Technology Showcase: AV Room-control Systems
Nov 1, 2008 12:00 PM, By Bennett Liles
Choosing the right hardware for your specific needs is a challenge.
The evolution of AV room-control systems continues with the more proprietary systems still holding the big market share but with the clear trend toward open systems and software control of generic hardware through standard and proven communication protocols including RS-232, infrared, and good old contact-closure interfaces. Recent moves by some of the major players include a more inclusive approach to operating with third-party hardware and toward showing multiroom environments on one display. The biggest single enabling factor in this progression has been the advent of onboard web servers that allow a standard and well-known browser interface to be used in configuration, programming, and remote operation. Hardware scenarios run from a single, wall-mounted panel no larger than a light switch to rackmounted processors with connections for user-interface devices including hard button panels and touchscreens. With today's selection among all these aspects of AV system control, the biggest challenge is choosing the right system for the specific environment. Here's what is out there now.
Altinex markets the MT2488CV Courtview 8 system specifically to manage AV assets and presentation devices in a courtroom environment. At the heart of the system is the company's MultiTasker Universal Audio Video Integration System. This central module is a rackmounted chassis with anywhere from four to 20 mission-specific interface cards. Front-panel options include a blank panel, a panel without switches on the front that sports RS-232 ports on the back, and a panel with switches for direct operation. The MTSetup application provides a graphical environment in which to configure and program all the system's functions. In the Courtview 8 system, there is an 8×8 VGA/UXGA switcher that connects up to four laptop computers, one document camera, and two DVD players. It feeds these to as many as four plasma or LCD displays and one large-screen projector. Audio signals are routed through an eight-in one-out audio switcher with volume control. For player control, the system has four hard-wired IR ports, and two touchscreen controllers may be connected. A judge override feature allows one-button shutdown of the system at any time.
The NI-3101-SIG Signature Series AV controller from AMX integrates a pretty hefty amount of control processing into a 1RU box that can also be used as a standalone unit at the center of a NetLinx AV control system. Programmable through a USB port, the NI-3101-SIG uses 32-bit processing and 64MB onboard RAM to command a variety of control interfaces. Included are eight IR/serial ports, all of which can be used simultaneously; eight digital I/O ports; eight relays (LED indicated); six configurable RS-232/RS-422/RS-485 serial ports; and interfaces with both AxLink and 10/100 Ethernet networks. The chassis has a glossy black surface with a blue power bar and blue-and-white status LEDs. These indicate correct wiring, network activity, and programming status. The blue-and-white LEDs also indicate when the unit is sending and receiving data. Protocols used on the Ethernet port include ICSP peer-to-peer, ICMP, Telnet for remote configuration and diagnostics, and HTTP through an onboard web server. There is also an onboard FTP server. The AxLink connector is a black, 4-pin captive wire terminal that provides data and power to external control devices.
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