While the commercial AV industry waits to see which digital audio networking protocol will leap ahead of the pack, Lee Minich, president of LabX Technologies says there are plenty of reasons to bet on Audio Video Bridging (AVB).
"The whole network connectivity revolution is in its infancy," Minich observed. "It's been slow in coming—it's been coming on for over a decade now—but once you get AVB and IEEE open standards involved, it's going to drive price points down and adoption rates up. There's a lot of novel applications that we haven't considered because it's just not technically or price possible with the previous technology."
Digital audio networking has always required a certain level of evangelism from its progenitors, and the sight of Minich zooming from booth to booth at trade shows, his "rolling office" in tow, proves that he's making more than just digital connections with his work. Minich also serves as marketing workgroup chairman of the AVnu Alliance, an organization which boasts an impressive roster of professional audio manufacturers, along with AVB's high-tech supporters from the IT world.
The next stop on Minich's educational tour is the 129th AES Convention in San Francisco November 4-7. There, Minich will chair the AES panel discussion on IEEE 802.1 AVB standards in the Pro AV, consumer and automotive markets on Friday, November 5 at 2:30 PM and will provide expert insight as a panelist during the Live Sound Seminar LS11 on Networked Audio for Live Sound On November 7 at 11:00 AM.
So why is AVB different from the other digital audio networking protocols still thriving in our industry? "One of the fundamental differences is unlike the other proprietary protocols that have been tried in our industry, this is being driven from outside the industry," Minich said, "and where other solutions have tried to work around the shortcomings of ethernet, AVB got together and asked a better question: 'If there are shortcomings in ethernet, why don't we change ethernet.' From a technology standpoint, it's a better way to attack the problem."
The scope of AVB is definitely enlarged with involvement of big names like Cisco, Broadcom, and Intel, to name just a few, in the AVnu Alliance. "This is so much bigger than pro audio," Minich emphasized. "If it was only a pro audio thing, it would never hit the right price points or reach technology maturity."
In addition to the scale of AVB's efforts, the technology will be beneficial to AV integrators' business because it will expedite the installation process. "When your network infrastructure is working for you instead of against you, you don't need as many IT gurus, because the intelligence is in the infrastructure—in the switches themselves," he explained.
AVB-ready ethernet switches have been announced, and in fact Harman made their announcement a year and a half ago, so it's just a matter of time before the hardware hits the market. But there's something AV consultants and integrators can do to help push the process along. Broadcom and Marvel have said that everything they have shipped for the past few years is capable of AVB, but in order to be persuaded to include the extra layer of software to make AVB possible, the switch manufacturers need to see more demand for the technology. DLink and Netgear have also been using the silicon, but they haven't received enough customer requests to write the software to make it AVB enabled.
"Go to your favorite ethernet switch manufacturer and tell them you want AVB," Minich suggested. "Given the fact that AV installation is the biggest chunk of non-consumer switch business, if enough people ask, that will make things happen."
Stay tuned to AVB. There will soon be news about an exciting new membership in the AVnu Alliance, an organization which is already a who's who of professional audio and IT giants.
What else can you do while you wait? "At the user level, the biggest thing you can do is to be aware of it, educate your peers, learn more about it, and once you start to look into it, the benefits become pretty clear that it's going to make our lives easier," Minich said. "Then go to manufacturers and ask when they're going to have AVB gear."
It won't be long now, Minich predicts. "Just looking at what we're doing at Lab X for design services, we've got five different projects for five different manufacturers that are all based around AVB." With product development cycles of 12-18 months, you can expect to see results soon.
"There are a lot of manufacturers that are blasting forward," Minich concluded. In the meantime, maybe it's time you let manufacturers know that you want AVB.
To find out more, check out AVB's extremely active discussion group on Linked In, or visit LabX's website, which has been revamped to include much AVB information and will include lots more in the future. The AVnu Alliance website also provides a wealth of information. You can also watch a video of Avid's AVB demo at the PLASA show in London in September 2010.