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Join Ron Callis, Owner & CEO of One Firefly and industry veteran, as he talks business development, technology trends, and more with leading personalities in the tech industry. Automation Unplugged (AU) is produced and broadcast live every week.
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An AV and integration-focused podcast broadcast live weekly
Join Ron Callis, Owner & CEO of One Firefly and industry veteran, as he talks business development, technology trends, and more with leading personalities in the tech industry. Automation Unplugged (AU) is produced and broadcast live every week.
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Director of Control Rooms at Barco Discusses the Complex Command-and-Control Market

Automation Unplugged 264 feat. Dan Gundry, Director of Control Rooms - Americas of Barco Control Rooms. Join us for an exciting show that dives into Dan’s experience in the Mission Critical Control Room market.

This week's episode of Automation Unplugged features Dan Gundry, Director of Control Rooms - Americas of Barco Control Rooms

About Dan Gundry:

Dan is an experienced technology professional and a well-respected voice in the critical command-and-control market. Dan currently manages North American sales for Barco’s control room group.

Dan regularly speaks at industry events, educating on command-and-control best practices, human factors engineering, and risk management for technology projects. He is also a strong advocate for the control room vertical market within AVIXA and the larger ProAV technology industry.

Dan hosts NOC Your SOCs Off!, a podcast focused on the critical control room marketplace. In 2023, Dan was named an “AV Living Legend” by Commercial Integrator magazine.

Interview Recap

  • What a Mission Critical Control Room is and the typical custom data processing and AV setups
  • Examples of control rooms from movies, and the time Dan worked with a 3-letter agency that only communicated via fax
  • The market opportunities that come from working in a niche market, along with the risks and challenges
  • How AI is changing the game for control rooms and information processing

SEE ALSO: Show #263 feat. President of PCD Audio & Video System Integration

Transcript

Ron:

Hello, hello. Ron Callis here with another episode of Automation Unplugged. Today is Wednesday, April 17th. It is a little bit earlier than our normal showtime, just trying to balance schedules with my guest and my busy schedule. So it's a little bit after 12:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. And we are here for show 264. And I'm trying to think of what's been going on here in One Firefly. I'm just coming back actually from the Azione Conference. So that took place last week in Orlando. I was out there with a couple of members of my team. I was out there with Josh and Kat and Jessica. And it was a big deal. In particular, it was Richard Glike's retirement, or you could say send off, send off in style. We had a roast for Richard and it was, you know, a roast is, you're supposed to say mean things. The reality is a lot of people sent him a lot of love and Richard has garnered a lot of respect and done a lot for our industry over his long storied career. And I know we're all super proud of him and excited for him to take on this new chapter. But that was last week. And actually at the beginning of last week, I was also out in Nashville with my leadership team, getting our planning ready for this Q2. And of course, making sure that we as a business here at One Firefly are on track for our goals for the year and beyond. So it's been a busy week and then yours truly. I'm actually heading off to a conference next week where I'm gonna be fellowshipping with some different agency owners and kind of putting our heads together and strategizing and how we can help each other ultimately run better businesses. So as you all know, particularly if you've been a longtime listener of this show, I believe there's a lot of value in listening to others and learning from others that have maybe been there, done that, made those mistakes and maybe solved some problems, figured some things out. And that, at the end of the day, is why we do this podcast here with Automation Unplugged, is we bring on brilliant guests and innovators and great thinkers from our industry. And we put them on a pedestal. And my job is to ask them interesting questions that will help them ultimately share with all of you who they are, what they believe, what has gotten them here and what they think about what's going on today in this crazy world. So that's what we're gonna do today. We have an awesome guest. I've known this guest for a couple of years now. He's a joy to always speak to. I'm confident all of you are gonna enjoy meeting him. And so who do I have? We have Dan Gundry. He's the Senior Director of Control Rooms for the Americas at Barco. So we're going to be talking about all sorts of tech. We're going to be talking about some movies that you have all probably watched and you see all this technology, like what is that and how does that stuff work? And then what is the business of control rooms? And what maybe for some of you might be an opportunity to maybe leverage some of the knowledge you might gain here or some of the relationships or the people that you might be introduced to here to ultimately benefit your business. So without further ado, let me go ahead and bring in Dan and let's see how he's doing. Dan, how are you, sir?

Dan:

I'm doing great. And I'm looking forward to meeting this awesome guest that you're bringing on the show with us today.

Ron:

Yeah, he's, he's, he's a little delayed, so I figured I'd bring you in. Is that OK?

Dan:

Yeah, sure. We'll fill the time until we get here.

Ron:

Awesome. Awesome. Dan, where are you coming to us from? First of all, where in the world are you right now?

Dan:

So I'm at home, which is a rare thing for me these days, which is at Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania, about an hour north of Philly, about an hour and a half west of New York City.

Ron:

Lehigh Valley, that's, that's, yeah, that's there in Pennsylvania. I lived, this goes way back in time, but at the beginning of my career, right out of college, I lived there in Bethlehem when I went to work for Lutron. So it's right there in the Lehigh Valley, right?

Dan:

Lutron is a hop, skip, and a jump from my house for sure, as is Bethlehem, as is another one of the One Firefly All-Stars, Jessica.

Ron:

Jessica, yeah, Jessica, my bet is Jess. You know what? I was going to say, I bet you Jessica's tuned in. And wouldn't you know it? There she is. She says, "Hi, Dan. Looking forward to the discussion today.".

Dan:

And don't forget, Jessica, you owe me five bucks every time I say your name, which is now twice.

Ron:

I think you should rack up a big bill. Keep dropping that name.

Dan:

For sure.

Ron:

That's fine. So Dan, what is, what's your role? First of all, what is Barco Control Rooms? And what's your specific role or responsibilities there at Barco?

Dan:

Yeah, so, so for those of you that don't know Barco, we are one of the global visualization Leaders. We're a very Matrix Company, so I know some of your audiences on the high-end residential side, so we have a high-end residential group. On the commercial side, we're basically split up amongst three different business units, our meeting experience, which is ClickShare, which is weird because about seven years ago, nobody understood because that product wasn't around. But now Barco is kind of synonymous with ClickShare. We also have a group that does projection and image processing. If you've ever seen a large building that's projection mapped on the outside, there's a better than average chances with Barco technology. But I run this small little or not run, but I manage the sales team in North America for this smaller kind of niche side of Barco, which is mission-critical control rooms. So I've been doing that for about a year now at Barco, but I've been selling the Barco technology and working in control rooms for a dozen or so years before that.

Ron:

I thought it would be fun, Dan. So I went and collected some images, both from my team had gathered them from you, and I collected a couple from the Internet. Maybe I'll surprise you. Maybe not. I'm sure you've seen or talked about all of them in the past. But I thought it would be interesting just to get our audience super familiar with the type of stuff that you do or the game that you're playing every day to maybe put here on the screen. Now, some of our listeners are going to tune in audio only, so they are not going to see what's on the screen. They'll have to go over to the website or to one of the social platforms to watch the video. So we'll try to use a lot of adjectives and descriptive terms so they know what's going on. But I was wondering if maybe we could start with you telling us and let me see if my technology behaves. I'm going to try to put something on screen here. All right, what is a control room? And I've got seven images here. Maybe guide us through. What's going on in these pictures?

Dan:

Yeah, so first let's define what we're talking about when we talk about control rooms, because depending upon how large the audience is, we're talking about critical control rooms that are used for monitoring and for incident management and response, not necessarily say a broadcast control room or a surgery type of control room you might find in hospitals with an OR suites. So control rooms here, this one here, which is near and dear to my heart. Amazing that you pulled this one out of thin air, Ron, is MBTA in Boston, their central control room down in Boston, which is basically looking at all of their trains across the T, as they call the subway system up in Boston. This is a combination of operations and security. You can kind of see there's a bunch of lines in the middle of the large overview video wall there. Barco video wall that I installed or deployed back when I was at VistaCom, which was the integrator that I worked for almost for 20 years. That's basically a representation of where each train is on the tracks with the different stations so that operators can make sure that they don't have any collisions or that they're not running into timing gaps and things along those lines. But then the cameras that are around are actually showing the different train stations and stops, the platforms where people are standing to wait to get on the train. They're looking for general safety and security. They're looking for make sure people aren't out there stealing handbags or pickpocketing people or God forbid pushing people onto tracks. That's kind of a bad thing. So that's kind of what this is. This is the project that got me started into control rooms. I did this project originally about 12 years ago. And what's cool about control rooms and this one specifically is the missions there can be very, very, very important. The funding for this project, the visibility for this project, the reason why it came to be really was born out of the Boston Marathon bombings. The after action from the marathon bombings included a we need better situational awareness. We need better visibility on what's going on so that we can better track these kinds of incidents and these types of bad actors in the future. So it came out of that near and dear in terms of some of the missions here, which is kind of what makes working in critical control rooms pretty unique.

Ron:

I'm going to ask maybe, and by the way, Dan, I'm going to prep you in advance. A lot of this is way above my pay grade, so I'm going to ask what might seem like really silly questions. The software, like the fact that on the screens, I see the lines, the green lines in the red segments, there's, I'm assuming, custom software that's been developed that allows for that visualization of the train system to appear. Would an AV integrator, in this case, VistaCom, which, by the way, was recently acquired, right? That was by CCI. I just saw that in the news recently.

Dan:

Yep.

Ron:

Would the integrator also be involved in developing that software, or would that be a whole separate group that would develop stuff like that?

Dan:

Yeah, typically the AV integrator would not be involved in development of that particular software itself that's usually tied into the master control system that runs the train operations. But where the AV integrator comes into play is basically taking that content in, in order to visualize it. So the AV integrator needs to know that it exists, and then they need to know where it exists so that they know how to get that information, pull it in, and then in this case, stretch it across as many screens as they are here. The video wall here, which you're only seeing part of, is actually 2070 inch rear projection cubes wide by three of those highs. So you're probably talking about 100 feet wide, 20 about five foot, and then about 10 feet high as the overall video wall. So you also need, you do need software that an AV integrator and people like Barco provide and support to actually be able to stretch those images so that you can actually still see the content versus when you take something on your desktop and try to stretch it across and it gets weird.

Ron:

You said rear projection. So in this image, I'm seeing a bunch, as you just described, the size of these screens. These are not TVs.

Dan:

No, they're not TVs. These are 100% purpose-built rear projection cubes. And what I mean by that in this case, which is still, by the way, a current technology for those of you that hear rear projection cubes, know them and go, oh, I used those 20 years ago. Yeah, but they still are rock solid today. Basically, it's a screen. It's 70 inches in diagonal. And then in the cabinet, it's about 24 inches deep, give or take, depending upon manufacturer model. Inside of it, there's an actual projector, not unlike that you might use in a classroom or a conference room, but it's again kind of purpose built for this application. The projection shoots its image up. There's a mirror here on an angle and the bounce, the reflection of the mirror actually is what fills that screen in front. So we're basically taking the concept of a projector and rear projection and kind of miniaturizing it, so to speak, into an actual assembly. And then they're stacked accordingly and stretched accordingly to make their big canvas.

Ron:

To stay on that theme, you said that technology, that rear projection, what'd you call it, rear projection box? Rear projection cubes. Rear projection cubes. That has been around for decades. Is that the typical solution today in 2024? Or is it a value? I mean, is there a price issue? You might go with that versus something else? What are typically done today?

Dan:

There are three different primary display technologies for, say, a control room video wall. Rear projection cubes is one. LCDs, so flat panel LCDs like you might see in a mall outside of a store to kind of draw people in that kind of video wall technology. And then Direct View LED, which is kind of that newer LED technology has been around for 25 years, but really used in the pro-AV market only in the past couple of years. They all have their pros. They all have a little bit of their cons. I talked about rear projection cubes needing that 24 inches of depth. Plus, they usually are rear accessible. So now I need a space behind it. So space becomes one of the biggest cons about this technology. But you use less processing with it. They're usually used in large installations. Government, utilities, transportation like the one you see here. LCD is probably going to give you the better total cost of ownership and entry cost. So you see those in a lot of smaller type control rooms, which I think you may actually have one or two pictures of as well. LED is a newer technology, still in its infancy in a lot of ways. It's high power, high heat. So once manufacturers start solving those problems and bring the cost point down, you'll start using that and see that adopted more in control rooms.

Ron:

What is a dollar value when you sell? I don't know if you can disclose that because you were with an integrator when you did this, but like what's the range of a solution? I mean, this looks like a pretty big deal. Looks like millions of dollars.

Dan:

Yeah, so this one was publicly funded. So I can pretty much tell you what this one costs, which is like five and a half million dollars. And that was really for the technology piece of this. Those consoles there that you see, one's in a sit-stand gentleman in the forefront in that orange or burnt orange kind of shirt, but also the woman sitting in the second row sitting down behind it. Those consoles were actually provided by a company called Winstead and they were outside of contrary, but that was about five and a half million dollars worth of visualization in and of itself. Your typical control room is going to be anywhere from $250,000 integrator sale to $1,000,000 on up.

Ron:

Wow.

Dan:

Good chuck of change. It's a good business.

Ron:

That seems like if there's opportunities there that might be worth pursuing. All right, let me jump into the next image here. This looks like a little bit of a smaller application.

Dan:

Yeah, so when we talk about security operations, we like talking about the last slide that you looked at, because that kind of shows the glitz, the glamour, and people like hearing $5 million as a new sale. But realistically, a lot more of them look like this picture. So this is a typical monitoring solution in a dispatch control room for an agency. And this is using the LCD technology. So there's four monitors in a single row stacked too high to create a four wide by too high video wall. And then that's, in this case, really just showing cameras.

Dan:

So it's not a video wall that the operators are working on. They don't see a mouse that's up there on the wall. Instead, it's providing more content than what they're working on in front of them. In front of them is their task level, what we call forensic level. That's what the operator is doing regularly. But then they can look up and real quickly see what's going on in the cameras that they need to see beyond what's on their local workstation. Kind of like here in my home office where I've got, you know, last week I had the masters playing on my monitor on the far wall. That's overview, but I still have to do work here in front of me. Just don't tell my boss.

Ron:

This, yeah, our secrets here.

Dan:

Thank you.

Ron:

No worries. Now this is not small. Holy bananas. This is a, this is a big deal. What is this?

Dan:

This is a rendering, but it's of an actual control room. I'll get a chance to see it here in the next couple of weeks. Can't disclose the actual client here in this case and stuff like that, but it's a myriad of technologies. This is a control room that's used basically almost as an emergency operations center that gets staffed up, but in a regular everyday course is only minimally staffed with a couple of different people. You can see all those different pods down around the bottom. In this case, the pod mentality, I think you can kind of see three there down below on the floor. Those are working groups. They work locally. They're collaborating. I can talk across and see what I'm doing, but then I'm still in the same room. So when I need to actually turn my background and go speak to somebody else to collaborate, I have the ability to do that. There's some touch tables that are in the foreground there in the middle, where they're actually moving images around there, mostly maps, whether that be weather maps, whether that be physical maps when they're sending resources and assets out into the field. You've got a large video wall in the background on the front. That's a Sony crystal LED wall for this particular application, 100-inch diagonal LCD monitors that are up on some major trusses, just providing, again, situational awareness. What's going on? What do I need to know so I can do my job and make good decisions and be responsive to, in this case, the overall community.

Ron:

A project like this, I know you can't disclose the client, but what's a normal timeline from inception of a twinkle in someone's eye, that they need a room that has some stuff, to ultimately that project getting deployed? What are some typical time ranges?

Dan:

This, I think, was about a four-year project, maybe closer to five. This is a pretty intense project, probably one of the most intense projects that I've been involved with in my career. So I think the development cycle is probably about five years. Most of them are going to be one to two, you know, from inception.

Ron:

OK, so a typical, a smaller application might be one to two years, but...

Dan:

Yeah, like the one you saw before, you know, it might be one to two years.

Ron:

And I'm curious, the, the technology in this room is an integrator is going to integrate a whole portfolio of technologies into a space like this.

Dan:

Sure.

Ron:

What's the typical role that you play representing your manufacturer in a, maybe this project as an example, like what role and function is the integrator playing, and how are you supporting them or additionally facilitating the success of the project?

Dan:

Yeah, it's a good question. I think it does depend on manufacturer to manufacture. And, you know, Barco's one of the few manufacturers, really, I think the only one out there in the North American space, at least, that actually manufactures processing solutions, basically the engine under the hood that's driving all the content around, and then also the display solutions that you see up in front of you, even though in this case, they were planar, I think for the 100-inch and Sony, we make those technologies. Here, we're support. We're not necessarily driving design the integrator along with whatever other consultants and/or end user reps are really driving design. We're there to kind of go, okay, yep, that'll work. No, that won't work. And then augment that team. So, you know, we can get as sticky and involved in the project as needed for some of, and this was done by one of our, I think I mentioned VistaCom did this. So VistaCom did this before they were purchased by CTI.

Ron:

They did this project here that we're looking at?

Dan:

They did this project as well, and they know what they're doing. So we're a little more hands-off. For some of our, say, mid-tier customers where maybe they're not as experienced, then we'll absolutely get a little more involved and hands-on with the client, the application, and the design.

Ron:

That's cool. I'm curious, is that a support that just comes with the package of them doing business with Barco Control Room? Or is that, like, some manufacturers charge additional design or engineering support fees?

Dan:

No, it's just part of us doing business together.

Ron:

Got it. Okay, cool. All right, let's go to that. All right, now this one is not real. I apologize. I grabbed it from the internet, but this is the Minority Report, and Tom Cruise looks very young. But there was a lot everyone remembers. Everyone that is watching or listening remembers Tom Cruise using his hands and gesturing and making magic happen. How much of this is real today? And/or is there any, is this a control room? Or do I need to delete this image?

Dan:

No, it's not real to the best of my knowledge. We're getting closer to this in some ways. There's an emerging technology out there using virtual reality, which is, generally speaking, kind of what you're seeing a little bit on that page. So there is one company out there I'll give a nod to Headwall VR that's basically taking a digital twin of a physical control room along with all the content information. You'd have a user, primarily a remote stakeholder. You're not going to put a VR head goggle on an actual operator in a control room for sustained periods of time. The ergonomics just are not good, but for situations you can put on a headset, you can be in the control room with those other collaborators. You can work on content together and that's where the gesturing comes around. I'm sorry to talk with my hands, but you know you're moving stuff around. That's probably as close as we are. I think they're seeing traction in the government spaces. Some R&D type facilities might be using some stuff like this. Remote mining as an operation uses virtual control rooms. If I had to take a guess, I think your normal mainstream is still somewhat out there in the future, at least more than a couple years away.

Ron:

I drive a BMW and my BMW has gesture control. And I can't tell you how many times I accidentally turn the radio up or turn the radio off or change the channel 'cause I talk with my hands.

Ron:

So anybody in the car, anybody that's ever met me knows that. I actually have my hands locked here, you know, down below so they're not flying on camera. But in the car, I find it, for me, challenging gesture control. But I imagine if you learn it, it could enhance whatever you're doing.

Dan:

Yeah, if you ever go to, you know, so there's a couple of, I think it's A10 and Modus VR that do some VR modeling of AV spaces. I know Modus VR came out of the residential community, for instance. I'm good friends with some of them. And if you see them put on their headset, they're whipping through things and they got those gestures down. And then you give it to somebody like me who's a novice and I'm pinching at the air. So yeah, no, totally get that. If you know what you're doing, you'll have it down pat.

Ron:

Yeah, I've seen the videos. What's the new Apple headset called?

Dan:

Oh, yeah. No, yes.

Ron:

I don't know. Yes. I know it's $3,000, so that's why I don't own it. But it seems cool. But I've seen the videos of the people walking through town or walking on this, you know, sitting in the subway, and they're, they're totally interacting with their world. But if you're the outsider observing them, they, they look a little bit like a fruitcake. So it's...

Dan:

We're gonna get there. I mean, just across, you know, as a, you know, as a community, as a people, I think in terms of the practical use of within a control room, augmented reality may actually have more benefits than actual virtual reality, where I can actually put pieces all together to create a better scenario upon which we can monitor and respond.

Ron:

Yeah. Speaking of those headsets, I did hear an application just recently where someone said they were buying that Apple headset. They were taking an international flight. And so they were going to wear it and they were going to watch their movies and widescreen. I think that's probably a pretty good application.

Dan:

That sounds right up my alley for sure.

Ron:

I completely agree. All right, moving on. Let me try to throw another image at you. All right. I think this is also from the movies, but it looks like maybe there's a group of people sitting around looking at maybe like a planet or some geo map in front of them. What are we seeing here?

Dan:

So I believe this is from Hunger Games. This is the Game Master's control room. And I think what you're looking at there is holographic in the middle. But if you apply this to, say, normal control rooms, again, this does not exist in real world. But having rows of people, rows of operators, dispatchers, analysts, whatever name you want to attach to them inside of a control room, focused on one large, what I would call an overview display. In this case, that holographic section in the middle. In the case of that first image, you know, as a video wall, which is, you know, current technology versus say, maybe future technology, that's very common, right? You can see tiered seating there. You know, the seating is probably not the most ergonomic for more than, you know, a couple of minutes while they're actually shooting the film, but it looks good. Desks as well usually get purpose built and purpose made. But you are seeing, I don't know if you can really see it in that picture, but in front of a given operator, there's a huge work surface that's all touched. That is becoming some of the norms. You go into a particular airport, a hub airport, and you go into their control center, you'll see large format displays that are touched that they're actually moving airplanes around a ramp and other facilities and looking at things. So maybe some of this is starting to get baked into control rooms. Some of it though is still a little sci-fi.

Ron:

Talk to me about that touch interface. What type of technology is that? Like what, what is commonly being used right now if that's being designed? You mentioned air traffic control type applications.

Dan:

Yeah, so it's, I mean, that's standard touch desktop type displays that you find out there. Rather than having it here, they're having it on a solid station down here, but it's normal touch type tables, normal touch type monitors that they're just turning horizontal to use it as kind of a control surface. Nothing fancy, nothing different kind of, you know, off-the-shelf kind of stuff.

Ron:

You can spill your coffee on it and it's OK?

Dan:

Yeah, 100%. Yep.

Ron:

Really?

Dan:

I don't know if I would recommend doing that. I don't see any cups on there. Maybe the cup holders on the desk itself.

Ron:

That's right. All right. And all right, this is, this is from the movie The Martian. This looks like a NASA, a NASA, you know, control room. Is this fairly accurate? Again, it's from the movies. I was, I was out there trying to stretch and get some pictures of control rooms.

Dan:

Yeah, so it was funny because I was just watching "The Martian" last night. It's one of my favorite movies.

Ron:

I love that movie. It's one of my son's favorite books, one of my favorite books and my son's favorite books.

Dan:

100%, great movie. And in this case, this is, this is closer to reality, right? You pick the Martian here, but if you look at any, any sci-fi movies, Armageddon and things like that that are showing pictures of a NASA type of control room, large overview video wall. Again, nobody's got a mouse that's up there clicking on stuff on the wall. It's meant to kind of, if you see people are standing at their desk and looking up, going, "Okay, I know what's going on right now within 30 seconds of looking at this, but then I got to go back to my work here." And then there's, in this case, probably 100 or more seats in there and every single person sitting at every different seat has a different mission. You know, I think if you go through a launch sequence and someone's looking at, you know, the biometrics coming off of each, and remember, there's biometrics for each of the astronauts, then someone's looking at fuel, someone's looking at, you know, weather, someone's looking at all kinds of different stuff. So everybody has their own role. Everybody has their own mission. But that's pretty typical. Multiple different, and they're all tiered, slightly tiered so that everybody has a sightline to what's going on. Yep, for sure. Low light.

Ron:

What comes to mind for you? Dan here, I'm going to bring that off screen. What comes to mind for you for some of the, maybe a memorable application or project that you've been involved with? Whether that you did show us at the beginning here a couple of bigger VistaCon projects. But anything you'd be willing to, or able or allowed to share with us in terms of really neat projects?

Dan:

Oh, I mean, you know, I think, generally speaking, sitting down and listening to the missions of people when we're talking about early design, you know, and asking questions. I'm a curious person by default. And I just love asking questions. And I never walk into two situations thinking I know what this particular client is looking for. There's similarities, but everything's unique. And I'll kind of kind of talk about two different case studies in the same one. I'll mention the name of the customers, no problem. Johnson & Johnson. So Johnson & Johnson has a Global Security Operations Center. And one of the features of their control room is they've got people scattered all across the world. And so they monitor over 10,000 travelers in the world on a given day. And one of the rationales or one of the services that the GSOC provides to those employees is if there's a hotspot, they're monitoring global hotspots. There's a problem in France, in Paris, and they have this list of resources, private people, who will go in in order to bring those employees out. So they're monitoring hotspots in order to basically go into those positions and bring people out. Switch that around, Dow Jones, News Corp. They use similar types of workflows, similar types of software packages, similar types of private resources, but they're actually looking to try to get in that hotspot scenario their reporters in to that same hotspot and zone. So again, kind of similar technologies, similar things, but for different use cases. So I thought that was a pretty cool awakening. One of the things that probably the saddest application I've had, talking to a hospital client about their control room and their security operations center. And you know I put my toddler face on and go, what's that? And what's that? And what's that? And they talk about, you know, hey, that's where we monitor nuclear medicine. I'm like, OK, well, that sounds weird. Why are you monitoring nuclear material? And they're like, well, we use it for diagnostics. And I'm like, oh, well, that makes sense. And it makes sense for that to be on an air gap separate network that bad actors can't get access to and things like that. And then they talk about, and that's one for our infant security system, infant safety system. I go, well, they go, "Yeah, people try to steal babies." And I'm just like, "Oh, it hits you in your gut." You're going, "Oh, well, okay." You get that side of it too, but then you also go, "Okay, well, my mission here is to partly support that to make sure people don't steal babies out of this hospital." The missions can become personal. I think I mentioned earlier, I don't do a lot of work in the federal space. The one federal story that is weird is I was doing an RFP for a will never be named three-letter agency. And they communicate via fax. They don't send emails out. They communicate via fax. And one morning, I received a fax, basically some RFI responses on a bid. And they didn't redact some of the names of the people who were responding. So it wasn't blacked out. And I was in the office at, you know, 0 dark hundred, I got a copy of this. And like within minutes, they sent a retraction saying, "Please shred that." And I'm like, "I may have read part of it," or whatever the case was. And they said...

Ron:

Did someone show up with a light and tell you to stare into the light and blink it and erase?

Dan:

No, they told me to come to them, which was even more scary. So I had to drive down to them. They wouldn't let me come to their office. They met me in a restaurant parking lot and my car was here and they backed up here. So our windows were right across from each other, rolled out our windows, handed me an NDA form, more or less assigned or release form, passed it off and they drove away. And just again, scary stuff. Weird stuff.

Ron:

Did you have time to read the NDA or did they just say sign it?

Dan:

No, it's pretty much sign it. At that point, you're like, partly you feel like, am I on camera? Am I being punked here? And then the other part is, OK, now am I being listened to and for how long afterwards my next call was Oh, they're watching us right now. They're going, all right, so far he's not saying anything bad, but we're listening. Yeah, I'm sure I'm going to get that call. But no, so those are some of the kind of little weird little kind of niche things that you run into. You do some really cool stuff. Some you can talk about, some you can't talk about, but every mission is these are mission critical control rooms. I say this. If your conference room goes down, you probably have another one in your building. You can go into a meet or you can go to Teams or Zoom or whatever the case is. If your control room goes down, you're kind of screwed. There's a different level of responsibility, accountability and weight to what we're doing, and I love that.

Ron:

That sounds awesome. Well, Dan, if you will allow, I'd love to go back in time and share with the audience a little bit about your background. I did zoom in. I made the call to zoom in to make sure our audience fully understood what you did. I think we've gone into really nice detail there. But I'd love to go back in time and where'd you come from? What ultimately landed you here in this space doing this thing?

Dan:

Everybody does have crazy stories. It's nothing linear, right? At least I hope not, because mine's definitely not linear. I don't know. I graduated high school in New Jersey. I won't go into years, but I had my 50th birthday last year, which was an amazing celebration. So some time ago in New Jersey, didn't really know what I wanted to be when I grew up, went to college, got a degree, still didn't know what I wanted to be when I grew up, and I kind of floundered around doing some stuff. Eventually, I landed what was originally going to be a part-time job doing construction management for a professional construction management firm, turned into a full-time job, and I helped to build a project for Lucent Technologies back when Lucent Technologies was around an offshoot of AT&T. And I was the new kid on the block. So I was handed all the different weird stuff. I eventually became what was called a Document Controls Engineer, which the Document Controls Engineer or the Clerk of the Works is responsible for all the shop drawings, all the product data submittals, all of the documents on a given construction project. And I mentioned earlier, I'm curious by nature. So I didn't just stamp things. I wanted to read it all. So I learned a lot about construction at that point to the point where my boss then said, Hey, we're going to do the fit out trades. We built this whole shell of a building. We're going to now start building out everything inside. And I want you to run the AV. And I'm like, because at that point, 20 plus years ago, AV was not this cool little technology, cool little field. It was like, oh, no, I don't want to do AV. You do AV. And people passed it around. So I was in new kid of block and I ended up with the AV. And that's where I was actually first introduced to VistaCom, who we mentioned earlier. Got to know that project, got to know the technologies, got to know the company a little bit to where at the end of that job, construction managers, national construction managers don't necessarily have projects right in your backyard on a continuous basis. So I was engaged, building a house, getting married, looking to start a family. I wanted to stay in the Lehigh Valley. And they didn't have anything. I think the next job they had for me was Seattle. Maybe I get back to Baltimore, but my wife was an attorney. She had a practice here. We were baked in. Families were around. We weren't leaving the area. So VistaCom said, hey, how about you come and try sales? And I went, that's great. What else do you have? I'm not a sales guy. And they said, how about sales? And so my wife and I sat around the table, had dinner and had a chalkboard out and did pros and cons, decided to give it two years, gave it two years, was not exactly the best two years. So we pulled out the chalkboard again and did another pros and cons list and said, we'll give it another two years. And we haven't had that conversation since. It's actually been a wonderful industry. I was selling pro-AV and sound masking and paging and presentations and video conferencing and liked it, was good at it. But one day our GM came and said, "Hey, you know we got this cool project that we're looking to win up in Boston for MBTA, the picture we showed earlier. I think you'd be really great at it based on kind of this hybrid between construction and technology and what have you. And once I kind of got that bug doing the first job, I said, I don't want to do anything else. And pretty quickly thereafter, I was kind of employee number one for the Control Room Business Unit for what they were doing there and kind of just taken off. Fast forward to working with Barco over 10 years. I was attending a pivot to profit in Dallas, Texas from the NSCA. It might have been actually a business, a BLC, I forget, but for NSCA. And it was during COVID. So we're all wearing our masks. And I came back on a flight from Dallas to Philadelphia. And standing next to me was a gentleman named Dan McKenzie, who was with IMS AV at the time. He just recently switched over to Visual Sound and standing next to Dan McKenzie was this short little blonde girl who lived in the area I hadn't met before named Jessica. That's three times, Jessica.

Ron:

That's 3, $15.

Dan:

And that's how my relationship with One Firefly came. It was a fortuitous introduction of, you know, strangers in the Philadelphia Airport waiting forever for baggage because Philadelphia Airport is the worst airport in the country relative to baggage. And yeah, about a year and a half ago, I kind of said I'm ready for something else. I've always been kind of a builder, scale guy. Kind of saw that the company I was with, you know, was just kind of good with what we were doing, good with incremental growth. And I said, I want more. And that's when I decided to come over and kind of help Barco now scale up in its control rooms. Love control rooms, love scale, and I'm able to do the and love educating the community. And those are the three things I love to do, and I can do that here.

Ron:

What has that pivot been like? Switching from the pro AV, the integrator side, to the manufacturer side? What's maybe been the aspect of that that kind of maybe surprised you the most?

Dan:

Well, I always say it's easier to go that way. It's easier for an integrator to go work for a manufacturer than it is the other way. I've rarely seen the other way work, which is why I'm like, I'm now here. I'm not going that way again. So the easy ones are your phone's not ringing after five o'clock, right? The integrator, especially in control rooms, but other areas, you're 24/7. So your phone's not ringing as much. What I don't like about it, and I'm a control freak in a lot of ways, is you're not close to the deals, as close to the deals, right? So you have less control over, you know, that part of the process. And that's been a big learning curve for me, is, you know, being the person who was in front of customers, who, you know, love to challenge my customers, who love to provide those insights and bake in and become that trusted advisor, you're now an extra step removed from that. And that takes some adjustment. So, you know, people that are looking to go from one side to the other, if that's baked into your DNA as a salesperson, that does take some getting adjustments too. But, you know, I was the keynote speaker in Brussels in December at the single largest global conference for Critical Control Rooms. Barco afforded me that opportunity to do that. I would never be able to do that as an integrator. So, you know, there's also those types of things that are rewarding, that are refreshing, that feed, you know, who I am. And I'm very thankful for that.

Ron:

How did the presentation go? Was it successful?

Dan:

Yeah, I think so. At least I'm still here, I'm still employed.

Ron:

You didn't get fired afterwards.

Dan:

Yeah, no, it was very well received.

Ron:

That's amazing. So when we look at AVIXA and AVIXA, if I'm, correct me if I'm wrong, they have like eight pillars of the industry, of the pro-AV space. And one of those pillars is Control Rooms. Maybe describe that to our audience. What are some of those other, you know, broader looks at the industry? And then I'm just curious, how big or small is this control room piece, this critical control room piece of the broader industry?

Dan:

Yeah, so, you know, and I don't know all eight pillars, but, you know, you have unified communication, you've got live events, you've got higher education, presentation conference room or conferencing, stuff like that on there. Then Control Rooms is like, I think the last one on the list is all digital signages on there all the way over to the bottom right corner. In terms of the size of the market, and I forget what the total addressable market is, but it's not the eighth smallest. It's not the number one largest. It's somewhere in that second half of that, something slightly larger than digital signages. But the opportunities there, the market's there. AVIXA says the market's there, and pro AV has really been the market that has led with the video walls and the KVM types of solutions in that space, technical furniture. But it's a very decentralized market. There's three or four players in there that do a lot of that, that have, you know, business units and teams that are focused on that. But a lot of your commercial interviews, if you look at, say, SCN's top 50 list, most of them are going to say they do control rooms, but they might do one or two a year. So there's a lot of and there's a really big pond. You can swim all day long in it and not run into competition. That's what I love about it. You can get good margins. It's good work that way. But it is one of those eight pillars that AVIXA has. Arguably, it's probably the one pillar that AVIXA doesn't really talk about a lot at InfoComm this year in Las Vegas. I'm going to put a plug in for that. There's one educational session that's dealing with control rooms. It's a panel discussion that I'll be on. It was one of the more highly rated panel discussions that we did in InfoComm last year to the point where AVIXA invited us to do it again and actually expand the session, which I'd never been a part of, which means it probably wasn't my part of it. It was the peoples that created that demand. But to that point, there's a group of 15 of us or so that have really seen the value in this niche. And we are putting together our own little, I shouldn't say little, but our own trade association focused on command and control, critical control. Similar in some ways, hopefully to what Digital Signage Federation did. DSF has been an amazing organization really advocating for the Digital Signage vertical, and we hope to do the same thing with the critical controller market here in the Americas at least.

Ron:

This is happening. This is maybe going to happen or this is happening?

Dan:

It's happening. So we've been meeting as a, let's call it an executive or steering committee working group for over the past year. We actually had a meetup last year at Infocom. We've done meetups along the way. Had one at GSX, which is a global security expo, DISTRIBUTECH, which is a power utility show in February. We have a name that's going to be ratified in the next month, bylaws, mission statements, bank accounts, all that kind of good stuff, website, not yet. And we'll be making an announcement at InfoComm. But we've been doing it thoughtfully. We've been doing it while we all have day jobs, generally speaking. But we're looking forward to launching this at InfoComm this year.

Ron:

What impact? Can you speak to the mission, or at least philosophically, what you want it to accomplish?

Dan:

Yeah, I think there's, there's kind of two pieces of it. One, it's educating our community of integrators, consultants on, let's call it, you know, thought leadership, best practices, the world that's out there, educational side of it, potentially down the path of certifications where we might align with, you know, an NSCA, a BICSI, or an AVIXA. Those are grand plans. But the real heart of it is also educating the end users. You know, I think you used the term television earlier when you were describing these are not just televisions. And it made me chuckle because I was at an end user group several months ago, and they called it a TV wall that they installed. And I thought it was a vernacular thing. So I said, "You mean like a video wall?" And they're like, "No, we went to Best Buy or CDW or wherever and just bought a bunch of TVs and slapped them up on the wall." So there's an educational component to the marketplace that we as an industry need to do so that people are looking through what I call a control room lens at those problems in those spaces versus an AV lens. An AV lens would say that the same video wall that I install in that mall or my lobby is the same video wall that I should be installing in a control room. And I would argue that that's not necessarily the case. So the technologies are different. Things like redundancy become really important. Things like high uptime and auto failover are important. A video wall that's in a lobby has really glossy, high brightness finishes because it wants to draw your eyes to it so it can sell you something or tell you something in a control room where people are looking at that video wall sustained over periods of time. Glossy high brightness may not necessarily be the right application. So it's nuances like that that become different that I think are that's going to be part of our advocacy.

Ron:

I'm curious when you look at the broader control room business, and you're now on the manufacturing side. So you rely on a specification likely to be drawn up, I'm imagining by consultants or design build AV contractors. And your gear ultimately could be the solution for some of those specifications for the room. How many integrators across the country are the go-to integrators to do this? You mentioned three or four have internal teams versus what the broader opportunity, what's your vision? What's possible, right? I mean, why are, could or should more integrators be pursuing these types of projects?

Dan:

Yeah, I think the opportunity is out there. I talked about the fact that it's a really big pond. You can do these opportunities either on a focused basis, even on an opportunistic basis to some degree, and just do it well. I use the term first time every time, you know, as when you start talking about uptime. You can't have downtime in these systems. So it takes a different level of quality, a different level of engineering chops to do it. But I think, you know, I would say that your average pro-AV dealer has the potential to do it. As they start learning more about network-based technologies, IT becomes more baked into their everyday practices, that potential is out there. Having a service arm that can support this stuff 24/7 becomes important. So there's definitely some risks and some check marks that you need to make operationally so you can do this. Your engineers need to understand it. Your salespeople need to be able to talk about it and listen for it and observe. The other thing that I talk about is your average AV salesperson, and I'll even talk about security salespeople the same way because they have a similar problem in the security market, but your average AV salesperson walks past the million dollar control room to go sell the $10,000 huddle room or MTR. And I think they do it. I know they do it primarily for two reasons. One, they don't know the room exists and then they don't know the conversation to have and they walk inside the room. It's a very intimidating space most of the time based on some of the pictures that you showed earlier. I think awareness is part of my job, part of our job as a community. And then the second piece is educating those people on how to have the right conversation, how to do right by the customer based on the missions that they're supporting. But no, I think it's a broad opportunity. I think you need to make a commitment as an owner to do it right and to do it well. But when you do, we talked about kind of those average size deals. It's a way to get sticky with customers. You stay ahead of commoditization. I mean, geez, when you can start buying soundbars at Amazon and CDW, when's the writing going to be on the wall that we got to start pivoting away to other things? So I think this kind of starts checking off a lot of boxes for business owners, recurring revenue. Yep.

Ron:

No, that makes a lot of sense. I'm going to go to a different topic here, Dan. AI is all the rage, right? So we're studying it here. Personally, it's become a hobby of mine right next to, you know, studying Bitcoin and crypto. You know, I love listening and watching and learning as much as I can. At One Firefly, we're incorporating it into internal operations, as well as client-side operations. In your world, where does AI play? And is it in that conversation yet? I mean, the little that I know about your world, I think I know that there are AI applications like with security cameras and surveillance. I mean, I have a surveillance system here at my home, you know, a light one and there's already some really light AI sort of functionality making its way into some of those cameras and kind of what it can detect. What, what is it like in your world right now?

Dan:

Yeah, so the answer, these answers, yes, AI is pervasive within the different markets. And the different markets are really where it starts. Security has its own applications of AI, public safety and 911 and real-time utilities. So each of these has its own separate little applications of AI. So I think part of what's cool is you have to really understand each of these vertical markets. For instance, in security, you may have a video management system. You talked about cameras where I'm looking at all this kind of stuff, but I only want to see this camera when I've got motion. Cool, so that's awesome. But then I also have another different technology that's doing other kinds of things. Or maybe I only want to see this camera when I have a slip/fall incident. Actually, it's really a good application of it is I don't want to, when people are just walking past this camera, I don't care about something like that. I don't even care if there's a push something like that, but when there's a slip fall incident, because what happens is that's now a legal risk. So now I want to the AI actually knows that it's a slip fall versus people rushing by or whatever and boom. You know educational campuses where there's an incident and somebody in a blue pullover does something, I want to now follow everybody that's in a blue pullover in order to find out where that person went on campus because they were pushing people, stabbing people, shooting people, whatever the case is. And I now need to locate that person. So those are some really good applications of AI in a security world. But even just in public safety, 911, those operators are getting calls all the day from people that speak broken English, that speak with different accents. And so natural language recognition of being able to pull that out is really important. Going back into calls and being able to pull out different data and things like that, natural language selection, AI comes into play with that, automating call taking. So you start seeing this in different markets across the board. It's not, it's not going to get less. It's going to get more. What I don't think it's going to do is I don't think it's ever going to replace the operator sitting in the chair. The operator sitting in that chair, it may, it may replace some of the functions of that person.

Ron:

Might augment them. It might make them better.

Dan:

Yeah, I think you need that operator sitting there, that person who can really think for themselves, think on their feet, apply, you know, previous experiences to a particular incident or a response.

Ron:

When you look ahead and the role AI potentially will have in our, our lives, personally and professionally, does that get you excited? Does it get you scared? Like, how do you feel?

Dan:

Well, I mean, we talked earlier, I'm over 50 now, so I'm probably more scared than I am optimistic, just because I learn things differently now. I'm baked into my status quo, for instance, but it's also cool. I think it will open up more doors for people. I think it will allow us to be the best versions of ourselves, because it will take away, first and foremost, those medial level tasks that we all don't want to do. So I think it will hopefully unlock our ability as humans to be better.

Ron:

Love it. Dan, I think we're going to wrap it there. I'm looking at the clock, and I know you have a tight schedule, and I'm sure our listeners and the folks tuned in do as well. I really appreciate you coming on the show here on Show 264.

Dan:

Thank you, Ron. I very much appreciate it as well. This is great talking to you again.

Ron:

If folks are, they want to get in touch with you, what's the best way that we would direct them? Do you want them to go to a website? Do you want to give them a handle of some type that they can reach out to you directly?

Dan:

Yeah, so you can find me very easily on LinkedIn. It's a great place, especially if you're interested in critical control rooms. Find me there. Connect with me there. Follow me there. I'm always posting. And then privately, if you have questions or follow up about this stuff, you can very easily reach me at Dan.Gundry at barcode.com. The last name is gun and dry.

Ron:

All right, so that's D-A-N dot G-U-N-D-R-Y at barco.com.

Dan:

You got it.

Ron:

Awesome. Dan, awesome having you on the show. Congratulations on your success at Barco. And I always enjoy every time you and I get to talk. So now, I'm happy that everybody tuned in or that's going to watch on replay gets to meet you if they didn't already know you and learn about all of the wisdom that you bring to the table, the wisdom and experience. So really appreciate you, man.

Dan:

Thanks, Ron. Appreciate you too.

Ron:

All right. All right, folks, there you have it. Show 264. I learned more about control rooms in that last hour than I think I've ever, not I think, than I've ever learned in my life. I think that was amazing. And Dan is doing some really neat things. And the good thing is if you ever do have a chance to meet Dan or get to work with him, he's just one of the good guys. He cares. He cares about taking care of his customers. He cares about educating. So he and I have that very much. We believe the same things in terms of lead with education and the rest will fall into place. And it was great to have him on the show. So I hope you all enjoyed it. And we'll get this in terms of the audio. We'll get it up into the audio podcast, if that's your preferred method of tuning in. And appreciate you all. We have great shows and great guests lined up for the months ahead. And we are gonna stay on this pattern or routine of putting out about two shows a month or so. Some months, it might be a little bit more, right? Might bump it up to three, but generally it'll be two. So I appreciate you all. I'm gonna sign off and I'll see you all next time. Thank you, everybody.

Ron Callis is the CEO of One Firefly, LLC, a digital marketing agency based out of South Florida and creator of Automation Unplugged. Founded in 2007, One Firefly has quickly became the leading marketing firm specializing in the integrated technology and security space. The One Firefly team work hard to create innovative solutions to help Integrators boost their online presence, such as the elite website solution, Mercury Pro.

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