Way back in 2007, AMX by HARMAN, the manufacturer most known for pioneering touch panel, control, and centralized video distribution solutions moved into the world of networked AV, first with digital signage and next with an IP video recording and management platform. With that foundation of networked AV experience, AMX made AVoIP distribution a main focus of our business in 2015 by acquiring Southern Vision Systems Inc., known as SVSI.
At that time, the prospect of building an entire AV switching and distribution system onto an IT network was met with caution, but also a sense of excitement, a real change in direction for the industry. After some initial doubts, this technology was soon adopted by other manufacturers. At that time, some of the benefits being marketed, included the ability to switch ‘anything anywhere’ or ‘everything everywhere’. This was of course born out of the AV industry’s familiarity with the concept of switching matrices. Visualising a matrix at the centre of a design is a comfortable, familiar concept to an AV designer. This is certainly not how an IT manager would visualise this type of solution.
The real benefits of moving towards a networked solution lie in the area of flexibility. A traditional AV solution uses a fixed distribution architecture with bespoke point-to-point cable runs. When a networked system is implemented, these limitations are removed. We are no longer constrained by the original design or restricted by distance. In effect, a well-designed system will allow audio and video to be transferred anywhere on the network, but that’s not really the point. It wasn’t too long ago that your desk phone plugged into a specific phone port. With the mass adoption of IP telephony, we no longer have this restriction. If we apply this logic to AV solutions, we can place the hardware anywhere it’s required, providing there’s a network port nearby. Changing the layout, moving equipment, even adding, or removing components is no longer the huge upheaval it used to be.
For the AV world to truly adopt the network as the preferred medium for AV distribution, a change in mindset is required which involves removing the concept of the AV matrix altogether.
Many customers have adopted these principles and have embraced the changing AV/IT landscape. There are some however that still have reservations about the technology, mainly based on concerns over support and accountability rather than image quality. This often hinges on one question, who owns the network?
Deploying AV distribution systems on networks that were not designed thoughtfully with AV in mind is the leading cause of unsuccessful networked AV distribution systems. Additionally, ongoing support can be problematic when the incumbent integrator lacks either the required authority to manage the network or an established relationship with the on-site IT team. These types of issues can be overcome with upfront and continuing communication between all parties and is thankfully on the decline.
Ultimately, the best method for mass adoption is for the IT world to see the distribution of AV as a standard function of a typical converged network. This introduces a complication into the chain of responsibility but is something we’ll have to learn to live with. Providing the AV integrator has a good understanding of the network requirements, and the network provider is responsive and accepting of their part in the AV chain, there’s no reason for concern.
The majority of systems currently being installed, however, use discrete networks that are separate from the IT-supported corporate network. For the AV world to truly adopt the network as the preferred medium for AV distribution, a change in mindset is required which involves removing the concept of the AV matrix altogether. This involves moving away from the notion that there’s anything physical holding the system together. The best way to visualise a networked solution is to imagine a communication platform that allows video and audio data to pass freely throughout an installation. This removes the concept of a limited matrix and opens the possibilities of a truly limitless design. A well-designed and implemented network provides this unconstrained capability.
The team at AMX by HARMAN understands that we must do our part to simplify the process of designing, installing, and commissioning these systems, and this includes the network itself! AMX SVSI N-Able configuration software, available for PC and Mac, provides the solution to many of these problems. This allows us to manage, monitor, commission, and update all our NAV products from a single application, whether individually or en-masse. The N-Able application even includes a network troubleshooting tool to identify issues arising from the network. Having these tools to hand in a freely available application allows us to simplify the deployment of networked systems without the requirement for complex IT management software. The latest update even provides a tool to compare device configuration to help identify inconsistencies in encoder and decoder settings.
The final step in simplification is to enter the world of truly plug-and-play solutions where no network configuration is required at all. This is commonplace in many IT products but is only just being realised from a networked AV perspective. This requires true partnerships with network infrastructure product manufacturers to provide solutions that are both limitless in capability and simple to deploy. This level of partnership and integration is something that AMX and HARMAN fully endorse and continue working towards.