InfoComm 2017 Review
Exciting New Products at InfoComm 2017
InfoComm 2017 was a great success with many products that either have never been seen or are vastly improved from previous generations in terms of functionality or aesthetics. This year I visited many of the key players as well as some lesser known names in the industry that have the potential to impact the industry as a whole once they become mainstream. Some of the products that could really shake the industry were:
I picked these select few items based upon how I felt they relate to the industry as a whole and their potential impact.
Revolution Acoustics focuses on one thing: sound. They have definitely done their research on developing the transducer sound module, or SSP6 as they call it. What this product allows you to do is turn any wall, table, or even ceiling tile into a speaker. The appealing part to this is that there is no longer a hole to be cut in the ceiling tiles for audio, making installation cleaner and easier as well as providing for aesthetics that interior designers will love since it is invisible. I’m sure the big question here is how does it sound? I can tell you that these units have the capability to fill a room with sound with a good amount of low end to it. The demo booth had 4 of these units that could be heard quite a ways down the noisy tradeshow floor and sounded very good for that environment. The secret to the transducers is that they produce a planar wave with 180 degrees of dispersion meaning that there is no perceived sound pressure drop off to the end user which creates a room filled with sound and a great experience.
VANGUARD VIDEO WALLS
Vanguard Led Displays was another booth that really drew me in with their seamless tiled video wall. Video wall displays are a dime a dozen at InfoComm with many manufacturers displaying their technology, but Vanguard really had an eye catching display with colors that were spot on with depth whereas many of the displays seen on the show floor of this type just seemed to be washed out looking. I spoke with the owner of Vanguard and he showed me around and explained his product and what makes his display different from the other players in this field. For starters, they are using a 24 bit processing engine for the wall which makes all the difference in the world as far as clarity, smoothness, and capability. Each module which is part of the wall is a true 16:9 ratio, making the wall one of the few that do not need to process an image further to make it “fit”, thus adding to retaining image quality. Perhaps what really stood out was that the module itself contains redundant datalink and power, as well as a way to service the unit from the front which reduces costs considerably when it comes time to service the unit. I also noticed that cables are all managed internally making for a very neat and clean finished product.
When you think of control systems you might think of Crestron, AMX, or Savant. While these variations have proven to be very reliable, there is a new player in control systems who have been around many years. Barco has released their control platform called Overture. Overture is Barco’s answer to control in the conference room environment. Overture is meant to be a control mechanism that is configured, rather than programmed, reducing the investment needed to deploy many rooms since the overture is a software based solution. Overture however can still be customized just like any of the other solutions as it includes a way to write custom drivers and control logic which in turn makes it very flexible. Since there is no physical hardware in essence other than a Virtual Machine to run the server, I foresee this being easier to implement with IT teams as it is something they have control of and are comfortable with. The other side to this breakthrough product from Barco is the agnostic platform in which the touchscreen can reside. No matter if it is a tablet or PC the control GUI can be run removing the standard touch panel from the room and allow users to pick which devices they prefer or simply use the Barco ClickShare Pucks. Overall this product is a very promising control platform which allows all of the bells and whistles of hardware based appliances on an easy to deploy server.
Crestron Mercury has been out for a little over two months now and has been a very successful product to bring to the smaller BYOD rooms that need audio video and control in a small affordable package. Mercury allows you to present wired, wirelessly as well as make audio and video calls all over a single device. I received a demo unit from Crestron just prior to release and it really was easy to setup. From opening the box, to running the unit, the whole process took less than thirty minutes. Audio quality was excellent and ease of use was better than comparable products. Mercury also allows direct communication with exchange for meeting info, contains an occupancy sensor so that a room can be released into the pool of rooms if it goes unused. Well how does a product such as this get better one might ask? They are now pushing a firmware that has ZOOM capability native to the unit as well as integrating with LYNC natively from the touch panel on the front of the unit. What this means to an end user is you only need to setup and dial the call from the unit and no interaction with your PC is required. Zoom integration was 100% at the show, Lync was about 80% which is still useable, but not 100% native as it still needed the PC to function. I believe this was due to Microsoft restrictions that need to be met prior to allowing the software to run native on the unit. Since I have had ample time with this unit I will say that Crestron has been listening to its end users on this one. At $3,200 retail you will not find anything that works quite as well as this that has Bluetooth, Sip Calling, Soft Codec, Wired Presentation, Wireless Presentation, as well as control and monitoring capabilities.
InfoComm 2017 was a great show that showcased many of the advances in technology that happen in such a short time as well as new technologies or items that have improved greatly. I chose to look at a vast variety of products that have potential to be game changers from both mainstream as well as smaller companies as this allowed me to see products that have not been discovered yet. I believe that taking this approach allowed me to introduce new and exciting technologies that would otherwise be overlooked. At InfoComm there is always something for everyone, whether it is the latest in conference room technology, the latest in audio production, or simply going just for the creativity spark.
Submitted by Mike Sesto
Director of Technical Services
CTS ,CTS-D, Crestron Certified Master Programmer