Use-Case is the Primary Driver Behind AV Distribution Design

Use-Case is the Primary Driver Behind AV Distribution Design

It wasn’t that long ago that enterprise AV distribution was truly point-to-point: signals traveled between one conference room to another. The widespread application of BYOD, combined with the variety of dial-in options (e.g., Skype) has altered the meeting landscape, however, often depriving tech managers of full control over the systems for which they’re responsible.

“Even as recently as three years ago, when people would meet [in a videoconferencing environment], there would be a team of people in New York, a team of people in L.A., and a team of people in Paris. What happens today is that there will be a team of people in New York, one or two people in L.A., and one or two people in Paris, and they may not sit in for the full duration of the meeting—they may be required as subject matter experts for 15 or 20 minutes,” illustrated Brad Sousa, senior vice president of enterprise technologies at AVI Systems Inc., an AV systems integration firm headquartered in Eden Prairie, Minn. He says that connecting Point A to Points B and C has transformed into a “spoke” design, presenting a number of challenges to tech managers. “You want that ubiquity, you want to be able to connect to anybody, anywhere, but the problem is, when you start connecting anyone, anywhere, you have no control over that other end. It can give the semblance that the system is failing, but in reality it’s just an incompatibility issue with what’s happening on the other side.”

The way to work within these restrictions is to be very specific about your use case. Sousa notes that a Windows-based laptop, for example, connects with HDCP very differently than a MacBook does; mobile devices, too, have their own connectivity protocols. “By defining those use cases—not just what they plan to connect, but how they plan on using the system; truly defining use, not just the technical bits and bytes—has been a very successful method of diminishing or eliminating those kinds of conflicts.”

Part of defining the use case, Sousa points out, is identifying how reliable enterprises need these systems to be. Obviously, the knee-jerk response is 99.999 percent, but we all know that this isn’t always possible when mobile telephone coverage and VoIP is involved. “That instant connection to others is a convenience, and sometimes that convenience sacrifices a little bit of reliability,” Sousa said. “One of the first things you have to do is really understand what your tolerance level is between convenience and reliability.”

While resolution-hungry users are excited about 4K, Clint Hoffman, vice president of marketing at Kramer Electronics USA, an AV distribution and collaboration systems manufacturer in Clinton, New Jersey, points out that one must first ask the question: what is 4K today? “Is HDMI 2.0 full 4K? And HDMI 2.0 won’t do anything unless you have HDCP 2.2—and HDCP 2.2 is not backward compatible. So if you’re buying what you think is a 4K display today and real 4K comes around, your current display won’t be HDCP 2.2 compatible, so you’ll have to go out and buy another one.” Future-proofing, at this point, isn’t possible. “It will be a little while before we can start outfitting people for the arrival of sources and displays that will actually handle the full-bandwidth 4K that everybody wants.”

There’s also the question of where 4K will be most valuable. Sousa relays that while his firm is seeing movement in 4K production, there hasn’t been much practical use of 4K in meeting and conference spaces (medicine being an exception, where 4K resolution is an obvious benefit). Right now, he says that 4K provides the most value in larger venues, such as auditoriums and arenas, as well as command and control centers and facilities that utilize immersive imaging.

Again, the issue of 4K is an issue of defining the use case, says Joe da Silva, director of product marketing at Extron Electronics, an AV distribution and control manufacturer based in Anaheim, California: “Technology managers need to decide whether portability or mobility is the most important and, if so, will their users accept lower image quality and more limited available bandwidth for this benefit? Or, are high-resolution 4K sources the most important factor to meet corporate or institutional goals?” he said. The medical, and oil and gas industries, and some government agencies, require the highest resolution possible, “but for others like education, or standard boardrooms, that may not be as important.”

Then there is HDBaseT, which Steven Barlow, president of DVI Gear—a digital connectivity solutions manufacturer in Marietta, Georgia—believes will succeed in making AV signals act like the 10-gig Ethernet signals of the IT world. “What the people behind the HDBaseT technology did is they said, ‘let’s take this HDMI signal, manipulate, re-code it, and make it like a 10-gig Ethernet signal,’” he said. He concedes that while HDBaseT stops short of being truly 10-gig compliant, “that enabling technology will allow one to take an uncompressed HDMI signal and bring it into a 10-gig Ethernet environment as an uncompressed signal, to be distributed over a 10-gig infrastructure. Only when this technology starts emerging will the true meaning of the word ‘convergence’ be manifest with regards to AV and IT.”

Barlow admits that this development will also make a considerable impact on his own business, which produces matrix switchers. “They’re very flexible, but at the end of the day, they’re somewhat proprietary. And when this transition I’m alluding to totally manifests, those switchers, in our opinion, will basically go away, and they’ll simply be replaced by 10-gig Ethernet switches that are already available for IT data use—those IT switches will not only be moving network data, but also AV content,” he said. This is no small development for a matrix switcher manufacturer: “That changes our business, which is always a little bit scary for a company that’s in the business now, but it’s like a wave: you can either ride the wave and get your timing right to enjoy it, or you can get crushed by it. You can imagine which choice we’ve made.”

What’s Notable & New?

AMX Enzo & Serano

AMX’s Enzo is a collaboration platform that gives meeting attendees the ability to access and share data from the cloud, the Internet, or a USB drive. The company recently upgraded the system to include features such as instant screen mirroring from laptops and mobile devices.Also, Look for the AMX Sereno, a videoconferencing camera designed for huddle spaces and smaller meeting rooms.

Contemporary Research 4th Generation 232-ATSC 4 HDTV Tuner

Contemporary Research has upgraded its 232-ATSC 4 HDTV Tuner to include tuning MPEG-4 TV programs, delivering up to 1080p video, and simplifying firmware updates. The tuner can receive both analog and digital off-air and clear QAM cable channels that are controllable via RS-232, Ethernet, and IR. The product also offers full interactive control through onboard Web pages.

Crestron 3-Series

Crestron’s 3-Series is an integrated building management platform designed to unify enterprise technologies, thus eliminating system silos. Through Active Directory, 3-Series allows for “true enterprise security,” according to the manufacturer, and high-speed Ethernet connectivity enables integration with IP-controllable devices. The company recently incorporated 3-Series control into its next generation of DigitalMedia presentation systems.

DVI Gear MXP Series

DVI Gear’s MXP Series are digital matrix switchers featuring a digital routing engine that enables I/O connections from 9x9 up to 80x80. Based on a modular architecture, over 60 I/O cards are available. The switchers support a number of different signal formats, including DVI, dual-link DVI, HDMI, DisplayPort, SD-SDI, HD-SDI, 3G-SDI, analog VGA, and component video. TPS I/O cards use HDBaseT.

Extron DTP and FOX SeriesExtron’s DTP Series enables 4K long-distance signal transmission over shielded twisted-pair cable. The series includes transmitters, receivers, distribution amplifiers, switchers, scalers, signal processors, and matrix switchers, as well as cables and accessories. The manufacturer also provides a full line of 4K-capable twisted pair, fiber optic signal processing, streaming, and playback solutions, including the new DTP CrossPoint 84, family of DTP Systems, XTP Systems, and extensive FOX Series product family.

Gefen 4K Ultra HD Extender

Gefen’s 4K Ultra HD Extender for HDMI over One Fiber provides 3840x2160 at 30Hz resolution, with RS-232 and bi-directional IR, using one fiber optic cable. The extender is designed for use of up to 1,000 metres at 4K resolutions, and 2,000 metres at 1080p/60 full HD.

Hall Research 4K Javelin Cables

Hall Research’s 4K-Javelin active plenum HDMI cables are a copper/fiber hybrid, enabling HDMI signals to be transported 200 feet or longer with no loss, according to the manufacturer. A.J. Shelat, vice president of sales at the Tustin, California-based company, notes that the Javelin Series addresses some of the cabling challenges that integrators and tech managers often run up against. “It’s powered from the source, it’s easy to pull, it’s got a small form factor, and it’s got a lot of advantages over using a traditional HDMI cable,” he said. “There are definitely applications where Cat 5 and extension boxes are not always the most convenient, because of power limitations, space restrictions, or storage limitations. A fiber/copper hybrid cable like Javelin does change the way how video extension and distribution take place.”

Kramer VIA Family

Kramer’s family of VIA products––the VIA Collage, VIA ConnectPRO, and VIA Connect––address BYOD in the collaboration environment by enabling meeting participants to share files and stream videos; VIA Collage allows up to six presenters’ screens to be dynamically displayed on a single device (up to 12 can be displayed simultaneously when two displays are in use). VIA Collage also supports applications such as Skype, GoTo Meeting, Lync, WebEx, and PowerPoint.

Lightware UMX-TPS Extension Systems

  • Lightware’s UMX-TPS extension systems transmit multiple video formats with resolutions up to 4K and UHD. Audio, video, and control signals can be sent up to 170 metres over a single Cat 5 cable. The systems support VGA, HDMI, DVI, and DisplayPort input types on the transmitter signal extender over fiber and HDBaseT. All transmitters provide 3D and 4K support.

Matrox Maevex AV-over-IP

Matrox's Maevex AV-over-IP devices provide a simple and fast way to share desktops, video, and much more. Connect a laptop to Maevex H.264 encoders to display its output anywhere on the network via Maevex decoders or SW decode. Stream high-quality full HD video & audio at low bandwidth. Distribute AV between workstations, on networked displays throughout the building, or on a collaborative videowall. Capture, compress, and record screen activity or other content to specific network locations for future reference.

AVB & AVnu Spotlight

• The AVnu Alliance tests and certifies devices for interoperability, providing a simple and reliable networking solution for AV network implementation based on the Audio Video Bridging (AVB) standards.

• As Jan Willem Brands, CTO, Barco, explained: “Open networked visualization solutions are the way forward in the AV industry. The AVB standards aim to build more reliable and easier to use network centric audio and video applications.” (Courtesy of AVnu)

• The AVnu Alliance has grown nearly 40% in the last 18 months with 80 members all promoting, selling, developing and testing AVnu-certified AVB devices.

· AVnu Alliance members include more than 95% of the Ethernet silicon suppliers in the market.

· There are 63 AVB network switches on the market.

• Visit for white papers, specs, and more information.

Carolyn Heinze has covered everything from AV/IT and business to cowboys and cowgirls ... and the horses they love. She was the Paris contributing editor for the pan-European site Running in Heels, providing news and views on fashion, culture, and the arts for her column, “France in Your Pants.” She has also contributed critiques of foreign cinema and French politics for the politico-literary site, The New Vulgate.