Tech Watch: Finding projector opportunities

Tech Watch: Finding projector opportunities

Projecting the dragon

Curiosity got the better of me recently, and I went and saw How To Tame A Dragon in 3D. Being a new movie, the cinema was packed, and being a film aimed at the young ones, a good proportion of the audience was school-age.

Typically, this is a recipe for disaster for anyone who prefers watching movies without background noise. However, what happened instead was surprising – utter silence from start to finish.

Taking nothing away from the absorbing quality of the film, the new wave of 3D technology is proving to have a remarkable ability to fully draw the audience’s attention to what is going on on-screen.

Projector vendors and solution providers have noticed this trend, and in education – one of the key projector verticals – 3D solutions are set to be a major area of opportunity.

“There are companies specialising in generating 3D content for education, so you can imagine for example, being able to see DNA strands change in 3D, or taking a tour of the solar system,” ViewSonic business development manager, Ian Law, said.

The potential is so strong it has led to the formation of education 3D content specialists, like UK-based 3Ducation. Major vendors such as US-based Texas Instruments are also actively now touting the benefits of 3D in education, claiming 3D’s ability to motivate and captivate the audience leaves students in an improved mindset for learning.

Australia has been slower on the uptake compared to the UK and the US, and, as Law said, 3D is “something that’s at the tip of the tongue”. ViewSonic nonetheless has invested in having projectors 3D-ready for the new trend to hit local schools.

“3D’s been around for 25 years,” Law said. “It’s evolving now, and starting to penetrate into the classrooms.” Coming up against AV The next step is for partners to take advantage of the emerging trend. The channel play within the projectors market, however, is not a straightforward one. One of the bigger hurdles is long-term convergence between IT and the A/V space.

Although re-education and upskilling has traditionally been a bigger concern for A/V dealers finding themselves increasingly involved in the IT space, that process is triggering higher levels of competition. This in turn, is forcing IT partners to improve their own skill levels and step up their game.

“The pro A/V people have to be a lot more IT savvy, know how their technology works, and understand how to sell to those customers,” Sanyo group manager for commercial products, Peter Huljich, said. “More and more, the end user is the IT department within a company, and that’s something they have to get used to.” At the same time, the maturity of projector hardware had led to low-maintenance features, and user familiarity with how the technology works. As a result, partners are not able to rely on the maintenance and services annuity contracts their comrades would enjoy in other segments of the IT industry for extra profit. That’s not to say there’s no role for the reseller or systems integrator. In an advisory role, a partner can help ensure the customer selects the right brightness of projector for the room upfront.

“If you don’t spend the money to get a decent brightness projector, then you might find the image won’t look as crash hot on the screen,” Mitsubishi Electric national product manager, Matt Hanna, said.

“Other people may end up going for a cheaper option and having a 4 x 3 aspect ratio projector, but later down the track they may wish they went with a widescreen, because it will match up with their notebook computers a bit better.”

Even something as simple as which dominant projector technology to buy into – LCD or DLP – can be an invaluable service rendered by the partner, as the wrong decision can lead to an ineffective projector solution.

There’s upselling potential to consider, too. Alongside interest in 3D technology within the education sector is increased use of interactive whiteboards. A typical set-up involves the whiteboard unit, which is linked to a computer, and a short-throw projector, so the presenter or lecturer can stand in front of the board without the projector shining in their eyes.

“By controlling the computer, the projection essentially becomes a big touchscreen: You can use it like a normal whiteboard, and the data will get transferred straight to the computer,” Hanna said. “If partners want to approach the education market, I’d say that’d be an advisable way to go.”

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