AV continues to be interconnected with IT and other fields. Industry professionals must be prepared to adapt to a changing technological landscape. With 2017 rapidly approaching, I wanted to share some of my thoughts on upcoming trends that will have an impact on the AV industry.

Move to Simplicity

While our lives are becoming increasingly complicated, technology has eliminated waste, boosted productivity, and saved us from drudgery. Technology – particularly the World Wide Web – has also influenced culture. For example, we now use “Google” and “Facebook” as verbs. Technology has even expanded the definition of art, a concept explored by Jennifer Clarke in “The Effect of Digital Technology on Late 20th Century and Early 21st Century Culture.”

However, this new technology is not entirely friendly. In his recent book, Overcomplicated, Samuel Arbesman argues that technology has grown so complex, even the creators do not fully understand certain behaviors.

From the AV perspective, I see similar patterns. We have many “boxes” installed and connected via various cables, and controlled from ever-fancier touchscreens. During a recent customer tour of Biamp’s manufacturing facility, integrators and consultants commented on end customers’ rejection of complex user interfaces in favor of automatic or single action buttons. End user clients are abandoning control systems with controls for every single item in the room; with so many options, the chance of a mistake can increase dramatically. Instead, end users favor less control and more predictability. Starting the meeting on time is the key to end user satisfaction, which is why most end users prefer to have “join meeting” as the only available option. As an example, Microsoft’s Surface Hub is gaining a huge following because “it just works.”

Smaller, Faster, and Cheaper – The Microprocessor

The ever-present Moore’s Law, which theorizes that the number of transistors in a dense integrated circuit will double every two years, has driven the technology push for more than five decades. In a September 2015 New York Times article, Smaller, Faster, Cheaper Over: The Future of Computer Chips, John Markoff writes about the “graying of Moore’s Law,” speculating about the end of the often misquoted phrase. Whether or not Moore’s Law will eventually become irrelevant hasn’t stopped the progress. We continue to see new chips with lower power requirements, faster processing speeds, or both. The Internet of Things (IoT) depends on very small devices with full operating systems distributed around our homes, our factories, and our vehicles. These distributed devices interconnect and make tiny decisions on our behalf. IoT proponents list simplicity and productivity improvements as key benefits.

From the AV perspective, 2016 saw the widespread acceptance of the networked beamforming microphone. With small microphone capsules and embedded processors, the beamforming microphone has now become a commercial reality. Biamp’s recent announcement about compatibility with the Shure MXA series of beamforming microphones is just the start. I expect beamforming to be the buzz for the year, and I suspect we will see more announcements from different microphone vendors soon.

Security Impacts All Aspects of Our Lives

Each June, Mary Meeker of KPCB publishes an Internet Trends Report. I always find Mary’s report worthwhile reading. In her 2016 report, she stated, “The proliferation of data generated by a multitude of devices has fostered tremendous business opportunity, but privacy concerns abound.” Terms like identity theft and malware were unheard of 30 years ago, but are now valid concerns for individuals and businesses alike.

From the AV perspective, security concerns now rank high on the list of requirements for projects. As the industry uses standard hardware and software to accomplish tasks, we also increase potential exposure to the dark side of technology: hackers. As technology grows more powerful, it can also make our lives more vulnerable. I expect security to remain an ongoing concern well into the future.

Have you observed any trends that will impact the AV industry in the coming year? Leave us a comment and let us know!