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InfoComm 2014: Managing Multiple AV Facilities With A Central Control System

Jun 10, 2014 8:41 AM, With Bennett Liles

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Among the highlights at InfoComm are the education courses from leading experts in the AV field. One of these is Christopher Maione, founder and managing partner in Christopher Maione Associates. His course is Managing Multiple AV Facilities With a Central Control System and we’re talking to him about that right now on the SVC Podcast.

Christopher, thanks for being here with us on the SVC Podcast, coming to us from Northport, N.Y., out there on Long Island. And you’re going to be teaching a course at InfoComm. I don’t want to steal any of your thunder from that, but it involves managing multiple AV facilities with a central control system. We both get into that, so it’s going to be fun talking about that with you.

Good afternoon, Bennett. A pleasure to be here.

Now how did you first see the need for enterprise level management of AV systems? You know, in your role as a consultant, how did this need sort of evolve to benefit your clients?

You know, when we first started designing AV systems for clients, there were perhaps two, three, or four AV systems in a particular building. As our clients grew, and as the need for AV systems grew, we began deploying systems in the magnitude of 30, 40, 50 conference rooms per building. I think the problem then got even more interesting when we started working with global clients and then the need for being able to monitor and manage AV systems across a network became even more apparent as our global clients wanted global control of their AV systems. [Timestamp: 2:00]

And it’s just been getting bigger all the time and changing faster and faster. I want to get your take on this though because in your experience, dealing with clients who totally rely on you to set it all up and keep it all running, what’s the most important single aspect of implementing a network-based control and monitoring system? What would you call rule number one?

Have as many systems as possible, as standard as possible. It makes it much easier to enterprise level monitor and control systems when they are similar based. If you can standardize on the type of equipment you use, if you can standardize on your control system, if you can standardize on your codec, that makes it certainly easier to deploy an enterprise-level system. I’m not saying if you don’t have any of those things – it’s not impossible, it just makes things a little more challenging. You’ve got a ping into a room with a little more detail in order to understand the particulars of that particular room and that particular system. [Timestamp: 3:00]

Yeah, it’s always good for the users when they see something familiar at the local control point in every room and that makes it a lot easier for support, too.

It is. You know when I was doing global rollouts all over the world, I always found it amazing that I could go to a cash machine – an ATM machine – on the streets of either London or Hong Kong or Singapore or Tokyo, and no matter what I could always get cash out of the cash machine because the user interface was more or less standardized. Even in some instances when the ATM wasn’t in my native language of English, you could still find your way around and get cash or check a balance or do something because of the familiarity of the user interface. We’re working towards a more unified look on control systems, and certainly on an enterprise level if users can go from one room to another, one floor to another, one building to another, or anywhere their corporate branches exist and be familiar with the same user interface for the control system, that I think makes everybody’s life a lot easier and it also makes, obviously, a monitoring an enterprise-level control system a lot easier to administer. [Timestamp: 4:11]

Talking about different languages, I think sometimes that the users feel that WE speak a different language when we get into terminology that we unconsciously assume that they understand when they really don’t.

Yep. You know unfortunately, we speak geek and most of our users don’t understand geek. And I’ve found the more successful folks in our industry are those who have learned to turn down the geekness and be able to interpret it and speak the language of the common corporate user or educational facility user or healthcare user. It’s important that we speak their language. I still believe that our control systems and our non-standard look of control systems is somewhat perplexing to the general AV user community and I’d like to see things further simplified and further standardized. [Timestamp: 4:59]

And nobody wants to look stupid when they’re up there in front of a crowd and they can’t get the system to work right. They may be reluctant to ask for help and I always encourage them to go to the room ahead of time if possible and turn on everything and just run through it one time. But the technology is moving pretty fast. What do you think an AV manager can do to best future-proof their systems?

Well, I think that we are now completely integrated with the IT network so I think as long as we continue to roll out equipment that is network-savvy, that does full reporting back on the network and continues to support enterprise level control, I think that’s the best we can do right now to future-proof at least the infrastructure side of our AV technologies. I think we’re always going to be chasing things like bigger, brighter projectors, larger, thinner flat panels, resolutions. You know, now the big push is 4K, 4K. We’ve seen signal formats go from analog to RGB to digital to HDMI to HDBaseT to AVB. Those technologies, I believe, are going to always continually evolve, but I think we have to focus on the infrastructure of our AV systems and I think that means taking an enterprise look and approach to the hardware that we specify. [Timestamp: 6:21]

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