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Episode 47: Wes Hatchett on Implementing Software-Based Control Systems

Wes Hatchett is CEO of ControlEnvy. ControlEnvy is an open-source software based control system.

Wes and the ControlEnvy team were one of the first podcast interviews in Epsiode 6.

Interview Highlights

  • Can run on Android.
  • Has a setup configuration interface that includes troubleshooting and debug tools.
  • Chose to focus on Android because it continues to outpace even laptops in processing power.
  • Sample application: Google Pixel 4a installed in a rack connected via WiFi.
  • A Mac Mini can also be used when a hard-wired appliance is required.
  • The system is driven by states stored in a local data store.
  • Paths are used to access components in the data store through logic macros.
  • Shifting from completely custom programming projects to a product based model allows for better update management. Old systems benefit from feature updates instead of standing still.

Mentioned In This Episode

Lutron, Sonos, Biamp, Google Pixel 4a, Apple Mac Mini

Episode 45: Joe Way On Simplifying Everything with Software & Customer-Centric Design

USC tasked Joe Way, Director of Learning Environments, to create the single best IT Department in all of academia. Joe tells about what it was like to achieve that vision.

Highlights…

  • Look at what companies like Google and Amazon are doing instead of other universities.
  • Software Driven. Does not want to own black boxes.
  • Simplifying everything by considering the entire customer workflow.
  • Realized that AV over IP is just another distribution system and not taking full advantage of the network the way IT does.
  • IT focuses more on Security and Access Management.
  • Changing the UX by focusing on connecting services instead of boxes in lecterns.
  • Training is the biggest challenge to an IT-centric approach. AV is easier to troubleshoot because it is all signal flow. In a software-based system, there is much more to consider than the physical layer alone.
  • Relationships with “the rest of IT” was a key to success. Examples include Infrastructure, UC, Application Services and Computer Science.
  • There is a huge opportunity for integrators in managed services.
  • Key selling points are scalability, a frictionless user experience and everything remote including setup, configuration and service.
  • System upgrades take advantage of and can be triggered by third-party service upgrades like Zoom.
  • Adopting the users language helps create the most useful designs.
  • Bringing in a PR major to effectively use Digital Signage for marketing and messaging.
  • Be fearless!

Mentioned in this episode…

  • University of Southern California
  • Amazon
  • Google
  • Crestron
  • Shure
  • ISE
  • SDVoE
  • BrightSign
  • Zoom
  • SolarWinds

Episode 44: Anton Karsten On Choosing Web Technologies For AV/IT

Anton Karsten helps me understand:

  • How web browsers work
  • Some history of HTML and browsers
  • The problem with frameworks
  • Choosing frameworks
  • Single Page Apps vs Server-Driven Architecture
  • Using Javascript for AV Control and Automation
  • Advantages of Typescript
  • Organizing Project Teams
  • Dealing With Different Devices
  • How Large Companies Set User Experience Standards
  • HTML, CSS, Javascript, Angular, Vue, React, PHP, Saas, Webpack

Episode 39: Paul Konikowski on Investing in Cybersecurity & Culture

Highlights From This Episode…

  • Bring up security early in the process. IT is often treated as an afterthought in AV.
  • Assess the impact of each device being comprised. 
  • Consider access for each device. Who? How? Why?  Least resource or least route?
  • Consider if network connectivity is really needed for each device.
  • Perform role-playing to get better perspective of what a malicious actor could do.
  • Assess if users can accidentally cause a security breach, such as plugging in unknown USB sticks.
  • VLAN headers can be spoofed and should not be considered a security mechanism.
  • Close unused ports on all devices.
  • Enable device logging and monitor the logs for suspicious activity.
  • Consider messaging direction per device and disable a device’s ability to send or receive messages if not needed.
  • Being able to demonstrate internal security practices may reduce liability should an incident arise. *This is not legal advice ?
  • Create a culture of security awareness in your organisation through policies, training and compliance testing.
  • Perform internal and possibly public code reviews.  
  • Track data check-in and check-outs.
  • Incentivize reporting vulnerabilities through rewards programs.
  • AV as a cyber target is increasing in popularity.

Mentioned In This Episode…

Episode 38: David Anderson On Closing The Gap Between Consumer & Closed Platform Touchscreens

Highlights From This Episode…

  • When looking for a new business or partnership, look for something that is lacking in skills that you have.
  • Mimo monitors fills the gap between consumer and proprietary touch displays by offering an affordable standards-based solution that can be integrated into other platforms.
  • Products like Mimo Monitors continue to put pressure on AV integrators to be more than just hardware resellers.

Mentioned In This Episode…

AMX, Crestron, Extron, Google Meet, Utelogy,   

Episode 37: David Hirschfeld On Exposing Hidden Requirements & Software Product Lifecycles


Highlights From This Episode…

  • Knowledge of industry is a good indicator of potential success. Knowing the end customer and distribution channels is important.Knowing the market is not so important – that will be learned through the development process.
  • The Business Canvas is a 9 step process that can help determine the initial features of an app should be.
  • Creating functional prototypes that really represent the finished product (as opposed to wireframes) before writing any code, always exposes new requirements that are less expensive to implement in a prototype than finished code.
  • Other benefits of the prototype includes having a clear description for the developers and a working demo to show potential customers.
  • When planning a software product, make sure there is a budget for development of future versions based on user feedback from the initial version.
  • Software products are never done because if you stop developing and marketing, customers and revenue will fall off.
  • When choosing technologies, consider how data is stored and related, if scalability is important  (it’s probably not).

Mentioned In This Episode…

Texas Instruments, Allied Signal, Intel, Motorola, Tekyz, Zapier, Google Sheets, https://leanstack.com/leancanvas/https://www.axure.com, SQL, node.js. Redis, ElasticSearch, Mimo Monitors, Android, iOS, React Native, npm,  

Episode 35: AJ Thompson On The Pains & Joys Of Learning Modern Programming

I met AJ Thompson from the LearnAVProgramming.com website. He enrolled in a bunch of courses over the past few years and we recently exchanged some emails where he told me about some interesting solutions he is working on.

He tells us about what it takes to move from traditional AV programming to modern software tools and more importantly – why you would want to.

Mentioned In This Episode…

Crestron, AMX, Extron, NodeRED, Udemy, Academind, Mosh, Digital Resources 

Episode 15: Dave Schoenbeck on Masterminds, Customer Surveys and Understanding Your Financials

Dave Schoenbeck has a long history in managing and operating retail stores like Toys R Us and is one of the founders of Babies R Us where he served as senior VP of operations for 10 years. So what does that have to do with software? For more than a decade he’s been helping business owners in AV and beyond reach their goals as an executive coach.

When I started this podcast, I did not realise how much shifting to software defined systems affects the business models. But the words ”as a service” keep coming up, so I am really excited to learn a lot today from Dave Schoenbeck.

Episode 11: Lee Rivers On Managing The Risk Of Business, Strategic Alliances And Controlling Your Own Destiny

Lee Rivers talks about how programmers can guarantee AV project success by working directly with
consultants and end users.

Episode 9: Steve Greenblatt on Consumerism, Playing The Long Game And Why AV Programmers Need To Keep Learning

Steve Greenblatt is probably least known for being one of my former employers. His AV career began by spending a few years working as a Systems Engineer for Crestron, then he went on to found what was probably one of the first Independent AV Programming companies, Control Concepts. With over 21 years in business, Control Concepts is one of the longest running AV programming business out there. He is also host of AVNation’s A State Of Control.