Power of Control: Microsoft, Google and AV/IT Convergence

With four months until InfoComm2014 (June 14 – 20, in Las Vegas) talk in our office is revving up about getting ready for the show and making plans to meet up with our AV industry colleagues and customers from around the world.  But this year, the buzz is different from what we have seen before. Curiosity building on podcasts, blogs, social media, and discussions about the attention the industry is getting from some of the big IT players.  We are asking what is in store for the future of our industry and what will be unveiled at the annual trade show.

When it was announced that Microsoft would be attending InfoComm14 and we learned that the technology behemoth was, in fact, a Platinum Sponsor, all questions and commentary about AV/IT integration hit a fever pitch.

In the midst of this discussion, all of which is productive for understanding the current realities and future opportunities of the audiovisual industry, we also need to take a minute and look at some of the particulars surrounding Microsoft’s presence at the largest annual gathering of AV professionals.

Confirming the Power of Control

As Google and Microsoft join Cisco with investment in the AV industry and put an exclamation point on the AV/IT converged market, what does the future look like for our industry and specifically the control market?

One takeaway, up front, is that there is no escaping the power- or the reach- of control.  And that is a very real opportunity for AV programmers, consultants and integrators, as well as for the technology managers and manufacturers we work with.

Don’t Forget about Google

Where we see Microsoft, we so often see Google and the AV space is no exception.  Google’s recent acquisition of home automation company Nest is no less significant a development for our industry than Microsoft’s role at this year’s InfoComm Show.

Consider Google’s recent acquisition of Nest and the artificial intelligence company DeepMind, along with the company’s already successful Android operating system, and we see an IT company’s presence in the building blocks for control and automation in residential and commercial markets.  Microsoft has already made an impact in commercial AV systems with the Lync conferencing platform and has shown interest in home control and automation with the Xbox One.

Both Google and Microsoft have the groundwork and capability to offer a control alternative, so the question becomes how do these powerhouses impact the incumbents like Crestron, AMX, Control4, Savant and RTI and as such, what impact does that have on the AV control industry?

Finding the Opportunity & Growing the AV Market

Emerging from the debate, it is clear that the future holds a variety of opportunities for control programming.  In order to capitalize on those opportunities, it’s important to consider broadening skill sets and programming languages knowledge base.  Both are necessary not only to keep AV programmers relevant in the control space but also to harness the opportunity that an influx of interest from the business and consumer side are likely to offer to control systems programmers.

As products are becoming less hardware driven, the focus shifts to software.  This began with DSPs and has moved to CODECs and collaboration tools, and has become a differentiator for many other products.  Nearly every complex product requires software configuration and many provide an external API for remote control, development, or customization.

All of this, of course requires professional programmers.  As we structure efforts to respond to emerging programming opportunities in the control space, keep the following in mind:

Will there be more of a need for developers who can capitalize on device configuration or customization opportunities?

Are we looking at opportunities for plugins or add-ons that are prevalent on many software applications or platforms?

However it takes shape, or whatever ways independent programmers and custom AV programming companies choose to position themselves, the opportunities presented by the presence of companies like Microsoft and Google in the AV control space outweigh any concerns that control system programmers could face, as long as we can shift what we offer to meet custom needs and demands.

At Control Concepts, this shift began a couple of years ago with the hiring of Jeff Mackie, Director of Product Development, and the launch of a custom software and solutions effort.  Through growing relationships with manufacturers, technology managers, consultants, programmers and integrators, we have received increased interest, demand, and positive feedback on our custom solutions.  From multi-platform module development to software front ends to custom applications, the opportunity to serve the market in a new manner has been rewarding and interesting.

We will continue to grow the custom solutions business and look to see what new AV/IT opportunities arise in the exciting times ahead.

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