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AV over IP: education and training

Previously we looked at the growing significance of IP as well as who within AV stands to benefit; here Ian McMurray reveals the importance of manufacturers providing education and training to help with the transition.

The industry seems to be all but unanimous in its enthusiasm for what AVoIP will bring. Surely, though, there must be downsides? One may be that, in a world where acceptance of AV/IT convergence has perhaps been somewhat grudging, there is still much education to be done.

“As with the integration of any new technology, there is a learning curve that will affect all entities, from manufacturers to end-users,” notes Jason Fitzgerald, product manager at Gefen. “There are hurdles to overcome. Training is necessary by manufacturers for both integrators and end-users to aid in understanding and deploying new systems.”

“Learning is required with any transition of technology to be successful,” echoes Shaun Robinson, director of product and solutions at Harman Enterprise. “AV over IP solutions require significant dialogue between the AV systems integrator and IT departments to ensure successful deployments, and therefore additional education is required in some cases for the AV integrator, depending on their depth of expertise in IP networks. Manufacturers can help through this transition by providing commissioning services and training for the systems integrator partner.”

“Aside from the adoption growing pains, there are some technological aspects of AVoIP that can be seen as a loss over traditional forms of AV signal routing,” returns Fitzgerald. “Compression is commonly used in many AVoIP solutions, and while efforts have been made to utilise advanced coding and decoding techniques to transport signals with the best quality, it is still considered lossy. This may prove to be an issue in some vertical applications. Time-critical applications may also be affected by the delay inherently associated with compressing and decompressing an AV signal. There are some products on the market that have been able to achieve lossless transmission and negligible delays, but at a cost that can be prohibitive to mainstream applications. These points need to be considered by end-users and integrators when choosing and deploying an AVoIP solution.”

What happened?

In recent times, AVoIP seems to have come from almost nowhere – although Myles Carter, media relations manager at Matrox, disputes that.

“It’s incorrect to say that AV over IP has had a sudden surge,” he counters. “Rather, it has been increasingly used continuously for a long time. At first, AV over IP was in addition to – or auxiliary to – traditional high-performance AV. However, the ability to match or exceed virtually all aspects of traditional AV using IP technology has led to the gradual replacement and phasing out of traditional AV.”

The question remains, however: what combination of factors has brought us to where we are today?

“Firstly,” says Chris Scurto, vice president, marketing and North American sales at ZeeVee, “the cost of high-bandwidth network switches – 10Gb in particular – has been dropping consistently at somewhere near 20% per year, and now cost under $100 per port. Then AptoVision launched a chipset solution that allowed uncompressed video – right up to 4K60 4:4:4 – to be sent over a 10Gb network. This means that you get so much more flexibility, futureproofing, and ultimately cost saving, than any proprietary AV switch can ever offer. For example, ZeeVee’s ZyPer4K has now added multiview capability – something that you would normally need another box for.”

“And”, he goes on, “end-users are getting smarter and wiser after being sold proprietary solutions that can’t cope with their changing demands – unless, of course, they pay for significant upgrades, like a new switch frame. They want value for money, flexibility and futureproofing. Furthermore having something that their IT department understands means one less cost overhead for management.”

Justin Kennington, director of strategic and technical marketing at AptoVision and president of the SDVoE Alliance, too notes the pivotal role of AptoVision and its BlueRiver NT technology.

“Moving synchronous AV signals across an asynchronous AV network is a huge challenge that needed to be solved before it could be possible to move flawless, uncompressed video across an Ethernet network,” he says. “AptoVision’s adaptive clock resynchronisation – the technology that drives the SDVoE Alliance – has provided what we need, and now it is the most widely adopted technology for matrix switch replacement.”

Affordable switches

Like Scurto, he sees the increasing affordability of high-bandwidth switches – high enough to handle 4K video – and notes a prediction that over 70% of small and medium businesses are expected to deploy 10Gb switches this year. “Ten years ago, 10Gb network switches cost $1,200 per port and were fibre optic only,” he points out. “Today, you can get a mix of copper and fibre, and you can pay as little as $90 per port. Compare that to the cost of your HDBaseT matrix switch.”

Fitzgerald too notes the vital role that silicon plays. “Recently, chip manufacturers have made several breakthroughs in technology, but more importantly in affordability due to scale,” he explains. “This has made the cost-per-point on any AV system drop substantially – in some cases, lower than the cost-per-point in a traditional non-IP based AV system. With each manufacturer pushing for specific features that support their own proprietary functions in products, chipset manufacturers have been accelerated to produce better out-of-box functionality, causing leaps forward in the AVoIP marketplace. Along with the products, a wave of marketing and education has been pushing the viability and scalability of AVoIP on end-users.”

Now read on: AV over IP – future developments