All Wired Up

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HDMI Is Driving Wire, Cable, And Connectivity

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Gepco Custom Panels

As the demand for higher-resolution video increases, so, too, does the need to deliver it. This is driving the need for HDMI connectivity, which the industry is more frequently applying to its devices and, therefore, its installations.

“You can’t get 3D, or 2K and 4K resolution over traditional cable, and component video is limited in its resolution,” said Eric Bodley, VP and GM at connect, interconnect, and cable products manufacturer PPC in East Syracuse, NY. “The stability and quality level of HDMI has now made it a better choice.”

In the realm of cable, there has been a significant increase in the volume of Category cables being installed into facilities, noted Dennis Whittaker, VP of product services at Liberty AV Solutions. “There has also been significant shift from traditional Category-5 cables up to higher grades of Category cables, such as Cat-6,” he said, adding that this is being driven by the bandwidth demands presented by HDMI technology.

Bodley conceded that some integrators may have a love/hate relationship with HDMI because they have encountered interoperability issues. “To counter this, they should hook up and test the products at their shop, pre-kit it and make sure that it’s all working properly—don’t try to do that on-site,” he suggested.

At the same time, the industry is responding to these issues, argued Chris Bundy, director of marketing at Atlona, a connectivity manufacturer. “There was a lot of fear surrounding digital connectivity. It’s either off or on, and it was really hard in the past to troubleshoot,” he said. “We have come a long way in creating devices that help integrators to diagnose, exactly, what the connectivity problem is.” He added that digital connectivity has arrived at the point where integrators can be confident that they are going to be able to direct the signal where it needs to go, even if it’s High Definition Copy Protection (HDCP)-protected. “Because of that, we are seeing less fear surrounding this technology.”

Whittaker pointed out that the transition from analog to digital has resulted in the creation of multiple ways to send a digital signal from a source to a display. “There are a lot of ways to move that signal around, which has a significant impact on the cables that you use in installations,” he said. Coupled with this is the need for future-proofing, requiring integrators to specify not only the cable solution that best suits current requirements, but any additions, modifications or upgrades that may come along down the road as well. Not to mention demands on bandwidth, which continue to escalate on a steady basis. “It’s a very good exercise for the integrator to up-sell the volume/value of the cable and connectivity solutions. The cable itself has a very long life, whereas the electronics change every two to four years.” He added that clients can get as many as 10 years out of their cable systems if they are specified properly to take into account changing technologies.

The recently launched HDBaseT Alliance—founded by LG Electronics, Samsung Electronics, Sony Pictures, and Valens Semiconductor— has produced a technology that replaces multiple cables and connectors with a single LAN cable in the home theater environment. Bundy believes that this will simplify installations. “It’s a new way to do HD—you’re not going to have so much overhead on cables and HDMI ports,” he said. “We’re going to see more interesting displays and switching capabilities.”

While integrators working in the residential market continue to tough it out in a challenging economy, the commercial arena is seeing its fair share of projects, especially in the area of retrofits. Bodley emphasized that in any project, be it commercial or residential, wire, cable, and connectivity should be viewed as part of the overall solution, rather than a separate entity. “There is a tendency to treat wire and cable more as a commodity, and I think integrators are realizing that they are spending an inordinate amount of time troubleshooting and doing service calls on connectivity issues, which can add up to a substantial amount of money,” he said. “We are starting to see integrators focus more on the holistic package.”

Margin Builder

In many cases, systems integrators specify wire and cable as a ‘lump sum’ in their overall quote—leading to issues when it gets down to installing the cabling infrastructure, noted Eric Bodley, VP and GM at PPC . “When they get down to the actual installation, the amount of the budget is such that it doesn’t allow for premium cable connectivity,” he said. The solution? “It should be itemized as its own component to ensure that the budget allows for a quality product.”

Carolyn Heinze is a freelance writer/ editor.

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