InfoComm 2011 Preview
The more things change, the more they stay the same. The AV industry may be in a constant state of flux, but the reasons for heading to its biggest trade show aren't: products, education, contacts.
This isn't your father's infocomm show. The biggest AV gathering of the year has long ceased being only about presentation technology, live sound, and signal switching. Now it's about digital signage, streaming media, and (yes, indeed) information technology. Today, if there are two things we know about 21st-century pro AV, the first is that AV and IT have already converged; the second is that we don't always know what that means for our industry (see "Leprechauns, AV-IT Glue Guys, and other Mythical Creatures," below).
This June, attendees from more than 100 countries descend on Orlando, Fla., to help forge the future of AV. And while some of it is uncharted territory, such as the IT connection (Hewlett-Packard's vice president of visual collaboration Rob Scott delivers the keynote on Tuesday, June 14, at 4 p.m.), building management, and sustainability (meet InfoComm's new sustainability officer in "5-Minute Interview"), much of what you can experience at the show is the tried-and-true audio/video technology you loved about your job in the first place. [Update: On June 9, InfoComm announced HP's Rob Scott would not deliver the keynote. Earlier in the month, Polycom agreed to purchase HP's visual collaboration business. Dreamworks Animation head of enterprise marketing Kate Swanborg takes over keynote duties.]
But InfoComm can be a lot to take in. If nothing else, divide your time among the following three activities and you'll have a busy, fulfilling InfoComm.
InfoComm is an opportunity to interact with innovative AV technology in a hands-on environment. Not only can you see and touch thousands of new products from 950 exhibitors (the tip of the iceberg is our InfoComm products guide, beginning on page 48), but you can also experience them in the show's specialized showcase areas.
One of the unique features of the show is its audio demo rooms, where more than 20 pro audio manufacturers, such as Harman,
Sennheiser, and Meyer Sound, turn the sound up to demonstrate the quality of their loudspeakers and related products.
New to this year's show is the Invisible Technologies Showcase, with an emphasis on wireless, Bluetooth, and other technologies that enable AV installations without cabling. Drop by the showcase to hear "invisible" in-wall loudspeakers and see wireless video solutions in a working environment. Attendees will also have access to the showcases' audio control room for a behind-the-scenes peek.
Also new this year is the IT Services Pavilion, sponsored by CompTIA, the information technology trade association. Attendees can meet CompTIA member companies who are interested in integration partnerships with AV firms, as well as learn about IT software and services available to the market.
And for the ultimate immersive experience, swing by one of the 3D Technology Theaters. 3D is a hot topic for the AV industry and here's where the newest hardware and software are in action. Attendees can experience the latest advancements in 3D and get ideas about how to implement the technology in vertical markets.
Leprechauns, AV-IT Glue Guys, and other Mythical Creatures
InfoComm International is known for pursuing issues facing the industry in a serious and systematic manner. We develop classes by assembling subject matter experts and hosting "Designing a Curriculum" sessions, a procedure first developed by Ohio State University. We document best practices. We train the trainers. Then we train the students and survey them about classes. We call on industry executives to make sure our programs are serving the market's needs and keeping up with technology.
So why the allusion to mythical creatures in relation to our AV-IT curriculum? It's not that we are treating the subject lightly.
In September 2005, InfoComm brought together industry experts to develop a curriculum for its first AV-IT classes. One of the group's findings was the need for an AV-IT "glue guy"—someone (male or female, despite the moniker) who was expert at both AV and IT and could bring the systems together. This person was touted in classes and became an ideal many companies strived for.
Unfortunately, the AV-IT glue guy has proven elusive. The first indication that this creature might be rare came in discussions with the industry about project management. One ongoing frustration expressed by project managers (who, in most cases, are talented AV installation professionals who have been promoted through the ranks) was getting AV and IT professionals on complicated projects to be on the same page and speak the same language. Executives complained about lost time and cost overruns relating to time spent working out AV-IT issues. In the absence of an AV-IT glue guy, the project manager had become an unsuspecting understudy.
In recent weeks, as InfoComm has been reevaluating its AV-IT curriculum, we've discussed the rapid pace of change in net-centric AV and found that some experts' observations challenge the very utility (and existence) of the AV-IT glue guy. In today's environment, a networked device may require configuration by several individuals. In fact, today, six years after developing an AV-IT curriculum, there are actually calls for increased demarcation between AV and IT specialists. No one person can be truly expert in both, and expecting an AV veteran to also be responsible for network configurations can result in a lot of frustration. The people designing and operating an AV-IT system are more satisfied when they're allowed to focus on their areas of expertise.
Teaming, it turns out, is the key. Ensuring that AV systems meet IT requirements is often the responsibility of a full-time operations center, a team made up of both AV and IT professionals, both engineers and technicians. It does not fall to some AV-IT glue guy.
Still, InfoComm wants to know: Does your company have one of the elusive AV-IT glue guys? Are you teaming AV and IT professionals effectively within your operation? Are you frustrated by the complications of net-centric AV? Let us know. And if you see a leprechaun and a glue guy discussing Ohm's Law over a beer, please send a photo.
Melissa Taggart is senior vice president of education and certification at InfoComm International.
— By melissa taggart
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Anyone who holds a Certified Technology Specialist (CTS) certification from InfoComm must earn 30 renewal units (RUs) in a three-year period. InfoComm 2011 is a convenient way to obtain many of those RUs under one roof while also learning about new aspects of the AV business. This year, according to InfoComm, 70 percent of all classes at the show are being offered for the first time, including new coursework in IT, "cloud"-based AV, and live-event production.
To catch up on issues and trends impacting the world of audio system design, sign up for the following classes:
- Mass Notification and Life Safety manufacturers' training (course MT43), from Bosch Security Systems, runs June 15 from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. and covers the current state and future of the mass notification and life safety market in the U.S. On the agenda: how code changes are affecting AV design.
- AVB or IEEE 802.1 Audio/Video Bridging: The Future of Standards-Based AV Networking (MT10), from the AVnu Alliance, kicks off June 15 at 2:30 p.m. and looks at the role of the IEEE 802.1 Audio/Video Bridging Standards in the professional AV industry.
- Audio for Gaming (IS079) runs June 16 at 12:30 p.m. and explores the fast-growing segment of audio and music for video games and the unique challenges of designing a user experience through sound.
The emphasis on AV and IT is again prevalent at this year's show. Attendees who want to learn how to integrate with and operate in the IT world should take a look at these classes:
- AV/IT Networking (IS048) on June 16 at 8 a.m will review common difficulties between firewalls and wireless technology, and will use digital signage and streaming applications to illustrate the common pitfalls of what could go wrong in an AV-IT installation.
- IT Speak for AV 101 (IS076) on June 16 at 12:30 p.m. helps establish a basic understanding of IT terms to help ward off misunderstandings between AV and IT due to language difference.
- Selling to the IT Director (NS04) on June 17 at 8 a.m. looks at the marketing and sales tools needed to reach out to this very important gatekeeper within the IT department.
There's also no shortage of special-interest training for attendees who want drill down into very specific topics. For example, 3DComm runs June 15 to June 17 and is filled with 3D-related training and market information. There are 24 90-minute tutorial courses (search class listings for course numbers that begin with "3D") covering 3D content creation, display, markets, solutions and installation.
IMCCA, the unified conferencing and communications industry association, is working in conjunction with InfoComm International on two days of special-interest training on June 15 and June 16. IMCCA sessions include presentations by Polycom, Radvision, and AVI-SPL (search class listings for course numbers that begin with "IMCCA").
3-Meet and Greet
The show is also a great place to network and meet new people in the AV industry, from InfoComm's opening reception on Tuesday night to the last council meeting. InfoComm makes it easy to get involved with the organization by holding council meetings throughout the show. Attendees can meet council members in their areas of interest and to hear about the latest initiatives that will shape the AV industry. Among the notable council meetings:
The Rental and Staging Council meeting (room W102B) is Thursday, June 16, at 9 a.m. Council meetings for the Systems Integration Leadership Council (W105B), Independent Programmers Council (W101A), Independent Reps Council (W101B), Manufacturers Council (W102A), Technology Managers Council (W102B), and the Independent Consultants in Audiovisual Technology Council (W106B) are all on Friday, June 17, starting 8 a.m.
For more hobnobbing, check in at the various receptions throughout the show. For example, Pro AV will be handing out its Spotlight Awards for the industry's best AV projects on Thursday, June 16, at 4:30 p.m. in the InfoComm booth (3855).
First-time attendees can get a tour of the show from InfoComm staff members and get tips on maximizing their time. The orientation offers a virtual look of the show floor, followed by an optional walking tour. It's free to all attendees, but registration is required. Tour times are Tuesday, June 14, from 11 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. to 1:30 p.m., or Wednesday, June 15, from 7:30 a.m. to 8 a.m.
And when day two of the exhibition (Thursday) ends, relax and rock out to a blues band of AV industry peers. The DrunkUnkles concert to benefit the NSCA Education Foundation is June 16, from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. at B.B. King's Restaurant and Blues Club.
Because AV is fun, right?