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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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While some companies offer either a programmable hardware button control approach or a system using a configurable touchpanel, Altinex markets a very customizable system centered on the company's MultiTasker. The MultiTasker exists as a rackframe unit with a selection of client-ordered slide-in cards and a front panel that can take the form of a hardware button panel in a wide range of configurations. A series of smaller satellite control button panels such as the DS801-301 and the ISM5000-W can be mounted in user locations to operate the central MultiTasker remotely. The DS801-301 has 11 buttons, a control dial usually programmed for volume control, an IR receiver, two RS-232 ports, and a serial-to-Ethernet port. The Altinex AV control system can also incorporate a touchpanel, and it uses the AVSnap software application to design and configure the system. MultiTasker's slide-in cards include a huge range of functions, and its controllers communicate with devices through RS-232, TCP/IP, USB, or RF. Customization and future expansion are fine points of the Altinex AV control system.

The AMX NI-3101-SIG packs a lot of control capability into a 1RU space. With its rack ears removed, the unit is designed to sit on a tabletop or shelf, and its glossy black face and blue/white LED panel indicators accentuate its appeal in the home theater market. The blue LEDs light up to show proper connection and blink when receiving Ethernet data packets. However, its home-theater-style appearance conceals the fact that the NI-3101-SIG has 32-bit processing power and a 64MB onboard RAM for some very heavyweight command stream handling capability. The unit has eight IR/serial ports; eight digital I/O ports; eight single-pole, single-throw relays; six configurable RS-232/RS-422/RS-485 serial ports using DB-9 male connectors; integrated USB programming; and a diagnostics port. It operates on either of two communication networks: AxLink or 10/100 Ethernet. The Ethernet protocols used include ICSP (a peer-to-peer protocol used for both master-to-master and master-to-device communications), ICMP, HTTP, and FTP. A four-position DIP switch is also used for configuration. Each of the digital I/O ports is capable of sensing 0VDC to 5VDC, and the input format is software selectable. The serial ports are terminated on two 8-pin mini-Phoenix connectors.

Aurora Multimedia has taken the generic hardware and widest compatibility approach with all its AV-control systems. The WACI NX+ E2 can control up to 60 separate devices through IR and RS-232 in a multiple-OS-compatible platform. The unit's capabilities can grow with demand through the use of WACI NX expansion bus add-on packs, which include hard disk storage, battery backup, and streaming audio and video features along with the additional ports. Programming may be done in Flash, HTML, DHTML, SOAP, XML, CGI, RPC, and Visual Basic, and the internal web server is compatible with Microsoft Internet Explorer, Netscape, Firefox, and Apple Safari web browsers. Built-in diagnostics and an advanced event manager allow for configuration and equipment testing. The NX+ E2 also offers built-in network security features including encryption and password-protected multiple access levels with intelligent remote Telnet capabilities, and the unit provides the WACI NX controller with 12 serial ports, 12 relays, 12 IR/RS — 232TX ports, and 12 DSP I/O ports. By adding Aurora WACI PODs, the control system can be expanded almost without limit within a network. It is possible to provide full control for hundreds of rooms from a single WACI NX control processor.

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