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Are we integrating intelligently?

Pro audio consultant, Roland Hemming, questions whether some of the processes used for installing integrated systems are really ‘integrated’ at all...

The AV installation market is certainly a mature market using leading edge technology. The products we use deliver amazing performance. We then join these products together into integrated systems and now almost everything is IP-based so we really can say that AV and IT have merged. On the face of it we delight customers with engaging experiences and improved collaboration.

However, I hope I’m not the only one that thinks that how we join all this together is all a bit rubbish. The processes we use to design and integrate don’t really do that at all. I’m an audio guy, so I’m not even doing the whole system, but let’s look at what I have to do for a small networked audio set-up.

I connect mics to a processor and then I connect it to the network along with an amplifier. To configure, I use one app for the processor, another for the amplifier, one more for the switch and a further one to configure the networked audio routing. None of the information about the set-up or data between the devices is shared; I start from scratch for each device. If I’m connecting the audio to an AV control system, then it also needs to be given all the information about each device.

All of this keeps a lot of people employed but you can’t say any of this is ‘integrated’. We are still manually configuring each and every element, and God forbid that you want to change one of those items; and don’t even consider being able to add equipment on-the-fly for a one-off use, unless you have programmed this to be done in a very predictable manner.

We can’t blame a lack of standards for this state of affairs. There are a number of complementary standards that can assist with all this, for AVoIP networking, control and management. The problem is manufacturers work too hard on features and not enough on true system compatibility.

The majority of the IT world is built, first and foremost, around things working consistently together. From changing my printer knowing the output will look the same, to spinning up virtual machines to do different tasks: the IT world has enabled a level of integration that the AV world is still far from achieving; until manufacturers really decide to work together.