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ISE 2023: A resounding success & a positive outlook for AV

This year’s ISE was a doozy: rightly praised across the industry and – back in its traditional winter schedule – putting down a marker for further growth and success from 2024 onwards. Installation editor Rob Lane reports from the show floor

This year’s ISE will undoubtedly be upstaged in 2024, as managing director Mike Blackman and Integrated Systems Events continue to grow the event at its new home in Barcelona, but the organisers must be delighted with its first winter Fira event. With 58,107 unique attendees from 155 countries, and exhibitors reporting “unparalleled footfall” on booths across what was the largest ISE show floor thus far, ISE 2023 was a resounding success.

Returning to its regular Jan/Feb slot after last year’s rescheduled Barcelona May event, the show certainly delivered, with exhibitors enthusing to Installation about the quality and quantity of visitors, and ISE Blackman hailing an “exceptional show”. I’ve only missed a couple of events since the very first ISE in 2004 – a largely residential affair in Geneva, and miniscule in comparison to 2023 – and enjoyed 2023’s iteration more than any other I’ve attended.Usually feedback from exhibitors in particular is mixed, with some unhappy about their booth location, a lack of footfall, or the dearth in quality of the leads. This year, however, Installation was unable to find anyone critical of the event, with a leading pro projector manufacturer even telling us that he’d hoped to have something to moan to Mike Blackman about (he meant this tongue-in-cheek), but genuinely could not find one thing to gripe about.

Blackman himself was rightly very happy. “It’s been an extraordinary week and it’s hugely gratifying for us to look back and realise we’ve delivered an exceptional show for our industry and the wonderful city of Barcelona,” he said. “We’ve had unprecedented visitor levels to the show, so much inspiring content and features on display, and ground-breaking visits from the King of Spain on Tuesday and the president of Catalonia on Thursday to add both a royal and a political seal of approval to the show. This week at ISE 2023 confirms that we can safely say the global AV and systems integration industry is back with an impressive bang!” 

It certainly is. The first day of the show set the tone for the whole week, with the highest number of opening day visitors ever for an ISE show, visiting a record 56,870sqm of floorspace over the show’s six halls and the Audio Demo Rooms. The trend continued, with a final total of 58,107 attendees making 133,606 visits to the show floor.

“The expression that ‘tradeshows are back’ is overused, but ISE really proved that to be true,” enthused Garth Lobban, director of marketing at Atlona. You don’t really know a product until you experience it, and ISE gave us the opportunity to demonstrate our products and reinforce our messages. It felt great to be back.”

Hans Christian Stucken, global marketing advisor, AV Stumpfl, agreed: “ISE in Barcelona really came into its own this year. It was invigorating, inspiring and very, very busy. We had a great number of exceptional conversations with old and new customers alike.”

As did Mark Wadsworth, vice-president of global marketing, Digital Projection, who commented on the quality of the leads: “ISE in 2023 was back to its best! Although the overall unique attendance numbers are a way off the highs reached in Amsterdam, we felt that the quality of visitors was better than in previous years. This is perhaps due to the fact that Barcelona is more difficult to get to, so those who made the effort were there for business. I hope that those who didn’t attend this year are encouraged by the quality of exhibitors and the visitor numbers and the show continues to grow and attract new visitors. Overall we are very happy with the show and look forward to an extended presence next year.”

Installation would have needed a month-long show to even scrape the surface in terms of booth visits (food for thought Mr Blackman!), but the team managed to enjoy numerous meetings with exhibitors throughout the four day event. 

One of the highlights was undoubtedly the Vestel booth. The display specialist lit-up ISE with an ambitious build featuring over 100 commercial displays, from interactive education screens to LED walls. With display content featuring digital versions of artwork from the 15th to 17th century, under a content license from Amsterdam Rijksmuseum, the vivid stand showcased the brand’s hero display models and revealed some new lines launching later this year. The Turkish manufacturer also threw a fantastic food and drinks gathering at one of Barcelona’s leading hotels.

For Vestel’s UK marketing manager, Zoe Jackson, attending the event for the first time, the quality of the company’s booth is essential.

 “As my first ISE expo, I was hugely impressed by the sheer scale and quality of the event,” she said. “Vestel was keen to continue its bold presence by building on its ‘best stand in show’ award last year with a dynamic 240sqm space showing off over 100 of our displays, using digital ‘old-masters’ paintings to highlight the brand’s 30-years’ extensive experience in the display sector.

 “The level of interest from show visitors was fantastic, covering both our existing partners around Europe as well as many new business opportunities. ISE was the springboard to a packed year of news and new product launches from Vestel.”

Another brand looking to emulate the success of its 2022 booth was Absen, which, like Sony, was keen to highlight the growing convergence between AV and broadcast technologies (something Mike Blackman is keen to further develop in 2024), with its virtual production set. The company showcased its solutions from its wide range of LED solutions, for both rental and fixed installs, including virtual production, DOOH, corporate projects, retail settings and gaming.

On display in the heart of the Multi Technology hall was Absen’s new flagship virtual production solution, the PR 2.5; a new addition to its DOOH portfolio, the AW1.9; the CL1.2 micro LED solution; the PL2.5 Pro V2 for rental and staging and XR stages; and the NX series, which created a striking corner display on Absen’s large bustling stand.

In addition to its main stand, Absen also had an esports & gaming showcase within ISE’s new Content Production and Distribution Zone. This consisted of a 6m x 3m, 2.5pp LED screen positioned above a two-person gaming desk, which ran a series of interactive games for visitors. 

“ISE 2023 brought Absen together in a way we haven’t experienced since before the pandemic and it was a great week,” said Jessica Golding, Absen’s brand and European brand and marketing director. “It was amazing to not only see the European team together, but also team members from all across the globe. This was complemented by the sheer number of people attending the show, resulting in many valuable meetings with current and new partners – including making some actual sales from the booth!”.

Sony Professional’s virtual production set showcased a more modest corporate setting to demonstrate how Sony’s full suite of products – from cameras to video walls – can be used to easily create quality enterprise virtual productions. The company was keen to point out that it is unique in being able to offer consistency of product for virtual production work, even down to the monitors matching the colour gamut of its video displays.

Sony announced two scalable new series of its award-winning Crystal LED premium displays. The bright and rich BH-series (ZRD-BH12D and ZRD-BH15D) and the immersive CH-series (ZRD-CH12D and ZRD-CH15D) are designed for corporations, retail environments and screening rooms. Both ranges will be available in a P1.2mm and P1.5mm pixel pitch.

The range of corporate AV products showcased by Sony was also impressive, notably the expansion to its lineup of pan-tilt-zoom (PTZ) cameras with the addition of two 4K models with built-in AI analytics. The SRG-A40 and SRG-A12 cameras automatically and consistently track, and naturally frame presenters, regardless of movement or posture, for seamless content creation and control. The new PTZ Auto Framing technology features automatic operation for quick object tracking and rediscovery, as well as multiple Auto Framing options. 

“Sony is very proud to have taken part in ISE’s most successful show, which brought together a plethora of inspiring and innovative content,” commented Adam Dover, trade and segment marketing manager, Sony Professional. “It was an extremely busy show, and we enjoyed being connected to our customers, partners, and colleagues and showcasing the technology innovations we’ve been working on.”

Crestron, as usual, blew us all away with the size of its booth (1,500m², up from 1,200m² in 2022 ) – surely one of the biggest at ISE 2023 – as well as what was by far the best evening event we attended (in terms of venue and access to Crestron decision-makers), with Installation delighted to be part of an exclusive VIP pre-event gathering.

The company’s booth was packed with hands-on, experiential demos enabling attendees to see how Crestron is helping to transform the workplace in particular. Its software innovations are designed to complement and integrate within the Crestron ecosystem, and one of its solutions on show at ISE was the DM NVX, designed as a flexible, IT-friendly companion to the company’s hardware – also setting the stage for the future of Crestron solutions.

“ISE is a unique show that allows Crestron to exhibit the breadth of our product portfolio from all sides of our business in one booth,” said Brad Hintze, executive vice president, global marketing.

Sam Kennedy, senior director product marketing, added: “ISE 2023 was great! It’s great to see that trade shows are back, and people were very eager to meet in person again.”

Gilbert Felix, senior account manager at ENCO, was equally as enthusiastic: “The professional AV market has been a fast-growing business for ENCO,” he said. “With a strong global brand and structure already in place for our broadcast business, ISE was the next logical step for ENCO as it pertains to trade-show presence. The global AV market is thriving, and we saw a lot of interest in our open captioning and new robotic pan/tilt camera solutions. As a first-time exhibitor, our stand in the Discovery Zone exceeded our expectations when it comes to foot traffic, and we are interested in growing our show floor display next year. We think ISE is a great place for ENCO to expand and offer additional solutions to the global AV market.”

As was Eliran Toren, CEO, MSolutions: “This was a banner ISE Show for MSolutions being our first major tradeshow with our own booth presence. Traffic was consistent through the show, and was very busy the first three days. The final day even proved fruitful thanks to several high-level management meetings. The investment in time, costs and labor paid off as we came away from the show with tangible new business opportunities, including new customers, potential distribution partners and a real opportunity to introduce the MSolutions brand in new countries.”

Francis Maes, CEO of Smode Tech, had this to say: “We really were excited about our first participation to a tradeshow in the form of a large shared booth with our compatriots Naostage at ISE 2023. The feedback from visitors has been amazing and we had several in-depth and promising discussions with major clients from our industry as well as potential partners for internal distribution, all of which seems to promise a bright future for our technology.”

Jeff Horan, global PR/media manager, business communications, Sennheiser, opined that ISE 2023 was a “great success” for Sennheiser. “Our stand was extremely busy throughout the show and our newly launched TeamConnect Ceiling Medium won Installation ISE 2023 Best in Show. We also had outstanding partner engagement during the show, with our products featured on 10 partner stands.  We thank all of our stand visitors, customers and partners for contributing to a successful ISE 2023!”

And Bob Boster, president of Clear-Com, also praised the show’s success: “ISE was a very successful show for Clear-Com this year. We had the opportunity to reconnect with our existing Partner and user base and had many productive conversations with them; and, of course, we made promising new connections and learned about new projects and technology in the industry. It was impressive to experience the level of excitement and energy at the show overall, and we see this as a sign of the strength of the European markets represented at ISE. Of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention how much we all enjoyed the culture and cuisine of the host city Barcelona.”

We’ll leave the last words here to RGB Spectrum and HIVE – both as enthusiastic about the success of ISE 2023 as everyone else we spoke to at the Fira, for their own reasons.

“ISE was a huge success for RGB Spectrum,” said Courtney Mamuscia, RGB Spectrum marketing director. “As a company based in the United States, it’s hard to get in front of our international customers and partners. ISE provides a platform for us to connect with a large group of current relationships and meet new people.”

Mark Calvert, managing director, HIVE, rounds things off nicely, with possibly the best promotional quote for ISE that the organisers could hope for!

“The footfall at this year’s ISE was quite something; the halls were packed out, and seemingly busier than in previous years. We saw a fantastic mix of system integrators and end-user customers come though to our areas, and the overall experience was brilliant.” 

ISE returns 30 January – Friday 2 February 2024.