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Technology Showcase:
Networkable Projectors

Sep 1, 2006 12:00 PM, By Jay Ankeney

With the advent of new technology comes one-source control systems.


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If your kids leave the 12in. Trinitron in their playroom on overnight, it's not the end of the world. It takes almost as much electricity to charge up the front panel of a CRT display as it does to run the TV for several hours. But if you are the IT or AV administrator of a large corporation or university with hundreds of modern digital projectors throughout your facility, forgetting to turn those big-screen displays off at the end of the day can quickly cut into your department's operating budget and the projector's TCO (total cost of ownership).

NEC NP 2000

Regrettably, that is all too often the case since the people using those projectors don't always take the time to read the instruction manual for each projector model. As a result, when the day's presentation is over, the projector can easily sit in mute or standby status while the room empties and the bulb burns on endlessly, wearing down the cooling fans, clogging the air filters, and generally wasting both electricity and IT assets.

The solution: accessing the controls of a digital projector over an IP network. This way the IT administrator can monitor the projector's functions from anywhere that has Internet access. Since you can't be everywhere all the time, the next best thing is to have access anywhere at any time to a networking technology that can help those responsible for the well-being of a valuable projector ride herd on the company's investment.

Networking a projector can offer many benefits beyond just minimizing unwanted use. Those same presenters who don't read the manuals often need help selecting the proper input source, adjusting the projector's contrast and brightness, determining the necessary keystone setting for the lens, and accessing the growing number of operating functions that make modern projectors both appealing and complex. IT administrators, who do read those manuals, can't physically be on call around the clock to babysit all the projectors scattered throughout their area of responsibility. Perhaps even more important, IT administrators cannot stand watch over all of those expensive display devices all through the night in case some nefarious miscreant decides to walk off with one.

Sanyo PLC-XT16

That's why being able to remotely control and monitor digital projectors over an IP network has become so appealing. Interestingly, however, the concept has waxed and waned over the years as the feasibility of networking technology has been weighed against the cost of its implementation. Pacific Media Associates, a high-tech market research and publishing firm that specializes in providing information on large-screen display products, reports survey results that indicate pro AV dealers' front projector sales in 2005 included about 24 percent that were networkable, but only about 15 percent were actually set up on a network. Even though the networking options exist, not everyone is taking advantage.

Although many manufacturers claim to have been at the forefront of projector networking, its current level of sophistication seems to be linked to the birth of digital cinema, for which absolutely secure projector monitoring and control has become a critical mission. No digital multiplex can afford to go dark, and networking the control of each theater's projector keeps the show on the screen.

Interactive remote control brings with it the tantalizing potential to deliver content to projectors from a central source over a network. Although this requires far more extensive infrastructure than mere machine monitoring, the plummeting cost of chips, storage, and switching options is increasingly making networked content delivery a viable possibility. However, three major hurdles have hindered this idea. First, because projectors commonly do not come with built-in tuners, they cannot receive feeds over simple RF transmission, so they need access to a computing device to receive content. Second, the cost of central storage, whether offline, online, or near-line, and the bandwidth requirements to deliver files on demand throughout a facility, even over high-speed Ethernet, can be prohibitive. And third, with the proliferation of WiFi-equipped laptops, much of the content needed for a meeting arrives with the participants themselves and can be sent to the projector wirelessly from any laptop in the room that can acquire the projector's IP address. Nevertheless, several manufacturers are bringing out projector designs that can be controlled over a network as well as be fed dynamic content over IP.

Canon SX6

This can be accomplished over a local area network (LAN), usually involving fewer than 10 workstations, or with a client/server structure where the network uses one or more centralized servers to provide content, control access, and authenticate authorized users. The network communication can be via wire using an RJ-45 port on the projector or wirelessly through a growing number of wireless adapters. This can all be monitored and controlled by the IT administrator either through a direct wireless connection or by accessing the facility's LAN remotely.

The appeal of wireless control is expanding thanks to the IEEE 802.11B and newer, faster IEEE 802.11G connectivity standards. About two years ago, some projector manufacturers gave their networkable models built-in or embedded wireless capabilities, and many of those require only a wireless PCMCIA card to receive commands. (PCMCIA originally stood for “Personal Computer Memory Card International Association,” but IBM adapted it to mean “Peripheral Component Microchannel Interconnect Architecture,” and it is often jokingly referred to as “People Can't Memorize Computer Industry Acronyms.”) Projectors without embedded wireless capabilities can use an external device to accomplish the same thing by connecting units often referred to as “wireless-to-VGA bridges” to their RS-232 serial port. The widespread adoption of SNMP (Simple Network Management Protocol) lets a TCP/IP device configured for SNMP, also called an “agent,” collect pieces of information as specified in a facility's management information base.

IT administrators don't have to stand constant guard over the systems in their care if the system itself can shout for help. A networked projector can send out status warnings or a failure notice by either delivering an error message or an email alert directly to the IT administrator using SMTP (Simple Mail Transfer Protocol). SMTP is a simple, text-based protocol, where one or more recipients of a message are specified when text needs to be transferred. That way, if a bulb has just blown or the whole unit is being improperly dismantled from its mount, the projector lets the people on its email list know that it is time to ride to the rescue.

Panasonic PT-DW5000

All modern projectors use serial control, but each projector has its own set of serial commands. That means some proprietary projector control software provided by a specific manufacturer can often be used only for their own brand of projectors, and it would be useless in a large-scale system where multiple projectors with different control systems and command types are to be monitored simultaneously. To simplify this process and advance the potential of increased networking capabilities, the Japan Business Machine and Information System Industries Association (JBMIA) has been working to standardize the protocol for controlling projectors with a specification called PJLink. Although PJLink is gaining acceptance by an increasing number of projector manufacturers, not all of them welcome PJLink. Once the control codes are standardized, some of the previously proprietary commands that certain manufacturers used exclusively will become available to everyone. Although manufacturers recognize the benefit to the industry in general, some see this as a loss of competitive advantage.

There are, of course, many third-party vendors such as Crestron and AMX providing control systems that can do far more than just monitor a projector's operations. After all, a proper projection experience also benefits from properly adjusted ambient lighting, screen height, audio level, and even closing the curtains when necessary.

The trend for projector manufacturers is to provide control and maintenance to their own systems with embedded wireless connectivity, enable the system to accept wireless adapters, or network them through an RJ-45 port to a wired LAN. Increasingly, even content is being networked to multiple projectors. All of this is boosting the trend of digital projectors as the display device of choice for corporations, universities, and other institutions that need to present information to large audiences.

Epson PowerLite 6100i

The top-of-the-line X-80 projector from 3M Visual Systems Division can put out 4500 lumens at XGA (1024×768 pixels) resolution with a 0.99in. polysilicon LCD imager set producing a contrast ratio of 750:1. The X-80 features built-in networking capability through an RJ-45 connection, 4:3 or 16:9 aspect ratio, and 720p or 1080i presentation. With picture-in-picture visual effects, the X-80 has an Ultra Value warranty available that includes free lamp and loaner while the unit is being repaired.

Networking ranks high in Barco's plans, and its iCon H600 is the first member of a new product family of high-definition “network-centric” projectors featuring a native 1920×1080 HDTV resolution. With the Windows XP operating system embedded in the projector and the capability to display four different video sources simultaneously, the iCon H600 presents its images on a 16:9 wide canvas with a light output of 6000 ANSI lumens. The projector integrates a powerful display server and can be easily connected to the user's network infrastructure. Its ActiveX support provides communication over a LAN to the networked iCon H600, letting an IT administrator remotely manage and monitor all visualization sites from a central location.

The new Pro Color 4500DP networkable projector that started shipping from Boxlight in July outputs 4500 lumens from dual lamps that can either burn together or separately for economical operation. It can be networked with RJ-45 connection to a LAN. Boxlight can also equip the Pro Color 4500DP with the WiJET.G option, an 802.11g-compliant device provided by OTC Wireless that is able to wirelessly link a computer to the display. The software also allows the computer to connect to the Internet or LAN and the projector/monitor simultaneously via an access point. The WiJET.G supports the standard, 64-bit WEP encryption, and also offers 128-bit enhanced encryption to ensure wireless link security. Starting in October, Boxlight will also be marketing the Pro Color 5500, which ups the brightness to 6000 lumens.

ViewSonic PJ1172

The SX6 is at the top of Canon's REALiS line of LCOS (Liquid Crystal on Silicon) projectors. Featuring SXGA+ resolution and the widest range of Adobe RGB color space of any projector available, the projector is networkable through Canon's RS-NA01 adapter. The SX6's new Auto Setup feature only takes seconds to set Auto Focus, Auto Input, and Auto Keystone correction. To protect the bulb, the projector's fan continues to operate after shutdown while powered by an internal charging system. Canon also offers the LV-NI01 network adapter for its brightest projector, the LV-7565, putting out 5100 ANSI lumens thanks to its 300W NSH lamp and Canon's proven Electromotive Turbo Bright system. The LV-NI01 adapter enables remote transfer of JPEG images for content networking while also providing centralized control of multiple projectors.

Christie Digital got into networking projectors by developing outboard modules that used IP-addressable protocol for RS-232 ports. The company incorporated that technology into its digital cinema projectors starting in early 2002. Today, the ChristieNet Connectivity Module (CCM) is an RS-232-to-Ethernet adapter that provides monitoring and control capabilities for any RS-232-controllable projector from anywhere in the world. The Christie DS+5K projector puts out 6500 ANSI lumens from its Xenon-illuminated three-chip DLP design, and it features auto source setup for brightness and contrast, along with a built-in shutter for absolute black. In addition, the Christie Roadie 25K projector is a revolutionary split-body design using three-chip DLP technology. Its unique separate projection head and lamp ballast means both parts can be flown and rigged with greater ease. The Christie Roadie 25K produces 2048×1080 resolution images at a stunning 25,000 ANSI lumens.

The Dell 5100MP projector comes with web management software that allows IT administrators and facilities personnel to monitor the projector status over their local area network from a single PC by simply connecting the 5100MP to the network port using a RJ-45 network cable. Presenting 3300 ANSI lumens of brightness and a high contrast ratio of 2500:1 from its DLP light engine, the Dell 5100MP networkable projector has the highest available resolution for a business projector at SXGA+ or 1400×1050.

Toshiba TDP-TW350U

The LC-XB27N from Eiki International is a three-panel LCD projector with XGA resolution at 2500 ANSI lumens and up to 500:1 contrast ratio. Its built-in RJ-45 (100/10) Ethernet wired network projector control can deliver content via computer, and an optional 802.11 b/g adapter can make the control and content delivery wireless. Eiki's EIP-3500, a DLP projector with 3500 ANSI lumens brightness, has built-in network connectivity via both RJ-45 and a built-in web server. The EIP-4500 has the same networking capability, but raises the brightness to 4500 ANSI lumens at a 1000:1 contrast ratio. Eiki also offers the NPC-1 network projector control system, which provides a palm-sized projector-to-network interface and software with basic features, permitting you to monitor projector status and manage projector functions. Preconfigured for Eiki projectors, NPC-1 can control most projectors from other manufacturers using the proper RS-232 control codes. In addition, Eiki's Wireless Display Adapter connects to a projector's VGA or DVI port and enables a computer to communicate with the projector without any cable.

The design of the PowerLite 6100i multimedia projector from Epson, just released in July, came from suggestions gathered from polling large installations about what they wanted in a projectorduring its recent VIP Tour (Valuable Input Program). Epson learned users wanted the reporting to go down to the main-board level to provide multi-level temperature alerts, air flow sensor, and even make sure the projector is compatible with tuners and components that transmit closed-caption content. The Epson PowerLite 6100i's out-of-the-box networking technology enables technicians to monitor and control the projector from remote locations via LAN or Internet. Epson's catalog now includes the PowerLite 835p high-speed wireless content networking with 802.11G WiFi capabilities and the help of an onboard Linux operating system. This, along with Epson's superior processing algorithm, enables the projector to deliver fast transfer speeds for viewing MPEG-2 videos and PowerPoint presentation.

Just last June, Hitachi America's Ubiquitous Platform Systems division introduced its CP-X605 model LCD projector featuring advanced networking capabilities. The CP-X605 offers a brightness of 4000 ANSI lumens, a 1000:1 contrast ratio in Active Iris Mode, and horizontal and vertical lens shift. It can be remotely controlled and maintained through a LAN network connection. Hitachi's latest projector, the CP-X265 presents 2500 ANSI lumens and weighs only 7.2lbs. It allows for web control, enabling simultaneous management of several projectors over a network. The CP-X265 boasts an e-Shot feature that enables up to four electronic images to be recalled or displayed using the projector's remote control, Hitachi's PJCtrl or PJMan applications. The CP-X265 also comes with MyScreen/MyMemory preset options, a remote control with Hitachi's MyButtons function, and advanced security features.

The Work Big LP850 and Work Big LP860 projectors from InFocus have RJ-45 jacks for wired network control and maintenance operation, allowing InFocus's ProjectorManager software to turn any PC into an advanced projector remote control. They provide connectivity that supports three separate PCs listed as Computer 1 (M1-D), Computer 2 (DSUB-15), and Computer 3 (component video via BNC), along with three separate video sources: Video 1 (component RCA), Video 2 (S-Video), and Video 3 (composite RCA). The LP850 and LP860 offer 4500 and 3500 lumens brightness, respectively, along with a contrast ratio of 750:1. The newest projector from InFocus is the Work Big IN42, a 3500 lumens projector replaces its LP840 and also has RJ-45 networking capability. The IN42 features a new alluring industrial design and a lens that is recessed for protection.

Christie DS+5K

Mitsubishi's XD1000U DLP projector meets the PJLink specification for its serial codes, along with Mitsubishi's own ProjectorView technology for LAN management control over the RJ-45 connection. The XD1000U offers a long lamp life of up to 5,000 hours in low-lamp mode. It puts out 3000 ANSI lumens at a 2000:1 contrast ratio and features a hushed 27dBA noise level. It's designed around DDP3020 TrueVision Image Processing with BrilliantColor and Color Enhancer technology. Mitsubishi's BrilliantColor technology uses a new color-processing algorithm for DLP to move beyond standard three-color processing to a six-color process to capture the true colors of nature scenes.

The new line of digital installation projectors from NEC's Visual Systems Division, the NEC NP1000 and NP2000, takes the best features from the award-winning NEC MT series and improves upon it by adding integrated networking through a built-in 802.11b/g port as well as an integrated RJ-45 connection. The NEC NP1000 and NP2000 also feature five optional bayonet lenses, vertical and horizontal lens shift, and special lamp saver technologies. These include an Eco-mode that cuts the brightness by 15 percent to increase lamp life by up to 50 percent. The NEC NP1000 and NP2000 have a built-in super capacitor power supply that enables the cooling fan to continue running even after the power source is disconnected. NEC Solutions also offers Image Express software that can transfer still images, such as JPEG or PowerPoint images, in realtime to the projector over the wired or the wireless network.

The first networkable projector from Optoma, the EP910, has a Network Administrative Management capability through RJ-45 connection with a web interface and SMTP alarm messaging system. Designed to integrate into any corporate environment, the EP910 features SXGA+ resolution, network management functionality, and the DarkChip3 DLP chipset from Texas Instruments. The Optoma EP910 can provide up to five screens containing information about all parameters of the projector's operation to a web browser. It displays 3500 lumens with a 3000:1 contrast ratio at native SXGA+ (1400×1050) and maximum UXGA (1600×1200) and 1080p (1920×1080) resolution.

Panasonic's PT-LB60NTU 3200 ANSI lumens XGA wireless projector with one-touch “Auto-Everything” setup and Daylight View technology comes complete with IEEE 802.11b+g wireless capability and Wireless Manager ME 3 software for peer-to-peer networking that can share content as well as control the projector. With proprietary Panasonic compression chips, the PT-LB60NTU can even present 30fps QuickTime movies. Panasonic's higher-end PT-D7700U/U-K is a 7000 ANSI lumens SXGA+ large-venue DLP projector with BriteOptic dual-lamp technology that comes with an input option card for LAN connectivity. A built-in email application sends periodic status updates to IT administrators. Panasonic's PT-DW5000 and PT-D5600 models include a liquid cooling system for long life, integrated web browser control, and email alerts for maintenance and repair issues.

The Plus Vision U7-137 mobile DLP projector offers 3500 lumens with a 2000:1 contrast ratio and is packed with wireless 802.11b technology that lets you send data from a laptop computer directly to the projector's IP address. Along with RJ-45 connectivity, the U7-137 can take its input from a USB memory drive for computer-free operation. To further protect your company's investment, the U7-137 can be set up to require a password at startup. One handy asset of the U7-137 is having the bulb mounted on the top so it can be easily changed without taking the projector off its ceiling mount.

Sanyo is dedicated to the advantages of managing projectors over a network. In fact, only two of Sanyo's projectors are not networkable. Sanyo's 3500 ANSI lumens PLC-XT16 provides network connectivity with optional PJ-Net Organizer (POA-PN10), which gives projector management capability over an Ethernet LAN. The POA-PN10 acts as a website that can be accessed directly from the projector. The PLC-XT16 also comes with an optional 802.11b wireless imager module, the POA-WL11, which can deliver still JPEG slides. Sanyo's PLC-XP57L 5500 ANSI lumens projector has the PJ-Net Organizer Plus II option (POA-PN03), which contains a software utility to deliver still-frame content over the network. The PLC-XP57L can also send out customizable email messages about the current status of the projector. Finally, its newest lightweight, the PLC-XU86 2500 lumens model, comes with an integrated 802.11g wireless or wired network interface.

The XG-PH50X is the second networkable projector from Sharp with a 4000 lumens output from dual-lamp DLP sealed-optics technology. It has both RJ-45 connectivity for LAN networking and a separate RS-232C input that allows for local control in conjunction with remote access via the LAN. Two new projectors from Sharp, the XG-C430X and XG-C330X, will start shipping in August. Both projectors come with a built-in web browser page to allow direct access to them via WiFi as well as through RJ-45 wired to the LAN, and both send out email alerts in case of trouble. Using three polysilicon LCDs, both models present XGA (1024×768) native resolution, with intelligent “ImageACE” resizing. In addition, Sharp Display Manager software provides complete group control and management capability for a fleet of projectors over the network. Sharp Display Manager software can be downloaded for free from Sharp's website.

Sony was one of the first to include networking capabilities in its projectors, and today it offers both wired and wireless technologies. Up until a year ago, Sony offered models like the VPLPX11 that could network content, but, due to lack of market interest, discontinued the line. Sony may be bringing out new content-networking projectors by the end of the year. But in its current line, its VPLFX52 (6000 ANSI lumens) networkable projector and its VPLPX41 (3500 lumens) projector can be wired to any TCP/IP network over RJ-45 for monitoring and control in corporate installations. Its VPLCX76 and VPLCX86 wireless mobile projectors are equipped with Sony's innovative Air Shot technology, which is used in the industry-standard 802.11b/g wireless protocols. Just this summer, Sony released its new PJNet software, which allows users to remotely monitor, troubleshoot, and control up to 255 networked Sony LCD projectors, including select wireless models. The software, which is downloadable for free from www.sony.com/projectors, is compatible with Windows systems and most Internet browsers.

Toshiba's Digital Products Division has just released its new TDP-TW350U DLP projector with brightness of 3500 ANSI lumens, a contrast ratio of 2000:1, and a native 1024×768 XGA resolution. The TDP-TW350U includes integrated IEEE 802.11g wireless functionality that delivers fast setup time, allows presenters to connect to the projector from anywhere in the room, and offers a PC card slot for users to store presentations on a PCMCIA type II storage card — enabling PC-free presentations. The TDP-TW350U's network management capabilities allow IT administrators to receive email notification via SNMP of projector status. All Toshiba laptop computers come with Config Free software for easy access to the TDP-TW350U.

ViewSonic's PJ862 is a full-function multimedia projector that packs 3100 lumens into just 8.8lbs. and has an RJ-45 jack for network connection. For portability, ViewSonic also offers a rolling projector soft case. The PJ862 offers multiple inputs including DVI-HDCP, component, composite, and S-Video, allowing you to connect to a variety of display sources. The ViewSonic PJ1172 raises the brightness to 4500 lumens, has RJ-45 network connection, and, for ultimate video source flexibility, lets you connect two computers simultaneously or add a video source to your presentation. The PJ1172's native XGA 1024×768 resolution can scale HD signals including 720p and 1080i.

If reliability is a major priority for your projector use, Projection Design warrantees its professional line of networkable projectors to run around the clock for two years with proper maintenance. Its Projection Design F3+ is a powerful single-chip DLP projector that includes its patented DuArch Dual Architecture illumination system. Using two lamps, two color wheels, and dual illumination channeling, the F3+ achieves up to 6500 ANSI lumens brightness. It's available in both SXGA+ and XGA resolutions and is fully configurable for any application. The projector's functions can be monitored and controlled remotely through either its TCP/IP LAN or serial control interface. Since this includes motorized lens shift, the output of three Projection Design F3+ projectors can be converged on a screen to provide enough illumination to be viewed even under natural lighting.


For More Information

3M
www.3m.com

Barco
www.barco.com

Boxlight
www.boxlight.com

Canon
www.canonprojectors.com

Christie
www.christiedigital.com

Dell
www.dell.com

Eiki
www.eiki.com

Epson
www.epson.com

Hitachi
www.hitachi.us/digitalmedia.com

Infocus
www.infocus.com

Mitsubishi
www.mitsubishi-presentations.com

NEC Solutions
www.necvisualsystems.com

Optoma
www.optomausa.com

Panasonic
www.panasonic.com

Plus Vision
www.plus-america.com

Projection Design
www.projectiondesign.com

Sanyo
www.sanyolcd.com

Sharp
www.sharpusa.com

Sony
www.sony.com/professional

Toshiba
www.toshibadirect.com

Viewsonic
www.viewsonic.com



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