November 18, 2013

Edge-Wise: Getting a Word in on Industry Dynamics and Trends

Sometimes irreverent always timely, our Edge-Wise series cuts through the clutter and inspires you to build your competitive edge with quick thoughts on industry nuances and dynamics.

Technology Transfer and AV/IT "Volleyball"

By Jeanne Stiernberg - Principal Consultant 

The conversation about AV/IT integration & has been percolating for over a decade. And from the AV industry's standpoint, this dialectic has tilted toward IT converging in on AV. Yet, the two fields have been interacting dynamically in multi-faceted ways. Although the IT-toward-AV directionality trend is more noticeable, the interaction between the audio-visual and information technology (AV/IT) worlds is more a game of "volleyball" - a broader, bi-directional reciprocal interplay, with the net getting lower every day.

Jeanne Stiernberg​A key driver of this convergence is the dynamic of technology transfer, which occurs when knowledge or methodology from one field is adopted by another field. Scientific and business innovations and discoveries made in one arena can be learned and adapted to other--often disparate--arenas, allowing for leapfrogging of technology and technical knowledge. We can thank these forces of technology transfer, and what NASA calls "spin-offs," for (now mainstream) LEDs, infrared cameras, GPS, smoke detectors, barcoding (from the railroad scheduling industry), and joystick controllers. And speaking of joysticks, one catalytic example of technology transfer in the volley between IT and AV is video games.

The video game industry is large and growing, and continually borrows digital audio and video technology from our industry. Audio gaming elements came of age in the AV world ("AV to IT"), as did much of the video technology. With its industry growing and expanding robustly, game technology developers are advancing new ways to create larger-than-life, immersive audio and video experiences. It could be that the AV industry will be the benefactor of these new cutting edge developments (e.g. in the areas of 3-D, 5.1 surround over headphones, etc.). So the technology ball may well come back over the net from game technology to drive innovation of audio and video technologies relevant to the core AV systems industry. And, by the way, as the AV/IT industry seeks new talent, it's no stretch to think that the game industry has already bred a crop of bright minds to cultivate for core AV research and development.

Technology transfer is actually a subset of the broader force of knowledge transfer. Although the term "knowledge transfer" is most commonly applied within a given organization to broaden the skill-set of employees (think training and certification programs), the concept has profound pan-industry implications. Processes, constructs, and paradigms that migrate from innovations in one industry are subsequently applied in another.  For example, the "project management" approach to manufacturing was pioneered by Henry Gantt (read: "Gantt Charts") for shipbuilding in World War 1. 

There are two critical success factors that are key to our industry embracing more technology transfer opportunities. One is to be open to learning new "languages"-new terminology for familiar technology and product concepts. The second requirement is to see our industry in the larger external context of the sciences, the markets, and applied human perceptual processing. As John Donne said, "No man is an island." We contend that no industry is an island either.

Paradox conclusion: The converged AV/IT industry is part of a larger technology world (on both the receiving side and the innovating side).

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