"Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning”
-Sir Winston Churchill, 1942
“Mature market”. It’s a label given by those who give labels to industries that are seen as having their best, most profitable days behind them. This phase of business is noted for it’s standardized, commoditized offerings, industry consolidation and dearth of innovation.
Countless industries have been given this level. Take for example the airline industry, where innovation has been stalled for decades, profits (until the recent drop in oil prices) have been non-existent and industry giants are forced to merge for survival—when the going gets tough in a mature market, consolidation and the synergies it presents is often the only option.
However, of the world’s mature markets, one that is often mis-labeled is AV, because while some offerings have been standardized, some participants choose not to innovate, and many pursue price over profit, the industry is only in it’s infancy.
With the increasing demand for display products and the digitization of every facet of our world and still so much opportunity for improvement, it is more accurate to say the AV industry is just getting started than to lament its maturity.
The catalyst for continued growth is one simple concept: convergence.
AV is still defined by it’s roots in displays, alive only via the cabling, delivering content, from some other, smarter source. And this version of AV ran only vaguely parallel to the engineering and IT markets that have developed over the past 40 years.
But that is changing. Displays no longer simply talk “at” you. Communication has become bi-directional. Everything from menuboards, to information boards to retail displays and beyond have gone interactive. Consumers, blessed with beautiful displays in the home and home theater have begun to demand more in the form of AV from the venues they frequent—and they are right.
The turning point was the smartphone.
It used to be that when one ventured into the world, whatever display sources existed were a critical communicator—the only connection to information. Everything from airport flight status to stadium scoreboards had a monopoly on digital communication.
Yet heavy equipment and uninspired use-cases limited this era of display products.
So, despite a growing array of display products, the mid-2000’s proliferation of HDTV and internet connectivity, consumers turned to the 3.5 inch screen they could keep in their pocket, and worldwide, people ignored the environment around them, preferring to engage and interact with the world connected through their smartphone.
If any remaining CRT displays and first generation flat panel displays mounted in public spaces could look any more tired, it’s when they’re being ignored by the connected consumer.
But with new innovation in the market, a breakthrough in display products and a convergence between AV and IT, consolidating cabling to Ethernet, that is changing forever.
Today’s consumer’s are now driving innovation in the market instead of ignoring it.
“They want the screen to look like it’s blended in to the interior design…they want interactivity” says industry expert Alan Brawn of Brawn Consulting.
Brawn continues: “We’ve literally gone from the simplicity of a projector and a screen to the complexity of how we blend in to an environment.”
Brawn is also noted for his description of the AV-IT convergence, as well as the evolution of the mounting component of AV from trade to a pursuit in engineering.
As consumers and end-users demand more engaging, immersive and interactive displays, they are beginning to put down the smart phone. The affordability of displays and hardware, seen as commoditization to some, is suddenly a driving force behind the ubiquity of displays. No matter the business or their budget, the effective use of engaging AV is no longer seen as a luxury, it’s now a necessity.
And it will only continue.
Everything, from our walls to our windows to our tables and desks will digitize, multiplying the presence of displays in our lives. No longer will the smartphone monopolize our communications channels, because innovative display solutions, mounted and integrated effectively in endless environments, will outperform the smart phone. And like that oft-used illustration of man’s evolution from caveman to today, we will stop hunching around the smartphone, crouching in front of the laptop and otherwise disengaging with our world—AV will reconnect us with our surroundings, and it’s going to be amazing