How 2014's AV Technology Will Bring Success in 2015

1/14/2015 4:30:00 PM
By Mike Brandes, CTS, DMC-D
As the first major electronics show of the season is wrapping up, AV professionals are already realizing that 2015 isn’t going to be the same outlook for the AV industry, whether for commercial or residential, as it was in 2014. Last year was one of evolution, not revolution, which is exactly what the industry needed.
 
For the first time in several years, the big picture items the industry has been talking about for a while finally became usable: Unified communications software and hardware, laser projectors, 4k distribution and switching, and collaborative technology—both wired and wireless. So lets take a stroll down memory lane and look at some of the useful pieces of technology that gained traction in 2014 and are bound to enable AV professionals to do more in 2015:
 
4K Video Switching and Distribution
Does the industry have 4K/UHD content and content delivery completely figured out yet? No. However, 2014 saw the infrastructure needed for this. AMX, Crestron, and Extron all launched large matrix switchers and smaller presentation switchers, which are able to handle the bandwidth-hungry Ultra High Definition content that will soon become more readily available. Users can implement switching solutions today that are either fully 4K ready or require minimum upgrading (i.e., slot cards, transmitters, receivers etc) to handle the next generation of signal.
 
Unified Communications
Seemingly every manufacturer started to develop products designed for computer-based videoconferencing, whether it is high-end PTZ cameras, which connect via a USB cable, or companies like Vaddio, which are continuing to develop much needed USB interfaces for professional videoconferencing equipment.
 
Convergence
I think we can finally stop talking about convergence in terms of things that will happen eventually and finally admit it’s happened already. Just about every audiovisual device from cameras to projectors and switchers to audio amps sit on the network for IP-based control or network monitoring. Control processors will now only be limited by the number of IP devices they can control and not the number of serial relays they have—a victory for all.
 
Network-Based Audiovisual Transport
In addition to devices sitting on the network for control and monitoring, manufacturers are flooding the market with network transport devices highlighted by companies like SVSi and Just Add Power. The only limit to video transmission is available bandwidth, although good luck getting your IT department to give it to you. (That’s mostly a joke.)
 
Lamp Changes Are a Thing of the Past
Typewriter ribbons, mimeograph machine ink drums, overhead transparency projectors, and projection lamps will hopefully be seen as arcane technology very soon. (My apologies to the edtech folks still supporting the majority of those.) This year projection manufacturers were able to augment previous years’ offerings of laser projectors, which now provide the brightness, clarity, and color-depth needed to compete with lamp-based projectors. As a former technology manager, I would have gladly paid a little extra for a laser-light projector knowing the amount of money it would save me in the future for lamp purchases, employee labor, and incredibly costly room downtime.
 
Collaboration
It seems every company on the market now has a wired and wireless collaboration unit, designed to streamline the process for users in huddle-type spaces to get their content to the display as quickly as possible. Some of the wireless options available are the Crestron AirMedia, Barco Clickshare, Christie Brio, Kramer Via, and the list goes on. Some of the standout wired solutions I’ve used include the Extron TeamWork system, FSR’s HuddleVU, Crestron’s Connect it, and Vaddio’s AppSTATION line of products—ideal if you also want to incorporate professional quality, computer-based teleconferencing into your huddle spaces.
 
Though “game-changing” and “ground-breaking” product introductions inspire awe and build a buzz within the industry, it’s the advancement of these “life-changing” products that make them buyable, usable, and ultimately cause the technology to be adopted. In that regard, 2014 was a tremendous year for the audiovisual industry and I look forward to seeing where 2015 takes us as a group.
 
Mike Brandes, CTS, has over a decade of experience in AV/IT, previously working in full time touring audio, studio recording, broadcast, higher education technology management and video production settings. He is currently an applications engineer at Vaddio. Read more of his writing at http://mikebrandesav.com/

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