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Interview: Andy Haywood, NEC

Following the news that NEC Display Solutions has announced its One Global initiative, designed to provide consistent global support and services to AV/IT reseller partners, we catch up with Andy Haywood, sales director, global, strategic and vertical sales, to find out more.

What’s behind the company’s move to global standardisation? And what effect do you hope it will have?

When we launched the NEC One Global End User Programme at InfoComm in 2018, it was not a ground-breaking initiative, it was simply formalising and clearly articulating how we’ve been working with our multinational clients for several years.

More and more businesses are looking to provide a consistent user experience across their estate which clearly benefits the end user in terms of technology familiarity, but also the support teams in terms of fault diagnosis and the procurement teams for effective cost control.

We wanted to help the IT & AV standards teams, many of whom are deployed internationally themselves, to have easy access to account management, products and support that are consistent the world over. The desired outcome is to make doing business with NEC as easy as possible for both our channel partners and end users.

Up until now, how much disparity has there been geographically in terms of products and services?

At NEC, we’ve always had core product ranges that are available across the world, such as our C, V & P series LFDs and our semi-installation and installation projectors; but alongside these we have products which have been deployed to meet certain regional market requirements, such as our E series and some touch solutions. We believe in a consultative approach with our customers; we will review a client’s need or a market’s potential in order to formulate a local product strategy where appropriate.

Our warranty duration and service type has always been in line with, or exceeded, regional market standards, but customers who join our One Global programme will benefit from a complimentary uplift to three years warranty globally and will also be the first to benefit from improved service types as we work to deploy Exchange Service (Advanced Exchange in the US) as a global standard.

As a global company, how hard is it to pull together departments from different countries? Is there sometimes a need for local variances in process/outcome or is standardisation always the most efficient option?

As our One Global programme has evolved we’ve adapted our methodology to have a flexible balance of Global and Local input. One size does not fit all and often regions with local budget control will question or reject HQ standards unless they feel they’ve been part of the decision making process. Our “Glocal” approach ensures regional account management and sales support are aligned to central strategy and standards.

How would you characterise product/service consistency and standardisation generally across the AV industry?

In terms of product design, there is a conflict between consumer trend and long term product stability. At NEC, where delivering a long-life solution is at the core of our offering, we do not follow every design trend. Our priority is delivering consistency, enabling our customers to maintain aesthetic uniformity across their estate beyond a product’s life time.

End users and solutions providers need to be able to make accurate comparisons across suppliers’ product ranges in order to make like for like assessment of fit for purpose suitability. There is still some variance in the way manufacturers declare certain specifications such as brightness, power consumption and mean time between failure rates which needs to be addressed for the benefit of the industry.

How does greater standardisation benefit end users?

Using corporate communications as an example, as organisations move towards agile working practices to maximise productivity, familiar usage of devices and interfaces at any company location across the world will deliver a consistent user experience meaning meetings will be more productive in a shorter time. Internal IT resource can offer a more efficient response as support is easier to provide, while fewer spare parts are required on-site so budget can be reallocated. Meeting spaces will be less cluttered, requiring less equipment as equipment manufacturers speak a common language.

NEC has developed facial recognition technology – what are the benefits and challenges of applying this technology in different environments?

Facial recognition, or biometric technology, supports public safety and improves an organisation’s interaction with people at a more personalised level. There are benefits over other biometric systems which use finger or palm prints since it is non-contact and images can be captured from a distance. Using the human face as a key to security, biometric face recognition technology has great potential for a wide variety of applications, not just in law enforcement and security but also in enhancing the user experience in transport, corporate, retail, leisure and hospitality environments.

For example, the world’s airports are at capacity yet demand is increasing, by using facial recognition as an enabler to speed passenger throughput your face becomes a biometric token at key bottlenecks such as security, bag drop off and boarding. Not only do passengers benefit from a smoother journey through the potentially anxiety-prone process, but operators can also increase capacity without needing to invest in new premises.

The challenges facing wider adoption of biometric solutions are primarily concerning data protection issues – by law, parameters of usage must be defined and agreed to. In the corporate environment, employees can be requested to opt-in to internal IT systems allowing biometric access to buildings and room booking services, thus businesses can enjoy greater efficiency in utilising resources and improving security, along with measuring meeting room usage, attendee engagement and various other metrics to provide ROI to IT & AV Services teams. In the public domain however, unless the subject has ‘opted-in’ to the facial recognition service, its usage is currently limited.

In the retail environment, facial recognition tools are used for audience analysis. The technology sees a human face and estimates the gender, age group, dwell time, viewing distance etc. This information is highly valuable in measuring audience demographics and analysing customer behaviour, enabling the retailer to enhance the effectiveness of its marketing campaigns and offer a more personalised, context-aware shopping experience. Because the data used is anonymous, retailers are already enjoying the benefits of this technology without fear of GDPR.