The emergence of digital networks and IT products as the backbone of AV activity has had profound and continuing impact on the industry without overwhelming it. The history of the last twenty years has seen AV, helped by ISE, carve its own distinct path.
ISE 2004 show In 2004, the year when ISE began, professional AV was already worth in excess of $100 billion globally, but it was an infant in so many ways. AV tended to mean ‘all video’ with audio and lighting ringfenced within their own communities. Commercial AV targeting the higher education and corporate environment was distinct from home automation. Live events were barely on the radar.
“In Europe, I don’t think the industry existed [in 2004] as we know it today,” says Dan Goldstein, Chief Marketing Officer, AVIXA. “There were pockets of professional AV technology and business activity but everything was of a much smaller scale.”
Across the board, integration was largely focused on the physical install of technology in a space. Distribution was invariably analogue. Big, clunky, black box kit was the norm. Network Attached Storage, switchers, routers and other digital infrastructure were nascent and unlikely to be deployed in AV.
“Integrated systems meant little more than the sale and install of technology,” says Sean Wargo, Senior Director of Market Intelligence for AVIXA. “It was transactional. A set and forget.”
There was good business to be made. Boxes were shifted. Margins for systems rigged with Cat5 cables and proprietary interfaces were high. Systems integration was considered a dark art and there was scope for solutions to be over-specced for the job they did.
Integrated Systems Europe entered this mix with a bold and unconventional mission. In Geneva in 2004, the first ISE trade event seemed to some to be a shotgun marriage of home automation and commercial AV.
The results have been spectacular.
“Twenty years ago, the level of professionalism in the industry was nowhere near as high as today but the intent was always there,” says Kris Hogg, Head of Commercial Partnerships, Samsung and former board director at CEDIA. “Since 2004 we’ve seen the rise of highly professional forward-thinking AV companies who understand the need for proper management skills, proper design and planning.
“Now the integrator will more likely talk about ideation, consultation, solution-oriented application and upgrade paths.”
Today the value of global AV, according to AVIXA, has more than tripled to $330bn. Part of the reason for this growth is because what we think of as AV has expanded and changed. Those definitions remain malleable, encompassing an increasingly wider variety of industries, use cases and technologies.
“AV at its finest is the culmination of technology, space and content,” says Wargo. “Bringing those three together is what the industry has become much more capable of doing over twenty years. The history of AV is not one of individual components but the sum of its parts.”
While the roots of this evolution were there at ISE’s launch there is one trend that overrides all others. In a word: IT.