In a movement that has been building for some time, 2017 promises to continue the rise of the consumer market driving the commercial market. With the advent of BYOD becoming standard operating procedure in the commercial space, a host of other consumer-based products and concepts are flooding through those battered gates that long kept the commercial environment insulated from home technology. Gone are the days when the most you would get asked was, “Can we install surround sound in the boardroom to go with this big screen?” Let’s look at how recent events will possibly affect how every commercial system we quote will have to be rethought from the ground up.
Alexa, Google and Apple Home, oh my! Voice command is coming. What may have started with people asking their mobile devices things like, “Siri, what is the weather today?” “Alexa, turn on the lights in the living room,” and “OK Google, play boy bands playlist,” will rapidly progress to, “Why are we still pressing buttons on a touch panel in the board room? Why can’t I just tell the system what I want?” If you aren’t at least thinking of a way to integrate this into your systems, you are behind. If you have a solution prepared and tested for the first person who asks for it, congratulations, you’ll get a pass to the next round of, “Who will be left standing in the AV industry?”
Manufacturers know what is going on and are slowly positioning themselves to capitalize on this new chain of customers. Most recently, Kramer made news with the purchase of iRule, a home automation specialist. They had collaborated on the K-Touch product line previously, and much like the owner of the Hair Club for Men, they liked it so much they bought the company. While this cements Kramer into the role they seemed to be going for anyway – to go more software based than hardware based. It’s a continuing shift in the products developed for home are now being incorporated to fuel the commercial side.
Look at the most surprising acquisition from 2016, Samsung buying Harman. What was the stated reason for the acquisition? Was it for the complete line of audio products like JBL and BSS? Or was it for the automation that could be made possible with the AMX platform? No, it was touted at the time as Samsung purchasing an automotive technology company. Most professionals in the commercial AV world probably didn’t realize that was even a thing with Harman, and yet here it was being the primary reason given for a multibillion-dollar purchase. The commercial AV products we know and love were relegated to essentially, “…and other fine brands manufactured by Harman.”
Everyone is used to calling up Netflix or Amazon on their big screen now, and being able to see video transmitted over the network or internet. Why can’t we do this at the commercial level? The answer is we can, mostly. There is only so long that customers will accept that they need to use cables and adapters to get video up on the screen from their device. “It works with Chromecast, why not here?” If you aren’t putting in some form of network-based video delivery system, you’re failing to provide for the very near future (and some would argue the present) state of video display. You may as well be providing a VGA connector and saying, “Good luck!”
Commercial dealers need to be looking at the home market now, not later. Go to CEDIA. Go to ISE. See what’s available, and see what you need to prepare to integrate. Input to switcher to display, with mics, audio processing and speakers won’t cut it anymore. You need to be agile and ready to provide that next level of integration to where the home and work experience are seamless. If you aren’t, prepare to get bought at best, or closed down at worst. The world of commercial AV has changed and continues to change. We had AV/IT convergence. That’s so 5 years ago. Now it’s consumer/professional convergence, and it has the potential to be even more disruptive.