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What's Next for Pro AV Tech in 2017?

It seems slightly odd to be referencing ‘the consumer electronics’ (CES) trade show when being asked to consider the big trends in Pro AV for 2017, but here I am kicking off with a nod to CES. As my colleagues from our CE division returned from Vegas and we discussed the hot trends from the show floor, I am reminded again that convergence, certainly in terms of innovation and transferable learnings, is such an important part of our lives. Indeed, never have the CE and B2B analysts at Futuresource worked so closely together. It is also slightly depressing to note that, in some instances, the CE sector has leapt ahead where the Pro AV industry was once so proud to be the cocoon for product innovation and development before it transferred in scale to the consumer sector. Let’s consider some examples. 

At CES, voice recognition and AI stole the show front and centre for tech giants like Microsoft, Google, Amazon and Apple. This isn’t new, it hasn’t caught the industry off guard, yet in the Pro AV space it’s rarely referenced, despite having the potential to dramatically impact control, automation and to a point display technology. Simplicity is key and will underpin much of the electronics industry in the future. Though not a learning from CES, I still find it amazing that we have only recently begun to see the videoconferencing sector move beyond dedicated spaces/rooms when away from the office, most of us have been using FaceTime or Skype for many years. 

However, most developments are running in parallel or are combining to provide a more powerful experience for an increasingly mobile workforce. 

At CES, smart home automation was again a key theme and of course, closely linked to smart buildings and cities in our world. Underpinning these trends we have connected devices, AV over IP, IoT and further into big data, all hot topics in Pro AV for 2017. Building further on these trends, and perhaps too nascent for this discussion, smart cars were another hot theme at the show. Whilst much of the buzz and hype focused on the benefits for consumer brands, behind closed doors the benefits for enterprise were often cited. 

Finally, Virtual Reality (VR) and Augment Reality (AR) Head-Mounted Display’s continue to fascinate consumers and demand attention at CES. There is little doubt that the consumer sector has huge potential to drive scale but some of the most interesting use cases are found in B2B environments for training, design, sales & marketing etc. 2017 will see both VR and AR solutions, not just HMD’s, grow in importance for the Pro AV sector. 

But I digress from the original intention of this blog, which was to look at the main display highlights for 2017, it’s hard to be focused when we are in such a fluid phase of industry development. 

At Futuresource, we talk more and more about ‘Digital Surfaces’, appreciating that each of the major display platforms (projection, LCD, LED) has a place and are increasingly blended together. In retail for example, store designers are surprisingly alert and informed to the benefits each platform can bring and we will begin to see installations that use multiple display technologies to create innovative and engaging experiences. Creativity is less of a driver in corporate and education markets but utilising multiple display technologies is no less in demand, typically projection and LCD but moving forward we will see LED become a viable choice. 

We aren’t, as many would propose, at a point when a one of these technologies loses relevance though of course in some instances they certainly compete for the same budgets.

The projection category has finally fallen into long term volume decline but is still the single largest display platform by quite some margin with lots of reasons for optimism looking forward. 

2017 will see more small and large scale mapping technology come to market. Indeed, showcasing projection’s inherent flexibility has been the emphasis of recent tradeshows in the wake of falling sales in presentation applications. We expect to see a broader range of brands partnering with leading mapping specialists/integrators in ever-more striking installations. 

Advances in solid-state technology – namely laser phosphor –  has enabled digital signage to finally became a viable opportunity for the projection industry and thus, coupled with mounting adoption in this application, solid state is expected to be the key projection trend in 2017. Further launches of laser-phosphor solutions, at both ends of the brightness spectrum, are anticipated from all major brands, whilst cheaper RGB laser is expected to be a key theme in the high-end segment. 

4K will be the other key theme of 2017, with the first solutions using TI’s latest, and smallest, 4K chip-set launched ahead of the ISE 2017 show, as are those with Compound Photonics’ licensed 0.55” 4K chip-set. With rumours that the price of these solutions will rapidly rival 1080p/WXGA equivalents, it will be interesting to analyse how well they are received considering that the market’s core brightness segment is rapidly evolving to >4k lumens.

For the LCD displays sector, we can expect to see vendors broadening ranges in large 70”+ sizes and accelerate the transition to 4K, critically in smaller sub 50” sizes. Though far more niche, more buzz, not necessarily commercial opportunity, will also build around ultra-thin, in some cases flexible, display technology. 

Display opportunities in presentation environments, particularly in the enterprise space, will be a keen focus for the industry in 2017 with vendors building on interactive ranges and integrating collaborative tools directly into the display.

We can expect to see wireless presentation features for sharing content, audio/camera for videoconferencing and even wider UC access, akin to the Microsoft Surface hub come to market. Meeting room collaboration is hot!
The high brightness/outdoor and semi outdoor market will develop strongly in the coming year building on already buoyant in window market and, dare we say it, opportunities in QSR finally being realised. A number of important changes in supply chain dynamics, mixed with a growing demand across franchise holders will help drive this trend. 

For the videowall space, virtually ‘bezeless’ LCD walls, with more extreme/extra narrow displays will continue to gain traction but come under increasing pressure from narrow pixel pitch (NPP) LED which has been very much in the ascendancy in recent years. After Sony stole the show at InfoComm with its CLEDIS NPP LED, and at CES, we will hear more about new micro LED and chip of board (COB) technology for NPP LED in 2017, another key development phase for the category. 

To sum up, it’s an incredibly exciting time to be in the pro display space and Pro AV industry, but there are challenges ahead. Navigating the choice of display technology, associated specification and features will be headache enough for manufacturers, channel and end-users but adding in the other more macro trends mentioned above further clouds future roadmaps and strategies.

About the author

Chris Mcintyre-Brown

About Us

Here at Futuresource Consulting we deliver specialist research and consulting services, providing market forecasts and intelligence reports. Since the 1980s we have supported a range of industry sectors, which has grown to include: CE, Broadcast, Entertainment Content, EdTech and many more.