Integrators can aggressively leverage IT infrastructure to recalibrate business processes as people return to CEG (critical environment group) verticals, such as corporate campuses, schools, and government facilities, writes Xilica’s Nick Pemberton in a P2P Series column.
In 2020, the world has seen the greatest-ever uptake in cloud-based communications, specifically videoconferencing collaboration platforms. Many were shocked into a new way of working, communicating, and collaborating. This has resulted in digital disruption of a truly epic scale, providing businesses with a new IT challenge outside the standard workplace.
The demand for collaboration tools will continue as businesses gradually return to offices and classrooms. This will create an expectation for employers to provide the same or enhanced experience and performance with greater flexibility across various environments and workplaces.
New criteria for safety and security will accompany these expectations. Devices that once promoted sharing and collaboration via human touch are in question. Manufacturers are now looking at other means of interfacing with technology. We certainly anticipate a resurgence of the BYOD trend to encourage personal devices in the workplace; therefore, there will be a continued need to integrate software and hardware from consumer and professional worlds.
This raises a question about support and security within the integration industry, especially in corporate, education, and government verticals. How can integrators support these emerging end-user needs as they recalibrate their business models and revenues?
Working profitably is key for integrators and end users seeking a clear ROI. Cost-saving measures often provide short-term security but lead to long-term pain. While costs must be constantly addressed, we need also to evaluate which costs make sense to reduce while preserving performance, user experience, and workplace adoption.
Integrators’ Evolving Role
Let’s first look at performance and the user experience. An umbrella example of how integrators are addressing both is through increased adoption of “platform technologies.” Whether hardware or software-defined, these platform technologies allow consistent deployment and scaling while simplifying ease of use and optimizing support for specific tasks.
If we look at an AV over IP system, we increasingly find that core products in the ecosystem, such as the video codec or audio DSP, can be centrally housed and managed on the network. In a corporate environment, this creates an opportunity to manage video and audio signals across multiple meeting spaces or conference rooms. On a university campus, it means serving classrooms, lecture halls, and auditoriums from dedicated devices. These systems are increasingly modular to better serve IP-networked environments, with built-in expandability to accommodate new rooms as they are added.
Manufacturers are doing their part for integrators by supporting interoperability on networks. We are especially seeing this with increased frequency within UC-centric solutions based around soft clients. Once again, the DSP is at the heart of the solution. An open-architecture DSP, and those with flexible connectivity, adds another layer of opportunity for maximizing price/performance ratios, allowing equipment to be centrally deployed within a complex rather than room-by-room basis. This can significantly reduce the amount of physical devices needed, saving money without sacrificing performance, as well as helping IT manage network devices.
In any of the above scenarios, fixed architecture solutions are simply not powerful enough or designed to provide integrators with the tools to deliver customer-orientated solutions that provide ROI. This is especially true in larger or more complex scenarios. In any scenario, the integrator is also missing out on opportunities to rebuild revenue through long-term, scalable, and updateable networked solutions.
We expect to see integrators and end-users embracing these technologies, along with the flexibility and business opportunities that come with an IP transition. Beyond the DSP, we will see greater adoption of digital signage to keep visitors informed, particularly as schools, universities, corporate offices, municipal buildings, and convention centers return to business. Digital signage will not only provide a flexible platform to present new guidelines, monitor occupancy, and deliver emergency notifications, but also offer end-users an interactive platform to communicate with customers. We also anticipate stronger integration of voice and gesture-controlled signage solution within the AV ecosystem.
As we look further ahead, integrators will have opportunities to build new revenue models. AV as a Service continues to evolve as more end-users bring AV operations to the network. The ability to remotely update and control AV devices removes the end-user burden of managing devices. Once on the IP network, these emerging technologies or “digital assets” present an enormous opportunity for integrators to continue the recalibration of their long-term business models.
Nick Pemberton is the director of global business development for Xilica, a 2020 Pivot to Profit sponsor.