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What’s Up in AV? 4 Trends to Watch

Back in June, I attended my 17th InfoComm, one of the largest AV trade shows. It’s a fantastic place to meet the who’s who of the A/V world, learn more about what’s happening in the space and experience the innovations on the horizon. While we typically see Infocomm as an opportunity for big players to unveil hot new product lines or demo upcoming features, this year, it seemed like many companies were less focused on grand ideas of the future and more homed in on solving the problems of the here and now.
1. Hardware that can scale
Software providers like Zoom Video Communications and Microsoft are looking toward purpose-based PC solutions because they can evolve over time and can scale with the software providers, creating a better experience for end users. These companies are looking for solutions that only get better with time and can incorporate updates into existing systems.
Here’s a good analogy: When you purchase a BMW, the best that car will ever be is the moment you drive it off the lot. Its functions will only decline with wear and tear; and as newer models offer new features, you’ll need to purchase the new model to get those features. On the other hand, when you purchase a Tesla, your vehicle will improve with time because it’s designed to accept software updates and new features for which t the hardware is purpose-built. Similarly, software providers are looking for devices that can support their updates over time without replacing that hardware or at least limiting replacement to larger time gaps than have previously been in practice.
2. AI accelerates the process
That said, another major trend seen at InfoComm this year was the increased use of artificial intelligence (AI) and the improved analytics it provides. Gone are the days of pouring over spreadsheets or data points to understand trends and take action on them. Through AI, manufacturers are now able to provide insightful data via their devices and then have solutions that can decipher the data. This is helping expedite the creation of new devices and software versions as manufacturers more easily learn what their end users need and want. Additionally, AI can pour over enormous quantities of data that wouldn’t have been possible with just humans reviewing. Because of this, we’re now able not only to count the number of people in a room, but also drill down and say how many men with glasses actually attended.
3. 5G changes the game
While the buzz around this at the show was fairly limited, I’m still surprised about how little the AV industry knows about 5G and its capabilities. This technology is one of the disrupters quickly gaining ground, and most of the AV industry isn’t prepared. This includes everyone from manufacturers to integrators. It’s been an ongoing theme that IT will take over AV, but we might actually see that devices don’t need AV or IT.
With the introduction of 5G and the speeds that it could offer, wired and Internet service providers will need to change as well. Imagine latency goes from 20ms on 4G to just 4ms on 5G. Plus, 5G’s speed is well documented as it’s 100 times faster than 4G -- i.e., faster than most home cable connections. This presents an exciting new opportunity.
4. USB-C gains traction
Finally, as I mentioned in my previous piece, unified communications is a Wild West of players right now. The same is true for USB-C, the emerging standard for transferring data and power that is slowly replacing traditional USBs, Thunderbolts, and DisplayPorts on newer devices.
USB-C has a cable that can be inserted into a device in more than one way, unlike traditional USB, which only fits in one direction. USB-C also has the capability to carry a much greater amount of power, meaning it can power not only smartphones and smaller devices but also laptops and much larger power-hungry devices with a single cable.
And while some manufacturers are trying to capitalize on it, it’s still very new and uncharted territory. AV professionals are interested in USB-C, but the solution presents new problems. It’s hard to extend it with an additional cord, problems are difficult to diagnose and troubleshoot, and interoperability can be an issue.
InfoComm is one of the shows I truly look forward to each year because it presents such a great opportunity to learn from the industry’s best and gain insight into what’s to come. This year, we saw many companies focusing on how to make significant improvements that look to benefit the end user. I’m excited to see how these changes play out over the next year and how things like AI and 5G will reshape the industry.