15 Years Later: A New World and a New Industry

When I started my career in 1993, e-mail, cellphones, “portable” laptops and even the Windows operating system were barely on the scene.  The idea of having a touchpanel in a boardroom, classroom or home was as foreign a concept as having a robot for an assistant.

The AV industry as much as those we work with, has benefited from and contributed to an unprecedented technology evolution over the last two decades.

Over the years, the AV control system has gone from a luxury to a requirement.  The importance of providing enhanced functionality and user experience is a necessity, not just an option.  Our industry and clients have shifted from having technology pushed to them through their AV systems to living in a world where technology, specifically audiovisual communication technology, is essential to daily activities.  Clients expect AV technology to make life simpler and to be as convenient and easy to use as their smartphone, iPad and laptop.

In the face of all of the technology advancements of the past twenty years, we need to stop and think about how much the control system user interface and functionality have changed.

  • Touchpanels have become sleeker, and offer more size options, higher resolution and color depth and more communication options.
  • Control system manufacturer tools have evolved with expanded capabilities and ease of programming for novice and experienced programmers.
  • Control system hardware comes in more shapes and sizes, allowing even the simplest of systems to be connected and controlled affordably.
  • AV manufacturer’s devices are better designed for control compatibility.  Increased features and functionality and the external control protocol, once an after-thought, have become a selling point.

The missing piece in all of this is feature and functionality customization that are products of programming the AV control system.  While progress has been made in capabilities and ease of programming, our industry has not focused enough on providing solutions to needs, personalization, creativity, and enhanced performance.

As an industry, we still look at programming as a burden, an afterthought, and a cost.  Programming should be thought of as a selling point, a differentiator, the point of appreciation for system owners and users.

We have watched Apple take the world by storm by providing aesthetically pleasing, consistent, easy to use products.  How can control system solutions be enhanced and sold to appeal to users in the same ways.  After all, isn’t it all about the users?

We need to learn from Apple and enhance our customers’ lives rather than just provide them with a programmed system that satisfies minimum project specifications in the most basic and frugal manner.

Tips for Leading with System Functionality:

  • Consult with a client during the conceptual stageof a project to define the user interface and functionality prior to selecting hardware or designing the system
    • Result: The system operation leads the design process to ensure that the needs of the user are met first.  The system design and hardware selection need to meet the specification or parameters defined by the user experience.
  • Model the user interface and functionality with the clientto establish expectations and work through the details directly, allowing them provide input to craft the best solution.
    • Result: The client is confident that all needs will be met and there will be no surprises when project was delivered.  The implementation process is expedited, as needed, because the challenges of defining the systems are handled upfront.
  • Work with the client to provide a global solution to ensure that the user experience will be the same from room to room, even when rooms have varying capabilities.
    • Result: Develop a configurable template that meets user’s needs and systems that can be easily implemented, upgraded, and maintained without risking the integrity and consistency of the user experience.

We have seen technology evolve in leaps and bounds; it is time to evolve our collective industry approach in order to protect our industry and keep our clients.  Let’s think more about the client’s wants and needs; take the time to involve them in the conversation; and strategize how we can lead with functionality, customization, and ease of use.

For the past 15 years, Control Concepts has been on the leading edge of offering enhanced graphics; human factors driven operation; providing a Control Functionality Specification prior to programming; and providing a well thought-out and tested solution.  In many ways, our best kept secret is our ability to work with clients to understand their needs and offer solutions.

As we look ahead, we plan to offer more customized solutions, provide enhanced offerings, and get to know our clients even better, so that we do our part to evolve with the speed of technology.