ISE's Mike Blackman on the Marriage of AV and IT

Last year, Integrated Systems Europe’s Managing Director Mike Blackman predicted even bigger things for ISE 2016, including more space, more exhibitors, and an attendance to surpass the 50,000 that walked the RAI in 2015.

By early October last year, ISE organisers were proud to announce that the show floor was sold out—up by 11 percent over the last edition—an encouraging sign with one more day added to the show to accommodate greater foot fall. With ISE’s focus on bridging the gap between IT and AV this year, Blackman talks with HiddenWires about what tools integration professionals can take away to continue leading the ‘Smart Home’ charge. 

What can we look forward to at ISE 2016? What are you most excited about for this year’s show?

We’re looking forward to ISE being four days for the first time in its history. Not only will it give exhibitors and attendees more time with each other, but also the extra day means we have more education, training and specialist theatre sessions than ever before. That includes the Residential Solutions Theatre, which will showcase expertise from around the industry.

 You only need to glance along the list of home automation exhibitors to see the strength of coverage, which includes a number of new exhibitors alongside all of the big names you would expect.

Generally speaking, I’m really looking forward to Dr. Michio Kaku’s Closing Keynote, taking place on the morning of the final day. He is a compelling character, with a unique perspective of the world and what the future holds. His keynote provides a genuine opportunity to hear from a genius of our time.

Last year’s Smart Building Conference took a Pan-European approach to examining both the commercial and residential integration market. What can we expect to be the focus of this year’s conference?
While the focus for this year’s Smart Building Conference continues to be pan-European, the theme is: ‘The Network is the Building’. As attendees have come to expect, the SBC will stage a full-day’s programme including expert speakers and thought leaders drawn from across the international smart building industry, who will explore how the IP backbone changes the way we work, the way we live, and the new services now possible with today's buildings. There will be two tracks: one for commercial and the other for residential. Visit the Smart Building Conference website for more information about the programme and for booking details.

ISE recently announced that it will be working with various IT brands to welcome this sector into the integration space, something that has been happening informally for the past few years. What will that partnership look like? How does ISE plan to introduce IT brands to the vast ISE world?
As you say, IT’s prominence in AV has been growing significantly in recent years. It’s a meeting of technologies that has resulted in a new generation of products and solutions. Historically, AV was something of an island of technology within the average business. It was all about projectors and screens and audio systems—all existing quite happily on their own, with no need for the typical IT department to even notice, let alone become involved.

AV technology is now much more network-centric. Two worlds that were once quite separate have joined forces to create intelligent products and intelligent solutions. Our focus, then, is on shining a light on this development and highlighting a narrative that is already there and making it accessible by driving awareness that ISE is an important show for IT professionals.

We understand that within the IT world the media forms opinions. As well as tailored campaigns aimed specifically at this market, we held a daylong workshop with key IT journalists. By strengthening the connection our aim is to build a value proposition for exhibitors and attendees.

The Smart Home concept seemed to have reached a fever pitch in the last year. Have you seen a shift in how residential systems integrators are engaging the concept beyond talking with architects and construction companies? If so, how so? What more can they do to push the concept while finding profitability?
Acknowledging where we are and foreseeing key industry trends will help integrators to find profitability. By focusing on technologically driven trends, integrators have an opportunity to grow their own businesses, while at the same time moving the smart home concept on.

There is a renewal in innovation and refinement, as sustainability takes a more prominent role in driving the market. With the growth of ‘smart’ home networking, we’re seeing the worlds of smart home and unified communications overlapping.

I believe 2016 will see custom integrators designing and installing systems that provide comfort, safety, control and connection that further enrich the home experience. And we’ll continue to see the evolution of IP connectivity as a key driver.

In terms of the viewing experience, that will be the impact of High Dynamic Range and Wide Colour Gamut. Immersive audio should gain traction as the availability of hardware and content increases. Voice command and recognition experiences will improve in quality and adoption rate, while the sharing economy should see integrators save money and even drive revenue that wasn’t previously accessible.

Have you seen a significant shift within our industry in implementing education and training programmes that focus on smart building—both for the integrator and the client? What more can be done?
The industry understands that for true progression, technological innovation has to be matched by education and training that addresses the challenges that are unique to smart building projects. CEDIA is doing lots of exceptional work in this area and now offers over 100 online resources for self-paced training. CEDIA’s latest training is more mobile friendly and has more interactive elements that cater to the learner, including scenario-based activities that test the learners’ comprehension throughout the course.

Speaking generally, there’s always room for improvement. As the industry’s understanding about the benefits of education and training continues to rise, so too will its scope and accessibility.

ISE have a number of seminar theatres on the show floor with more than 1,000 exhibitors spread across the RAI. What are your expectations with the uptake in attendance? Are there any standout seminars you would encourage residential custom integrators to attend?

With the show floor growing to around 43,000m2 and with the addition of the fourth day, naturally we are optimistic about the attendance figure for ISE 2016. Our objective is to create an environment that is conducive to productive business relationships. We’re confident that we will continue to do that in 2016.

In terms of seminars: I’d encourage everybody to check out the full schedule of CEDIA, InfoComm and Show Floor Theatre sessions on the ISE website. There are so many intriguing sessions and each person’s needs are different. It pays to do your research and plan your days at ISE 2016 beforehand, so that you can fit everything in. That would be my number-one recommendation.

Looking forward to ISE 2017, which will again be adding space to the current layout, what do you anticipate will be the major technology draws for both commercial and residential players?
Though it’s early days for ISE 2017, it’s already clear that home automation and smart buildings will have an even bigger presence at next year’s show. For now, we’re focused on making ISE 2016 the best experience that we can for its participants and then building on that for 2017.

Llanor Alleyne is the Editor of HiddenWires.

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