As the end of the year draws near, analysts, CTOs, and futurists have been busy poring over product announcements, studying trends, and peering into the future with hopes of a great victory for their business or to warn of impending doom. These technology soothsayers have created their “top 10 for 2014” lists that focus on consumer, enterprise and the audio/visual space. (My most recent favorite was from Commercial Integrator – Specifying the 25 Best of 2013.) I couldn’t help but join in the forecasting excitement with my own thoughts about the top 5 AV trends for 2014. Some of these may be more obvious than others, but they are all of course debatable. What are your thoughts?
1. 2014 is The Beginning of the End of the Video Cable
Companies that rely heavily on pulling new physical video cables, video switching hardware, and video wall controllers should beware this trend. For more sustainable revenue streams, consider transitioning to related video over IP, software, and hybrid IT/AV system integration. Pixel Streaming will definitely take hold in 2014. Nvidia recently announced the rollout of 1080p streaming in 2014 for real-time games over WiFi using Nvidia Shield.
I view pixel streaming as the Internet’s next Great Application beyond email, social networking and the cloud. Some of us remember when the Internet was not fundamentally a visual medium (gopher anyone?). Now, the Internet IS a visual medium, try to explain to anyone under the age of 25 that YouTube, Instagram, Vine, and live sports streaming, were not possible or even contemplated when the Internet was put in place. Now, to most people, these visual applications ARE the Internet. In 2014 we will adopt wireless video sharing and pixel streaming as part of our everyday lives.
A lot of companies have entered this space in 2013 including Google with their in-home pixel streaming device, Chromecast. Our own Solstice product, launched in March, is the embodiment of this trend for the enterprise space. Most companies have realized that wireless presentation and media sharing over their existing network could be the largest productivity gain in the past 10 years. Will the number of pixels streamed over the Internet surpass other types of traffic, not in 2014 – but you can be sure I’ve already plotted the trend line and this will happen sooner than you might think.
If you’re still not convinced, ask yourself this: If you could sit in your office and stream your laptop to a large flat panel on your desk, then pick it up and move to a conference room and do the same for the projector, then go home and stream your 3D game to your SmartTV, what role does a video cable play in the future? The answer is next-to-none.
2. Big Data will Grip the Consumer but Lift Productivity at the Enterprise
Beware of the warm embrace of big data within your personal life – its ability to steer your decision-making will be used to great effect in 2014. At the same time, these same practices will begin to be adopted in the enterprise to increase productivity. Become a company that can help shepherd your customers through the adoption of big data and analytics in 2014.
As early as 2009, the number of devices that were connected to the Internet surpassed the human population. Most of these devices contained sensors and the ability to communicate with one another. This “Internet of Things” has evolved into the “Web of Things” that ties our physical world with the world of data. With our help, these devices are creating 1.8 billion gigabytes of data on a yearly basis – mostly about us: our location, our spending, our relationships – this metadata is the ultimate “selfie”. This is why the term “Big Data” became so important in 2013.
In 2014, advances in big data analytics, pattern recognition, and automated understanding systems will mostly target the consumer. Data related to you, your device, and your applications in the cloud will make its way to data brokerages that will then schedule recommendations for you every time you touch the Web of Things. This warm embrace of big data implies that your personal history will, in some sense, drive what you do in the future. Feedback loops like this can be dangerous – consumers should beware.
The bright side of this prediction is that companies willing to turn all that data and analytics capability inwards can find new efficiencies and increase productivity. If there is hope for the economy in 2014, it must come from increased productivity and not increased spending. Big data, analytics that drive decision-making, and the willingness to change based on the results of self-study could be huge. As the world of AV merges with IT, big data will play a role for displays as well. Imagine if a company were able to discover: how much time is spent in meetings where no decision is made? How collaborative is my engineering department? What type of visual data are most successful in helping solve problems or support customers? As displays become increasingly “smart” through software they will be used to measure these sorts of things. I know a few pilot studies that will do exactly this starting early in 2014.
To be successful in 2014, AV companies need to be part of this picture. They should help their customers realize the promise of intelligent, controllable, and measurable display infrastructure and then deploy it.
3. The Cloud Will Achieve Global Scale, Putting Pressure on AV Companies to Deliver the Endpoint
Cloud-dedicated servers and data centers will increase in size, number and importance to the economy. Some predictions put cloud-based server spending growth above 25 percent. For the AV world, this means companies need to think increasingly about how to transport audio/visual data from the cloud to the enterprise network in the most efficient, human-centered manner.
The IT market has focused so much energy on building the cloud efficiently that very little effort has been spent on the end-user experience. How do I configure a space for 50 product designers who all carry a tablet and rely on running all their apps in the cloud? What do they do when they want to sit and collaborate? What does the audio-visual infrastructure at the endpoint look like?
In 2014 the AV market can claim this space. Rich visual experiences for collaboration and presentation can be yin to the yang of The Cloud. AV should spend time explaining to customers that the money saved through migrating applications to the cloud should be spent on a more elegant endpoint experience for its employees.
4. Integrated Learning Styles will Connect Remote and Brick and Mortar Education
Education continues to transform itself. In 2014, new online and distributed learning models will become more deeply integrated with the physical classroom. AV companies should provide education customers with solutions that integrate the physical campus experience with the new learning models that were adopted over the past few years. Do this and you will be successful.
Online classes are not new. Look at MOCCs (Mid-sized Online Closed Courses) offered by universities around the country and edX, a partnership between Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University with 1.7 million users. Not to mention Coursera, an education company that partners with the top universities and organizations in the world to offer online courses. These efforts are very successful, but most educators realize the additional importance of collaboration and are trying to incorporate many of the online course elements into their traditional on-campus course to bring a new level of engagement and learning to the classroom. They realize how people learn and interact is changing. But it’s up to the AV/IT business community to help them tie these advances together with their goals for the brick-and-motar experience.
The campus in 2014 will begin to integrate itself into these online/new learning models. Lecture halls will be optional physical endpoints to online courses, collaboration nooks will support wireless sharing for those who are physically present and video teleconference for those who are not.
5. Augmented Reality is Here in 2014
The expectation that the environment is augmented by the digital one is now here. Spatially aligned augmented reality (like Google Glass) aside, almost everyone now expects that their physical environment can be augmented by ready access to data. This has been a slowly evolving trend that relies on a number of factors including availability of bandwidth, vertical applications on my phone, etc. Already, the average user augments shopping, work, and even more mundane conversations with results from Google, Wikipedia entries, or specific apps. This has the potential to transform workplaces as our day-to-day reality is augmented by additional data (most of it visual) that is related to making business decisions. Couple this with the emergence of remote rendering, GPU in the Cloud, and the demand for better, more visual models of understanding, and AV has a great role to play in defining how we see and hear the data that is augmenting our spaces.
In our everyday lives I can already overlay on a map on my phone showing me the best three Thai restaurants in a 5-mile radius from where I am standing. This is a lightweight form of augmented reality. Will 2014 usher in a deeper connectivity between these two worlds via spatially aligned technologies like Google Glass? As the magic 8 ball would say, “Ask again later”.