AV System Integrators Can Save Us from Dumb Buildings While Saving Themselves

buildings_450x300Smart buildings aren’t the future; they’re already here, even if the audiovisual industry hasn’t recognized it. The industry seems hesitant to embrace smart buildings as the next evolution of their business model. That’s okay, not everyone needs to join the parade. But I submit that the AV industry’s future is now and some of you need to embrace the reality that convergence in our industry has caused digital technology and big data to pervade every aspect of our business and will change it and us forever.

Fortunately we’re not alone in coming to terms with the new digital reality. Most businesses will need to respond to the transformations caused by the advance of technology, or die. A few examples to help make us feel we’re not alone:

Cars now parallel park themselves with the push of a button, tomorrow, and I do mean literally tomorrow, they will drive themselves (Drivers would rather buy a self-driving car from Google than GM). What will be the licensing requirements for owners, not drivers, of “auto autos”? Will there ever again be a need for “Student Driver” signs?

Refrigerators now have IP addresses and can tell you, and the world, when you’re out of milk. Is it any wonder that Amazon is starting overnight grocery delivery service in the Los Angeles and Seattle areas? No more phone calls to pick up milk on the way home and eventually, no more grocery stores.

Another technological frontier overcome. Virgin Atlantic (and others) has free cell phone service in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean; gone is the eight hours of escape from phone calls and text messages. Think of 275 passengers’ texting and calling in a tube flying at 37,000 feet; could this be the beginning (or the resurrection of) the flying phone booth?

And this is one I’ve been waiting for, courtesy of the Interwebs: “Army of Robot Baristas Could Mean the End of Starbucks as We Know It.” Starbucks has 95,000 baristas that can be replaced with a machine. My first thought is, no one will be able to tell the difference. My second thought is, yes they will, the product will finally be consistent from store to store. Here is another example of the caffeinated product revolution. The University of Texas at Austin installed a Briggo coffee kiosk that takes up 50 square feet of floor space (but no drive-in). It comes with an app that can memorize your order and payment information and can place your order in one click, remotely, in advance of your arrival.

Replacing baristas not in your current reality? How about replacing your boss with a remote presence, tele-embodiment robot (otherwise known as “Robot-Boss”)? Only a cute bit suitable for Sheldon Cooper and The Big Bang Theory? Think again. In the last five years several companies have produced truly functioning telepresence robots – inexpensive, simple, networked, tele-operated mobile robots. They are a vessel for human beings, a functional approximation of remote presence. Not in your lifetime you say? Check out Suitable Technologies and Beam, “The premier remote presence solution.”

Which brings us to the premise and rationale for this missive.

The AV industry is very good at creating the exceptional experience in conference rooms and meeting spaces. You take a blank canvas, bring in components and devices from different companies, connect them together and give the client the ability to communicate. Why not build upon that expertise to embrace all aspects of the fully integrated conference room, i.e., the smart space, as a first step toward Smart Buildings?

The basic AV industry skills focus on integrating sound, motion and light to communicate information to humans. The smart space concept adds HVAC (EMS), lighting control, occupancy sensors, telephony, digital signage and other components to the standard conference room AV setup. Add integration with an enterprise calendaring system and you have a smart space.

Smart buildings are essentially a collection of smart spaces, connected together with data acquisition and dissemination at one centralized device. The missing piece is the methodology to convey that information to the space/building users. Building occupants want to know what their building is doing and what effect they have on its operation. What better opportunity for the AV industry than to supply that missing piece? The exceptional experience through the application of sound, motion and light? From LED lobby lighting that changes color as the space/building uses more energy, to digital signs in the hallways comparing current energy usage to the previous years. There are not only opportunities to integrate the digital technology of smart spaces/buildings, but, more importantly, the opportunity to “humanize” smart buildings.

About Allen Weidman

Allen Weidman is Sustainability Officer for InfoComm International and Executive Director of the STEP Foundation. He has more than 30 years of association experience and has worked with the EPA, U.S. Department of Energy, and federal and state regulatory agencies. For more, visit the Blogger Bios page.

One Response to “AV System Integrators Can Save Us from Dumb Buildings While Saving Themselves”

  1. I am assuming the lack of response to this article is due to how little AV integrators see this as an opportunity. I believe that the time is NOW to jump on this facet of building integration. If we as an industry don’t lead the way other sections of the IT/electrical/mechanical industry will take over our AV portion. It is my firm belief that if we don’t assert ourselves into this conversation now, we will lose our place at the table.