Knowledge Is Power

The innovations of power conditioning are constantly being formed by the evolutions of the AV products that they protect. As the equipment in a rack grows in sensitivity, companies that deal in surge protection products are looking for ways to encourage the education of systems integrators and end-users alike.

"I don't know that the electric has changed all that much in recent times, other than a couple of occurrences, but what has changed is the sensitivity of the equipment that is being fed by that equipment," explained Jeff Garstick, national sales manager for Lowell. "It's a lot more digitally inclined, and there are a lot more opportunities for gremlins to be let loose." For its part, Lowell has quadrupled its surge protection offerings in the past 36 months, and has a significant amount on the way. Part of that is due to its engineering expansion. "At large, our industry has responded with more and more solution-oriented products, with more and more players in the market," Garstick continued. "We just finished expanding our engineering facilities with the completion of a new lab to address that."

"The electronics that we use are going to be increasingly sensitive to power line anomalies," commented Michael McCook, senior principal, SurgeX. "As an engineering-based company, we have focused on refining our technologies, utilizing new patents, to virtually eliminate these problems by way of this power conditioning platform. That's the reason why our industry buys these products. It's a problem-solving device." In the 11 years SurgeX has been in the power conditioning business, it has seen its core technology upgraded, and developed its Series Mode technology, which is known to be a core method for effective surge protection, and is currently the only non-sacrificial technology available.

The customer-base is becoming much more aware of the critical nature of protecting their investments in equipment. "If you have a high-cost AV installation job, our industry and the related things to it, vis-à-vis convergence, are becoming a bigger part of the package, and I think that will become more clearly demonstrated as the MasterFormat gets adopted moving forward into 2007," said Garstick. "But in that bigger percentage, there's less and less wiggle-room for downtime; if you don't protect those products, you're putting at risk the entire functioning of the system, since it seems to now all come back to some kind of computer-related control in larger integration systems. As that grows, contributing a little more to things that will ensure its safe operation is a logical step."

The industry associations continue to support education of its members by hosting seminars and including courses in their curriculums about power conditioning safety and standards. For instance, Furman Sound recently partnered with InfoComm, and senior product designer Garth Powell presented a foundational AC power seminar at its recent 2006 exhibition. Meanwhile, 10-year Syn-Aud-Con sponsor SurgeX has created a technical seminar to be led by its director of engineering, Andy Benton, and renowned consultant Jim Brown of Audio Systems Group, which will be a new addition to both the InfoComm and NSCA curriculums. "I believe education on the side of the consumer or the integrator is extremely important in choosing which products they rely on for this solution," commented McCook.

In the end, creating a product that is end-user-friendly and easy for an integrator to install remains as important as the understanding of these products' significance to a project. "In the world of surge suppression in my mind, an end-user-friendly operation is one in which the customer doesn't have to be concerned about it," concluded Garstick. "They're on, they're working, and that's all they should ever have to worry about the product."