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Get Ready for More Paradigm Shifts

Have you seen all the Ethernet-connected HDTVs on the market today? Do you have the skills it will take to build an IPTV network? Parallax View columnist and 2008 InfoComm Educator of the Year Pete Putman has a new lesson for you. Learn the finer points of software switching before you're left in the dust.

The transition from analog to digital had its impetus in the professional world more than 20 years ago. But over the past decade most of the momentum shifted to the consumer space. For example, not long ago projector manufacturers were experimenting with Ethernet ports on some of their products, primarily to allow remote monitoring and control, and secondarily to facilitate downloads of PowerPoint presentations and other files for playback without a computer.

All well and good. Most projector brands now have some sort of remote monitoring software to take further advantage of the Ethernet connections.

But the consumer electronics market took the concept and ran with it. The first Ethernet-enabled TVs showed up a couple years ago and offered streaming of standard-definition video content from a limited number of websites. Not long afterwards, YouTube started appearing on LCD and plasma HDTVs. Then Netflix and Amazon signed deals to allow downloads and steaming content.

And has the public embraced the concept? You betcha. According to The Nielsen Co., Internet video viewing increased 45 percent from Q2 of 2008 to Q2 of 2009. Research firm Parks Associates recently predicted that 400,000 Internet-enabled TVs would be sold in 2009, and by 2013 there will be almost 14 million of them in U.S. homes.

So-called NeTV growth is tied to the expansion of fast broadband services and specialty content that providers like Verizon FiOS and AT&T offer. And once a new product or technology makes a splash at CES and sells by the bucketload at Best Buy, then a pro version shows up at InfoComm. That means we're going to see more Ethernet-connected TVs coming into our channel, not to mention HD video monitors. These rebranded products will no doubt be popular in classrooms, boardrooms, meeting rooms, and in hospitality and digital signage applications.

Will we know how to create and set up the content to feed these NeTVs? Can we create a multicast digital signage backbone? How about a private IPTV network for a campus environment, with custom on-screen widgets? Even better, consider whipping up your own digital cable system with re-assigned MPEG program numbers from local terrestrial TV broadcasts. Know where to start?

It's all coming at you fast and furious. Better strap yourself in because it's going to be a wild ride.

Pete Putman is a Pro AV contributing editor and president of ROAM Consulting in Doylestown, Pa.

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