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It's the AV Industry to the rescue!

Barack Obama’s no-nonsense Chief of Staff, Rahm Emanuel once famously said in a TV interview, “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste.” As Emanuel, who is said to be the most influential Chief of Staff ever, later explained, “… what I said was, never allow a good crisis to waste when it’s an opportunity to do things that you had never considered, or that you didn’t think were possible.” I think Emanuel was on to something here and this is where the AV industry should take its cue?

Let me explain… back at the beginning of the year, I wrote my thoughts in a post “2020 a time for Reflection & Prediction in the AV industry”. I attempted to gain some understanding of where our industry has come from and where it might be heading. I did enjoy putting my thoughts together and also had many comments and positive feedback to this post. I must admit my ego also got a little massage when I was contacted by an industry commentator about referencing the post it in an article they were putting together. Job done, I thought… and it also may be nice to reflect in twelve months where we had ended up…?

Not so fast… no one predicted that the whole world was about to be turned upside down by this thing called Covid19 and that in less than 90 days countries would begin to close their borders and implement wide-ranging lockdown measures, the likes we have never seen before. On the 20th March 2020, for the first time ever New Zealand borders closed to all non-New Zealand citizens. Globally the world came to an abrupt stop and in a matter of weeks economies shut down, the $800 billion global aviation industry was grounded, millions of people were without a job and the world looked a very uncertain place.

But as humans, we have learnt to adapt. The new normal meant that overnight the kitchen table became our office, kids joined their mates online for classes, the closed universities went virtual and the dictionary needed to be updated, as Zoom became a verb!

No one will ever know the total number of video conferences that replaced our normal way of life but all of a sudden we were all forced into what seemed like a blur of webinars, skype calls, Facebook Messenger, Cisco Webex, Apple Facetime, Google Meet, Microsoft Teams and of course the granddaddy of them all, Zoom calls as we tried to get on with our lives.

How do all now make sense of this chaos, uncertainty and upheaval?

This brings me back to Emanuel… When I started in this industry, I was frustrated that it used to take weeks of proposals, meetings and demos to get across to my customers the virtues of video conferencing. Why could not everyone see what I could, after all, it is a technology that was going to make our lives easier, save us money and allow us to travel less so we could spend more time with our families…? It also was not a new concept, in-fact, this last week commercial video conferencing has just celebrated its 50th birthday. But what I failed to understand at the time, is that sometimes the world just needs to experience a revolution to accept change.

Okay… I admit it’s been a little more than a revolution… it’s been a crisis of biblical proportions that has created “an opportunity to do things that you had never considered, or that you didn’t think were possible”.

Our challenge now as an AV industry is to be agile, adapt and change. Looking back at the points, I explored at the beginning of the year, they are more relevant now than ever!!

The changing ‘Modern Workplace’ continues to influence the design, implementation, and support of workplace platforms. It’s just now Covid19 is now reinventing its role.

The LED marketplace may have slowed but will soon recover looking at new opportunities in providing signage options in zero-touch environments and screens for video calls.

Covid19 has ensured that UC Platform’s hyper-growth will continue to dominate corporate, institutional and government decision making. AV systems will still have to learn to be collaborative and platform-agnostic to survive.

Consumerisation of pro-AV has continued to put pressure on margins. Budgets will be stretched even further, this means that we all have to look long and hard at the way we have ‘traditionally’ operated our businesses.

Hiring talented staff will remain tough – there is a zero-sum gain from continuing to poach our competitor’s staff. But job losses have meant that there are many skilled and eager folk willing to join our industry.

AV as a Service will find its natural place in the funding models of our customers. Capital is now very tight, so this is a real alternative for customers now.

Remote asset monitoring will revolutionise the way we service our customers. We can no longer just keep building a bigger fleet of ambulances to achieve this. The challenge is doing this in a secure, cost-effective and in a system agonistic way.

The Digital Signage space looks like it will continue to shine. Growth will be directed by requirements for contact tracing, zero-touch environments for wayfinding, retail, hospitality, billboards and even more uses we haven’t thought of yet.

We still have only scratched the surface with AV over IP. Several manufacturers this year have delivered key networked AV products. This will continue to mature and deliver cost-effective, scalable, and robust solutions. The Achilles heel remains that we don’t yet have all the common standards in place that the IT industry expects.

While our industry is going through the Covid19 reset, this has provided very fertile ground for further M&A activity. So far this year we have seen Marlin bring AVI-SPL and Whitlock together to create the biggest AV integrator in the world, Whitlock has since been replaced by AVI Systems in the GPA, Kinly acquired AVMI to form the biggest European integrator and recently Verizon agreed to acquire enterprise-focused video conferencing service BlueJeans for a reported $400m. We are only halfway through the year so what does the second have in store?

Despite the challenges of Covid19, what an exciting time to be part of our industry. Covid19 has been a massive reset for us all and if we play our cards right maybe “It’s the AV Industry to the Rescue!”

What active steps are you taking in your business to take control of “an opportunity to do things that you had never considered, or that you didn’t think were possible?”

As always, please feel free to comment, challenge, agree or disagree with my thoughts.

By Richard Bishop

Head of Sales at Asnet Technology