Despite the fact that the audiovisual (AV) industry now has a major show in Europe – Integrated Systems Engineering (ISE) – Infocomm Las Vegas continues to be an irresistible draw for the movers and shakers of the UK channel.
Infocomm 2008, which was held last week, boasted nearly 950 exhibitors, and the organisers had planned for about 32,000 techies to descend on the Nevada town. About 235 UK companies were represented among the masses that invaded Nevada in search of AV enlightenment.
CRN asked both organisers and attendees why this show continues to
be so influential for the industry.
Back in February, Jon Sidwick, managing director of Maverick, told CRN that the ISE show in Amsterdam meant that nobody need ‘schlep’ all the way over to America to keep in touch with vital developments. So, would he mind his carbon footprint and stay home, or would he continue to come to Las Vegas?
“Is the Pope Catholic? I am still going,” said Sidwick. “It is Vegas, and it is sunny there!”
He conceded that ISE has become a strong show, which means that Infocomm is no longer as strong for European customers. But there are still plenty of business imperatives that make Infocomm unmissable.
Most of the themes reflected the slow evolution of the industry. There were pavilions dedicated to digital signage, education and unified collaborative conferencing, which are not new developments.
Three pavilions, however, did suggest potential new directions for the AV industry. The NCSA Zone in the central hall was a showcase of AV technology running primarily on low-voltage systems.
Meanwhile, the Lighting and Staging exhibition in the Central Hall promised to be a new niche but appeared largely a re-invention of corporate and hospitality conferencing technology.
The one genuinely new niche, Technologies for Worship, in the Central Hall, seemed to cater for a uniquely American audience.
For the moment, the AV industry seems in a slow, evolutionary phase. The main trends in evidence were unsurprising. In the projector market, for example, there was a major focus on short throw systems.
Network displays, such as videoconferencing and digital signage, continue to offer steady growth. Monitor specialist DisplayLink, and digital projector pioneer InFocus, demonstrated their new projector series, but the announcement was short on excitement.
Meanwhile, Masergy is selling its new video extranet service (which unifies
all the virtual private networks that exist between different companies) on the
strength of its security and compliance qualities.
Scott Brothers, Masergy’s director of product management, tried to inject some humour into this subject. “We can connect all the VPN islands across all the different carriers,” said Scott. “With our resellers, we can make sure conferencing is no longer internal, and it is no longer infernal.”
AV technology could benefit from its populist appeal, argued Gary Morrison, director of Qwizdom UK. “The migration of gaming technology such as the Wii into the mainstream is a trend reflected at Infocomm,” he said, adding that it is likely to accelerate. “The evolution of Web 2.0 and the impact on the education sector is likely to create a scramble by AV manufacturers to tap into the opportunities created.”
But not everyone was in Las Vegas to follow the US lead. Canadian vendor Smart Technologies distributed in the UK by Steljes was displaying interactive whiteboard systems, such as the Smart Hub, which had already been launched in the UK.
Mark Bird, group sales and business development director at Steljes, said he
was using the show to pick up US clients.
The US still leads the way for the UK, admitted Sidwick. “It is still the biggest market, so many brands focus product launches around this event.”
Maverick sells its Vision product through US distribution, so Infocomm is its
chance to work with its distribution partner.
Could the same level of communication not be made through a good videoconferencing system? Does burning fossil fuels to go Stateside not negate one of the key arguments for using conferencing technology: reducing carbon footprint? “Do not forget the strategic importance of networking over many beers in the evening,” said Sidwick.
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