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What ISE means to the manufacturers: Sharp commercial director, visual solutions, Birgit Jackson

Building up towards ISE 2018, AVTE spoke to some of the industry’s leading manufacturers about their experiences of the show and the importance of speaking to end users and what they can expect from their stand this year

Ahead of the world’s biggest AV trade show on earth, AVTE wanted to find out what it is about ISE – a show that attracts more than 1,200 exhibitors and (this year) a record breaking 77,000 visitors – that keeps them coming back for more.

We sat down with Sharp’s commercial director, Sharp Visual Solutions Europe to hear her thoughts.

Hi Birgit. Why is it important for you and your company to be present at ISE?

ISE represents a fantastic opportunity for us because we get to meet end users as well as our partners. It has been particularly important for us over the last couple of years because Sharp has really evolved. We received a big investment from Foxconn in 2016 and that’s transforming our business, making it easier for us to develop new products for a mainstream audience. What will be obvious to everyone who visits us is how our range is expanding: we have display solutions for every type of meeting and signage solutions for every type of business. We are growing, we are innovating and ISE lets us tell this story. It lets us show that Sharp is now a very significant vendor.

How many ISE shows have you and your company attended including this one?

We have been showing at ISE before it was at the RAI! It has obviously grown hugely in size and in number of attendees and types of attendees. We have seen more end users coming, and many of our customers come to see a preview of the solutions we will be launching throughout the next year. We do more business at the show now, I think it’s become more commercial, in a good way. AV spend is increasing as businesses realise that good meeting room tools like displays and video conferencing can massively improve productivity. ISE is a great showcase for that and I think all manufacturers, including us, have got better at proving the business case for AV with demonstrations on stand.

How does ISE compare to other shows around the world that you exhibit at?

It’s the one show for AV that we have to do in Europe. We go to Infocomm in the US, and that has a similar significance for our US business, but ISE is really the only pan-European show that is a must-exhibit for us. Most of the other events we do are on a national level, or are aimed at particular audiences, like retail or education. ISE is the only show where you can see all our European customers and partners in one place.

Who are you looking to appeal towards at the show?

We have a few target groups; we want to appeal to people who are updating their meeting rooms, to people who are looking for flexible and easy-to-use signage solutions, and for people looking for really high-precision imaging. We want to enhance our customers’ businesses with solutions that match the way they want to work, meet, communicate and advertise.

A lot of our stand is dedicated to showing what we offer for meetings. One size doesn’t fit all, and we’ve developed different tools to suit different meeting types, from the short and informal (Huddle) to the highly technical (4K reading and writing). To highlight why interactive whiteboards should be carefully chosen, consider the important role they play in the meeting room. Meetings take up a lot of time – 17 hours a month for every worker in the UK according to our research – so they need to be as productive as possible.

Across Europe, there is a demand for meetings to be more engaging, more inclusive, and more productive. That’s why having network-enabled interactive displays like BIG PADs in a meeting or conference room is important. It means that people can work together on one screen that can be used by everyone. It helps to create an ‘Eyes Up’ meeting instead of a meeting where people are eyes down on separate devices.

Understanding the needs of the people and businesses who use our products is vital to our continued growth and success. It’s not enough to have amazing technology, it needs to be designed around, and remain useful for, specific requirements.

ISE has become a major destination for end users. How important is it for you to be able to speak directly to end-users?

Understanding the needs of the people and businesses who use our products is vital to our continued growth and success. It’s not enough to have amazing technology, it needs to be designed around, and remain useful for, specific requirements. Expectations are changing, and increasingly people demand products that offer the same experience as their personal devices…and just work! If a product takes too long to understand or is too complicated they won’t use it. So being able to talk to end-users, and see how they interact with our products, is really important from a design and development perspective.

Likewise, how important is it for end users to be able to speak directly to you?

We always appreciate the chance to meet with end users, hear about their experiences over the last 12 months, and earn the opportunity to help solve their challenges. It’s a great chance for them to get up-close with our products – particularly the ‘Pen on Paper’ writing experience offered by our interactive white boards, which really must be seen to be believed. People who aren’t that familiar with us may have read stories in the news or may only associate us with consumer TVs and microwaves, so it’s great to be able to introduce them to this part of our business and surprise them with the range and quality of solutions we offer.

The MD of ISE, Mike Blackman recently told us that manufactures are sometimes concerned that end users don’t always get to see or hear about many of their AV products and services, because their integrator may have an ulterior motive (often financial) to recommend your competitors – due to existing relationships or limited knowledge. What are your thoughts on this?

It’s important that end users are able to make an informed choice, and system integrators are a key partner in this process. Many of our customers may be better served by integrated solutions rather than a specific product, and this is where integrators can really add value. Integrators are often manufacturers’ window to the end user, and they form an important part of our sales/growth strategy. We have great relationships with our integrators and they are champions of our technology.

What can our readers expect to see at your stand and why should they take the time to stop by?

One of the highlights on our stand will be our first BIG PAD display with a 4K LCD touch panel. The 70” model makes it easy to view large amounts of detailed information, such as technical drawings, maps or spreadsheets. A series of special features support the 4K writing and 4K reading experience, so this is really one not to be missed. We’ll have eight interactive displays on stand in total, including the 40” and 50” BIG PADs for huddle spaces, and we will be showcasing our range of non-interactive professional displays, some as large as 90”. We will also be showing our full range of smart digital signage solutions and the Sharp Open Architecture Platform, which offers an easy way to download, store and play content directly from Sharp displays.

Are you making any announcements at the show? If yes, perhaps give our readers a bit of teaser?

We will be making an announcement about the evolution of our digital signage range on the first day of the show and we’re proud to be showing our largest ever range of signage options. Also, not an announcement, but something that we know people will be excited to see – we will have Sharp’s new 8K professional camcorder and display on our stand. This is an example of the work that Sharp Japan is doing in building an 8K ecosystem, which will have applications in AV. 8K isn’t just another higher resolution TV – it’s a game changer for signage, for surveillance, for remote medicine. We’ll be welcoming feedback from our partners on how this could be realised in the future.

Beyond the stand itself, is there anything else you or your company will be doing at ISE?

We’re proud to have been shortlisted for five awards at ISE, so you’ll see us at the awards ceremonies. We have lots of meetings lined up, and we have a drinks reception on our stand every day at 5pm. Everyone is welcome, just drop by our stand during the day to get an invitation.

Where can they find you?

Stand E76 / Hall 12.

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