Integrated Systems Europe 2017 (ISE) is coming up fast. As we look toward one of the largest professional AV tradeshows in the world, set for 7 Feb. through 10 Feb. 2017, I thought it would be good to sit down and discuss some of this year’s market trends with two of our top leaders in the HARMAN Professional Solutions Enterprise group: Shaun Robinson and Lee Dodson.

After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from Texas A&M University in 1995, Shaun Robinson went on to work as a design engineer in the mechanical automation industry. Shaun later went on to get his MBA in Operations and Supply Chain Management from the University of Texas at Dallas before joining AMX in 2002 as a supply chain solutions manager. In 2008, he became the Director of Product Management for AMX. In his current role as Director of Enterprise Solutions and Marketing, Shaun oversees product development and market strategy for the corporate, education and government markets.

Lee Dodson left the U.S. Marine Corp in 1989 with a rank of Sergeant, where he served as an electronics repair technician. Since that time, Lee has served in a variety of senior roles for a number of professional AV companies, including Sony, Extron, Premier Mounts and Nortek. Lee joined HARMAN in December 2014 as Vice President of the Consultant Alliance Group before moving into his current role as Vice President of Enterprise Marketing.

I sat down with Lee and Shaun, and we spoke a bit about how the different marketplace trends might affect some of the things we’ll see at the show.

Shaun Robinson, Director, Enterprise Solutions and Marketing

Shaun Robinson, Director, Enterprise Solutions and Marketing

[SKD] ISE 2017 is coming up very soon. What are some of the things you are excited about regarding the show?

[SR] I’m personally really excited to show all of the different solutions we can provide from a HARMAN perspective. In the corporate space specifically, we’ve seen a huge proliferation of huddle spaces as space utilization needs have given rise to those types of solutions. As a result, we have some very exciting things that we’ll be bringing to market and showing at ISE that fits the need of the huddle space. As well, we’ve made some announcements at other venues that we’ll be showing off at ISE. For example, at CES, we demonstrated voice enabled cognitive room solutions and some of the phenomenal things we’ve been doing as part of our partnership with IBM Watson IoT. We’ll also be highlighting that at our ISE booth, and I’m really excited about it as well.

lee dodson headshot

Lee Dodson, VP, Enterprise Marketing

[LD]: I agree with Shaun. We certainly have a lot of exciting new products I’m eager to show at ISE. However, something else that’s going to be really fun at this year’s ISE is that we have quite a few areas carved out to illustrate entire solutions for different markets. I think people will really be impacted by seeing how a truly integrated audio, video, lighting and control solution can come together for these different applications.

[SKD] Where do you feel the AV industry is going in 2017 and what are some of the things that are really impacting and changing things that we’ll see at ISE and as we go forward?

[SR]: I think the era of AV/IT convergence that we’ve seen over the past five to six years is complete, and we’re at a place where AV is expected to be part of the IT infrastructure. This is across markets, including corporate, education, government, hospitality and large venues. We’re part of the infrastructure now, where we’re delivering experiences but doing so as part of the IT infrastructure. As a result, we’re required to live up to IT expectations regarding how that technology is delivered, implemented and managed.

[LD]: With the proliferation of technology across a facility, more and more things not only have to interoperate seamlessly together, but also interoperate seamlessly across the facility. As these devices become more prominent elements of the network, the technology needs to adhere to the standards the IT managers and CIOs have come to expect. That’s now maturing to a much higher level for products and systems across the whole spectrum.

[SR]: This certainly applies to the network standards themselves, but we’ve also seen a huge increase in the use of web conferencing, for example, where that interoperability is key. Web conferencing capabilities are now being integrated into AV systems in conference rooms, and this is bringing a number of new players into the industry, including players from traditional IT companies as well a number of startups. Web conferencing is becoming a standard not only in smaller spaces but in larger spaces as well, and that’s bringing in myriad different technologies that all need to interoperate with each other and the backend web conferencing system as well. Of course, it’s still the job of an AV manufacturer to bring these great experiences to the room. We are simply leveraging new backend technologies to deliver those experiences, and part of that experience is having everything work well together.

[SKD]: How do think those larger trends will impact the kinds of products we’ll see at ISE and throughout 2017? What are some of the ways we’ll be solving some of those problems?

[LD]: One of the new challenges that comes with this technology adoption wave is that technology is now being deployed in many more areas than it has been traditionally. Whereas before you’d see big investments in boardrooms and solid investments in video conferencing, now you see this collaboration concept really weaving into every area of a workplace. So we see things like agile working spaces. We see huddle spaces coming in. We see the redesigning of massive areas of office space to work in this new manner. Technology managers need infrastructure and systems that they can deploy in these new ways, and then be able to maintain them when they go from dozens to hundreds or even literally thousands of systems that are all part of mission-critical operations. As well, the actual navigation and use of those facilities and technologies becomes a new challenge from a user perspective. The technologies we’ll see coming in 2017 will certainly be targeted at addressing many of these challenges.

[SR]: The workforce demographic is changing rapidly also with millennials coming into the workplace. This new generation has a completely different view on how technology should operate and be used, because they grew up with technology in their hands. Their expectations are a lot different. They expect simplicity, instant understanding of the interface and instant response from the system as well. That, combined with the lower system costs when you’re deploying into hundreds or thousands of these smaller spaces, is really driving changes in the way the technology is delivered.

[SKD] When we look at all of these different spaces and all of these touch points where customers interact with technology and meet together, we are obviously talking about huddle spaces, agile working, and web conferencing, all of which you’ve mentioned. However, it also brings up the question of how we get video to all of these different spaces and to all of these people throughout a facility. Obviously, networked AV is something we talk about a lot here at HARMAN. How do you see that technology impacting the AV industry, and how do you see it growing as we move forward?

[SR]: AV has become more of a critical business capability for communications, not only for simply video conferencing, but also for general message communication and digital signage delivery across the enterprise. There are certainly still great digital media solutions for doing that kind of thing out in the market, but when you’re looking at IT taking more ownership, they’re very comfortable at managing their own infrastructure. Now, there are fantastic video capabilities possible over the network, even gigabit networks. Certainly, the proliferation of 10 gigabit will increase and mature over time, but there is a tremendous amount of one-gigabit infrastructure deployed today, and the ability to deliver high-performance video over that gigabit network is key. We’re seeing a lot of uptake in that technology, because from an IT perspective, it’s so easy to understand and manage in their world.

[SKD] Management is the key word, right? You’re talking about devices in hundreds or thousands of rooms and video going to all of these places. How does that affect how we implement all of this technology and then manage and maintain it once it’s implemented?

[SR]: Because there are so many more spaces, the sophistication of the space isn’t anywhere near what a traditional executive boardroom may have been historically. However, you’re still trying to deliver the right experience for the huddle space—only now you’re doing that times a thousand. Simplicity of installation is absolutely key, so you can get in and out of the room very quickly. Simplicity of use is also important, again with the changing workforce expectations. Finally, simplicity of management is vital. It’s something that we’ve been concerned about for a long time, but it’s much more critical now with the volume of spaces we’re talking about. Success comes in how you can take all of these AV products and make them look and feel fast and intuitive to the user, and then have everything operate like an IT system to the IT managers who will be maintaining these products over their lifecycles.

[LD]: Part of what that means is that, as we are putting more things on the network, we have to make sure we’re handing security and access control very well. The expectation now is that these different rooms and systems conform to the same rules and policies that IT managers are implementing throughout the rest of their organizations. So, it’s more important for us to conform to those mainstream security expectations than it ever has been before.

[SKD] What are some ways people can expect to see some of these solutions and some of that AV/IT integration at ISE this year?

[SR]: At HARMAN Professional Solutions, we’ve had very active involvement in bringing our entire product portfolio together across all our brands and make them much more interoperable. This really simplifies installation and management. One of the things we’ll be highlighting at ISE is the integration between AMX, BSS and Crown to really demonstrate how we’re bringing networked audio and video together as a system and making it that much easier for IT to manage.

[LD]: This is one of the best value propositions that we’re working on here at HARMAN. Because we’re designing all of these things, it gives us the opportunity to make sure they operate well together in a connected enterprise, which increases the reliability of the system and decreases the complexity of troubleshooting and support. It’s much nicer to go to one stop and get all of the answers and support you need, especially when you’re deploying systems across the country or the globe.

Thanks so much to Shaun and Lee for taking time out of their busy ISE preparations to talk with me. Are you going to ISE? Do you have insights on where things are going in 2017? Let us know what you’re most excited about in the comments.