"If it's green, it's biology; if it stinks, it's chemistry; if it has numbers, it's math; and if it doesn't work, it's technology...."
That quip by Gary Kayye set the stage for his keynote address at last month's inaugural EduComm Conference, held in conjunction with InfoComm 2004 at the World Congress Center in Atlanta.
Kayye, chief visionary at Kayye Consulting, and noted authority on AV technology, predicted that this is the year--finally--that IT departments begin to wrestle control of the AV department due to emerging plug-and-play products and controls coupled with networking technology and management software.
In short, Kayye views technology in the same light as those perpetual optimists who always see the glass half filled. And, as a consultant, the glass is always overflowing in rhetoric and visions about the next wiz-bang-must-have-revolutionary-paradigm-shifting new gizmo. As someone who has followed and reported on technology and business applications since the advent of the PC, I can attest that very few new tech products/solutions live up to pre-launch, launch, or post-launch hype. And, as many of you know, many a software product over the years has been shipped prematurely to meet marketing deadlines, rather than quality-control benchmarks.
Kayye doesn't disagree, insisting that, this time, what he predicts will really be a major step forward. And the results? In less than 18 months, Kayye envisions IHEs benefiting from networked AV products that are smarter, cheaper, better, and easier to use than today's stand-alone AV products. They'll also be a snap to install and use, lessening the need for staff set-up and onsite troubleshooting. And because they will be wireless-capable, there will be less back-end cost to hardwire the AV products to the network.
Sounds great, right?
Sure, I'm as skeptical as the next guy. So I followed the old journalist's adage: "If your mother says she loves you, check it out." And after traversing the InfoComm show floor for three days and meeting with AV manufacturers; listening to our speakers at the EduComm conference; and kicking the tires during new product demos, I must admit that Kayye may not be over-hyping what's around the bend. And the reason, Kayye said, is simple: Today, technology is now bubbling up from consumer demand and finding its way to professional and corporate use.
"We're (business/education) not the guinea pigs anymore," he said. Moreover, price and quality have followed the consumer path. The show floor was peppered with awesome AV products that have come down in both size and price, and offer better quality. And, said Kayye, some 70-plus percent are network-ready today; By 2006, a full 82 percent will be ready to plug-and-play.
Here's an example of how the emerging wireless-based, networked AV technology will work on campus:
Early in the semester, Professor Smith transmits her audio-visual-multimedia support materials to the IT department's brand-spanking-new digital content server. The materials are tagged and scheduled for the appropriate time and place of her twice-weekly lecture. When Professor Smith enters her lecture hall the first day of class, a ceiling-mounted video camera and motion detector announce her arrival to the server (and security can see that it is indeed Professor Smith), which downloads her first set of stored lecture materials. The AV projector, display screen, and audio equipment are activated. All Professor Smith has to do is, well, teach. Her AV materials are ready to go with a click of a console button, and if there is an immediate problem, the IT technician monitoring the room can fix the problem remotely. And if Professor Smith's usual lecture hall isn't available for some reason, no problem. Her materials can be downloaded to any other venue on campus.
Look at the benefits. No more training non-technical educators to run AV equipment or fumble with connecting laptops. No more AV people loading and pushing carts of equipment around campus--or being summoned to fix a "problem." Kayye mentioned that some 92 percent of AV department calls deal with operator error, not equipment failure.
End Note: Kayye's keynote speech can be viewed at www.sonicfoundry.com. And UB will present a special InfoComm/EduComm section in our August issue, highlighting specific new products and technologies targeted for IHEs.
You can reach Tom Halligan at firstname.lastname@example.org.