In our business, we’re constantly looking for the next innovative product, the next turn in the road that will bring about creative innovations and propel us off the current plateau and on to new heights. Clearly one of those innovations is the AVB protocol, but perhaps more important and already more ubiquitous are the innovations permeating our industry from the consumer market.

Paradigm Shift for Control Devices

Recently a customer expressed some distrust when it came to installing an iPad as a controller in his boardroom because he was afraid that people would steal it. It occurred to me that this was counterintuitive of what the iPad is all about. Unlike a traditional control system that has to be confined to one boardroom in one office in one building, the iPad goes with you everywhere. It’s a personal remote – not a system application. 

 It’s also customizable, so each user can create a device that best suits their personal needs. At home I use my iPad to control my music library, while my wife uses her iPad to control her own separate music library. We can do that from any room in our house. I can then take that same iPad with me to work and use it for email, design or Skype. It’s a controller for my personal and my professional lives. If I don’t have my iPad, then my iPhone provides the same connectivity.

System controls no longer need to reside permanently in a boardroom. Personal electronics now allow us to customize them for our needs and integrate them in to our lives (address book, email, contacts, schedule, etc.) and be truly connected no matter where we are.

The Rise of Generic Hardware

Just as the iPad allows us to move between rooms and settings maintaining a familiar control layout, so too does it enable companies to move seamlessly between the silos that used to dictate our lines of business. We used to be an audio company that worked alongside video companies and relied on control companies to allow end-users to access the benefits of our products.

 Consumers and consumer product manufacturers don’t think this way. Consumers now expect audio and video to be built directly in to a single device. Why should our industry continue to hold fast to an archaic design philosophy? Mobile devices connect with technology, not just niche aspects of technology. So as these lines blur, companies need to get smarter about how they incorporate all of these different facets of technology in to their design strategy. In the past we never even thought about doing a control product, despite numerous requests from our customers. Doing so would have meant a line of interface units with different finishes, UI colors, mounting positions, wiring options, etc. 

What’s clear now is that control is taking a whole new turn. The touch panel is everywhere, and it’s really, really useful. As the price point continues to come down, the front end of an AV system becomes your personal tablet or wireless device and your backend is a computer with a network connection.

Incremental Software

Which brings me to my final point – software will be the most important element of our business moving forward. I have nearly 100 apps on my iPad and almost none of them cost more than $10. That has allowed me to customize my iPad in small increments so that it does exactly what I want it to do. This is a very different approach from when I bought an Adobe software suite for $1900 that had discs I don’t think I’ve ever used. Adobe Ideas on the iPad was $5.99. On my Mac desktop I can purchase Lion OS for $39 in the app store. Even desktop software is becoming more specific and cheaper and you’re able to buy only the parts you need instead of the box of 10 CDs.

 All of these issues have affected and will continue to affect change in our industry’s design philosophy. The smart companies have embraced this change. What has your company done?