02 Apr 2021

Dylan Dunavan: ‘Increasingly there’s a camera in the room and analytics software crunching data’

Sharp NEC Solution’s GC talks tech transformation, privacy laws, the pandemic, his company’s recent joint venture and the book that’s on his nightstand

Image courtesy of Sharp NEC Display Solutions

As general counsel of Sharp NEC Display Solutions of America (a leading global provider of professional and commercial visual technology and digital signage solutions), Chicago-based Dylan Dunavan manages the company’s legal, insurance, and risk mitigation function. In his role as chief legal officer, he is responsible for overseeing Sharp NEC’s legal affairs including litigation, IP and corporate matters.   

You’ve been with Sharp NEC for nearly 25 years. Tell us about your career with the company.

I started at NEC in 1997 as the fourth person in the legal department. Because I’ve been with the company so long, I have been able to see the evolutionary change not only in our products but in the technology. Does anyone remember the CD-ROM drive? When I started with the company, we were involved with products including CD-ROM drives but that seems like light years ago given our focus and product mix today, which includes a very broad visual solutions portfolio of LCD desktop and large format-screen displays, lamp and laser projectors, dvLED, digital cinema projectors, 8K and 5G technology, collaboration solutions, calibration tools, IoT and AI-driven analytics.

Beyond the technology, what critical areas of the law have evolved since you’ve been with Sharp NEC?

Twenty years ago, there were really no privacy laws to speak of and now that area is inseparable from technology. Today, it is analytics everywhere. Increasingly there is a camera in the room and some analytics software crunching data. However, personal privacy is a very important concept that needs to be taken into consideration wherever we sell our products. Privacy laws are still trying to catch up with the pace of technological change. For example, the state laws regarding biometrics are still evolving, with some states, such as Illinois, having laws that are quite restrictive. It will be interesting to see what changes will occur in the future, such as whether the US will migrate towards a national privacy law standard.   

How has COVID-19 affected your business?

At the beginning of the pandemic, there was a big run on our desktop monitors and there was huge demand, though that is a relatively small part of our business. Monitors for non-personal use, such as for flight information, menu boards, and general public signage, experienced less demand due to the pandemic.  However, there is a great deal of pent-up demand for our products and services as the world economies start to shift out of the pandemic.  

Your company NEC solutions recently entered into a joint venture with Sharp Corp. What was the benefit of that deal for your companies?  

Yes, that deal closed in November 2020. It’s really a win-win for both companies, particularly considering the synergies such as the enormous parts-purchasing power and product manufacturing capacity. The intent was of course to combine strengths and it demonstrates the commitment by both companies to be viewed as a force in the visual solutions business. As I mentioned, a growing aspect of our business is in the area of IT and network technology integration and this joint venture increases our strength in this area as well.

How do you keep up-to-date on new technology?  What are you reading?

Staying in close dialogue with the engineers at our company is one of the most important ways I keep up with technology. They are extremely knowledgeable and great guides. I read an enormous amount of work-related research and papers. I also enjoy reading books about technological change. One book on my nightstand now is Thank You for Being Late: An Optimist’s Guide to Thriving in the Age of Accelerations by Thomas L. Friedman. I find this book interesting because it focuses on the confluence of simultaneous accelerated changes in technology, globalisation, and climate change and how this is reshaping everything about our world.

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