Opinion: a vision of the networked future2 September 2015
Networks must be intelligent, robust and secure to cope with future demands, says Benson Chan, VP of business development at Pakedge Device & Software.
The network has fast become the ‘fourth utility’ in commercial spaces – behind electricity, gas and water. A wide variety of devices, including computers, tablets, telephones, mobiles, printers and security systems, are all connected to the internet in order to facilitate quick and efficient communication. Voice over IP (VoIP) telephone services are becoming more and more common, as are videoconference services like Skype or Blue Jeans. Users no longer require a hard connection to printers but can instead send information wirelessly, from mobile devices or fixed stations. Security systems and cameras provide cloud-based services, remotely accessible by installers to ensure the smooth running of different platforms. With each passing day, more and more ‘connected’ products and internet-delivered services come into the marketplace. Now we are seeing ‘connected’ appliances such as fire alarms, coffee machines and even lighting and thermostats.
Reliance on the internet to perform even the most basic business functions highlights the demand for always-on convenience, but as communications, security, Internet of Things and automation become more prevalent, the data traffic generated on the office network will be tremendous and require even more attention. In order to accommodate this need, integrators have turned to remote management systems, like Pakedge’s BakPak, in order to improve service, crisis management and out-of-hours monitoring and control. However, such resources have limited success if the network is sub-par.
A commercial network must be scalable to handle the multitude of future devices, many not even envisioned yet, that will soon require connections. Networks must be intelligent enough to sense and prioritise latency sensitive content, such as streaming and video calls, while being robust enough to handle multiple types of activities simultaneously, such as VoIP, internet surfing and network printing. More importantly, in the case of built-up cities like London, New York and Paris with high density of homes, offices and people, with manifold active wireless networks, AV networks will need to be able to operate in a high interference environment while also remaining secure.
Challenges for manufacturers
Faced with the challenges of the BYOD phenomenon and the ever-growing popularity of connected devices, manufacturers of network solutions must provide integrators with solutions that address the underlying IP network technology trends and the importance of the role of networks in the future workplace environment. They must translate this knowledge into training programmes in order to support those working in the AV/IT arena. They must move beyond creating disparate network components and become integrated solutions specialists.
Platforms such as our own Pakedge Connect+ (pictured) are designed to answer this need; delivering a carefully integrated choice of switches, routers, wireless power management and software technologies, designed specifically to work with each other to deliver seamless, scalable and reliable networking performance. These platforms leverage individual device information and have features that complement one another to optimise network performance. This is something that individual devices on multi-vendor networks cannot do. Network platforms are the future of networked solutions, as they provide superior stability and peerless performance.
Systems integrators and consultants too must also become adept at communicating and educating their clients on the importance of a good network. Why is this important? The network is the foundation for all things connected. Just as a weak foundation will undermine an entire building, a weak network foundation will undermine the devices connected to it. Oftentimes, clients believe poor operational performance is due to the device, not knowing the implications of a poorly designed or constructed network. The market needs to work to design and build strong network foundations for their clients through the selection and specification of robust, commercial-grade and purpose-built technology for AV/IT networks.