Unfortunately, there is no such thing as “set it and forget it” technology. Once you put physical devices in a real-world scenario, things happen that impact the system. Early computers were prone to literal bugs, and while things have certainly improved over the years, glitches can still happen. Security updates must be applied. Network connections and power supplies can fail. Myriad potential complications could arise to interrupt part of the audio, video and lighting (AVL) signal chain, causing issues with part or all of the system. Oftentimes, it is easy for these issues to go unnoticed until it’s time for the big meeting or show, resulting in a frantic cry for support help and, ultimately, a suboptimal experience.
This is why it is important to have AVL system management as part of any solution. These tools monitor the entire system and proactively identify errors, so you can quickly solve them before they impact the experience. Since the particular approach and process for AVL management can differ depending on the application, I reached out to two HARMAN subject matter experts to get more information about best practices for various users: Michael Saadeh, Product Manager, Collaboration and Management Software from our Corporate, Education and Government group and Bradford Benn, Senior Solutions Manager, Themed Attractions from the Large Venues group.
No matter what the application is, the core benefit of management tools is their ability to simplify the way organizations can manage issues. Michael put it this way:
“We encourage our customers to monitor their systems in order to maximize the benefit of the technology in their organization. Fundamentally, management tools help increase uptime by reducing the average time to resolve a system issue.”
Ultimately, AVL management is about getting the most return on your technology investment. By ensuring the system is working properly, technology users get the best experience every time, while reducing the time and cost associated with identifying and fixing problems.
Of course, the benefits of this are magnified in large venue applications, because these systems simply have so much technology to monitor. Bradford explains:
“One of the challenges in a large installation is being able to check the system each and every day. For example, MetLife Stadium in New Jersey has 996 individual loudspeakers in the seating bowl and Lucas Oil Stadium in Indiana has more than 4,000 loudspeakers in the building, including back of house. If it takes a technician about 45 seconds per loudspeaker to confirm functionality, that is still 12 ½ hours to verify each speaker in Met Life Stadium. Lucas Oil Stadium would be about 50 hours. After that, the technician would have to go to each rack room and verify everything is okay as well. It’s a long process to check that every week. It simply isn’t practical anymore to do system checks manually for venues this size.”
AVL management simplifies this process by centralizing the monitoring of the devices in the system. Michael put it best:
“Thanks to network communication and centralized software, you can have one tool to monitor and manage a global deployment from the office or home.”
By placing the devices on the network, equipment can now be centrally monitored and managed from software running on a PC or server. This has greatly reduced the management complexity of systems and is something that simply wasn’t possible in years past. Bradford explained:
“The manufacturing costs for adding these capabilities has gone down greatly over the past two decades. Twenty years ago, a control and DSP module for an amplifier cost more than the amplifier it went into. Now, the microprocessors and networking components have dropped in cost so much that you can include control and monitoring. Operating budgets are going down, and people are more used to consolidated control and monitoring. Also, as the software has improved, you aren’t monitoring 200 separate devices. You’re monitoring one system.”
Since components are now on the network, they are able to report status and other data back to central monitoring software, which can be located anywhere. Michael summarized the benefit of this by saying:
“An AV/IT professional is now empowered to remotely monitor large campuses, and oftentimes, can resolve the issue remotely from their desk.”
Size is a tremendously limiting factor when it comes to monitoring AVL systems, and it’s one of the key benefits of AVL management. Bradford added:
“If there are complaints of an issue occurring during a game or other event, it might be very difficult to get access to the area. Think about how long it would take to walk to the opposite side of a stadium or a casino floor. Being able to remotely verify operation of the entire system is very beneficial.”
Michael sees the same move toward centralized management in corporate and education environments, driven by the rise of huddle spaces combined with the need to standardize global technology deployments. He continued:
“The underlying trend is that organizations now have more technology in more rooms across their campuses. However, this growth is a process that happens over time, so the technology itself needs to be scalable, and the approach to managing it should be scalable as well.”
While monitoring and identifying errors is an important part of management, it’s the ability to actively monitor the system that brings about the true power of management. Rather than providing a means to manually check the status over the network during an event, the system can actively monitor the health of the system and alert the user to errors. This way, any issues can be resolved before they impact the guest or user experience. Bradford gave a good example of this, saying:
“One benefit of management tools is the ability to address a problem ahead of time, before it impacts the guest experience. I once encountered this at a nightclub. On Friday afternoons, the nightclub would test the audio and lighting system for issues before the weekend events. About a quarter of the time, there was an issue (typically from overuse and abuse). The problem is that, on a Friday afternoon, finding a new subwoofer or replacement lamp for a lighting fixture can be difficult. With active monitoring, it’s possible to know earlier that an incident has occurred, so users can react to it before the next public use. A tool with a dashboard that shows these issues—and the capability to automatically send alerts when they arise—makes being proactive much easier.”
Even in applications where the focus is on collaboration environments rather than entertainment systems, ensuring that the equipment is ready and working properly is still extremely important, especially because the equipment needs to be ready to use at any time. Michael explained:
“IT professionals are now accountable for ensuring collaboration spaces have increasingly high standards of uptime. To do this, they leverage powerful tools that allow them to cover more ground than they could before, with a rich suite of remote monitoring and debugging capabilities.”
Ultimately, active AV system monitoring and management ensures that technology is working smoothly when it needs to be. There is a lot that goes into maintaining these systems, and having the right tool to simplify and automate the process can have a big impact. As Bradford put it:
“AVL management helps lower the cost of operating the system, while at the same time, providing higher guest satisfaction, because the technology is working at peak efficiency.”
System management is a vital part of any installation. Now that we’ve explained how management systems help you troubleshoot errors and proactively prevent issues, we will take a closer look at some of the specific tools and methods for troubleshooting in our next post in this series.
Do you have any insights into managing installed AVL systems? Share them in the comments.