AV in Focus at the Montreux Jazz Festival
Shure invited leading AV integrators, consultants and decision-makers to Switzerland in July to discuss the latest market trends and future technologies set to impact the audiovisual sector.
This year's Audio Executive Forum took place amidst the great music and beautiful setting of the Montreux Jazz Festival, where Shure has been technical partner for a quarter of a century. The Microflex® Complete Wireless Conferencing System, enabling audience participation at the touch of a button, played a starring role at the AV summit, which carried the theme "The Future of Collaboration."
We chose Montreux for a number of reasons: Shure has been providing on-site support at the legendary event for years. The festival's two-week long structure and relaxed pace also provides a unique opportunity to interact with system integrators – to hear their challenges, learn what questions and issues they face when installing Shure products and share some of our vision.
A Vision of the Future
This edition of the Audio Executive Forum featured a presentation by guest speaker Jess Kimball Leslie. As Chief Futurist at Ogilvy RED, Leslie has a strong vision of what work will look like in the coming years, taking her cues from macroeconomic shifts that many of us would fail to spot on a day-to-day basis.
One key trend she identified included the formation and expansion of massive organizations which are increasingly employing fewer people while expanding into ever more markets.
Fueling this will be growth in the freelance labor market. Freelancers can work all over the world, they have a very valuable skillset and they're able to command a premium when they work with companies. These people are expensive to employ, so companies often chose to pay freelancers highly but not employ them full-time.
Many more of us will become "super temps" in the near future, which will give people the freedom they enjoy while offering cost benefits to businesses. Technology will be crucial to integrating more and more super temps into a company's operations – such as software providing workers with exactly the information they need, when they need it, but also allowing them to share and communicate with others within the organization.
The Rise of the Super Temp
As super temps, people are a lot less likely to be defined by a single career, becoming "multi-hyphenates" rather than being siloed into a single role – meaning we'll be able to use multiple skills and passions to pursue several different roles.
In this environment, collaboration tools will become a massively important point of differentiation. Increasingly, users will demand the best tools to ensure a job can be done effectively. There will be zero tolerance for any tool that can't perform at the optimum level. Or as Leslie said: "It's the most wonderful time to be obsessive about making things as perfect as they can be."
Access to high-quality conferencing equipment will be key, so for Shure this could include installations in communal workspaces and airport lounges, or even adopting a long-term rental model.
What does it mean for AV?
This presentation was followed by two roundtables featuring Shure personnel. Here the discussions covered a number of key topics, picking up on points made by Leslie and tying them in to the AV world.
Not surprisingly, the issue of AV/IT convergence sparked a lot of debate. Recently, Shure has engaged more and more with IT managers, trying to ensure that we're delivering relevant products and relevant information, and making it accessible to those people who may not come from the AV world.
"With all products, we think about how an IT manager wants to manage them," Doug Daube, Shure Global Product Manager, explained. "They don't want to manage them in a completely different workload to how they manage their existing assets. So we've begun to develop tools such as SystemOn, which has the ability to manage a lot of assets from one location. Bridging that towards the future, what IT professionals want is to have that information feed up to their master view of the entire organization, so that's our next step."
The idea is that this will make it easier for consultants and integrators to take Shure products to the end customer and to speak to them in their language. This certainly seemed to go down well with the audience, who also believed it was up to the vendors to convince IT managers that products are secure and that we understand the reality of bandwidth limitations and we work within them.
This enables us to consider future trends such as voice recognition and command, machine learning, AR/VR and gesture recognition. The general theme is trying to keep our eyes and ears open to what's coming down the pipeline and future-proof the business as much as possible.
Looking to New Technologies
When it came to future technologies that could impact the AV world, voice recognition and command, combined with machine learning, was seen as one that could clearly make its mark.
As Peter James, Managing Director of Shure Distribution UK, pointed out, voice recognition is highly dependent on the quality of the audio. However, using voice in a professional environment would be very different to using it at home. Searching for content and lower learning curves with user interfaces are two immediate examples of how voice could benefit users.
Interestingly, the audience was of the opinion that a company the size of Shure should be looking to shape the industry both in terms of researching new technologies and their impact on customers and when it comes to standards and web protocols.
Although there is some convergence with the likes of Dante and AES67, the AV world continues to be disparate. The desire for a universally accepted standard solution would make life easier across the board and the view is that Shure has a role to play in driving this forward.
Making the Right Investments
Another important issue that continues to crop up was the reluctance of some organizations to invest sufficiently in good audio – many having a "good enough" mentality and others only investing in client-facing spaces, thus failing to realize the importance of internal collaboration.
"This is about your voice. It is not about your experience in the room so much as it is about how other people perceive you," said Erik Vaveris, Associate Vice President of Global Marketing at Shure. "If you want to come across as confident, if you want the full impact of your message to be heard by customers, employees, suppliers, partners, peers, etcetera, then you need to pay attention to audio. You want your voice to come through with all of its power."
The audience was particularly vocal on this point, with many having experiences of being pushed on price or having to contend with clients simply not seeing the value in AV, choosing instead to spend on furniture and accessories.
The answer here could be educating the wider audience and offering more demos that show the difference in quality, rather than simply trying to explain it. The cloud is also seen as a great opportunity to make collaboration simple and seamless while potentially offering a more uniform approach to how everything works, which could encourage user interest.
Change is Good
With so much change ahead it wouldn't be a surprise if many participants of the forum viewed the future with trepidation. However, the overwhelming feeling in Montreux was one of excitement about the opportunities ahead.
IT teams need specialist AV help and not just with audio but with security, lighting, fire safety. All of this is providing opportunities for integrators to collaborate with more people, growing their knowledge and skillsets and, in turn, being able to lead discussions and make shape business decisions.
Also, the threat of machines taking over doesn't appear to worry AV professionals just yet, especially since the industry is used to working with new technologies.
As one member of the audience said: "We adapt – it's what we do."
Read our full report from Montreux for more information.