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Inside track: Annelies Kampert

Vice president and general manager, Crestron Europe, on history lessons, baking, family and friends and the future of AV

Where do you hail from and where do you reside?
I was born and raised in Belgium, lived 30 years in the centre of Brussels and had the opportunity to grow up in a vibrant and multicultural environment.  Currently I live near the city of Mechelen, a picturesque Flemish town roughly midway between Brussels and Antwerp, about 20 minutes drive from Brussels International Airport. 

How did you get into AV?
Almost by accident. I have a very strong interest in history, and the impact of human behaviour on the past and future. So, after I received my master’s degree in European History, I started working as a history teacher and enrolled in the private sector soon after, working in HR and recruitment. That is how, after several years, I got in touch with the AV industry, not as a technician or an engineer, but hired as an HR manager at Crestron in Europe, in 2012. 

While the current technology we develop at Crestron is obviously a more recent development, historically speaking we cannot deny the impact and progress of technology on humanity. It’s about evolution, progress, innovation, search for efficiency & improvement. How people invented and relied on technology to shape the future, depending on the needs, to improve and to gain efficiency, to use it and react to it, is directly linked to our history and instincts. Although not my direct background, after over 12 years at Crestron, I continue to find our technology and drive for innovation fascinating and love experiencing that from the front row. As an HR responsible for, and working with, all our teams, I got involved with all departments and aspects of our business, which increased my knowledge about AV and Crestron and sparked my continuous interest. In September 2019 I became general manager at Crestron Europe. While there is never a dull moment in AV, Covid-19, hybrid work, supply chain issues and uncertainties caused by global politics have made for an interesting time, to say the least. 

What do you do for kicks in your spare time? Any favourite sports teams or pastimes?
Although I love my job and the day-to-day challenges that come along with it, I make a habit of dedicating the majority of my spare time to my family and friends. I like to do something completely different to change my mind, developed a huge passion for baking and drawing and can completely lose myself in reading. The best pies and best books end up in the office, to share with my colleagues. 

How do you feel the AV industry has fared post-Covid and with today’s crises and supply issues?
As everybody adapted to hybrid work, the importance of AV and control and video conferencing became clearer to everyone. Everybody needs to collaborate, remote or in person, and needs to be able to share content. The industry has returned to a steady product flow into warehouses and out to customers. Some individual components continue to have longer than usual lead times, but that is not affecting our ability to build and ship products. At the same time, the world continues to be impacted with economic and geopolitical challenges that everyone is dealing with, and those are not unique to Crestron or the AV industry.

What are your thoughts on its future, including potential pinch points?
In the nearer future, we see huge potential in solutions that combine the three essential needs of our customers: collaborate and share content; at scale; including the possibility to control other aspects of the room. When hybrid work really started to take off, everybody focused on the virtual collaboration side of it. Not without reason, as our research shows that 85 per cent of the calls have a virtual participant. But at the same time, you also want to be able to share content and collaborate when you’re all in a room together. That is an aspect of hybrid work that more people are starting to focus on. 

On the longer term, we expect a focus on integrating AV and UC technology in the building management system. The sky’s the limit there. For example, you book a meeting with an external visitor. When they enter the parking lot, their licence plate is recognised, and wayfinding directs them to their parking spot, past the reception desk towards the correct meeting room. At the same time, you get an alert that your visitor has arrived so you can walk to the meeting room, that is exactly at your preferred temperature, with your preferred brightness. HVAC isn’t in overdrive since the blinds automatically closed because the sun was shining on the windows. And of course, the message on the display is welcoming your customer, ready to share content with one click. That combination of IoT and AV and UC and control and automation all working together, that’s where the future of AV is. 

How’s business at Crestron?
World politics, inflation and other uncertainties made customers want to pause or push out some projects, but we’re starting to see that many of those projects are beginning to move forward. The second half of this year, I expect to see even more of that. While the AV industry has been hit hard by Covid-19 and the supply issues, we of course want to continue to be a trusted partner for our partners and customers. We believe we have the broadest portfolio that helps address their challenges. Nobody else has the ability to combine video conferencing, audio, video distribution content and sharing and collaboration with control and remote management and monitoring in the way that Crestron can. Moving forward we are convinced that our solutions, technology and focus on innovation will continue to play an important role in many businesses and markets.

Any exciting news you’d like to share – forthcoming products/developments etc – and plans for 2024 and beyond?
There are some exciting products in the pipeline that answer the three essential needs of our customers: collaborate and share content; at scale; including the possibility to control other aspects of the room. And at InfoComm, we’re going to announce that we’re expanding the capabilities of our control system to be able to run on third-party video conferencing systems. That way customers can take advantage of the investments they’ve made and combine that with the very best control system.