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Technology Showcase: IP-based AV Control Systems

Mar 1, 2008 12:00 PM, By Bennett Liles

Hardware options for centralized control.


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In the realm of AV systems, especially those deployed in mid- to large-sized plants, the clear trend is toward centralized control, and the most economical and hardware-familiar way to design central control of AV presentation elements is through Internet Protocol (IP) transmission. Well-established IT networks in academic, corporate, and — increasingly — house-of-worship environments offer a ready-made highway for AV-control signals that typically generate far less bit traffic than email and other traditional office applications.

The central element in the AV and IT convergence lies in the fact that IP networks facilitate a common language of configuration and conveyance for an even broader market — including digital signage, corporate podcasts, broadcasting, and videoconferencing. Evidence of this can be seen in the steadily increasing IT influence on certification requirements for AV technicians and system integrators. Skills such as IP submasking and hard tools such as RJ-45 connectors and network analyzers have migrated from the toolboxes of IT engineers to those of the AV techs.

The large, proprietary IP-based AV-control systems still rule the roost in market share with their ability to provide a total package from nuts and bolts right up to processors and control panels. Of course, one negative factor in those systems still offers a niche for companies supplying more generic solutions that tie together common, off-the-shelf hardware items: On a large deployment in a multiple-classroom situation such as a university campus, what happens if the flush-mounted touchpanels installed in all those classrooms are discontinued and no follow-on model of the same size is offered? Break out the saws and wood files.

Something else to consider is the fact that when each conference office or classroom had its own IR remote-operated projector, replacing or upgrading it with a new make and model meant simply laying another remote on the table. But now, the control system must be reprogrammed with drivers for the new make and model of AV gear, provided the system manufacturer has one already. Fortunately, most of the big-name makers of IP-linked AV systems can make and deliver drivers for new equipment, but it is usually up to the client to thoroughly test it, report problems, and wait for an updated version to be delivered for installation. The moral of that story? Check the manufacturer's database of drivers before deployment of a large-scale upgrade — particularly in data projectors.

Still, the IP-based solution offers so many advantages that it has taken hold in both the proprietary hardware systems and those with off-the-shelf hardware solutions. Let's have a look at what the fast-growing market currently holds in both of these persuasions.





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