Technologies targeting education may yet offer a solid opportunity for audiovisual (AV) resellers seeking new deals as corporations batten down the hatches against an economic storm.
Ian Curtis, head of the UK and Ireland at Promethean, said plenty of secondary classrooms are yet to install interactive whiteboards (IWBs), for example, and thousands more will need kitting out as part of the government’s Building Schools for the Future (BSF) and Private Finance Initiatives (PFI) programmes.
“On top of that, some schools are starting to need replacement boards now,
before we even get into the major replacement phase expected to kick in around
2010,” said Curtis. “There is still a sizeable opportunity.”
Learner response systems (LRS) or voting systems are the second largest thing, he said.
With LRS such as Promethean’s Activexpression and Activote, any type of board can be used or no board at all.
“Resellers can go back to existing customers to enhance a previous board sale, or use the LRS to open doors at schools lacking in budget or wanting to hold off introducing IWBs because of BSF plans,” he said.
LRS is portable so can be shared between classrooms, letting schools try out the technology on a small scale and perhaps move on to campus-wide rollout later on, he added.
LRS can, like other peripherals, be sold as part of an IWB bundle or as a standalone sale. Increasingly affordable, fully integrated systems are the preferred solution due to the speed of implementation and reduced on-screen shadowing.
“Make sure you have got demo kit and get out there and show it to your
customers. Anyone is a prospect,” said Curtis.
“Resellers also need to fully understand the benefits of using LRS in a classroom environment, and importantly, what is in it for the teacher.”
Promethean’s channel support includes training and a flexible leasing scheme. The scheme offers an option to factor in future upgrades to the initial agreement. Channel partners will also be alerted when a customer has made sufficient payments to qualify for an upgrade.
Partners can receive the full amount of a purchase upfront, reducing the time between ordering and receipt of payment, said Curtis.
“Competition in the education market is fierce, but business is there for the
taking, if resellers put in the hours.”
Recent Futuresource Consulting figures show LRS sales exceeding UK targets by 10 per cent. Analyst Colin Messenger agrees opportunities are excellent and will continue.
“In 2005, 100,000 projectors and IWBs were installed in schools. From 2009 they are getting towards their end of life. With that come opportunities for replacement or upgrade,” said Messenger.
He suggested resellers offer the newer short-throw projectors, for example, which do not need to sit in the middle of the room with all the glare and shadowing issues that causes.
Voting systems are also up-and-coming technologies that benefit both teachers and pupils.
Ask the audience
“Like on TV’s Who Wants to be a Millionaire? the teacher throws out a question, the pupils answer using handsets and the teacher can work out that 80 per cent of the pupils do not know what he is talking about,” he said.
Messenger said visualisers, which enable teachers to show a class of 25 or so pupils a magnified image of a small item that previously would have to have been passed around, are also an excellent opportunity for resellers. “A button can be projected as a one-metre image,” he said.
School budgets are set in advance and less likely to be cut back as a result
of the economic downturn, added Messenger.
Graham Wylie, marketing director at AV distributor Steljes, said education sales account for about 75 per cent of its business.
Smart Technologies’ IWB and interactive podia are selling well and the product range targeting education is expanding, he said.
“Visualisers are becoming as essential as IWBs in schools,” he said. “And
there are changing price points to market.”
He said that upselling opportunities include products such as networkable cameras, mice, wireless slates, audio devices, styli and educational software and the gear is proving increasingly popular, especially if it all works with what the school already has.
A school can build an entire setup gradually, Wylie agreed.
According to the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills, the GDP proportion spent on education will rise from 4.7 per cent of GDP in 1996-1997 to 5.6 per cent in 2007-2008. The amount spent on education has risen by 60 per cent in real terms since 1996-1997.
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