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ISE 2018 reflects major market and industry trends

There was plenty of evidence at ISE 2018 of an industry that continues to be on the move, writes Ian McMurray. Perhaps most significant was the growing ubiquity of IP. Previous shows have seen IP discussed, argued about – and, yes, resisted. This year, there seemed to be not just acceptance of an AV/IT world, but an acknowledgement that it is probably a good thing. AV/IT convergence is, to all intents and purposes, a done deal.

The SDVoE Alliance appears to be gathering momentum, and used the show to attempt to counter what it called “misinformation” about the capabilities of combined AV/IT networks. The current situation is certainly the source of some confusion.

The same is no less true for networked audio. For sure, the industry is now embracing the network as a way of moving audio and Dante is continuing its growth curve. However, for those who tire of protocol battles, AES70, which provides a means of combining different audio transport protocols within the same system, is also gaining a foothold in the market.

More processing
One phenomenon that was apparent on many ISE stands is that to do everything the industry needs to do, substantially more processing capability is needed in key devices such as switcher/scalers. A number of manufacturers were proudly showing off their new boxes, with exactly the same form factor as their predecessors – but now with a higher performance processor, more memory and more interfaces.

That was no less true for the smart home market, which continues to amaze with the sheer number of new endpoint devices being launched: the smart home now includes the garden. Here, it’s becoming apparent that the IoT is no longer a theoretical capability – it’s reached a tipping point, and has become an installable reality. The market has also embraced voice as its user interface of choice: Amazon’s Alexa could be heard everywhere.

And if the smart home market is unquestionably on a growth trajectory, so too is collaboration. On the show floor, there was much discussion about the role of millennials (who will soon comprise more than 50% of the workforce) in shaping this market with their preferred ways of working (and also their love of, but lack of understanding of, technology). It was impossible to disagree with one vendor who suggested that, in the same way as we came to expect a projector or screen in every meeting room, the day isn’t far off when we can equally expect to find a collaboration system there.

Potentially transformative
Unsurprisingly, however, ISE – as it usually does – threw up a new subject for debate: the potentially transformative role that XR (an amalgam of virtual reality, augmented reality and mixed reality) might play in the future of the AV industry. The show featured the XR Summit, together with a special exhibition area dedicated to XR solutions. Visitors couldn’t fail to be encouraged to see that XR isn’t just an entertainment/visitor attraction technology: it can also have a place in other mainstream AV applications such as training, simulation and retail/digital signage.

So: what will ISE 2019 bring? Greater clarity over AVoIP? 100% comfort with audio networking? More new toys for the smart home? Collaboration systems ubiquitous in every organisation? XR as mainstream technology? The answers will, for sure, be found at the RAI next February.