HDBaseT at a Higher Level...Is It Ready, Yet?

HDBaseT at a Higher Level...Is It Ready, Yet?

There have been some interesting talks about the adoption of HDBaseT, especially in higher ed. I understand why—it's quite amazing that you can send video, audio, control, Ethernet, and power over a single (inexpensive) CAT cable. Interestingly enough, during my discussions with technology managers, it seems many are holding off just a little bit longer before taking the plunge. However, a few have already adopted the technology and are standardizing on it in their classrooms campus wide. Why is HDBaseT being adopted so slowly in higher ed when it seems like an EdTech panacea? Okay, maybe that's a little dramatic, but we agree that it is a cost effective solution to many challenges.

I speak with AV techs every day; I get to learn about their headaches and problems. From an outside perspective, certainly HDBaseT should be able to help. Curiosity—which so many say killed the cat—is arguably one of my best attributes. And this time, as is usually the case, it got the better of me. I really needed to know why… So I reached out to some of my friends, readers, and contacts in higher ed AV and IT departments and asked them these three questions: Are you using HDBaseT currently and/or are they being spec'd into room upgrades now? Or are you waiting a little longer before buying into HDBaseT? Why? [Thanks to all of you who took the time to respond to me.]

Not Quite Where We Need To Be

  • Not surprisingly, many AV techs are still holding off on adopting HDBaseT. They site the unreliability for some manufacturers’ products to "talk" to other's and are waiting for more consistent "5-play" availability. AV/ Multimedia Manager Thomas Garrity mentioned that “although this technology looks promising and will help reduce costs for future installations, I, personally, would like to wait until it is tested in the wider marketplace and becomes standard practice amongst AV vendors, integrators, and manufacturers. As we focus on future facility projects, consideration of HDBaseT will play a considerable role.”
  • Thomas Hayes, Multimedia Integration Design Developer at the University of Ottawa, has similar concerns: “The main reason [for not specifying HDBaseT] is I want to ensure this will be a standard that will be around for a few years and not be like the HDMI/DP issue that we have seen. Universities have much lower operational budgets now, so we can no longer take chances when it comes to technology that may or may not pan out.” Hayes also provided a wish list for manufacturers which he claims, once mainstream, will motivate him to specify HDBaseT into his designs. At the top of the list “a direct link into the device rather than the now costly encoder/decoder boxes that are required.”

Give It To Me, Baby

Alternately, there were quite a few more than I had anticipated who are already using HDBaseT technology on their campuses and actively incorporating it into their standard AV room designs. The reasons were clear; inexpensive, easy to run, reliable cable equals less cost, less work, and more options. Tim Cichos, Sr. AV Engineer at University of Notre Dame, put it succinctly, “Easy cable (CAT6) to install, terminate and maintain. Also with everything going digital, it was time to upgrade our analog systems anyway.” Jesse Anderson from College of the Holy Cross has been using HDBaseT in his classroom upgrades for about two years now (practically since inception) and agrees with Cichos. Anderson goes on to explain, “One thing I'd note to people considering adoption—we've designated a standard wire and jack color for HDBaseT that is different from all of our existing standard colors—while it means that our integrators have some materials that are specific to our site, it makes things much easier for our end-users. The other reason [for using HDBaseT technology] is 5-Play. We upgraded a lectern-based system this summer, and reduced the number of connections in the floor from 5 to a single EtherCon and power. I no longer have to worry about my control cable being connected to the video jack if someone moves the lectern.”

This Town Is Big Enough For All Of Us

Clearly, HDBaseT technology has qualified benefits for higher ed classroom installations. It seems that manufacturers will continue to see an increase in the demand for products incorporating HDBaseT as long as those products work seamlessly in their room and system designs. Unfortunately, one of the speed bumps that often slows progress is the lack of interest from manufacturers to develop products that “play well” with others. As interest becomes intent our AV professionals in higher ed will move forward with HDBaseT enabled products that cooperate and offer the full array of 5-play capabilities. This ensures they can design a room that works best for their staff, students and faculty rather than a room designed using products which limit them to a small choice of compatible equipment and crossed fingers.

Gina Sansivero is Director of Educational Sales at FSR, Inc in Woodland Park, NJ. FSR is a US manufacturer which offers connectivity, infrastructure, AV, and collaborative technology products worldwide. Gina is a member of InfoComm International and a team member of the Long Island Volunteer Enterprise. To reach Gina directly, please email gsansivero@fsr.com or chat on Twitter @GinaSans.

This video explains the HDBaseT Spec 2.0

Gina Sansivero

Gina Sansivero is VP of marketing and corporate communications for AtlasIED and president of WAVIT.