2013: The year of sound for the channel

Opinion Feb 25, 2013

Biamp Systems’ Graeme Harrison talks about the importance of audio in the workplace and what this means for the channel

For a while now the buzzword in audio-visual (AV) and IT has been ‘convergence’.

While initially describing the convergence of telecoms and IT, it now encompasses other industries and technologies. So as the delivery of audio and video shifts to using the same network infrastructure as used in conventional IT infrastructure, responsibility of managing AV systems is increasingly shifting to the IT department. But this is not the dire situation many resellers and IT departments may expect. In fact, AV – and audio in particular – have considerable business potential.

Historically, AV has been perceived as the ugly stepchild of necessary business technology systems by IT departments. However, with some work this view could be changed. The installation and siting of sound systems, from amplifiers to speakers, is as much an art as it is science and every room and situation needs a different approach. However, customers have not traditionally given AV the importance it is due. A business renovating its office will spend thousands on the best chairs, desks and lighting for its employees, but won’t give much thought to the conference phone system and the room it’s to be used in, or whether paging systems is an appropriate fit for the business.

A report we recently launched in collaboration with sound expert and TED speaker Julian Treasure provides startling proof as to why sound needs to be given as much consideration as other aspects of our environment. Drawing from three decades of academic and government research, the paper, Building in Sound, found that offices, schools and hospitals regularly expose people to far higher levels of noise than is healthy.

In fact, excessive noise and poor acoustics in schools and hospitals is completely counterproductive – hampering learning and delaying patient convalescences. The paper also explores the increasing levels of interest (and investment) in acoustics and sound technology, providing evidence that organisations are starting to take action on the issue. Better acoustics and sound systems bring more pleasant environments, greater workplace efficiency and improved business competitiveness.

What does this mean for the channel? The report calls for an integrated approach to designing buildings – that means incorporating good acoustic practice into the design of spaces, whether it’s a school, a conference centre or a block of flats. IT resellers need to be thinking about sound when they are called on to provide infrastructure services. Moreover, those specialising in healthcare and education have a golden opportunity to develop far deeper, more beneficial relationships with customers.

AV can provide integrators with a lucrative opportunity. The key to success is making sure you have the skills in place to build the suitable soundscape. As noise is increasingly seen as a health risk, with the accompanying implications on productivity, eventually businesses will look for facilities that are as acoustically pleasing as they are technologically connected.

It’s the integrator’s opportunity to provide this expertise and help draw them along this learning curve. People that design and build facilities, such as architects and consultants, need integrator partners that understand the convergence of IT and AV, understand audio and know how it behaves in different spaces, how to configure audio systems to provide customers with the best audio solution. Integrators that can meet these needs will have a distinct advantage.

I believe 2013 could be the year of building in sound.

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Image: Shutterstock

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