAV installs now. Even many monitors (aka: TVs) — like the Samsung QLED. But, the big impact will come in the form of control. There’s a worldwide trend towards both simplifying systems and cloud-based control that could impact the ProAV market quickly. Of course, we have network security in our favor as most of the consumer devices aren’t as worried about that was we are required to be. But companies like Savant and URC have pretty dang nice consumer-facing control platforms that may have an impact in ProAV. And, of course there’s Utelogy — still the industry’s only truly cloud-based control platform. Speaking of Alexa, we shouldn’t (and won’t) reinvent voice-activated control. Alexa is it. You will see this as the defacto-standard voice-based control interface for ProAV in 2019. No doubt.
Speaking of control – I would hate to be in the HomeAV control market right now – Brilliant Control is scary-good: Haven’t seen or heard about the Brilliant Control product line — just watch this. Do I need to say more? Imagine competing with that? That is simplicity at its finest and why a giant chunk of the once, totally-custom-installed HomeAV market will go DIY even faster in 2019 than in any other year in its history.
Speaking of control, again: Gesture-based control will make a debut in 2019: We need to simplify control, big time. Amazon’s Alexa helping us add voice-based control will help. But, we badly need logical, truly user-friendly control. Gesture-based is the way to do it. If you want to project something from your tablet or phone, you should be able to either flick your finger at the display or gesture your iPhone that direction to make it happen. Raise the volume should be done by moving you had up. Switching inputs or channels, wave your hand to the right or left. Mute? Stop sign with your hand. Oh, by the way this isn’t my idea — it’s the idea of a control company. You’ll see.
Universities will replace 100 percent of their projectors by 2020: The advent of SSD lighting has changed everything for the projector. Just when many pundits in the market were saying the projector was on the verge of dying, along comes LED and laser lighting. Not only do those technologies make projector light sources last forever, but they massively increase the quality of the image including both — as I said earlier, colorimetry and uniformity. And, it’s not something only an AV tech can see. We changed the projector in my classroom at UNC in the middle of the semester last year (almost the same native resolution, but installed a laser-based light source) and the students, the very next class, remarked how much better the projected image looked — and we switched from a screen to projecting directly on the wall, too. It was that good. The university upgrade cycle is usually between three to five years. But, laser and LED will accelerate that and by the end of 2020, pretty much every university in the world will have already upgraded to the new light source or will have them on order.
Digital canvassing is the killer app of AV-over-IP, by the way: I love, love, love how I can put anything on the screen anytime I want in my classroom at UNC. And, I can tile images all over the place and just park them until I need them. Then, using a mouse, I can make them front-and-center for the students. But, this was a complicated set-up with a lot of scaling and video processing to do it. And, of course, to do it right, I ultimately need 4K projection (thank you, Epson). Anyway, with AV-over-IP, every signal that you input to the network, can be output anywhere you want — at any time. And, that means you can stack, tile, line-up, make linear — or create digital canvasses with your projection display at the front of the room with any and all sources. I can’t wait. This is the true, killer-app for AV-over-IP. And by the way, control is going to be the key here. You can stick all this stuff on the network, but the user-interface (i.e., control system) then becomes the critical to distributing the content where you want it to go and making it look how you want it to look. So, consider that when investing in AV-over-IP. Not all AV-over-IP companies have a sophisticated controller.
Digital signage will double in 2019: The digital signage market is rapidly becoming part of the advertising industry. Seriously. In 2018, approximately $170 Billion worth of commercials were shown on linear and non-linear TV shows around the world — with about $70 Billion of that in the US. Nearly everyone in the advertising industry is projecting a decline of between 1.5 percent and 5 percent annually in ad spend on network television. So, where will that money go? Well, a lot of it will shift to social media marketing (e.g., Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter). But, a chunk of it is heading towards the digital signage market. So, instead of the digital signage market being relegated to simply lighting up signs (or switching analog content to digital content), it will see more growth from ad revenue switching from one bucket to the other — just look around. It’s already happening. You see it in airports, malls, subways, retail stories, on the side of the road, bus stops, outdoor kiosks, menu boards, in the form of billboards, in stadiums and arenas and you’re about to see way, way more of it. Oh, but there’s more. All while this is happening, two newer technologies are becoming mainstream offerings in digital signage: projection and LED. Yes, projection — thanks to products like Epson’s LightScene — and LED — thanks to 1.2mm and below pixel-pitches — are becoming worthy options for creatives all over the world. You see, advertisers were reluctant to put their images and graphics on direct-view LCD due to its lack of colorimetry and reliability (color reliability) long-term. But LED solves this. And, with a projection products like the LightScene, all of a sudden everything is a digital canvas. No screens required — you can project on any surface.
Speaking of LEDs, watch for ambient lighting LEDs to debut: The LED manufacturers have a ton of capacity. And, making displays for giant signs and meeting rooms aren’t enough. So, they’ll lend their talents to flood the market with all sorts of creative ambient lighting options starting in 2019. Hollywood and Broadway have already switched to LED lights on stages, but you’ll see all of us use them in our homes for mood-lighting and accenting and we’ll do it in offices as well. It’s a fact that florescent lighting in the office is HORRIBLE for you. But, switching that out will take years and be costly. But, adding LED-based accent lighting that can be controlled, just like the AV gear is, is another touch-point we’ll have in reaching the client.
One more LED thought: Above, when reviewing my 2018 predictions, I told you about a new technology on the horizon that could usurp LCD monitors in meeting rooms and more. It’s LED. This new generation of 1.2, 0.9, 0.8 and 0.7mm LEDs are stunning. And, are good enough, quality-wise, to put in place of monitors and give you the ability to install IMAX-like displays in the front of a meeting room or classroom. So, my digital canvassing concept can also be done using an LED — projectors aren’t the only options. And, some LED companies have some interesting pre-packaged options like SiliconCore’s EZ-HD LED walls that come in 110”, 130” and 165” sizes and also the new Christie MicroTiles LED — it’s endless in sizing.
Cloud-based AV will bring us the AVaaS potential: So, I am back where I started. I thought this would develop faster but I have come to realize that someone like Barco or Utelogy can’t pull this off. It’s got to be someone like Extron or Crestron to make it happen. Of course, there could be a start-up in the wings that has the potential to re-engineer the way we deliver systems to clients including via the cloud — someone like this tiny company called Userful. Now, that’s a company that could really disrupt AV. If you haven’t heard of them, Userful is VERY popular in the digital signage market as they make a thin-client (or zero-client) based cloud signage system that allows you to send content to signs without any cables, without any media player and without any custom software. It uses the embedded signage player in the displays to do everything and you can either stream content to it in real-time or via send-and-play-later. Obviously, for this to work in meeting rooms and classrooms, we’d need projector manufacturers to add thin-client media players or some kind of flash or short-term memory storage system on-board. But, in reality, this wouldn’t be expensive. It means a larger discussion — maybe one we can have with Userful themselves this year. I did shoot a video at ISE with Userful’s CEO, John Marshall, in the LG booth. It’s worth watching as this could be the future of AV:
Finally, for my last prediction fo 2019: Star Wars Episode 9 will dominate the box office. OK, OK, yes, take that with a grain of salt from a guy who’s grown up with the series for over 42 years now but, I do think this will become the biggest box office gross in movie history.
May the force be with you!
Author’s note: This was delivered as an Almo ProAV exclusive webinar in January. So, if you’d like to watch of listen to this webinar, go here.