Standards Problems as AV and IT Merge

Standards Problems as AV and IT Merge

During the last few years, the AV community has enthusiastically promoted the use of IP technology. This means using the TCP/IP protocol suite for both the devices and methods of transmission of media. Knowing that TCP/IP was developed within the IT community, AV vendor and developers have endeavored to achieve credibility and influence within the IT community. They need standards and techniques to build interoperable products. Let’s discuss how the technology and underlying standards are used by AV and IT.

It should be noted that TCP/IP was first embraced by IT around 1990 when IBM began promoting its use in the mainframe environment. More than a decade later, voice began to be transmitted using TCP/IP. This resulted in IT absorbing the management of telecommunications within the company. During these transitions, the primary underlying standards came from organizations like the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers), and the TIA (Telecommunications Industry Association) and from user groups like the ACM (Association of Computing Machinery). Also, The IETF (Internet Engineering Task Force) gradually grew in influence. Today, nearly all new protocols and techniques that are introduced by major vendors have an IETF standard behind them.

The AV industry has evolved much differently. Many AV standards groups focus on the content of media. Others standards target the specification of the transmission of that media. Influential groups have included those that specified NTSC, ATSC, and groups like MPEG (Motion Picture Experts Group) and SMPTE (Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers).

As part of my research and writing, I’ve made every effort to communicate with leaders in both IT and AV. Recently I made a list of the leaders who I know that are working in each area. The AV group included executives and engineers of companies that sell encoders, streaming servers, audio and video conferencing solutions, and similar mainstream AV products. The IT group consisted of executives and engineers from major IT vendors like Microsoft, Google, Cisco, Comcast, Amazon, and Netflix. After developing these two lists, something became apparent. I don’t think anyone on the AV list knows anyone on the IT list, or vice versa. I believe there is limited communications between the two industry sectors.

The consequences of this lack of communications are apparent in some industry developments. IEEE AVB, which was designed to give precise timing to Ethernet, was introduced after dozens of other modifications were made to Ethernet. While not as accurate as AVB, NTP (Network Time Protocol) was developed over 30 years ago. Looking from the opposite direction, it took almost a decade for the IT community to recognize the problems inherent in TCP delivery of video and specify DASH. Meanwhile, the AV industry developed SRT (Secure Reliable Transport), a method of mimicking TCP transport without its actual use.

I’m not sure what the best path forward might be. Maybe a task force of leaders from each of the sectors could meet periodically with a directive to address the technical issues faced by each group. That task force could also promote the expansion of cross-training of existing standards. What seems obvious is that we don’t need more proprietary standards or standards developed too late.