QandA: Integrator Near Future On Using iTunes For Commercial Music Distribution

Tyrie Jamerson is a partner with Dallas-based integration firm Near Future, which combines next-generation A/V and IT products for high-end commercial, education and residential installations. He spoke with Digital Connect's Michael Gros about using technology to build the customer's brand, setting up iTunes for commercial music distribution and how solutions combining A/V and IT products offer far more functionality than A/V products alone. Below are excerpts:

DC: How does Near Future's installations of A/V and IT products help your customers build their brands and attract and retain their own clients?

JAMERSON: We really consider ourselves high-end designers. We like to go out and do design. The difference between us and a regular installation company is that we don't do a lot of bid work. What we try to do is build partnerships with architects, interior designers, folks like that so we can get to jobs that we consider to be cutting edge. It gives us the chance to not only help businesses with their IT or A/V needs, but we think we help them build their brand, bring in the right type of customers.

[In an installation at the] W Hotel [in Dallas], what we're doing in the actual meeting rooms and board rooms is we're giving people a glimpse of what a W high end brand brings to the table. For example when you come into a board room at the W Hotel, everything you could possibly want to do in that boardroom can be done. If you have a meeting with someone in Taipei, you can videoconference with that person. You can use normal A/V items—microphones, DVDs, VCRs. You have all available media at your disposal. Those at the things that we view as really functional things that you need. Also being able to take care of every need that you have. If you're going to Dallas for example and having a meeting, why not have it at the W Hotel?

It's aesthetics blended with IT. It's the best place to have it. You have everything at your exposure on hand for your needs. If you went to some other [hotels], there might be the possibility that you would have to go to an outside company for your needs. That's not the case of the W Hotel.

Sponsored post

DC: How important is product selection to achieving those goals?

JAMERSON: We're Apple based. A lot of other companies like to use Windows only, but we can do Windows or Apple. Macs are a big part of what we're doing. We have iTunes throughout the hotel. We are taking an exclusive play list from the W and place them on iTunes. That iTunes play list can be accessed from any of the common floors. That's just something we're focusing on. Helping people design their own play lists or patterns.

We also wired the VIP meeting rooms. Everyone has an iPod now. If you bring it in and rented out that VIP room, you can put your iPod play list on. I think those are things that are really neat, things that other companies wouldn't think about. Those are the things that would bring you back to the W.

Because we were part of the design process from the beginning, we bring those things to the table. We ask people do you like this, is this something people would do. We did extensive research on the W brand, the types of people they're bringing, why people come, and we incorporate that into our design. DC: Why did you choose iTunes for distributing music throughout the hotel, compared to a proprietary music server?

JAMERSON: We think that users are more familiar with the iPod. It allows them to bring in what they want. As a custom install, you're going to have to cater to what the user is familiar with. The iPod is easy to work with, people feel more at home when they can listen to their own play list. I can go into the VIP room and listen to the music I want to listen to.

So much of what we do in A/V and IT is almost scary for most people. We are going back to being considered geeks, things of that nature. Everybody knows it's cool, they want to do it, but they're scared of actually learning how to use technology behind it.

Apple has done a great thing for us. In a technical space, they've made it cool, so you want to piggyback on that. You want to do things that don't frighten people. Just the words 'media servers' scare people, but when you say iTunes, iPod, people tend to brighten up.

It makes a difference. You don't want to scare people away from doing things. We tend to talk in tech terms, but when you talk to the customers, you have to translate it into something cool.

DC: How has the A/V space changed over the last year?

JAMERSON: When you're looking at the hospitality market, there's a major change I see happening from an IT perspective: folks are understanding that everything needs to be IP. Whenever we go and pitch business, everyone is talking about how they can do things remotely.

Folks are finally starting to understand that you have to be able to get things in multiple ways. It's always been there, but you have had to have multiple points of failure, multiple ways of getting into devices. IP-based technology is it.

We're doing things now, for example that really help the way products are used. We want to make sure that all our projectors are turned off at 10 o'clock at night and turned on at 7 in the morning. Maybe you run into a customer that doesn't have money for a traditional control system like Crestron or AMX, but the projector we put in will be IP-based, and there will be functionality in that device that lets us get into it and do what we need to do easily.

It' surprising to me. People are finally asking for it. We need to do this remotely, even older CEOs are saying now we can do this remotely, we don't have to have someone here as a full time IT staff to do this or that. These things can all be outsourced, handled remotely.