PSNI Members Chime In
None of us really knows what’s ahead for this industry. A few years ago, many manufacturers hitched their wagons to 3D and expected consumers to match their enthusiasm. To some degree, the same is true with large-scale video conferencing rooms, which have been replaced in most offices with several smaller “huddle” rooms with less elaborate, more user-friendly systems.
But that didn’t stop several PSNI members from breaking out their Magic 8-Balls and peering into the future in the days following the group’s annual Supersummit.
“It’s going to be as much about our ability to be able to ensure constant uptime of our systems as it is about the technology itself,” says Brad Caldwell, president and CEO at Integrated Media Systems in Costa Mesa, Calif.
“It appears we need to be forward-thinking about how applications are deployed,” he says. That means collaborating with other technologies and being adaptable and “partnering with technologies we’re not too familiar with,” Caldwell adds.
“What we do is address the business case. We’re not selling a product. The technology is too fleeting. The capability of devices to speak to each other is far easier than it used to be. There’s a requirement on our part to be proactive and be mindful of the customer base,” Caldwell says. “There’s an expectation today, no matter the environment, that the technology is readily available and easy to use without any training. The interpretation of that is generational.”
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Mark Gottwig, president of Delta AV in Portland, Ore., says integrators must dispense with lip service when it comes to prioritizing service and actually start doing it.
“The service part of our business is where we need to go, but we can’t give up the integration,” he says. “What we can offer the client (by signing them to service contracts when installing systems) is to save them money. When you have to call someone on a break/fix call, it’s a lot more expensive.”
Technical Innovation CEO Mike Landrum sees software development as an area in which integrators can make some serious inroads.
“Writing a bunch of code isn’t close to the same thing,” he says. “We’re in a low-margin industry, so we have to invest wisely and carefully. We don’t have a lot of opportunity to miss on something. Many organizations don’t have the capital to be able to make these changes, so that makes the choice to take on risk even more significant.”
In many ways, integrators aren’t entirely in control of what the industry will look like in a year, or five, says Bruce Kaufmann, president and CEO at Human Circuit in Gaithersburg, Md.
“The future of our industry right now is controlled by manufacturers for the most part,” he says. “We don’t control what tools are coming to the market or when they get there.” Control systems are a primary example of the manufacturers holding the ham-mer on integrators, says Kaufmann.
“You’re looking at a hardware-laden control system that uses a proprietary approach. Even if they set you up on their app, that app usually points back to their system and isn’t an open source,” he says. “The consumer side has dictated a lot of our problems, but I don’t see an overnight switch. It’ll be as fast or as slow a progress as our industry wants it to be.
“The threats are all from outside from other technology industries. Right now, they just dabble around the edges,” adds Kaufmann, pointing to unified communications and telepresence as areas where IT and AV cross over and could work together rather than compete.
“They’ve played pretty nicely with the AV industry and haven’t done anything too aggressive,” he says. “While we’re interested in progression, it’s going to be very hard for us to sell our knowledge and monetize it. The AV/IT convergence conversation started 15 years ago. We’ve been trying very hard not to look at them as a threat. Innovation can come from anywhere. You can fight it or embrace it.”