July 21, 2022 - I was recently asked to contribute a number of quotes to the UK publication AV Magazine on the subject of cloud analytics — a topic that’s well in my wheelhouse since I’m intimately involved in marketing the Crestron XiO Cloud® platform. As I dug into the questions posed by that publication, the nature of the queries led me to believe that a significant number of integrators (not to mention IT departments) haven’t fully grasped the potential impact that analytics can have in the AV space — especially in this era of the hybrid workplace.
From the 30,000-foot perspective, Gartner lists six elements of analytics: “data sources, data models, processing applications, computing power, analytic models and sharing or storage of results.” If even one of those elements lives in the cloud, you’ve got “cloud analytics.” For our purposes, cloud analytics refers to a platform that can monitor all the devices in an AV ecosystem. We’re speaking about a lot more data than simple “online/offline” notifications. While that information’s undoubtedly important, there’s quite a bit more that a good platform can give the user: How old is the device; where are we in the expected life cycle of this piece of hardware? What’s the firmware status? Will any licensing need to be renewed in the near term? When was the last software update?
Perhaps most importantly, however, is a data point that’s often overlooked: Is a device — or a room full of devices — getting regular use?
Let’s suppose, for example; you’ve got five conference rooms, four of which are seeing regular use Monday through Friday, while one sits dormant for the bulk of the week. The four rooms that are seeing high traffic will likely be the first to see devices fail from constant use, while that fifth room isn’t “pulling its share” of the workload. The staff responsible for IT management could direct employees to that space — and further begin to uncover why the room’s not being used in the first place. Is the location poor? Is there a bad connection or outdated device in that room that makes operation difficult?
Obviously, some rooms may see less traffic given their purpose. A firm’s big boardroom may be just that: A meeting space for the board, while smaller huddle rooms see constant traffic. There are potential savings here regarding climate, however — can that room run its own heating and cooling schedule completely independent of other spaces?
Narrow that concept down to individual offices. Do you have employees working hybrid schedules who occupy offices that aren’t shared? Are there shared spaces — open-concept areas, perhaps outfitted with hotdesking setups — that see downtime during the week? All these spaces could save resources if lighting, HVAC, and other systems are scheduled accordingly. Now think about scaling those solutions to massive business campuses, universities, or military facilities, and the efficiencies add up rapidly.
Data = Action = Savings
Of course, this means that a robust cloud analytics engine isn’t just reporting data to the IT department; it also has the potential to trigger some kind of action. For example, suppose your analytics platform can send an alert regarding a failing HDMI® cable. In this instance, you’re aware of the problem before the user experiences the malfunction. Additionally, in an era when a great many firms are outsourcing IT and help desk functions, generating fewer tickets for simple fixes would be a welcome development.
This data is also incredibly handy for expenditure justification — if a particular set of devices or a certain kind of room is proving popular among the staff, having hard data that makes the case is invaluable info one can bring to the CFO’s desk.
Ultimately, the best way to think about analytics platforms like XiO Cloud is summed up by the phrase “complete asset management.” You’ll have relevant data for every part of every space, from displays to shades to thermostats. You’ll know when each device was purchased, its model numbers, firmware version, name it — and it’s all info that becomes more and more critical as your business scales up. Think about a situation where you’re deployed a given number of conference rooms across your enterprise at different times; X amount in Q1, Y amount in Q2, and so on. A proper asset management platform will note that you’re buying hardware that won’t be deployed until a later date — and will understand what updates may need to be made to the new devices as they come into the mix.
Currently, having all of this actionable data on a dashboard that’s easily accessible — as you’ll find in XiO Cloud — can offer tremendously valuable information. Right out of the gate, the adoption of a platform such as Crestron’s can drive down two expenses: help desk tickets and preventative device maintenance. This is a nominal investment that gives you a huge upside.
Eventually, these platforms will be able to accomplish even more as they begin to gather very granular data and gain the ability to integrate (and automate) with other systems. Imagine a sensor-laden platform that notes that the humidity levels in a room are suboptimum for the devices in the room — and can then trigger a dehumidifier for that space to extend the life cycles of all that hardware. Multiply that action by hundreds of rooms, and the positive effect that robust analytics might have on a company’s bottom line becomes even more profound.