Top 10 AV Trends in 2016

Tim headshot
Tim Griffin
Founder and CTO of Userful Corporation

This is a popular time of year for all of us (particularly those in the technology industry) to try our hand at predicting the future. 2016 will be a year of big changes within the AV world, many of which have been brewing for quite some time. AV is the process of colliding or coalescing with IT this has brought big changes to both worlds.

The AV market is a vast world -- video and sound, hardware and software and of course it’s equally important to think about strategies to improve performance and deployment of systems. It’s a field that’s a fun one to make predictions about.

10) Video over IP

Video-over-IP is a massive and far-reaching trend sweeping the entire AV industry. Running specialized fixed-length cables that change every few years no longer makes sense. AV folks that used to abhor compression, now realize that great compression has no visible impact. Almost every video we see today has been compressed in some form or another. The idea that transporting video uncompressed in its final hop to the display is somehow the holy grail of AV is silly. And spending a fortune installing wonky cabling for this purpose is even sillier. Many new video over IP products will be coming to market and AV companies without video-over-IP offerings and strategies will see their customers migrate elsewhere.

9) IT and AV Worlds Will Converge

AV technicians will need to learn IT, just as IT has been progressively embracing AV over the last decade This will lower costs and dramatically expand the use cases, management tools, and applications for AV both within the home and the enterprise. As AV becomes more IT-centric, expect to see a lot of the best practices and decision making process from the IT world. Expect to see terms like TCO (Total Cost of Ownership), middleware, failover, appliances. play an increasing role in discussions about AV systems. Userful's IT-centered solution provides a high-performing platform that is easy to install, configure and manage, ideal to accommodate the IT learning curve for AV professionals.

8) Video Walls

It is already the fastest growing sub-segment of AV, new solutions are coming on the market that dramatically lower the costs so expect this trend to continue in 2016 as more and more new uses and applications are found for video walls. The key is in how flexible these solutions are for future expansions and upgrades. Userful's solution leverages the use of standard PCs and with version 8.5 now can power up to 40 displays and up to 60 displays or 6k content with a custom high-end PC.

7) Rise of the Converged Computer Driven-Appliance

Another popular trend from the IT world is the converged appliance. A single computer driven device that leverages low-cost computing to bundes AV complexity into a multi-functional all in one appliance. “Dumb” AV Hardware will be replaced with converged appliances powered by processors connected to and self-updating over the network. These will have updates and lots of new functionality being added all the time. (Much the way Tesla has revolutionized the auto industry by adding new functionality via software upgrades to its cars, these AV appliances will do the same to the AV world). For example, Userful builds a software appliance for video walls to deliver content over the network in real time to the screens. That same PC can also support other digital signage displays, touch screens, and desktops simultaneously, making it a versatile and powerful solution. Many functions converge in one appliance. Expect to see a lot of these appliances running linux or android on the back end, eliminating the headaches of updates and viruses that have plagued windows back-ends.

6) Modular and Multifunctional

While the old AV world was assembled from multiple special-purpose pieces of hardware. In the new computerized AV world, like the world of IT, a generic processor will perform AV tasks and transformations in software. Solutions will be built using interchangeable components that talk to each increasingly using open standards rather than proprietary connections. Following the idea of the computer-driven appliance, Userful’s video wall solution performs all AV-related tasks on software in a PC, which eliminates the need of additional players and/or splitters. The only other hardware component needed with the Userful platform are a standard gigabit ethernet switch, the zero-client devices at each screen for conversion and the screens themselves.

5) Middleware

There is this interesting concept and category of software in the IT world called middleware that sits between the things people actually see making life easier and saving costs. Middleware exists primarily to glue things together, and create simple, powerful, and stable cost-saving solutions in rapidly evolving worlds. In the brave new world of AV where the pace of change is now starting to mirror the rapid pace of IT, middleware is becoming increasingly necessary. Whether or not it is called middleware or not expect to see this trend growing in 2016, solutions that sit between for example your content sources and your displays enabling making it easy to integrate a whole range of different things together and switch them at will. The Userful appliance solution is a perfect example of a middleware.

4) Power-over-Ethernet (PoE)

This is already a huge trend in AV, but expect it to get much bigger in 2016. Wall-Warts and power outlets are massively costly and complicated. Expect PoE switches to continue rapidly dropping in cost and PoE to be an expected option for virtually all network connected devices in the AV world. The cost savings of PoE are easy to justify for things like cameras, wireless access points, or a kiosks that need to be in very specific locations and more often than not would a new power outlet costing hundreds of dollars. However the savings in time, safety, reliability and scalability of PoE easily justify the extra costs. In 2016 we’re going to see new things even touch screens and other displays are emerging in the market to offer interesting alternatives to traditionally powered screens and devices.

3) Interactive Screens

People’s first instinct when they see a digital screen is to interact with it. With PoE touch screens, some of the obstacles to deploying screens everywhere have now been removed. Rising minimum wage means automation is both needed and affordable. While digital signage you can’t interact with still will always have its place, interactive touch screens are on the rise.

2) Browser Management

We all have app overload, but in a corporate environment apps also present a significant security and maintenance risk. A browser interface with responsive design gives you consistency across all platforms and access from any device without the security and distribution headaches of an app. While apps may still have a place in home use of AV, in the corporate environment expect to solutions opting instead to deliver their control interfaces via a standard browser. Userful has been an advocate of empowering customers with browser management, adding flexibility and control, without needing highly specialized skills. Set-up and calibration has never been so simple with the Userful Control Center (UCC).

1) Ending Trends

For the final point let's talk about some things we’ll likely be saying our goodbye to in 2016:
End of Unscalable black boxes: We’ve all seen this, the 4-port box you need to throw out if you want to grow to 5. AV professionals no longer have the time, patience or profit margins to inventory and support and understand the massive variety of different boxes on the market. Scalability and flexibility will be requirement to get into an AV integrators toolbox.
End of Forward Projection: The writing has been on the wall for a while, but forward facing projectors are now on their final lap around the block, outpaced in almost every regard by low-cost large format displays and video walls.

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