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AV News Awards 2013: winners and finalists

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The winners and finalists for the AV News Awards 2013 were announced at a press conference held to mark the opening of ISE 2013 at the RAI Amsterdam. For those who couldn’t be there, here is an account of proceedings.

The AV News Awards press conference at ISE 2013.

While there is a very good case to focus an Awards programme purely on products and solutions, to do so would undervalue the contributions made by the people and organisations that make up the channel – the AV professionals and entrepreneurial companies responsible for developing, integrating, marketing, selling and supporting AV products and solutions, delivering appropriate technology into the hands of customers.

With only one exception, the 2013 AV News Awards are dedicated to individuals and channel organisations that have made the AV industry better over the last 12 months. In some categories, we have chosen both winners and commended finalists, where the competition was so close that any of those reaching the final shortlist could justifiably been given the winner’s trophy.

Winners and finalists

AV Technologist of the Year

Winner: David Lussey, CTO and co-founder of Peratech

This Award recognises an outstanding achievement by an individual in advancing AV technology. Despite the efforts of AV News in recent years it is entirely possible that many readers will be unfamiliar with the winner of this category – but this man, his discovery and his company will soon be known by everybody involved in interactive display technology. The process of recognition is already underway with the last Award to David Lussey, CTO and co-founder of Peratech, presented on behalf of The Queen.

After a 30-year career in the Royal Air Force, Lussey retired as a specialist officer. Conducting research on his own behalf, Lussey discovered a new class of materials called Quantum Tunnelling Composites (QTC). Lussey co-founded Peratech Limited to further develop QTC, for which Lussey has a number of patents.

QTC technology uses metallic and non-metallic filler particles combined in an elastomeric binder.  When pressure is applied, the electrical resistance drops in proportion to the amount of pressure, which allows sophisticated Human Machine Interface (HMI) designs to be created that react to variations in pressure.  QTC technology’s unique properties enable it to be made into force sensitive switches of any shape or size typically using screen printing so that they can be as thin as 75 microns.

QTC technology is also low power and interfaces can be designed with no start resistance so that without pressure, the switch draws no power and passes no current.  QTC materials are so sensitive so they can be used to detect even very small changes due to compression, tension or other stresses.

Peratech has recently created a version of its QTC material called QTC Clear that is so thin and transparent that it can be used to make a new generation of touchscreens. These will have all the benefits of existing resistive and capacitive touch screen technologies but with none of their drawbacks. Touchscreens made using an ultrathin layer of QTC Clear material sandwiched under a layer of glass are as sensitive to multi-touch as a capacitive touchscreen but can be any size, do not involve complex designs challenges to overcome interference generated by an active matrix, and only draw current when touched.

Being force sensitive, QTC touchscreens can sense not only x and y input but also z, and so input interaction is now three dimensional.  This will enable a whole new generation of lower cost, touchscreens to be created with innovative features and a new library of gesture controls.  A multi-million dollar license deal with a Japanese manufacture has already been signed.

David Lussey said: “I am honoured to receive this award which I share with the rest of the team at Peratech whose innovation and drive has been instrumental in developing QTC technology into a wide range of applications where it offers a sophisticated, solid state solution for switching and touch sensing.”

The AV Technologist of the Year: David Lussey is Chief Technical Officer and Co-founder of Peratech

AV Sales Professional of the Year
Sponsored by N-VEST

Winner: Neil Hartigan, Channel Director, NEC Display Solutions

Former professional footballer Neil Hartigan probably already has a pretty full trophy cabinet. After leaving the game, Hartigan has gathered over 30 years experience in sales and management. Involved in IT since the 80s, Hartigan was deputy general manager for Sharp in the early 90s, and then joined Unisys with responsibility for peripherals sales to the EMEA territory.

In 2000, he joined Epson Business Products as sales and marketing manager taking Epson projectors to number one in the market. After a couple of years off, enjoying a more relaxed pace of life in Spain, he returned to join NEC Display Solutions to head the company’s UK channel sales.

Looking ahead to the future of the industry, Hartigan is convinced that the channel has a crucial part to play in the AV market. He says: “A focus on vertical sectors and the solutions required within each will become more and more important. An understanding of what the customer is trying to achieve will be vital, as well as who to partner with, to ensure that the best proposal is put forward.”

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Neil Hartigan – top of the league as AV Sales Professional of the Year

AV Support Professional of the Year

Winner: Daniel Richer. Habitech, Technical Support Advisor. Habitech

There is a very good argument for saying that pre and post-sales support is what distinguishes a specialist AV dealer from the rest. To do support well, you have to be a particular type of person Daniel Richer likes a challenge. He is passionate about AV and but it is his talent for problem solving that makes him perfect for a role in support.

In his capacity as technical support advisor with Habitech, Richer provides telephone and email support for the AV and ProNet product ranges that the company distributes throughout the UK. He is also involved in the evaluation of new products together with beta testing of new UK software variants before they are released. He tests integration products designed at Habitech, assessing their suitability to integrate with control systems such as Control4. He is currently working to expanding his knowledge of IP products through internal and manufacturer training.

Richer’s experience in the industry has been gained exclusively for Habitech. He has progressed through the technical support department and is now a key part of the team – a fact recognised by the emails and calls from customers complementing the level of service he provides.

Daniel Richer – turning customer complements into gold as the AV Support Professional of the Year.

AV Marketing Professional of the Year

Winner: Rachel Hastings. Midwich

At just 24 years old, Rachel Hastings has made an extraordinarily rapid progress in the AV industry. Born and bred in Diss, Norfolk she joined the Midwich marketing team four years ago. In 2011, she assumed responsibility for organising the Midwich Technology Exposed exhibition, which has grown to rival many commercial exhibitions in size and ambition.

Hastings says that her: “Proudest moment during my time at Midwich was the first morning doors opened at Technology Exposed 2012, as this was the first year I had organised the exhibition”. Nominated in confidence by her colleagues at Midwich, she was more than surprised when told that she was one of the finalists in the AV News Awards:

“I honestly thought someone was winding me up when I was told the amazing news,” said Hastings. “I had no idea that my colleagues had nominated me, so to be told I had was a finalist! Naturally, I am thrilled and honoured to be recognised in this way, but credit must also go the fantastic team I work with here at Midwich. We are rightfully proud of our marketing effort here and I think this is apparent in the success of our rebranding service, which is proving increasingly popular with resellers.”

Rachel Hasting of Midwich – winner of the AV Marketing Professional of the Year category.

AV Reseller of the Year
Sponsored by BENQ UK

Winner: Rapid Technologies

Finalists:

  • Drake AV
  • Project AV

The volume and quality of the entries to this category was really encouraging from an industry perspective. The specialist reseller has been under attack of late, with reductions in public sector spending, margin erosion and buyers increasing reluctant to pay the small additional premium charged by dedicated AV professionals for proper advice – even though this can often lead to longer term savings. Despite these negative factors, the reseller community has proved itself to be adaptable and willing to embrace new opportunities as they emerge.

Our winner in a strongly contested category has placed itself at the forefront of the move to collaborative working and video communication, and is now one of the UK’s fastest growing IT technology and communications companies. Rapid Technologies has embraced the convergence of AV and IT, offering expertise in all aspects of ICT infrastructures including communication networks, interactive meeting room technologies and IP. The company has extensive experience in wireless, satellite and interactive technologies and its team is equally at home in interactive, video conferencing and digital signage solutions.

We should add a special commendation to our other finalists Drake AV and Project AV, either of which could have won in any other year and, we are sure, will be in contention again in the future.

AV Integrator of the Year
Sponsored by MICRO-P

Winner: Saville-AV

The issue of where does the description ‘reseller’ end and ‘integrator’ start, in our view, depends on three things: scale of operation, breadth of service and the ability to develop original technology with which to complete commercially available solutions. In the UK, we are lucky enough to have some world-class players in the international marketplace that deliver in all three categories.

Our winner has been at the forefront of the UK industry for more than forty years, with a range of services that spans the sales, hire and installation of AV equipment and integrated systems, including presentation solutions, videoconferencing and digital signage networks. With operations spanning both the UK and the rest of Europe, the company employs more than 250 staff in 14 locations.

The last 12 months has seen the company open its London telepresence facility, while continuing to support a nationwide conference presentation and AV hire service through its network of regional centres. With stage-set design and building services, professional lighting, sound and projection systems, audience voting, recording and webcasting, Saville AV is to be congratulated not only its past achievements but also on its commitment to staying ahead of the game.

AV Innovation of the Year
Sponsored by PEERLESS-AV

Winner: LifeSize for its UVC Platform

Finalists:

  • AMX for the Enova DVX-3150HD all-in-one presentation switcher
  • BrightSign for the XD line of solid-state digital signage media players
  • Polycom for its RealPresence Mobile software
  • Eyevis omniSHAPES rear-projection display cubes

Another fiercely contested category, in what was a strong year for innovation in AV technology. Finalists included:

█ AMX for the Enova DVX-3150HD all-in-one presentation switcher: The Enova DVX-3150HD combines a controller, AV matrix switcher, a scaler, analogue to digital signal converter, a twisted pair transmitter and amplifier with built-in professional grade audio processing – all in a single compact unit. Featuring SmartScale Technology, the Enova automatically responds to the display’s EDID information and scales the video parameters for the display. Optimal resolutions can be displayed on every display with no image degradation in applications with mixed resolution screens. InstaGate Pro Technology allows traditionally key limited sources to be freely switched to any HDCP compliant display without the typical HDCP delays.

The average mid-size AV installation consisting of 8+ devices: controller, audio switcher, video switcher video scaler, twisted pair transmitter, audio digital signal processor, microphone mixer and amplifier. Not only can installing a system of this size be an unwieldy task for the installer, but programming it can be arduous. Each device needs to be set up individually and then programmed to work with the rest of the system. Standardising on a system like this is nearly impossible.

The all-in-one DVX-3150HD Presentation Switcher solves this problem by integrating all of the typical standalone devices into a single box. By eliminating the dozens of interconnections between multiple boxes, installation and troubleshooting is greatly simplified. Plus, with fewer cables and components this means fewer points of failure. With embedded firmware and a point and click Web GUI to easily customise settings, the DVX-3150HD dramatically reduces programming time.

█ BrightSign for the XD product line: This is described as the industry’s “first range of solid-state digital signage media players with PC-class performance”. Solid-state players have traditionally been more affordable and much more reliable than PC-based signage solutions, but BrightSign’s new XD product line is said to be the first of its kind to deliver the features and capabilities of PC-based solutions as well. BrightSign’s new technology enables the ability to display Live HDTV broadcast content using an ATSC/Clear QAM tuner or HDMI input. The ATSC tuner is used to play cable TV or closed-circuit TV broadcasts, and the HDMI input is used to play any broadcast content – even HDCP-protected content.

All models include an advanced video decoding engine with superior scaling technology that delivers pristine 1080p60 video and supports 3D content. The video engine is capable of decoding two 1080p60 videos or several lower-resolution videos simultaneously. All models support HTML5, so content creators can use familiar development tools to create engaging content. In addition, BrightSign’s usual touch-screen interactivity is enhanced with swipe/gesture control, an increasingly popular method of customer engagement.

BrightSign’s new technology is said to open up significant opportunities to the AV industry. The health of the digital signage market as a whole is dependent on ‘waves’ of innovation that drive market acceptance and adoption. PC-based digital signage drove this initial wave, but the current market for PC-based digital signage deployment has plateaued. In many cases, businesses that deployed digital signage in the past five years have outgrown their current installations, but they are unable or simply don’t want to invest in the necessary infrastructure to install a more complicated and capable PC-based solution. In short, there is an enormous market of businesses eager to either upgrade their existing digital signage solutions, or install digital signage for the first time.

█ LifeSize for its UVC Platform: Introduced in January 2012, this is the industry’s first fully integrated virtualised software platform for HD video collaboration. The platform integrates the capabilities of multiple single-purpose infrastructure products and makes them instantly available from one interface with one login account. At a basic level, the virtualisation of video conferencing infrastructure means that companies no longer have to invest heavily single purpose, fixed hardware configurations.

On this platform, businesses can run multiple virtual machines on existing servers and can move and configure its virtual machine resources as needed. Unlike the standard rigid systems, with lengthy deployment periods and required fixed-capacity purchasing, LifeSize UVC Platform made deploying video conferencing infrastructure more flexible, efficient and significantly more cost effective.

Within LifeSize UVC Platform, users have a choice of any of the UVC applications, which can be used individually or collectively, such as: LifeSize UVC Video Center (single-button streaming, recording and auto-publishing); LifeSize UVC Multipoint (flexible multiparty calling); LifeSize UVC Transit (firewall traversal); LifeSize UVC Access (IT routing and call control); and LifeSize UVC Manager (video network management). Additionally, LifeSize offers a Lync RTVideo transcoding solution for the LifeSize 220 series and LifeSize Passport called LifeSize UVC Video Engine for Microsoft Lync.

The vision behind LifeSize UVC Platform is to fundamentally change the way businesses deploy video infrastructure by consolidating multiple applications on a single, virtualised interface. Where previously IT teams would have had to deploy expensive, and difficult to implement, hardware for traditional infrastructure now they can move towards a far simpler and cost-effective option. Add to this the ease with which a team can now trial, purchase and manage large video conferencing infrastructure, and it’s clear that the old way of doing things is rapidly changing.

█ Polycom for its RealPresence Mobile software This is an application client software with “meeting-on-the-go” ability. It was released in October 2011. It includes full, standards-based video that provides a face-to-face experience, giving access to video collaboration on tablets and smartphones. The app is device agnostic, so users can connect with participants via desktops, laptops, tablets and immersive systems. Polycom’s patented technologies, Constant Clarity, and compliance to industry standards means that a mobile video call can be completed from whatever wireless networks are available.

It is free to download and offers HD quality over any network, Wi-Fi, 3G or 4G.  As a standards-based application, the RealPresence Mobile solution seamlessly connects to the more than two million video conferencing systems deployed throughout the world. Similar to connecting a smartphone to the corporate email server, the app can be registered to the RealPresence Platform, allowing customers to use advanced features including multiparty calls, provisioning, management, firewall traversal, content sharing, and connectivity to desktop and immersive systems.

Polycom RealPresence Mobile’s quality and ease-of-use will lead to larger usage demand for both internal and external video conferencing, along with travel initiatives where any travel bookings can only be made if video conferencing cannot be used instead. This helps promote the AV industry as a whole, as desire for video collaboration increases. As people get used to using video in their working lives, this also helps drive consumer demand for video conferencing.

█ Eyevis omniSHAPES: One of the stars of last year’s ISE, the tile design of these rear projection display modules work both as standalone units and when combined together in larger display walls. The modules can be fashioned into virtually unlimited video wall shapes, creating projection surfaces in almost infinite configurations. Every module has its own internal signal processing unit for the perfect geometrical adjustment of the input image to the display. The projected images are sharp and impressively bright, with consistent colour quality. omniSHAPES offers low power consumption and wall-mount or floor-stand versatility. LED technology, high resolution and virtually seamless, plus accurate colour with automatic calibration and tracking ensure consistent and long-lasting image quality. The modular design of omniSHAPES makes this solution a strong proposition for rental companies. The projection units came be switched between cubes, limiting the number of components needed for stock.

With such strong competition, and with such diversity, choosing a winner was extremely difficult. While all of the solutions will impact on the AV market, the choice of a category winner has been made on the basis of the long-term opportunities created by the innovation in question. The business opportunities created by virtualisation are potentially huge, opening up high-end functionality to a much larger market. For that reason, the winner of the AV Innovation of the Year is LifeSize for its UVC Platform technology.

About the sponsors

BenQ are the world’s No.1 DLP projector brand, with models including filter-free greener SmartEco technology for low TCO and the first laser projectors with BenQ’s BlueCore lamp-less engine, all without compromising the user experience. BenQ’s latest in education technology sees the addition of interactive large format HD screens offering humanised and intuitive group collaboration. Local support, bundled solutions, and excellent tailored warranties that offer peace of mind.

BenQ, Redesigning Your Senses.

Micro-P is a leading B2B and retail distributor with a growing presence in professional AV. After 31 years of profitability Micro-P continues to outperform the market, doubling its business in the last 4 years, with revenues in excess of £850m in 2011. Micro-P’s progressive approach, and ability to provide turnkey solutions through converged technologies, makes it the technology partner of choice. Micro-P is ideally positioned to support AV integrators, broaden their scope and enable them to capture larger client spend. With a product portfolio spanning150 manufacturers, and 20,000 products across AV, computing, consumer electronics, networking, servers and solutions, communications and mobile, Micro-P has everything you would expect and a whole lot more – contact Avsolutions@micro-p.com to see just how much!

N-vest has been taking the pain out of technology for buyers and their suppliers since 2004. Now part of the Inbay group, N-vest provides industry-leading, outsourced training and first-line support services to the AV industry across diverse technologies including AV, digital signage, interactive touch, Voice-over-IP and fixed line telecoms, unified communications and video conferencing. It partners with a broad range of leading and niche brands including AverComm, BT, CTOUCH, Hitachi, LG Super Sign, Polycom, Samsung MagicInfo, Signagelive and Voicenet, leading distributors including Midwich, Medium UK, Micro-P, Beta Distribution and Sahara as well as resellers and integrators.

Peerless-AV is a leading designer and manufacturer of award-winning high quality audio-visual mounting solutions. Our innovative product line includes flat panel mounts, projector mounts, digital signage and video wall solutions, environmental enclosures, flat panel carts and stands, interactive kiosks, AV racks and a full assortment of accessories.  Peerless-AV work closely with professional installers and integrators, to create mounting solutions that are simple to install, provide incredible versatility and are compatible with the very latest technology.  High quality in-house manufacturing and comprehensive UL safety testing ensure that Peerless-AV products are trusted by installers and integrators for use in a wide range of markets and applications.

About the Award

Designed by leading graphic artist Tony Hierons, the AV News Awards trophy symbolises the spectacular rise of visual communications technology in society, and its progress into the future. The convergence of the streams of light to a single beam represents the filtering of disparate technologies into a single strand of communication.


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