During February I got to spend five cold and snowy days in the city of Amsterdam attending the Integrated Systems Europe (ISE) convention. This convention is an enormous event focused on technology in workplace and public space, ranging from display systems, network-based technologies, communication, audiovisual, and everything else that you can think of that has a plug or a connector on it.
The show is attended by 75,000 people from 150 countries. With 14 exhibit halls and 1192 exhibitors, I did not cover even 15 percent of the event in the four days I was there. However, we were there with clients from different industries and different perspectives, which gave the TEECOM team the opportunity to see these technologies through the eyes of the user. We had a team of people from a museum, from a consumer goods company, and from a financial institution. Those people were able to ask questions and understand things in ways that sometimes as technology consultants we lose touch with. We’re very focused on technology, cost, availability, and sometimes it’s possible to overlook the bigger picture as to why you do something, what you can do, is it possible, when should we do it?
We averaged nine meetings a day and a similar number of demonstrations in the evening, and we learned a great deal about where technology is headed. In particular, we saw three overall trends: an increase in social media-inspired user interfaces, new applications of creative display environments, and exciting advances in technology for immersive environments.
Social Media Interfaces
The big surprise at ISE this year is one I’d categorize as social. This is a very technical event with lots of different things all connected together, often billed as solutions. One of the weakest parts of technology generally is the interface: how you interact with something, how you control something. We’re all familiar with the keyboard, the mouse, but with anything that’s come after that — the iPad, touch panel, smartphone — manufacturers have been focusing on their own interfaces with their own technologies.
What we saw for the first time at ISE was this genius idea of using social media interfaces, which millions of us use every day, as a means to control technology. We started to see the convergence of the consumer social media technologies and the professional office technologies. Major players like Samsung and BARCO are embracing it, as well as smaller companies — there was a little company from Sweden called Pixilab that has an amazing social media tool for managing meetings. The end users were excited to see this possibility of controlling technology through an interface with which they’re already familiar.
Creative Display Environments
Another surprise was the number of creative applications of new technologies, and especially of display technologies. Displays are no longer framed in a metal box or through a particular window size. Instead, they can be entire walls, or entire buildings. Sound systems, traditionally there to play a sound to you that you listen to, are now becoming what we call active — they’re able to actually manage the environment, change your perception of an environment, or change the behavior of an environment. Lighting, similarly, was there to light a workspace or a theatre show. Those two technologies are coming together so that the lighting of a space can change the mood or adjust to the time of day.
So we’re seeing a great deal of the new technologies — typically networked-based which makes them more controllable — unleashing a level of creativity to improve everything from small huddle rooms to large amphitheaters and venues.
As we’ve long predicted, immersive environments, variously called virtual reality or augmented reality, are growing in popularity in the audiovisual, computing, and other technology communities. What really struck us at ISE were the number of systems immersing people in information, data, video art, all sorts of different things. We saw the emergence of VR headsets demonstrating useful business functionality. We saw very large LED display walls, larger than you would size using normal display rules, allowing an entire side of a building to be anything from a spreadsheet to a creative art piece.
But the key thing was that the whole human field of perception — the whole field of view — was filled with information. This trend is breaking all the rules for traditional screens and traditional viewing, and starting to allow us to use the whole visual system, the highest bandwidth connection to our brain, in a more efficient and more detailed way.
Conclusion: New Perspectives on Technology Trends
ISE 2017 was an amazing event. The clients gave us new eyes and new perspectives. We saw three big trends unfolding across all the technologies represented — creative display environments, social user interfaces, immersive environments — all starting to impact traditional business meeting and workflow technology.
I think these trends are going to continue unfolding rapidly, so much so that it’s difficult to predict what we’ll see by the time we get to ISE 2018. In a way this reinforces that technology continues to change at an accelerated pace. However, my takeaway is that technology is evolving in a way that’s becoming more and more useful to the applications to which we wish to put it. It’s being driven by the user, it’s reacting to the use case, and that is the trend that we really want the manufacturers to continue to follow.
How will this evolving technology drive your design? Contact us to continue the conversation.