Managing Audio/Visual Spells Big Opportunity For MSPs

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Bob O'Malley, CEO of InFocus

The next big wave of opportunity for MSPs could come from managing professional audio and video solutions, which increasingly are becoming based on IP technology, according to a panel of executives at Autotask's Community Live conference Monday in Miami.

"There are at least 29 different major categories of pro A/V products. It's been a proprietary industry but all of them are starting to join the IT world and starting to think about security and management," said Jay McBain, senior vice president of strategy and market development at Autotask and moderator of the panel titled Expanding into Emerging Technologies. "As the consumerization of the enterprise happens, dozens or hundreds of [pro A/V] devices could sit on the corporate network."

Managed service providers should start thinking about their audio/video strategy and begin by choosing partners that specialize in that field but have no experience in the IT world, said Todd Thibodeau, CEO of CompTIA, on the panel.

"Nobody is going to acquire all that knowledge on one side or the other. One of the key things that has to happen is there needs to be more collaboration. Work with and partner with each other," Thibodeau said.

The technology behind the IT and A/V sides have converged over the last several years and have reached the point where the end user wants everything to work together," said Bob O'Malley, CEO of InFocus.

"We hear about different content streams. It's the part in the middle we need to work on: the standards, the training, getting the channels to work together. It's a great opportunity," O'Malley said.

Randy Lemke, CEO of InfoComm, a pro A/V trade organization, said it doesn't make sense for IT to run on a parallel but separate IP-based network from A/V.

With issues surrounding bandwidth and security, the need for management of one bigger network spells great opportunity for MSPs who can offer both. But he cautioned, managing a total A/V solution requires a much different conversation and way of thinking than many MSPs are used to. For example, while MSPs might pitch to an IT manager, pro A/V dealers sit with facility managers because of the need to solve acoustics and video sight line issues.

"We really welcome the reliability and ability of information on the network, which makes our side of it much better," Lemke said.

Jason Hersh, CEO of Dynamic Sound Systems, a pro A/V installer based in Scottsdale, Ariz., said he's making more inroads with IT because customers are demanding it.

"It becomes overwhelming. Now we have iPads syncing networks to control rooms. It's a user interface everyone is now familiar with," Hersh said.

Next: Home health care spells vertical opportunityOne vertical market where commercial and consumer technologies are coming together is with home health care, the panelists said.

Dynamic Sound Systems has completed projects with senior citizen living facilities where automation and notification systems, such as pressure sensors under the carpet by the bed, can quickly alert a responder if something happens or audio/video solutions can help family members keep in touch, Hersh said. "Home health care is one of the most open industries right now," he said.

Even if MSPs aren't interested in selling the hardware, the process of integrating it into an IT stack and then managing the devices, represents the big opportunity, Comptia's Thibodeaux reminded the Autotask audience.

"It goes back to collaboration and complementary skill sets. If you're thinking of getting into these skill sets, find companies your area, buy the owner a cup of coffee and find skill sets that might complement what you do. That's best way as opposed to doing a tremendous amount of work yourself. Get in touch with them and build a network [of partners]," he said.

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