Trendspotting - What we saw at ISE 2020
This year, the ISE tradeshow was hit by several dramatic events that had a major impact on visitor numbers, with a reported 36% fewer visitors than 2019. Coronavirus threat, several cancellations from major exhibitors, banned flights from China and Storm Ciara were obstacles that prevented many from attending. Despite all this, the ISE2020 can be deemed to be a success, with around 1300 exhibiting brands and over 50,000 visitors in 4 days.
This article is Neets’ take on the major trends and themes we have identified at ISE this year, and what we see are opportunities in the market in the coming months.
Buzzword #1 - Experience
The AV industry is notorious for its focus on technology and its capabilities on a purely technical level. This is visible every year at the ISE, where manufacturers are on a mad rat race to outdo each other on features and complexity. AV equipment become Swiss knives with an impressive arsenal of attachments, offering System Integrators a myriad of features and endless ways of creating bombastic solutions.
One thing that has been missing from the industry – and something that is now definitely making its presence felt – is the focus on the human aspect in AV. After all, there is only a market for AV due to the need for human interaction with technology.
That is where the first buzzword, “experience”, comes in.
Benefits vs. Features
The AV industry, more than ever before, is experiencing the phenomenon that hit consumer electronics brands several years ago; severe brand loyalty decline. The AV market has reached maturity, competition is extremely high and technological development has slowed down to a progressive evolution, rather than ground-breaking innovation. Cultural shifts with an increased focus on self-serving interests and an overwhelming amount of choice on the market have shifted power from the brands to the customers. When customers are after a specific solution that fits their exact needs, the brand name is no longer as important. What’s important is how well their needs can be fulfilled.
Acceptance of this new reality brings the human needs into the spotlight. Focus on the needs first, and features second, helps manufacturers and System Integrators create solutions that provide a great experience to the customer and the technology users.
One question arises…what is a great experience?
Products or solutions that provide a great experience:
- are easy and intuitive to use
- help customers improve technology adoption among users
- increase productivity at the workplace
- are consistent across rooms and technology
Some examples of products/solutions seen at ISE 2020 that we feel provide a great experience were the VR exhibitors at ISE. Exciting new technology from Digital Projection enables virtual reality to be used in immersive, collaborative spaces with a significant degree of realism. Users can see and interact with a stereoscopic 3D virtual model from their own viewpoint; move it around, remove and replace components. This technology opens up new opportunities in the research, medical, archaeological and art restoration fields.
Hardware that has value-adding features such as AI or IoT also provide a more custom and personalized experience. An example of this that we’ve spotted at several manufacturers’ booth is AI webcams that customize field-of-view and zoom level based on the number of participants detected in the room, where they’re sitting and who the active speaker is.
KNX, one of the leading smart home and building manufacturer, has also introduced KNX IoT, enabling AV and IT experts to tap into the rich data available in KNX installation, enabling more control and smarter decision making. We explore the role of IoT in Smart Buildings later on in the Sustainability section of this article.
Of course, creating a great workplace or meeting room experience is not only dependent on the available equipment. It’s a combination of technology, interior design, an understanding of business needs and human psychology and behaviour. This requires manufacturers and System Integrators to bring in new sets of skills and a more holistic mindset to be able to work in these new conditions.
Buzzword #2 - Collaboration
A mix of face-to-face and remote collaboration is becoming the de facto way of working for enterprises, and that has heavily increased the demand for collaboration spaces and technology. The collaboration trend is a great example of the link between technology and experience, as users are setting enormous demands on the AV and IT industries to provide them with a seamless collaboration experience across platforms and devices.
Focus on the great Collaboration experience
Users want to concentrate on the conversations and the meeting goals, and not on the technology that enables the meeting. They want unobtrusive technology that requires little to no onboarding. They want BYOD, platform-agnostic systems and interoperability between platforms. Industry giants are responding to these demands, with a recent example being the new collaboration between Microsoft and Cisco to enable Cisco’s Webex video devices to connect to the Microsoft Teams meeting.
A great example of a wireless video conferencing system that goes beyond device and platform agnosticism is Mersive Solstice. They demonstrated their latest version of the product at ISE 2020, offering app-free, browser-based sharing with a consistent UI across devices. This product went on to win Best in Show at ISE 2020.
Nonetheless, wireless sharing has its drawbacks, where several of the current solutions on the market require multiple steps to be able to get started (connecting to the right network, downloading an app and entering passwords), have limitations with 4K streaming and are dependent on a very stable network to work properly.
Wired solutions, while traditional, can also be safer and more intuitive to use. Worth mentioning here is Solvo by Neets, also launched at ISE 2020. Solvo by Neets is an AV system hub that is ideal for BYOD huddle rooms and enables users to connect to the AV system and screen share with one USB cable. USB ensures Solvo is device agnostic, compatible with Windows, Macs, Chromebooks and any other devices.
Buzzword #3 - Sustainability
Sustainability is a hot topic in public fora, with millennials and Gen Z leading the debate and putting pressure on politicians and industry to act. Companies worldwide are implementing sustainable practices in their operations. The trend is present in the AV industry, where there is an increased focus on energy-efficiency. In fact, an entire hall at ISE 2020 was dedicated to Smart Buildings, while several other manufacturers highlight the energy efficiency and their commitment to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals on their booths.
The AV industry is progressing from only using sensors and movement detectors to regulate energy consumption to much more advanced solutions that use IoT to connect every power-consuming device, regulate energy loads and increase cost-efficiency. An example here is the previously mentioned KNX.
Other examples of energy-efficient products on display at ISE 2020 are UniLumin and Viscon GmbH. Display manufacturers UniLumin presented a new LED technology in their displays – Ultra Mini-LED – with claims of superior energy efficiency compared to other LED technology on the market. German manufacturer Viscon GmbH presented their new EcoProtect PowerMaster on the booth, claiming to reduce CO2 output of AV systems to 0.
At Neets, we dedicated one podium on our booth to our range of products that contribute to greener meeting spaces by optimizing energy use. These included the Neets Sound Bar – SB1 with its wake-on-signal functionality, motion sensor and our AV system configuration software Neets Project Designer, that enables System Integrators to configure scheduling functions to turn off equipment automatically. Yet another product featured on our sustainability stand is a prototype of our new Touch Panel 8” – ECO, with an enclosure made with regenerated plastic.
ISE 2020 was a great show with some exciting new technology and a mindset shift from features to experiences. Our key takeaways here are:
- Focus on the users’ need
- Harness technology to create a positive, personalized experience
- Introduce new skills and mindsets to your company to be able to adapt to change
- Respect the power of simplicity to create a successful solution without unnecessary bells and whistles
- Recognize that Green is the future and start looking for solutions that fit the sustainability agenda
- We’re excited to see what ISE 2021 in Barcelona brings!