Matthias Exner, director of sales and marketing, EMEA at Audio-Technica, reveals how manufacturers are dealing with the changing landscape and latest trends in audio conferencing.
As AV and IT continue to converge, what are some of the key challenges producing products that appeal to both IT managers and AV integrators?
IT and AV often speak different 'languages', so finding the common ground to enable us to address and solve the user’s real needs is sometimes a challenge and something that manufacturers need to be aware of.
IT people often miss the importance of quality sound, for example, so the SI/audio industry need to educate these managers as to the real benefits of specifying and investing in the best-sounding solution for a particular installation. Systems need to remain manageable but also must provide high intelligibility and great quality of sound. Long meetings are tiring enough and participants need to focus on the content without wasting energy in trying to understand the words.
Manufacturers also face the challenge of ensuring increasingly simple usability of their products, as frequently conference systems etc. are used by people who are by no means audio professionals.
Are you currently seeing more demand for wired or wireless systems?
This depends on the application and budget - we see a great demand for wired entry-level systems with premium feature sets at a good ROI in many applications. It remains a key part of our conference system business – we introduced the wired ATUC50 digital discussion system last year as a result of demand for such a blend of features and competitive price point.
What affect has the trend towards more discreet/aesthetically pleasing units had?
We welcome this trend greatly and already provide recess-able delegate units as well as paintable faceplates, even in the lower cost segment of the market. In addition Audio-Technica’s ATUC-50 system also offers programmable LEDs allowing to match corporate colouring or identification of participant groups.
In general, users are becoming more discerning about installed solutions and this extends not only to performance and usability, but to the physical design of delegate units etc. The fact that the ATUC50 allows for customisation is in direct response to the requirements of integrators and their clients – they expect systems to look good, or to be unobtrusive.
Do you think conferencing system manufacturers are knowledgeable enough about security issues?
Audio-Technica’s engineers have vast experience in secure applications and are constantly looking for further improvements in technology and our solutions. There is no doubt that security’s an important issue in many situations – our ATCS60 infra-red system ensures that signals don’t leave the conference room walls, which has made it ideal for secure/sensitive installations for example – and it’s likely to be an ongoing challenge that manufacturers have to address is coming years.