by Julián Arcila
The Latin VA market seems not to have been affected by the winds of economic crisis that have been blowing in recent days in the region and in the rest of the world. At least this is what the most recent pronouncements made by industry professionals in interviews conducted by AVI LATINOAMÉRICA during the last edition of InfoComm, held in Las Vegas, United States, between June 18 and 20, seem to indicate.
In the opinion of the professionals who were consulted by this means, the region is advancing both in terms of investments and education, but there are still some moles related to the issue of dependence on the cost of solutions, which has made companies that make investments in technology for the A / V and lighting segment have to replace in the short-term economic solutions, as they offer neither the expected performance nor the quality.
The region is clearly moving in two trends that will impact the sector in some way in the medium and long term. Economic volatility has already caused slowdowns in several economies in the region such as Mexico and Colombia, in addition to certain concerns with unofficial inflation in countries such as Argentina. No less important is the aspect of sustainability and the environmental issue, which are taking over more and more corporate spaces and will be decisive for the A/V industry, in the sense that the market will lean every day towards more efficient solutions from the energy point of view.
But in addition to the economy and environmental concerns, the industry has several particular trends according to each specific segment. Because of the size of the exhibition it is a bit difficult to show information about the bulk of the industry; however, this magazine presents some data that may be important to understand the reality of the market.
One of the segments that has grown the most in recent years is that of mounts, which has advanced hand in hand with the development of screens and projectors. In this field, the main trend observed is the ease of installation, according to Eduardo Viteri, international account manager of Chief Manufacturing, a Milestone AV Technology brand specialized in the professional segment. Viteri added that "professional installers, who make up the majority of InfoComm visitors, currently need assembly solutions that are quick to install and do not require many tools for assembly, as this becomes productivity for them, since the less time they take to make an assembly, more they will be able to perform in a day."
It is important to clarify that when talking about trends it is not done in the sense in which this word is commonly used; there is talk of realities fully identified within the industry.
Precisely in the segment of digital signage, the most important trend or reality of the moment is in the use of large LED screens to cover buildings, as is done in Las Vegas or New York. According to Adrián Morel, general director of Lighthouse Technologies (LED screens) for Latin America, in the region the exterior LED is already being used to replace posters and billboards, as it is an application that has many advantages, for example, it can be outdoors, work 24 hours a day and if a cost/benefit analysis is made it is always favorable for the company that makes the installation. "For interiors, larger screens than plasmas are being manufactured, a technology that has limitations in size; these solutions are being applied primarily for what are known as audience shows," Morel said.
But a reality that cannot be ignored is the growing interest of users to have do it yourself solutions, that is, devices that can be easily and quickly used without the obligation to have a technician to operate the system. This trend was mentioned by Katia While, manager for Latin America of LifeSize (video conference in high definition), who explained that unlike what was previously seen when the systems were very difficult to install and operate, today the user demands solutions in which he does not have to have a technician or engineer to be able to manage his equipment, condition that this brand is taking into account for the development of its solutions.
On the other hand, this global trend that has arisen from the hand of technological globalization, which poses offices and even homes completely integrated with their different devices connected to each other, cannot be ignored either. Juan Montoya, sales manager of Bosch Communications for Central and South America, said that "the client has shown a clear need towards total integration between all its solutions, an element that we are adopting for the development of our equipment".
The user's need for quality is also becoming more robust every day. This was mentioned by Armando Mola, Sony's sales manager for Latin America in the Business Solutions line, who commented that to meet this need the company has launched a new technology known as Bright Era, which consists of a panel made from an inorganic material and with which greater duration and better definition is guaranteed. ón in its colors.
No less important today is that orientation of the user towards mobility. This was indicated by Barbara Birrell, international business development manager for the territories of Canada, Latin America and Asia of 3M. This official explained that "more and more business people expect to be able to use the same technology anywhere and the great development in areas such as telephony is a sign that people want to be more portable every day and take their technology to more locations."
Compendium of business in Latin America
By analyzing what was said by the specialists interviewed, it is possible to deduce that business in Latin America has not yet been affected by the threats of the global economic crisis. The representatives of the companies surveyed highlight how it is increasingly common to find in the region companies committed and willing to invest in the latest technology available in the market. In the same way, they highlight how the agreements related to the execution of important projects have been maintained, which has facilitated that a considerable number of good businesses come to a successful conclusion.
In the case of Chief Manufacturing, things have been quite positive, as they have had a constant growth of approximately 30% in recent years, this without counting the performance in the Brazilian market. Growth is expected to be slightly higher this year, Viteri said.
For Lighthouse, the news is no less good. According to Adrián Morel, the company has also sustained an approximate growth of 30%. "Four years ago there was practically no penetration in the region. In the first year of operations, 10 screens were sold. In the second year this figure reached 15, and for this season we will reach between 20 and 30 units. Large advertising companies have realized that these solutions are a better option and already today we have projects in which we are talking about 10 screens per city, "said this professional.
Another company that reported positive results was Inter M Americas, which through its sales director for South America, Javier Navarro, presented a growth of 60%, a result that has been driven by a doubling in sales in South America. "We expect higher growth this year," he said.
Bosch also obtained good figures and reached a growth of 30% during 2007 and for this year expects growth of more than 10%, according to Montoya. The reduction in the growth target is due to a logical adjustment that occurs after significant growth is achieved.
Sony also made its report and through Armando Mola reported that in 2007 there was a growth of 12% in the total line, a figure that is expected to be exceeded at the end of this year, reaching 20%. To achieve the above, the directors of the multinational have undertaken a project known as Condor, which consists of doubling sales in markets such as Peru, Chile and Argentina, specifically in the lines of digital photography, projectors and screens.
Towards a developed market
Whenever we talk about Latin America as a market, there is a great concern about how developed it is in relation to the United States, Europe and Southeast Asia.
The officials interviewed gave their opinions on what they believe is missing in Latin America to reach once and for all that coveted place among the world's leading markets.
For Eduardo Viteri, development is a matter of time, because in his opinion the Latino consumer is very fond of new technology from developed markets.
Adrián Morel, for his part, said that Latin America has to stop considering the price factor as the most important when buying, because in the long term the solutions acquired under this premise end up working inadequately. "What the region needs is to improve more in terms of the quality of purchase, because in this way the projects will yield more in the long term," Morel said.
Navarro, from Inter M Americas, agreed with Viteri, and believes that in the medium term Latin America will end up consolidating, thanks to the ingenuity and creativity of the local integrator.
Meanwhile, Juan Montoya, from Bosch, explained that what the region lacks is more knowledge and training. "It is something we are focusing on, founding academies in many countries and this has brought us very good results," he said.
In this first contact with the global A/V industry, there were many elements left to understand the important role that Latin America has within the world map of this technology. The perhaps clearest sign of the above is that unlike other industrial segments with which the editor has had contact, in this business international companies try to reach Latin America through people from the region as the spearhead of their commercial strategy. Others are more experienced and have as representatives in the region foreigners who simply want to know first-hand the economic dynamics of this territory.