When people talk about the impending convergence of AV and IT, they're forgetting one thing. "We're the 'I' in 'IT' -- we're the audio and video. We're the information," emphasized David Silberstein, national product sales specialist, at Crestron's Rockleigh, NJ headquarters last week.
If Crestron's expanding DigitalMedia family of products and trends in commercial and residential installation are any indication, audio and video information already exists in the digital realm. The only question now is how to manage it. Difficult questions about formats and copyright protection schemes, and the hardware solutions that make them play nicely together, are answered for designers and integrators in Crestron's DigitalMedia Design Guide and through the manufacturer's ongoing educational efforts in 40 dedicated training locations among its 59 total offices worldwide.
DigitalMedia, just like AV/IT, is an all-encompassing term that seems to cover every aspect of the new era of audiovisual integration. Those looking for a single piece of hardware to affix this brand name onto will find a "solution" instead. DigitalMedia is more than switchers; it's also input and output cards, transmitters, repeaters, room controllers, and wiring and cable offerings.
"We didn't want to make a digital switcher," Silberstein explained. "We wanted to make a solution that reflects everything going on in the market."
Such an endeavor is an ongoing effort, and Silberstein noted that right now there are five years of product releases in the queue at Crestron. Furthermore, the manufacturers touchpanel product lines must all be made ready for the new digital path. Of course, analog is still a part of many (if not the majority) of installations, which is why DigitalMedia in fact also supports legacy equipment.
Last week I joined my NewBay editorial colleagues Jeremy Glowacki of Residential Systems and Mark Mayfield of AV Technology on a tour of Crestron's training, R&D, tech support, manufacturing, and distribution operations in its multiple buildings in northern New Jersey.
Crestron founder and CEO George Feldstein pours 40 percent of the profits from his privately owned company back into hardware and software R&D, and as Silberstein pointed out, "there's tons of research before development." The DigitalMedia line alone benefitted from the work of 46 engineers over a span of six years before the first DM products were launched. Ongoing partnerships with Microsoft, Cisco, and Texas Instruments also feature prominently in the R&D process.
As such, the purpose-built R&D facility is Feldstein's playground. His office is located there, rather than in the nearby corporate headquarters, and his handiwork can be spotted throughout the various cutting-edge prototyping and experimental research areas.
The diverse array of products in development at the company reveal how the company has grown from a manufacturer of wireless slide projector controllers 40 years ago to today's varied product mix. Today, Crestron's core products, control systems, represent 30 percent of the business, while Media Manager and Lighting products each stand at 20 percent; Audio Distribution/Amplification reflects 10 percent, the Video Distribution, Processing, and Switching category is also 10 percent, and HVAC fills in the rest at 5 percent.
Overall, it looks like the convergence of AV and IT comes down to bandwidth, both in terms of gigahertz and product mix.
Check out a slide show of photos from our visit at our sister site Residential Systems at www.resmagonline.com/SlideDetails.aspx?CatID=20108&ID=33032.