The convergence of AV and IT has been a hot topic lately, but it seems many questions have been left unanswered. Talk is cheap, after all—is this convergence actually happening? If so, is it happening in some industries more than others? Will there ever be complete convergence? How do we leverage the technologies together? It's time to eliminate the confusion and get answers.
So Many Questions, So Little Time
If you ask three different professionals whether AV and IT are converging, odds are you'll get three different answers. That's because, while there are or course similarities, each industry approaches AV integrations differently. Jeff Loether recently discussed the convergence of AV and IT in the hospitality field, for example, and predicted a 20 percent convergence—not for now, but forever. Why? Large-scale AV systems like those found in hotel conference rooms or ballrooms do not use off-the-shelf equipment or simply plug into the wall. Rather, the components require substantial engineering and knowledge of component integration capabilities to function on all cylinders. While there are software and other IT considerations, Loether doesn't predict they'll ever carry completely equal weight in part due to the fundamental difference between analog (AV) and digital (IT) technologies.
But that's just one opinion.
If you ask Jesse Anderson, who recently discussed AV and IT with the e-zine AV Network, he'd tell you things aren't only looking up for a total convergence—he believes that convergence is already here. Hailing from the academic space, Anderson is also the Erstwhile Chair for InfoComm Technology Managers Council and regularly visits InfoComm shows to check out the latest in educational AV offerings, so he's up to speed on the latest trends. He reported that he's been working with networked control and audio for some time and feels as though the industry needs to start leveraging IT standards via routes like modifying Service Level Agreements (SLAs).
Collaboration: The New Normal
Regardless of what camp you hail from when it comes to your view on AV/IT convergence, it's difficult to argue that both are increasingly relevant to how we live, work, and learn. Today's AV solutions go far beyond simple video conferencing, and today’s IT capabilities are widespread enough to leave fingerprints on every aspect of an organization. It seems, then, that collaboration—not strictly convergence—might just be the new normal.
Many video systems today, for example, are already being integrated into Unified Communications (UC) platforms that exist on IT networks. Conversely, those IT networks hold AV technologies like large-scale digital signage. Recent acquisitions by major vendors like Microsoft and Cisco further point to an AV-inclusive—not an AV-exclusive—future for IT.
However the AV and IT industries intermingle in the future, the success of that partnership will rely on the development of scalable, standardized models that satisfy the needs of clients from a variety of industries. After all, at the core of both AV and IT are the simple goals of streamlining processes and improving communication for all businesses, from the enterprise to SMBs. Together, it is possible.