Straight Talk on AV IP Standards by James Careless

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AV IP standards are all the rage today, as AV integrators move away from proprietary legacy standards to IP-based approaches that take advantage of LAN and Internet-based technologies. But this strategy encompasses many AV IP standards, raising many questions for AV managers trying to decide which one to choose. These include which AV IP standards are dominant; which are on their way out, and which ones are worth watching out for?

To get answers to these questions, AV Technology magazine spoke with Paul Williams. He is VP of Support Services at Control4.

AV Technology (AVT): Which AV IP standards are dominant, and which are on their way out and why?

Paul Williams (PW): The dominant players continue to use HD Video over IP using Baluns. There are many players in the market with this technology today. MOCA (Multimedia Over COAX Alliance) also has gained some traction. Since both standards are continuing to gain traction, it is early to call which or if either of these standards are on their way out.

AVT: So which AV IP standards are – well – becoming the new industry standards?

PW: We see several technology providers coming up with ideas, but we haven’t seen a clear cut winner. For instance, Harmon has developed their HiQnet communications protocol, which is designed to allow all components within an audio signal path to speak with each other. It works well, but that doesn’t mean that it will replace existing protocols or prevent new ones from gaining prominence.

There is so much uncertainty, in fact, that we see integrators commonly using a mix of AV IP protocols. They tend to choose those that seem to work best for the job, and that play well with others. But there is no clear winner yet. This is why Control4 has taken a ‘technology agnostic’ approach to AV IP. We are able to work with virtually any standard.

AVT: Looking ahead, which new AV IP standards are worth watching for and possibly adopting?

PW: We are paying close attention to HDBaseT. The technology is interesting, requires a signal Cat6 wire to carry content, control, and PoE

AVT: What about emerging standards for HD over wireless?

Williams: It’s interesting. There has been a lot of work done in providing HD over wireless using IP, but it has yet to solve the problem. The central issue isn’t just the task of sending this much data over Wi-Fi in itself, but being able to do so in areas with crowded radio spectrum.

It is now common to find 50-60 Wi-Fi access points within range of a typical business. There are some area that are so congested – such as around Chicago’s Willis Tower (formerly Sears Tower) – that the spectrum is essentially unusable for streaming applications. Because that’s what HD over wireless is; a streaming app that requires lots of room to carry its bandwidth. Unlike text and other forms of data, you can’t ignore dropouts when there’s not enough spectrum available to send the signal.

AVT: The Big Question – How should tech managers respond to these realities, given their desire to adopt AV IP standards that not only stand the test of time, but actually work as promised?

Williams: The best thing is for tech managers to keep themselves informed on changes and advances in the AV IP space, so that they can adopt the standards that work best for their needs. As well, be sure to adopt standards that have headroom for growth and work well with other standards – and have widespread support.

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