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Guest Interview: Mike Blackman, ISE (3/1/2013)
Mike Blackman, ISE
Mike Blackman is the Managing Director of Integrated Systems Events, organiser of Integrated Systems Europe (ISE). In this exclusive interview for HiddenWires, Mike gives a background to the show and explains its importance to the residential custom install market.
Q: How did you become involved with ISE, and how has the show developed?
A: Having spent most of my career in the B2B events business, I was approached to head up ISE in 2003, prior to its launch in Geneva the following year. At that time the show was a joint venture between three not-for-profit trade associations: CEDIA, InfoComm International and NSCA. In 2007 NSCA sold their stake in the show, so ISE is now a 50-50 joint-venture partnership between CEDIA and InfoComm. The aims remain the same as they were ten years ago: to further the development of the audiovisual and electronic systems integration industries in Europe. ISE 2012 was the best-attended AV tradeshow ever held anywhere in the world, so in terms of industry development, we feel we are doing our bit!
Q: Which events are important to you during the year, and how do you keep yourself informed of the market's needs?
A: The shows held in the US by the above-named associations - InfoComm and CEDIA Expo - are key for me, even though their European attendance has been affected by the growth of ISE. Our industry is global and there are always important new themes emerging at the leading American shows, because so much of our industry's R&D originates there. I also attend shows in adjacent markets such as consumer electronics, professional audio, IT, digital signage and even some vertical-market shows. If you work in the tradeshow business, you can never attend too many tradeshows!
Q: What is the biggest change to ISE that you've seen over recent years?
A: There has been a clear shift in exhibitor focus from individual technologies to integrated solutions and end-user applications. There are still a few manufacturers who arrive at the Amsterdam RAI with static products in perspex display cases, but their number diminishes every year. Our industry has realised that placing technology in the context of an end-customer solution benefits everybody. It makes it easier for exhibitors to demonstrate the full range of their products' capabilities, and makes it easier for visitors to envisage how better solutions can be implemented.
Q: How has the economic situation affected the show, which areas are contracting and expanding?
A: We are fortunate in that none of our key markets is yet showing signs of contraction, although one could argue that some technologies, such as 3D and Unified Communications, are not proving to be the drivers for growth we expected them to be when the economic picture was brighter. In terms of expansion, we will host a larger Digital Signage area than ever at ISE 2013 and, importantly for the HiddenWires audience, our largest-ever Residential Solutions area as well.
Q: What type of visitor are you expecting at ISE 2013, where do they come from, and what proportion of them are interested in residential?
A: Around 10% of our visitors describe their area of business as 'residential only', while a further 50% say they serve a mixture of residential and commercial customers. These proportions have been pretty stable over the past two years and we expect the mix to be much the same in 2013, largely because, in mainland Europe and the broader EMEA region, it is very common for commercial integrators also to be active in residential markets.
Q: Why is ISE a must-attend event on the residential custom installer's calendar, and what can they look forward to at ISE 2013?
A: There are two stories here. One is in the hard numbers. We will be hosting over 800 exhibitors, nearly 200 of which are new to the show, and over 40,000 attendees. The event's status now puts it at the heart of the R&D calendar and we expect over 1000 new products to be launched at ISE 2013. Beyond that, there are industry trends emerging which will shape the way the residential custom installer does business in the years to come.
When ISE first started, 'custom installation' essentially meant home cinema, and that was the technology most of our residential-market exhibitors were showing. Since then, we've seen the progression to multiroom media distribution as network technology has advanced to enable AV to permeate every area of the house. The next step, as shown in the new Smart Building area of our show floor and in our new pre-show Smart Building Conference on Monday 28 January is custom installation's diversification from entertainment into adjacent competencies such as lighting control, HVAC, energy management and security. Of course, some installation companies have had these competencies for years - the difference now is that the demand for these services is growing rapidly and, as all the most recent market research shows, probably at a faster rate than the demand for entertainment.
Q: How can visitors best prepare for the show and what have you done to make the experience for them even better?
A: This year we will be putting our Show Guide online as a free download prior to the show for the first time. There will also be a VIP Preview Edition of the ISE Daily newspaper available in both a printed edition and online, and for the second year running there will be a free ISE smartphone app for visitors to download when they are on-site. We are upgrading the signage of our themed areas such as Residential Areas and Smart Building, and we are opening up the walkway between Halls 7 and 8 at the rear of the RAI which will make the whole show more easily navigable.
Q: Are there any other issues that you think are important to the residential market?
A: At the risk of repeating myself, two words: Smart Building!
Q. How is Mike Blackman coping in the run up to the show?
A: There aren't enough hours in the day at the moment, but fortunately I have a great team of dedicated professionals assisting me. ISE wouldn't be where it is today without the ISE people, and the ethos that has driven us ever since that first show in 2004 - that every attending company, no matter how large or small, is as important as every other.
Mike Blackman is the Managing Director of Integrated Systems Events, organiser of Integrated Systems Europe. ISE is the best-attended AV tradeshow held anywhere in the world, providing a unique meeting point for industry professionals from over 130 countries.
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