Jun 17, 2014 5:26 PM, By Joe da Silva, director of product marketing, Extron
Partnering with key industry manufacturers is essential
Your clients are interested in the latest cutting-edge technologies. Cloud services, 4K video, IP networking, smart building control, and BYOD are all trending right now. So you design systems using only products labeled “certified” for whichever cutting-edge technology best meets your client’s needs. But what happens when things don’t work, when the technologies you’ve selected are seemingly incompatible? Who do you turn to for help when deadlines are looming and your profit margins are melting away?
First, it’s important to understand what the promise of product certification can and cannot deliver. When new digital technologies are adopted in our industry—take HDMI 2.0 and H.265 as examples—they are often promoted as “plug and play,” when in reality there’s an even greater need to understand them than there was in the analog age. We’ve seen the potential benefits that come from cooperation between manufacturers and standards organizations. These are all great building blocks, but they are not enough, on their own, to ensure success.
At the product level, adapting a new technology to our unique and demanding commercial AV applications, especially a technology that comes from the consumer or IT world, requires rigorous engineering and testing. The label that designates a product as “certified” for a given technology requires more than basic implementation of a standards-based chipset. You want to know that a manufacturer has invested the necessary time and resources in engineering and testing.
Further, standards and certification say even less about whether a product will work and integrate into your AV system. In large-scale AV systems, the products don’t always play well together. At the system design and integration level, our industry still succeeds on something that is harder to certify: your relationships with manufacturers, their sales and technical teams, and their training staff. That starts much earlier in the process, even before product selection begins, when you look for manufacturers with the products, tools, and technologies to get the job done. Here are two key things to consider.
Technology training: You want much more than product and sales training. In order to become a trusted resource for your clients, you need knowledge about IP networks, 4K video, streaming technologies, video compression standards, fiber-optic system design, control systems, programming, troubleshooting, and design best practices. Ideally, this training is available near your location, so you don’t have to travel to a tradeshow or to a manufacturer’s national headquarters. Look for a manufacturer who provides opportunities for you and your staff to learn about new as well as evolving technologies. Everyone has a viewpoint and is rightly committed to that viewpoint, but if a manufacturer seems solely interested in teaching you how to implement their specific solution or simply pitching their latest products, move on.
Support capabilities: This one will really pay off when the clock is ticking and you absolutely have to get the job done now. Obviously you’re looking for solid telephone support, but you want to look for a company with comprehensive field support, as well. Ask about localized offices and regional support teams. You want to know that a manufacturer has people on the street who are trained, knowledgeable, and capable of helping you at every stage of a project, from bid through system commissioning and project completion. For example, if one of the devices in your system doesn’t have an EDID set up properly, you don’t want that relatively easy fix to turn into a drive across town and a frustrating drain on your profits. You want a support partner that knows how to diagnose from a systems perspective, whether or not the issue is with their product, another manufacturer’s product, or the zone in between. You want to build relationships with manufacturers who are committed to providing support to you and your business, period.
Manufacturer technology certifications seem reassuring. They have advanced the industry in many ways. But certification programs can be misleading when they serve to understate or oversimplify the rigor and innovation that our industry requires. A label is never enough. Designing and integrating quality AV systems requires a relationship-based approach. The only one who can certify those relationships is you.