As Hurricane Dorian makes its way across the lower part of the US, we discuss what can be done to keep systems secure during extreme weather conditions like a hurricane. Looking at the protocols in place for AV during natural disasters.
London-based SPOR AV is looking to create a standard for conference collaboration rooms. Are pre-designed collaboration rooms viable for integrators? Considering when it’s time for pre-fab and time to get customized for your client.
Tim Albright: On this episode of AV Week, we take a look at developing a contingency and backup plan in case of a disaster. And debating bespoke versus one size fits all AV. All that and more, next on AV Week.
Tim Albright: The network for the AV industry. What are you listening to?
Tim Albright: This is AV Week, Episode 420. Recorded Friday, September 6th, 2019. Rapid AV.
Tim Albright: Support for AV Nation is brought to you by Peerless-AV, driving technology through innovation. And by Biamp. And by FSR.
Tim Albright: This is AV Week, your weekly wrap up of audiovisual news and information. My name is Tim Albright, I am your host. With us to discuss news and information we have got this week. First and foremost, my buddy and pal, and AV guru extraordinaire Mr. Brock McGinnis. How are you sir?
Brock McGinnis: I am well. And thank you for having me on again Tim, it’s been far too long.
Tim Albright: Absolutely. And we will point out if you’re not watching the video, Brock McGinnis’s fancy-schmancy “AV in the AM” shirt or jacket. You can actually buy those now, so you can get ahold of
us, let us know on Twitter.
Tim Albright: Also with us is Cassie Berger. Cassie is from Sure, up in Chicago, welcome ma’am.
Cassie Berger: Thank you for having me. Happy to be here.
Tim Albright: Surely. And last but not least, Jim Jachetta from VidOvation. Jim and I connected right before Infocom actually this year. So welcome Jim, how are you sir?
Jim Jachetta: How are you, Tim? Thank you for having me. Good to be here.
Tim Albright: We are recording this on Friday the 6th of September. As we’re recording this, Hurricane Dorian is making its way up the East Coast of the United States. Currently, the last report I had, was that it’s right around the South Carolina, North Carolina area. The reason I bring this up, is as you are watching this, and the Bahamas got absolutely decimated. Parts of Florida were affected, parts of Georgia and on up the coast. As I’m watching this and actually talking with some folks in the industry that are being impacted by this, one of the things that we were talking about were the number of systems that were being impacted, both Audio/Visual as well as electrical and other systems such as cell phone and emergency notification systems. That led me to ask the question here, is “what can we do in the AV industry to protect ourselves, to get ourselves ready?” Whether it’s a hurricane, which is probably one of the worst natural disasters that somebody is going to be effected by, or maybe something lesser. Talking about large amounts of rain, live events, stuff like that.
Tim Albright: Brock, I’m going to start with you on this because Westbury not only does, obviously, some pretty impressive installs, but you also do a number of live events in the Toronto area and beyond. What are some ways that we can protect ourselves and protect our customers as we’re looking at contingencies, acts of God?
Brock McGinnis: Weather’s terrifying because it’s the one element that we can’t really control. And so all you can do is protect and prevent against those things that you can. Our live events teams, when they’re rigging outdoor stages for festivals, we have mobile trucks, mobile stages, they are incredibly safety conscious. And more so and more so all the time because of the number of tragic accidents that have occurred within the industry. And so it’s a case of if you think you need a couple of hundred pounds of water on the end of every rope that’s holding a tent or something, make it 500 pounds. Because it’s really all that you can do. There are some very important AV people that will have been involved in the Dorian storm and others. People manning emergency operation centers. And the technology that has been involved at NASA, at other agencies, I am in awe of those people and the efforts that they put in. When water’s coming in your second-floor windows, nobody cares about the TV. Nobody cares about AV.
Brock McGinnis: But our emergency operations brethren and the folks in the industry that specialize in ensuring those systems are up and running that have multiple layers and levels of connectivity to video, to the internet, to satellite communication, my hat’s off to them, they’ve had a heck of a week.
Tim Albright: And it’s still continuing, so. Jim, same kind of question to you. The innovation not only of commercial AV, but also of broadcast. Take it from both sides of that and what we can do.
Jim Jachetta: Yeah, I can think of several examples in the more AV space, we do a lot of work building in house IP TV systems, television distribution systems, digital signage systems. We just finished last week an installation at Paramount Pictures lighting up their whole lot with DirecTV, moving stage feeds around the campus, and we have a secondary phase to the system where we’re going to integrate EAS, or emergency alert system. So maybe more of a preventative measure so people can evacuate a facility, a public facility. Nowadays every management company, building owner, landlord, they’re all concerned of an active shooter on campus. What do we do? What are the procedures? So the television system can be an important piece of alerting the general public or alerting your employees. We’ve done work with casinos, so it’s more of a public announcement. So you have members of the public in your casino that need to evacuate versus, on the enterprise side, where it’s more about employees and alerting them to evacuate.
Jim Jachetta: On the broadcast side, the communication systems are usually more critical. On the AV side, if somebody’s conference room projector goes out, business is not going to stop. But if a broadcaster, where the show is the main source of revenue, you want everything dual redundant, triple-redundant, quadruple redundant. An example that comes to mind is the Super Bowl in 2013 where they lost part of the lighting due to an electrical outage in the stadium. The game had to be halted, the field wasn’t properly lit, the broadcasters lost, I think they only had one camera on. So that was a major disaster and the question was, a faulty relay I believe was blamed on that. The electric company pointed at the stadium owner for doing something wrong. The stadium pointed at the local power authority, “Why did you put the wrong relay in?” Or a faulty relay. But someone should have had back up generators. There should have been event power. I mean, you know this Brock, I’m sure you have Caterpillar or somebody with multiple.
Brock McGinnis: Trucks and trucks.
Jim Jachetta: Exactly, generators need to be there and you would think that would be out of the purview of the broadcaster, but if you don’t have any electricity, you’re going to be knocked off the air. I always ask my customers, “How important is this television transmission?” At vidOvation we move video from point A to point B, so are you the primary rights holder? If this video goes down for 3 minutes, what is that going to cost you? We’ll we’re charging 4 million dollars per minute for advertising, so I guess if we go down for 4 minutes, that’s 8 million dollars. So then maybe dual, triple, quadruple redundancy on all aspects: power, connectivity, communications, even personnel makes sense.
Tim Albright: Cassie, from your standpoint and what you’ve seen, what are ways that we can encourage customers, if they’re not even thinking about, like Jim said, the redundancy, whether that’s power or that’s transmission, or that’s wireless whatever it is. The wisdom of a redundant system.
Cassie Berger: You know, I don’t know if it’s, yes, that’s a huge point. It’s all about being prepared right. And we prepare ourselves in so many other regards in the case that something would happen. But I don’t think we train and instruct on what to do from an AV stand point in this scenario as much as we should. We talk about system security, we talk about security from an IT perspective, so how do we make sure that our devices are encrypted for example. But we don’t talk about actual physical security. And when we’re talking about natural disasters, what is the back up plan? And something that we do have is, we have standards. There are standards in place with this in mind and this type of consideration, but nobody really knows about them. So how do we train on standardization, so when you have a natural disaster or you have an outage a a main sport facility, what is the protocol? What do you do? And how do you relay that message to everybody else? Is it equipping these emergency response teams with better AV systems so they can better respond?
Cassie Berger: You’re talking about communication, and all of a sudden you lose the ability for loved ones to communicate back and forth when something like the Bahamas happens and an entire island is out and they send emergency response teams in. But the big thing is to make sure that these people can then better communicate with the loved ones on a different island or back on the mainland for example. So I think from our perspective, it’s how do you A) develop that type of system from a manufacturing standpoint. How do we make sure that we’re fail proof in that environment? And then how do you standardize it properly and is that going through a larger organization or creating a standard practice for AV? And then how do you deliver it and how do you train on it? So I think those are weak points for us right now in all frankness. And it’s something to consider. Certainly, obviously natural disasters, but in live performance, something like the stadium losing power, what is that backup plan. It comes back to education I think, and standardization.
Tim Albright: Very good. All right our next topic comes to us from our friends over at AV Magazine. A London based start-up is focusing on standardized rooms co-founders Chris Spence and Chris Gore, are looking at honestly creating these, not simplified systems, but very standard systems that work at conferences and collaborations solutions. Deploying them quickly, but it’s a one size fits all type approach. Jim, I want to start with you on this. When it comes to getting into, whether it’s unified communication or it’s broadcast, or it’s a general conference room, what’s the wisdom behind a standard, out of the box, one size fits all, versus the spoke system?
Jim Jachetta: Well most of our customers have unique needs. Typically when we engage with a customer, our vis development department will ask some qualifying questions of the customer. And then once a project seems real, that the customer has budget to do this project, we’ll do an engineering discovery call. Most of our systems are standards based and we try to build systems that are open in architecture. I think a lot of the standards in our industry, or in video or television in general, broadcast has always been standards based. And I think maybe in the early days of AV, it was a little bit more of the Wild West, getting one vendors gear to communicate properly with another vendor’s gear was more of a challenge and an art. And you kind of had to design the whole room around one vendor just because of interoperability problems. So technical standards are, I’m an engineer at my core so I love standards I love rules, you know, we love that, we love structure.
Jim Jachetta: But I think not every customer has a budget for a customized system. So if there’s a standard, here’s your typical conference room with a display or a projector and a certain type of Crestron or AMX control and a certain type of communication system, phone systems, et cetera. I don’t think that’s a bad thing. At least it’s a starting point. Then if a customer wants to customize from there, it gives a starting point. I imagine the cost would be well defined as well if it’s a standard configuration or a standard footprint. I don’t know if that’s the answer you were looking for.
Tim Albright: Perfect, yeah.
Jim Jachetta: Maybe Brock can elaborate a little bit.
Tim Albright: Cassie, real quick. Cassie, before we said she worked for an integrator here in St. Louis as an engineer. Talk for a second, because the two gentlemen here talk about time wasted on bespoked right. Talk about that for a second. Is that really, in your opinion, time wasted? Or is there some value there in spending some extra time, maybe on a base system that then you can augment with some additional time engineering to make it a bit more fit a clients needs?
Cassie Berger: Yes, so design time, you’re cutting down significantly on implementation time right. Because every time you engage your engineer it’s $90 to $120 an hour to have the custom design, build a space. If you as a salesperson need that AV technical [inaudible] you can’t do it. So if you have a base standard, I think it cuts down on that time, and from a sales perspective it’s great. However, it needs to be scalable. You need to make sure that whatever that design is, it’s scalable to the specific needs of that customer. As a salesperson or an engineer, hopefully you’ll just have to come in and make it custom to a point to make it scalable based on the size of the space, whatever that might be.
Cassie Berger: And then the biggest point I think for us now as we’re seeking more of those standard rooms is [inaudible] right. That service is really the big point in this. It should be a base standard room scalable. You use the same concept with preferred vendors every time around, so you’re not guessing what you have to use. What products you have to use, if they speak together, if they work, if it’s and open AVI. You’re not taking into consideration all those facts because you know it does, it’s the standard. However, what your real value is moving forward as a service provider, is hopefully tacking on that service into a service clause, and you’re following up with firmware updates every 3 months or whatever it might be, but that’s really the value add. I think standardizing on design is great. Pick those preferred vendors, hopefully a handful so you’re not guessing if the products work together well if they have open AVIs or not. And make it scalable and tack on the service agreement at the end of the day.
Tim Albright: Also, as a former programmer you can also reuse a lot of code. If you have to
Cassie Berger: And that’s what it should be. Being able to create that reuse as much as possible, but also make it scalable so it’s more specific to the customer.
Tim Albright: Brock, same type question to you. What is the value of bespoke versus these standards based rooms that are kind of one size fits all?
Brock McGinnis: So these guys at SPOR, I don’t know if it’s SPOR or SPOR AV, I think they are brilliant. They’re solving the problem of time. If you go on their website, and I encourage people to do so, there’s a room configurator and it asks you what you want to do with the room. And then it asks you what the size of the room is? Is it 4-8 people, is it 8-10 people? And then it asks what size display you’d like, 55 inch, 65 inch, 75 inch. You click the button and it gives you a system. And that system has a price on it. And it doesn’t matter where in the UK they’re delivering it, that’s what the price is. They don’t tell you the brand name of anything. T
Brock McGinnis: hey tell you that it does soft conferencing, with whatever soft conference client you plug in here. It works every time. You don’t need any third party control. And you can buy that system today and have it delivered next week or the week after. That’s the problem that this company is solving. Rapid deployment, rapid delivery. Because to the consumer, the meeting room user, the brands mean nothing. Sorry about that Cassie.
Cassie Berger: It’s okay, it cuts deep.
Brock McGinnis: But the brands don’t mean anything. And it doesn’t really matter if it’s an LG TV or and NEC TV or a Samsung TV. That matters to us, but it doesn’t matter to them. And so I hope David Dontel listens to this, because he and I have been debating customized systems versus standardized systems, plug and play, for probably a decade now within the industry. And I’ve always been with Cassie. You got to go with custom because it’s got to fit exactly what the customer’s requirements are, and the room, and it has to be supported. And every customer is different. And the reality is that SONOS pretty much goes in every house and works well in every house and doesn’t need to be customized, and delivers a good enough experience, and that’s what these folks at SPOR are doing. They’re delivering a good enough meeting experience. They’re doing it quickly and they’re probably doing it cost effectively.
Cassie Berger: Brock, can I ask a question about that really quick? Are they selling this as managed services from the standpoint of they technically own the gear, but this is a five year contract with the customer?
Brock McGinnis: No no. It’s a room in a box. The room that I looked at was 8,395 pounds delivered and installed.
Cassie Berger: So where is value add? Do they, this also goes back to service agreement, are they selling some type of service clause so they’re still engaged with the customer? Or is it a “Here you go, I’m done. On to the next?”
Brock McGinnis: I used Starbucks K-cups for my coffee in the morning. I can buy them at my local supermarket or I can buy them from Amazon. And Amazon is pretty much the same price as my local supermarket. Amazon delivers them to me every month. And the value add for these folks is delivery. This is an IT manager, stereotypically, she or he is looking to service their clients within the enterprise. They’re told they need a soft conferencing meeting room because what they have now, can I say “sucks” on this show, Tim? What they have now sucks. And so they look online, they find a solution, this looks great. It looks like a reliable package from a dependable company. I’m going to buy one and it’s going to show up at the loading dock and then I can move this off of my to-do list and move on with my life.
Jim Jachetta: So it’s not installed?
Brock McGinnis: No no. They’ll install it.
Jim Jachetta: They’ll send an installer. Then to Cassie’s point, is there some sort of a service agreement. You know, six months in the thing stops working. Support and service is a big element of our business. Our IPTV system, somebody they need to change their channel line up. It’s usually not a technical problem, it’s usually like a user preference change that kind of thing. So who supports that? Is that built in?
Brock McGinnis: I don’t know because I haven’t gone that deep into what their service offering is. It’s certainly something that we at Westbury focus on as well. But generally simple systems, this is not a lot different than the system that I have in my living room. This doesn’t need a lot of support. These are basic systems. This system costs, I don’t know, in US dollars, maybe its $10,000. And they’re a lot of 5 and 10 thousand dollar rooms. Zoom rooms are being purchased by customers with the parts list. And pretty much anybody can put those together, with the exception of, perhaps of hanging a display on a wall.
Brock McGinnis: There is a customer segment that’s going to buy this because it’s fast and because it’s simple. Is it tailored to their exact requirements and their software and their room? No. Fortunately for those of us in the systems integration business, there are still lots of those rooms available. But I want to sell these rooms too. Because these rooms solve a problem for a specific kind of customer. The stock is on the shelf. They’re buying their TVs by the 50s instead of the 1s. They’re not having to wait for somebody to deliver. It’s all kitted out. And pretty much Geek Squad can go and install this. There’s no rocket science. There’s not CTS required. There’s no code, it just works.
Cassie Berger: I almost feel like that’s concerning to the integrators. To national integrators, to any integrator, because you’re taking away the need for one, essentially. And you’re saying “Hey now work with an IT consultant on the side who’s going to do your firmware updates or manage your system, or provide you analytics and reporting on the usage.” Yeah, that IT consultant is now going to make a ton of money. But there’s no need for the integrator if somebody can go in and install it, until we get a call from the manufacturer perspective saying “My system’s optimal, now I’ve got issues with X Y and Z products, can you help me?” And we have to sort that through somebody.
Cassie Berger: But also, as a manufacturer, we find the value in making sure products are approved to buy. And they have to go through training, even if the product is as simple as plopping it into a room, table, whatever, and it’s up and running. We still make that product approved to buy. So we’re keeping the channel condensed down to integrators where we’ve worked with in the past or that we know are capable of integrating that entire system. It would be more cost beneficial to us to make it an Amazon product and say anybody can go online and buy any of our products, certainly. But we do see the importance of still utilizing that channel. So I think it’s a great structure for certain applications. I’m a little concerned by that if our industry is too in the direction of adapting to that. It’s kind of concerning to me.
Brock McGinnis: I think the mics on the desk that they’re selling might be MX396s And by the way, those are available on Amazon. But an MXA is a different that requires some expertise, especially now you can’t hang it from a ceiling.
Cassie Berger: You had to go there, too soon!
Brock McGinnis: I had to go there. We crossed over into Jim’s world and we actually suspended MXA-910s over the Toronto Raptor’s basketball court. To provide better audio into the club suite. So this is on court audio, every profanity, every grunt, every slap at considerable volume into the money suites. And it’s spectacular.
Cassie Berger: That is truly awesome. Thank you! That’s amazing.
Brock McGinnis: It is truly awesome. So I’ll just close the loop. You said this must be of concern to integrators, of course it scares the living daylights out of us. Because that’s not the way that we’ve always done business. And so, what we need to do is change the way that we do business so that we can meet, if we want to meet this particular customer type’s requirements. So it’s probably more SMB, or more local, regional government, as opposed to National. More SMB than enterprise, because the enterprise who’s rolling out 400 rooms a month, they just want somebody to take care of it. Somebody else take care of it. And they’ve got the money, they’re spending somebody else’s money. Get it off their desk. But if I’ve got eight rooms, I’m running an accounting firm or a legal firm, I need places to do soft conferencing, and I don’t want to have to sit through a sales pitch from an AV integrator who’s language I don’t understand.
Cassie Berger: Good point.
Brock McGinnis: And is talking to me about AVB and AEC and Dante and HDMI, and AV over IP. It’s like, no, no, no, no, no. I want a conference room. I want to make a presentation. What do I need? Give me something. So most integrators have standardized systems in their bag already. I believe, including your former employer is CTI correct? And so they have some specific and this is to help their customers make fast and easy choices, reuse the same code.
Jim Jachetta: Our IPTV systems, we have modules. You don’t have to buy the digital signage module but it’s a line item software that you add. And we activate it with a license. So there are cookie cutter elements to our system, but then there is always a customizable element to it as well.
Brock McGinnis: Is that a segue into the next topic Tim?
Tim Albright: It actually is not, it’s a segue into thanking you guys so much. We’ve had very good conversation. We’ve pushed up against our time here. We will put a link to our last article, which was fascinating conversation from our friends over at SCN about the future of AV and some really smart people that I want you to take a listen and watch. So go check out that video as well.
Tim Albright: So thank you all so much. Mr. Brock, how do people find you or Westbury?
Brock McGinnis: I’m @brockmcginnis on Twitter. Occasional prolific. And westbury.com, based in a rainy Toronto this afternoon.
Tim Albright: Very good. Cassie Berger from Shure, thank you ma’am.
Cassie Berger: Thank you. Appreciate it and you can find me on LinkedIn. Cassie Berger, B-E-R-G-E-R. And then check out our webpage, Shure.com, we have some great articles on there, updates to products, everything you need.
Tim Albright: And Jim Jachetta, thank you sir, from VidOvation.
Cassie Berger: Yeah, you can find me on social media, Jim Jachetta. My name’s pretty unique. J-A-C-H-E-T-T-A. And you can learn more about VidOvation at vidovation.com. That’s VIDOVATION.COM. Thank you so much.
Tim Albright: For me, for AV Nation, don’t follow me on the Twitters because this is the Friday after the Thursday night Bear’s game which, yeah, was bad if you’re a Bear’s fan. Go by the website at avnation.tv. That’s avnation.tv. You’ll find this program and host of others. Good Lord do we have a whole lot of things coming down the pipeline. This is going to post on Monday. If you would do me a huge favor, check out the website on Tuesday, we have a brand new show coming down the pipeline that I’m really really passionate about. It’s taken about 3-4 months of editing and swearing and doing all this other stuff. We’re sitting down with some CEOs, we’re calling it The Executive Chair. It’s half an hour ish, with these folks. And we’re getting into some nitty gritty, getting into some how they get things done, some personal triumphs and failures of theirs. So check that out, it comes out this Tuesday, called The Executive Chair.
Tim Albright: Also while you’re there, we also are heading to CEDIA this week. Matt, Scott, Rich Pagosa and myself are heading out to Denver to cover everything residential in the world of AV so check all that stuff out and more. Also check out our supporter section. These are the folks who help us financially, help us bring you AV Week and CEDIA and all that and more. And Shure is one of those, we thank them for their support. So all that and more at avnation.tv, that’s avnation.tv. Thanks so much for listening, thank you so much for watching. That is all the time we have for AV Week.