Ben-Gal suggests that the AV industry look at the building-management sector for a model. “You manage one building,” he says of a typical IT manager, “they manage a hundred buildings.” At that point, the individual bits of information become less important than the aggregate whole, he stresses, redirecting the conversation away from data’s potential pitfalls and toward its benefits. “Once the conversations between IT and AV can reach this point, then the toolsets that are being created can really be fully used. It’s not a matter of ownership; it’s a matter of making data actionable. Where is the energy consumption the highest, which rooms are being used most and which products in each room are being used most? That’s what we all should be talking about.”
To the Next Level
Crestron’s Fusion will be one of the updated control and monitoring platforms that will be reaching deeper for the AV data analysis brass ring, part of an ongoing upgrade to the platform; for instance last year Fusion documented how to use Microsoft’s Power BI (business intelligence) analytics service with Fusion data and merge it with Exchange enterprise-level email and calendar data, which can amplify room-occupancy data with information about who is using the rooms, when, and which technology platforms they’re utilizing.
Daniel Jackson, Crestron’s director of enterprise, says the developments in AV systems monitoring and control seem to be coming fast and furious at the moment but points out that much of that capability has been available to other technology sectors for years. He points to a study by UNLV that was able to track the utilization of equipment in each of its classrooms to help understand room usage to influence technology purchasing decisions. To him, the disconnect wasn’t about data ownership but rather the lack of regular interaction between the AV world and the upper executive tiers of the companies they did work for.
“The VP and C-levels are the ones most concerned with efficiency and productivity,” he says, “but they’re not the one AV integrators usually talk to.”
Jackson says Crestron is already looking at the next evolutionary stage of the AV-data market, which they’re betting will be the inclusion of more SMB-level businesses as they embrace cloud-based and other conferencing and collaborative platforms. Crestron introduced its new Mercury product in April, a tabletop device that enables audio and video conferencing, BYOD multimedia presentation, and web collaboration. A built-in occupancy sensor enables facility managers to collect usage data to drive efficient room utilization.
Mercury represents the next leg in the development of data collection and analysis tools for AV — scale. Like all digital propositions, the new generation of data toolsets and room-control systems will decline in cost even as they increase in power, but that trade-off can be mitigated for integrators as they get applied to a broader range of targets. “The data makes more sense when it covers a hundred percent of the market,” says Jackson. “Mercury will cover the eighty percent of rooms that traditional Crestron might not be thought of as cost-effective for. With Mercury and some new unannounced products coming, you can cover all of your markets, and that’s a real game changer.”
The game will indeed change; the imminent arrival of a number of data mining and analysis tools for the AV industry marks an inflection point: AV customers will have access to more and richer data that will have significant impact on their bottom lines; AV integrators will have new opportunities for revenue streams, if they’re willing to dive into the deep end of what can be an intimidating pool, and both manufacturers and large-scale integrators will have found a newly invigorated technology category to compete in.
What’s necessary, says pundit Srago, is for AV to begin to look at itself as not just the provider of technology solutions that it’s traditionally been but as a provider of systems and services.
“It’s a whole new way of looking at it, it’s the difference between capex [capital expenditure] and opex [operational expenditure],” says Srago.