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This is the largest transformation of the workplace since the industrial revolution

In an excerpt from his Pro AV Power 20 interview, Christopher Jaynes, founder and CTO of Mersive Technologies, gives his perspective on the longer-term impact of this extraordinary period on our sector

The wider impact of the pandemic on the AV industry 

This is arguably the largest transformation of the workplace that world has seen since the industrial revolution. Those of us working in the AV industry should acknowledge this – that we are now working in an area that is undergoing literally historic change. The AV industry was already experiencing a period of disruption.  Disruption enabled by flexible software that’s replacing the traditional hardware-based, heavy-infrastructure approach to building our environments. But now, many of the things that we’ve acknowledged that are important – or require innovation – will come into sharp focus and lead to an era of new innovations unlike the AV industry has never seen.

I’m a technologist, and when I think about how the pace of innovation responds to global-scale challenges – I get pretty excited about what’s about to happen. We’re about to see things change in ways we would have only dreamed about in the past. I believe this because, historically, there are really two types of inventions – those that are almost accidental leaps and those that arise from great need and force of will. But in reality, many of our best inventions come when we are forced, through major disruption, to come up with solutions at all costs to some very hard problems. These types of inventions require focus, an absolute need to change things quickly in response to challenges.

Some of this is hard to predict. But if I had to pick a few areas to watch, I’d name the following:

Touchless rooms

This is certainly a dream that’s been outlined in several futuristic movies where a conference room is driven by voice, by gesture, or even predicts what a user wants to do without the need for a clumsy touch panel, light switch, or (heaven forbid) a remote control. The pandemic will certainly accelerate innovation in this area. I’ve heard the words “touchless AV” several times a day from my colleagues already.

Video conferencing for everyone/in every room

In the old days (a year ago), enterprises would deploy a “video enabled room” that forced users into a certain video conferencing experience. That was okay if my need for video conferencing was specialized, elite, or so important that I was willing to figure out how to use a Zoom Room or a dedicated WebEx space. In this new world, I way want to walk into any space and reach the half of my team that’s working at home on a Slack call – or use Zoom, or Teams, or whatever I want. The room camera, audio, display, and furniture should be there for me without forcing a choice.  We also need a cost structure that makes it feasible to put a camera system in every space – huddle rooms, lounges, and transitional hallways even so I can reach my colleagues at any time. Enterprise will look for ways to replace those 50 dedicated video rooms with 500 simpler, multipurpose spaces that are video capable. Look for innovation here.

Workplace analytics and intelligence

One of the things to watch is how companies will navigate this new era. Already there were a smattering of projects to equip our workplace with intelligent sensors that help us understand how we work. (Who hasn’t heard of ‘Intelligent Buildings’ by now.) However, while we’re trying to modify our very work pattern through policies about how to return-to-work, how to stay safe, or remain productive and engaged – the stakes have gone up. Watch for companies to find better ways to capture and mine data related to their own workplace. 

The full interview with Christopher Jaynes will be published on the Installation site later this month. You can access all of our Pro AV Power 20 interviews in our exclusive ebook.