By Orrin Charm
On February 13, 2013
NAME: Orrin Charm
TITLE: Automated Products Manager
OVERTIME: Charm developed much
of the original distribution architecture
for MDU high-speed internet, structured
wiring, telecommunications, distributed
audio, and LAN-based amenities.
System automation has come a
long way since I got started in
this business. In the old days, it
was all done with wires. I remember
being taught how to solder wires
inside B&O turntables so we could
make a record play by pushing a
remote button. Everything we tried to
automate resisted as hard as it could,
and manufacturers became hostile
when we asked for assistance in
connecting their precious products to
anything that they hadn’t personally
|GAVA’s wizard guides the installer to provide the information necessary to define the components and how they are connected.|
In 1993, I started the CEDIA
“Systems Integration Council” to help
resolve compatibility issues between products and manufacturers, as it
was otherwise impossible to make progress. Everything was connected
with lots of dedicated wires. The ability to run wires to difficult
locations (and make it looked like it hadn’t happened) was the key to
being a good installer.
Along the way, some manufacturers “got it” and started making
products that were more integration-friendly, and a few companies
actually built their businesses by providing equipment to enable other
companies’ products to work together, and produce
a system that a business could understand and
operate. Even Gefen originally got its start by
providing commercial AV solutions to overcome
distance limitations so video and audio
equipment can be operated from distant
locations. It suddenly became easier to
make everything work together, if you
selected the right equipment, and ran
all of the necessary cables.
But something has changed in
the last few years, and it snuck up by
surprise. Apple launched the iPhone
and iTunes, and media started migrating
from traditional hardware and
broadcast platforms to online sources.
As broadband became widespread and
faster, online media delivery became
practical, economical, and popular.
|Gefen has stepped up its role as a connectivity solutions|
provider with its new GAVA (Gefen AV Automation) system, which was built from scratch as a network appliance.
TV set manufacturers adapted by adding internet connectivity. Bluray
players needed to deliver online content to be competitive, or even
relevant. Receivers quickly added Pandora and internet radio for the
same reason. Once internet connections were established, adding an
iPhone app was a short step away.
Although these were small steps on the electronics manufacturing
side, for systems integrators, it was a giant leap! The challenge of
integration moved from racks of dedicated equipment and cabling to
the network. The solutions no longer require cabling skills, they require
network management skills. Video and audio devices are now network
nodes; so are lighting, HVAC, and security. We distribute HDMI video
as well over the network, even wirelessly, as with dedicated cabling.
A $329.00 iPad Mini can match any $1,000-plus touchscreen. And
the cost of control systems
has dropped from tens of
thousands of dollars to under a thousand.
Still, challenges remain. A collection of proprietary apps is not much
of an improvement over a tableful of remotes. Arguably, it is even
harder to juggle apps than to juggle remote wands. And a collection
of unrelated products is not an integrated system even if one iPhone
controls them all. The cost of designing, programming, and maintaining
the control software can still exceed the hardware cost.
To combat some of these issues, Gefen has stepped up its
role as a connectivity solutions provider with its
new GAVA (Gefen AV Automation)
system. Unlike traditional products,
GAVA is built from scratch as a network
appliance. It connects to the user’s
network and intelligently controls all of
the network devices, offering a graphical
user interface to users via their iPhones,
tablets, or PCs. For legacy products, Gefen
also offers PACS (Professional Automation
Control System) and MiniPACS, allowing IR
and serial devices to connect to the network.
GAVA offers quick installation and configuration.
Its “wizard” guides the installer to provide the
information necessary to define the components
and how they are connected. GAVA creates the user
interfaces and downloads the necessary codes. The process typically
takes less than a half hour, once everything is installed and connected.
This is like a simple one-room remote, but GAVA can also manage
a multi-room or multi-display system with up to 16 zones of highdefinition
video when using one of Gefen’s HDMI Matrix Switchers,
just as easily as a single-room system.
For integrators, GAVA offers an easy
solution for everyone: while your customers’
control solution lies securely in their pockets,
some profit still remains in yours.
Orrin Charm, automated products manager at Gefen,
is a field-trained expert on systems integration, user
interfaces, wiring and installation practices, and documentation.