The Audiovisual and Integrated Experience Association, or AVIXA, is the global trade organization for the audiovisual industry. The group is in the midst of an outreach effort to engage audiences on how audiovisual can enhance customer experiences.

Brad Grimes is senior director of communications for AVIXA. Grimes met recently with AXN’s Carol Ward shortly after a presentation he gave showcasing massive and state-of-the-art audiovisual installations at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) and Singapore Changi International Airport (SIN). Grimes discussed integration and expansion of audiovisual technology in airports of all sizes.

Ward: Many airports are in some sort of transition right now, with new, expanded or upgraded terminals. How early in the process do your members get involved, and how can audiovisual enhance the passenger experience?  

Grimes: We encourage people to get audiovisual professionals involved at the very earliest stages. They can work through [the logistics of] how the experience needs to be, then airports can get the best possible experience for their passengers. We’ve done a lot of outreach to the architecture and design community and they do start to pull our members in a lot earlier. Part of it is the development of technology. A lot of it is architectural – integrated into the building, not something hung on the building. That has naturally forced planners to look at it as, for lack of a better term, construction material. If audiovisual technology is construction material then obviously we need to plan to have it integrated as such.

Information can be presented in a lot of different ways. A lot of the wayfinding can be interactive – that is clearly a trend that a lot of people are going with, rather than just a static display. If the goal is to create an experience that is soothing, that can be a show or an art installation using AV, just to make people feel calmer. A lot of the airports we talk to would like people to show up 20 minutes earlier, not to stand in a TSA line but to linger, to shop, to have a meal. The audiovisual experience should definitely be a part of it. We want to understand [airports’] pain points, understand what their goals are.

Ward: Cost and rapidly changing technology are common concerns. How do you address those?

Grimes: The airports that have the money to invest will be the first adopters. There are big projects like LAX and Changi, but because of the nature of the technology it does scale. When we talk to airports we let them see that it’s not just a wow factor, it can be practical too. This technology means different things to different people, and there is a solution for smaller airports too. Regarding changing technology, when technology is moving so fast it’s important to focus on things that aren’t the technology. What’s the goal? Is it to make people feel happy? Make them feel informed? Allow them to communicate better? Do you want them to be social, with social media integration? Do you want it to be branded? As we build it out then we come to the technology. We’re farther down the road in the process so we’re farther away from needing to upgrade but you’re never going to be future-proofed.

Ward: Once an installation is complete, who manages it? Especially if there isn’t going to be a branded feature, does the airport manage it or a third party?

Grimes: It varies. There are AV companies, but then there are some customers who want to manage it themselves. Some airports want to brand content [in which case an advertising firm might be involved] but others do not. The most important thing is to recognize that you can’t set it and forget it. As long as you are engaged, as long as you are committed to working on content, there are a lot of different ways you can do it.