How to Maintain Profits with Control and Automation in Your Pocket

By Orrin Charm On February 13, 2013

Quick Bio

NAME: Orrin Charm
TITLE: Automated Products Manager
COMPANY: Gefen
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 manufactured.

 
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.

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