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Flying the standard for AVoIP interoperability

As part of Installation's recent Pro AV Tech Outlook report, the Alliance for IP Media Solutions set out the purpose of its work in defining open standards for AVoIP interoperability

The Alliance for IP Media Solutions (AIMS) has been a pioneering force in the broadcast industry’s ongoing migration from legacy systems to new IP-based environments. More recently, the consortium of broadcast and pro AV technology leaders has expanded its field of vision to include the pro AV market. David Chiappini, AIMS pro AV working group chair and executive vice president R&D, Matrox Graphics Inc, provides an update of the alliance’s latest work in our market 

Open standards for AVoIP interoperability

While the Alliance for IP Media Solutions (AIMS) has its origins in the broadcast realm, our mission is to promote an open standards-based IP approach to enabling interoperable media workflows across both the media and entertainment and pro AV industries.

The broadcast industry forged ahead toward standards-based IP operations by codifying SMPTE ST 2110 as the foundational essence transport layer for IP systems. Recognising that the pro AV community could likewise benefit from a standards-based approach built on SMPTE ST 2110, AIMS moved forward in developing the Internet Protocol Media Experience (IPMX) proposed set of open standards and specifications.

Although common, open standards for IP-based media transport offer tremendous benefits for both industries, the use of standards has typically been more fragmented within the pro AV industry than in broadcast. IPMX specifically targets this issue — interoperability for AV over IP — by proposing open standards and specifications designed to enable carriage of compressed and uncompressed video, audio, and data over IP networks.

The IPMX roadmap also includes specifications beneficial to pro AV installations, such as AMWA NMOS IS-04 for discovery and registration and AMWA NMOS IS-05 for connection management, as well as others for copy protection and security. Together, as part of IPMX, these proven standards and specifications have the power to benefit vendors, integrators, and end users across a broader array of applications. The more people across broadcast and pro AV use these standards, the more powerful they become in enabling interoperability and its benefits.

Moving from proprietary to open standards

The pro AV market has long been tied to proprietary standards. When 100 different manufacturers develop their own standards to drive their own solutions, interoperability is near impossible. Perhaps two vendors can work out interoperation of their products after the fact, but for the most part, users are held captive; locked into a particular proprietary standard.

Open standards break down that barrier. Customers gain the freedom to select and combine different products in a way that better addresses their requirements. If equipment is approaching its end of life (EOL), they can plan to replace it without ripping out and rebuilding the entire solution. When a product is based on open standards, it is much more likely that a compatible piece of equipment can be used as a replacement for an EOL product.

In exchange for embracing common and ubiquitous standards, manufacturers and vendors realise an opportunity to shift time, money, and engineering talent from development of foundational technology to new features and capabilities that add value. Rather than spend time reinventing the wheel, they can focus on delivering better products.

As the standards-based AV over IP ecosystem expands, manufacturers can leverage their expertise and their product line across a much larger group of potential customers. Instead of competing for one little piece of the pie, they can go for the whole pie. For a company – even a very small company – that writes software for pro AV applications, the industry’s broad embrace of common standards makes it possible to target maybe 100 users rather than just a few.

Some manufacturers will stick with their proprietary standards as long as possible; others will move more proactively toward open standards. Nevertheless, the shift has begun. If history and past trends around adoption of open standards are any indicator, the benefits of this approach will cause the market to skyrocket. When everyone is on the same page, it’s a win-win scenario for all.

Advancing IPMX: standardisation and adoption

IPMX is the result of the AIMS ProAV Working Group’s efforts to define an open-standards approach to addressing the pro AV world’s move toward IP media. This work follows AIMS’ work with the broadcast/media industry to promote multi-vendor interoperability that will foster long-term protection of users’ investments in technology and products.

IPMX is meant to serve a framework for open, easy-to-deploy solutions. It was created as a flexible approach to meeting the video, audio, and data requirements of current and future pro AV solutions over IP. Based on ST 2110 transport and signalling, as well as NMOS control, the first IPMX iteration allows users to get video from any location on a network to any other on the LAN. It uses multi-speed networks; supports uncompressed, compressed, and even highly compressed media, each with different implications for latency, distance, and quality; and handles both synchronous and asynchronous sources. In other words, IPMX addresses a variety of needs and use cases very easily. 

As the AIMS membership list suggests, many organisations and manufacturers have been contributing to development and promotion of IPMX. They see the value in this work, as well as the momentum building behind standardisation and adoption of IPMX.

Even now, the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE) is looking at launching a formal standardisation process. To accelerate this process, AIMS members have already created all the necessary technical recommendation documents critical to SMPTE review and eventual ratification as a standard.

As this process unfolds, we expect to see a growing number of manufacturers in the pro AV space building IPMX into their products and adapting to any alterations as they go. While a small group of manufacturers will start this movement, it will become a compelling opportunity that eventually draws everyone on board. Prototype products have already been tested at industry events, and it seems likely that several IPMX-ready products will appear on the market toward the end of this year.

Looking ahead to a bright future

With widespread IPMX adoption on the horizon, distant as it may be, the future of the pro AV industry is bright. So many new possibilities open up.

Because IPMX is built on SMPTE ST 2110, it benefits from ongoing development of that standards suite and support from many great organisations. ST 2110 already provides a firm foundation, but it hasn’t sat idle. Further work to look at IP-based media transport over the internet, in the cloud, and other aspects of AV over IP will add value and utility to products that support IPMX. Ultimately, this work promotes faster development of products and ensures progress in coming years.

This progress will begin with LAN-based video distribution, which is useful in industries ranging from medical and control room facilities to retail and hospitality. IPMX makes it easier for these users to find and deploy just the right product for their needs; and they can be confident that it has been carefully crafted and will continue to be well supported.

IPMX represents contributions of time, expertise, and energy from manufacturers and industry associations including AMWA, JT-NM, SMPTE, and VSF, all working to help users across the pro AV industry to elevate their game. Though the future is bright, the work isn’t done.

It’s a great time to join AIMS and help to shape the future of IPMX and the pro AV industry’s migration to AV over IP, with all the benefits and opportunities it affords. AIMS membership is affordable, and we welcome newcomers to join us in the work of educating the industry, moving forward on the IPMX roadmap, and promoting broad interoperability for AV over IP. We’re proud to have built a collaborative environment in which competing companies can come together to innovate for the good of all. Membership details are available at