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AV over IP: who stands to benefit?

Ian McMurray looks at the different factors that are driving the move to this new paradigm. It’s said that, if something is inevitable, the best thing to do is embrace it. Is that how the AV industry is viewing the growing significance of AVoIP?

Everyone – well, almost everyone – knows that it was Tim (now Sir Tim) Berners-Lee who invented the World Wide Web in 1989. Rather less well known are Bob Khan and Vint Cerf, without whose invention the internet we know today wouldn’t be possible. TCP/IP – widely referred to as just ‘IP’ – will, depending on who you believe, enable between 20 billion and 75 billion devices to be connected to the internet by 2020.

‘Ubiquitous’ doesn’t begin to describe IP. As such, it was always inevitable that, at some point, it would begin to encroach on the world of AV. After all: we already consume huge amounts of video using IP; according to Cisco, by 2020, a million minutes of video will cross the network – every second. The success of Spotify, Apple Music and Pandora testify to how much we rely on IP for audio. Earlier this year, Spotify announced that it now has over 50 million paid subscribers, while Pandora claims 21.96 billion hours of listening in 2016.

Everyone’s a winner

But just because something is inescapable doesn’t mean it’s ideal – or even right. Does the AV industry stand to gain from IP’s inexorable march? The answer seems to be a resounding ‘yes’: everyone, including end-users, manufacturers and integrators, comes out a winner.

“End-users gain all of the economies and benefits that have propelled data and voice over IP thus far, the opening up of new applications such as wireless transmission, the ability to reach much longer distances, the ability to hybridise between data types and the ability to sustain a much larger audience of concurrent consumption of AV,” believes Myles Carter, media relations manager at Matrox.

“We know that the market needs simple solutions,” says David Margolin, marketing director at Kramer, which premiered the Kramer Network enterprise management platform for AV over IP solutions at ISE last year. “AVoIP will become the new AV standard eventually. Aside from the big and complex AV installations, new AV owners are still looking for simple solutions for smaller meeting spaces that don’t require a high level of technology but do require remote management. Being able to identify, before the end-user, that there’s an issue with the meeting space is a key requirement. On top of that, being able to minimise downtime and provide a reliable user experience is equally important.”

“Manufacturers gain a lowered barrier to entry for new products, since they now only need to build a couple of well thought-out endpoint devices and software to enable those great user experiences,” adds Justin Kennington, director of strategic and technical marketing at AptoVision and president of the SDVoE Alliance. “Overall the industry gains a huge amount of efficiency, as more and more development time, effort, and money focuses away from the ‘big iron’ of dumb matrix switches, and refocuses on software to drive user experience.”

“Seriously,” he goes on, “how many tens of millions of dollars have we as an industry wasted on these things? And meanwhile the guys building Ethernet switches move more bits, more reliably, for cheaper.

“Let Netgear and Cisco move the bits,” he laughs.

Significant benefits

And what’s in it for integrators? The theory is, of course, that anything that’s good for end-users and that expands the available market can only be good for the channel, as Shaun Robinson, director of product and solutions at Harman Enterprise, points out. “AV over IP products that provide excellent video performance over 1Gb infrastructures provide significant benefits to both integrators and end-users,” he says. “For both parties, installation and commissioning is significantly simplified in that 1Gb AV over IP solutions allow for standard 1Gb switches and current cabling infrastructure to be leveraged, reducing capex outlay and disruptions to operations for retrofitting.”

“End-users achieve cost savings, flexibility and futureproofing,” adds Chris Scurto, vice president, marketing and North American sales at ZeeVee, a founding member of the SDVoE. “They get a single platform for AV and IT that can grow with their changing requirements. With the market still relatively in its infancy, integrators have the opportunity to move away from the pack, become leaders, and offer all those benefits to their clients.”

“Frankly,” he continues, “integrators who don’t adapt to AV over IP stand to lose their business over the long run. Think about Nortel, who were once the most dominant phone system PBX manufacturer in the world. Then IP phone systems came along, they failed to adapt – and where are they today? Out of business.”

Now read on: AV over IP – education and training