Some people believe the Internet of Things (IoT) is new. While it may be a new concept to the audiovisual industry, this phenomenon began in 1993 when students at the National Center for Supercomputer Applications, a research institute at the University of Illinois, unleashed the first web browser interface called Mosaic, which served as the genesis of the proliferation of the internet as we know it today.
In recent years, the AV industry has caught onto the concept of IoT. The impact of AV and its use of digitized audio, video, and control systems, as data riding on a network with other data, has opened a whole new horizon. To many in the industry, this is not news. To others, this is akin to black magic and upsets the whole balance of the world. Either way, this phenomenon is here to stay.
C-suite and executive-level staff have in large part grown up accustomed to traditional dividing lines between AV and telephony, networks and video, voice and control. The topic of AV on the Network can challenge their core understanding of what a telephone connection offers to users. At one time, that meant either a telephone or a computer.
Today there may well be AV systems plugged into the same network or at least using the same cable and connector as a means of signal transport. Further, comprehending that a computer connected to the network may be acting as an AV device (and vice versa) adds yet another perception of complexity that generates potential for error. These users prefer to keep things separate; they want the functionality but they don’t want the headache of having to know how it works. The IoT is driving the next generation to assume every device is a computer and that its use is ubiquitous to functionality.
Non-traditional executives and those in younger generations – including millennials – assume and desire that their computing device will offer seamless access to all the functionality and systems on a network, from voice to video and audio to data. Millennials are interested in understanding the inter-connectedness of the tools they are using and the level of functionality they bring them as a user of "the network." They assume they can log into any device, anywhere, and their profile complete with permissions, search history, and personal preferences will be accessible. Millennials want to push the boundaries of traditional networking; to do so they have to know how and why things work the way they do, and they simply expect that they do, seamlessly and without failure, all at the speed of light.
The fact that traditional AV is catching onto IoT has dramatically changed the way products are conceived, engineered, manufactured, and deployed. Many products, traditionally items that ship in boxes and break when dropped, are turning to the idea they can be managed by software, not physical knobs and buttons. They can indeed be driven by a computer platform and they can communicate with other devices, bringing a level of interaction and connectedness that has been difficult to achieve in years gone by. This whole concept is fast becoming a cultural shift within the AV industry that vastly changes our most common perceptions of systems design, deployment, and maintenance. AV is now a component of the network, and it must begin communicating and interacting with other aspects of communications, such as routers, switchers, firewalls, quality of service, and user interface. Therein lies a challenge for many manufacturers of AV devices, which first entered into the digital network world using proprietary network protocols, which tend to excuse other manufacturer products and devices, assuming the AV device is indeed its own network, and not part of the larger unified building network.
As a result of the move toward IoT, AV technology is becoming more integrated into traditional network technology than ever before. For those who are fearful of change, IoT is a new frontier that is beyond comprehension. For others, this is a whole new opportunity to examine technologies (inclusive of voice, video and data), from the user perspective and to develop new approaches to aid them in every aspect of business and education.
Witness the Microsoft Surface Hub and its interface to allow users to think and perform, rather than worry about how to use the tool. It’s a fully integrated hardware and software solution that largely embraces soft tools to accomplish functions that were once large bricks that consumed power and generated heat while consuming valuable space and required secret sauce (integration) to make it all work. This one device changes almost everything.
Then there was Google Glass, now being supplanted by multiple products providing augmented reality. This technology changes how we interact with computers in the workplace and in our homes. We have now moved from the two-dimensional world into three dimensions of virtual reality, and we have done this at a price point that makes this ability to interact with a computer an everyday affair. The day of the common keyboard and mouse are slowly disappearing as a result of these new methods of interaction.
There are any number of technologies entering the home and workplace today that are all inter-connected, and offer users new dimensions of interface and interaction that are networked. These devices utilize audio, voice, video, and data in a common ubiquitous manner that are currently changing the world as we know it.
Randy Tritz has more than 35 years of experience in the design, engineering, and installation of AV, command and control, teleconferencing, and multimedia systems. He has focused much of his career on education and the development of facilities and spaces that lead critical learning environments.