17.06.16

Project Design: Staying in Step with AV Technology Changes

Project Design_July 2016

Whether the impact is positive or negative, today’s technology and the rate at which it is developing is an on-going discussion point on the lips of our industry peers.

We see it in our everyday life: We look forward to the launch of a new gadget; we defer a purchase while we wait for the launch of a new mobile phone; or, in commercial circles, defer specifying a new AV technology product while we wait for the latest standard.

However, once the initial excitement is over and the dust settles we are left with the question: Are these new products or standards actually going to work within this tight and seamless ship I am running? 

In the slower-paced analogue age, one would spend hours working their way through the user manual quite literally from over to cover. Today we consume information at an unprecedented pace. The sheer speed in which technology develops means that what is cutting edge today is thrown away tomorrow. When considering this, the accessibility of available information could be considerable outweighed by the level of time investment required for its absorption and this means it’s easy to get lazy.

Naturally, human beings like to feel comfortable. Often this means that it may be considered a safe option to just stick to what we know. Maybe this is down to habit or even instinct, or quite simply just because we like to know what is expected of us. This, however, is a lethal comfort-zone for a custom installer to inhabit and as a professional it is vital we actively push ourselves to constantly break into the unknown.

The custom installation industry is flooded with an array of technologies. Most, if not all, develop exponentially and extremely quickly and being on the front line of our industry we should always endeavour to constantly build and develop our knowledge bases. This not only enables us to keep up with the latest trends and tools but also ensures that we can provide our clients with the best solutions with which to incorporate the most cutting-edge services and systems. As a designer providing a service, I strive to work under the ethos that time investment spent learning and developing in order to keep abreast of these changes actually forms a large part of my responsibility.

Knowledge and learning can be gained through many routes, be it by hands-on experience, by studying manufacturer training materials or undergoing industry training courses; all are good steps we can take. It’s also important to remember what’s obvious. For example, how easy it is to research using the information widely available on the internet or even just what can be learned from taking an hour out to just chat over a coffee at the latest trade show. 

Back to my original question; armed with the most solid of understandings, in practice how can we guarantee that the products that we incorporate within our installations are actually going to perform exactly to spec across every situation? Most importantly, what happens if they don’t?

Make no mistake about it, compatibility issues are going to cost you financially in one way or another, be it through time or money. This leads to frustration and often many default to pointing a finger of blame (which is probably not going to do anything but leave a bad impression!). I prefer to take a pragmatic approach and begin to look for a solution, always remembering that this situation is an opportunity to learn.

First, we must factor in where the issues are coming from: Is it one piece of equipment or multiple pieces. Is there a fault in the standard, can the manufacturer find (and address) the issue or even answer the questions I have? Finally if the issues cannot be resolved then a second solution must be identified.

The two most common questions we will all find ourselves answering at one stage or another are as follows: Is it a failure within the manufacturer's equipment? Has there been a problem within the system design?

It is important not to look at these situations as failures but try to consider them as a step forward. The subsequent testing and troubleshooting will not only make us collectively rich in knowledge – knowledge that you may not gain from that “one training course” or “something you read in a book” but that knowledge you will take with you to your next project - and by applying the learning will see you benefit financially in the long run.

Naturally, every industry requires progression and this is often dictated by developments through technology. This cycle is very apparent when it comes to the custom installation industry and we have to embrace it. If we do not embrace progression how do we succeed and learn?

There are many risks and complications in business. It’s how you deal with them that counts.

In the words of Mohammed Ali, “He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life.”

Kelly Ashforth is partner in designflow, a London-based AV project management and systems design firm. Awarded in interior design, AutoCAD and 3DsMAX throughout her college and university career, Ashforth gained her CCPD (CEDIA Certified Professional Designer) in 2008 when she joined a successful AV installation firm—becoming a systems designer and one of only two women in Europe with this accreditation at the time. Since then she has freelanced for numerous AV installation companies designing and project managing.