The professional and install audio markets have been evolving to take advantage of networking technology. Our company, Lab X Technologies, has focused on implementing digital audio connectivity for various major manufactures since 2000. Over the years we have become the “Switzerland of Connectivity” by enabling various protocols such as CobraNet, EtherSound, A-Net, MADI, and Dante in professional, touring, and install audio equipment. We’ve witnessed the ever-growing number of products that are network enabled for both control and media transport.
Proprietary manufacturer-specific protocols seem to be fading. Gone are the arguments of “we can build our own network technology better and cheaper” and “our proprietary network will assure customers will only buy our equipment and no other manufacturer’s.” No single AV manufacturer can devote the necessary resources (financial or personnel) to keep up with staggering investments made by the ethernet networking communities. As Rick Kreifeldt, corporate technology group vice president
Consumer products consistently push the technology envelope, are developed at a blistering pace, and feature ever decreasing prices such that consumer technology and price expectations now drive the professional and install markets. of Harman International states, “Millions of dollars are invested every year by the leading networking companies into extending the functionality of ethernet.”
The formation of standards (even if de facto) by technology providers such as Cirrus Logic (CobraNet), Digigram (EtherSound), and Audinate (Dante), which license their technology to various manufacturers, help foster interoperability and the development of multi-manufacturer large scale systems.
The AV install community reaps the benefits provided by these industry investments in the form of more cost effective installation (Cat-5 cable or fiber versus multicore discrete cabling and termination), and infrastructure components whose prices have been driven down by mass utilization by industry and consumers.
Our industry continues to experience convergence, the merging of features and functionality, product categories, distribution mechanisms, and market segments. Much of this convergence is due to “Technology Inversion”. Previously technology was rolled out in the professional arena and then trickled down into the consumer market. Now, consumer products consistently push the technology envelope, are developed at a blistering pace, and feature ever decreasing prices such that consumer technology and price expectations now drive the professional and install markets. This inversion in the flow of technology poses the ever-increasing challenge for manufacturers to provide professional-grade equipment featuring technology leveraged from consumer volumes and price points.
Alignment with the work in ethernet network communities on industry standards is akin to a similar movement in the industry to utilize open source software. The open source software community makes software and operating systems like Linux publically available to encourage usage, contributions, and enhancements from the development community. Thus much as Linux and Open Source (now responsible for a growing number of networked embedded devices ranging from mobile phones, GPS, media servers, set-top boxes, etc.) have increased the functionality of products and their speed of evolution, so too does new work in the networked AV community via new ethernet standards dubbed AVB (Audio Video Bridging).
As consumer product companies like Apple work with large semiconductor manufacturers like Intel and Broadcom to extend the definition of ethernet (IEEE 802) for audio and video solutions, it is clear that the future holds cost-effective products and solutions for system integrators.
Harman’s Kreifeldt continued, “We are very excited to be a part of the effort of the IEEE to develop a low-latency transport with a guaranteed quality of service that will be cost-effective enough for consumer applications yet meet the demanding needs of professional AV.” It is this consumer driven economy of scale which will expedite the evolution of network products in our market.
Lee Minich (email@example.com) is the president of Lab X Technologies. Equipment manufacturers utilize Lab X’s expertise to network enable products for AV distribution.