IP begins quest to dominate AV

44After some reluctance from the audio sector, IP is starting to make itself known in the AV industry. Paul Skelton reports.

IP really has made the world of networking easier. Already, the technology plays a significant role in the IT, security and broadcast sectors; now, it is finally working its way into AV.

“Never mind the ‘internet of everything’, it’s the ‘IP of everything’ now,” says AptoVision APAC director of business development Gerry Wilkins.

AptoVision provides advanced chipsets for AV and KVM signal extension, matrix switching, IP-based switching, video wall and multi-view applications.

“We believe a transition to an IP-based AV platform is inevitable. And we want to leverage off all of the IT companies that are building telco-grade, 10Gbps Ethernet switches, to allow our customers to transport all of their AV and IT signals over a single infrastructure.

“In the long term, this will save them a tremendous amount of money. It won’t happen overnight, of course; instead, it will be an evolving process.

“As customers get a handle on what is possible by using this technology, we’ll really start to see the merging of all these different platforms.”

Gerry explains that enterprises today typically have an IT network as well as an AV network, security network and digital signage network. These are usually setup on different infrastructures, with equipment from different suppliers.

“There’s undoubtedly some argument that by having them separated there’s some redundancy but corporations are more interested in cost savings. If you come along and say that by using the 10Gbps platform and taking advantage of that bandwidth you can combine all four networks onto a single platform then that is a huge plus for commercial clients.

“For new buildings in particular, this is a pretty appealing argument. We feel that this will be a significant driving force behind moving to an IP platform.”

For now, IP networks are very much the domain of the commercial space as it is economically unviable for smaller residential applications.

Gerry hopes this will change.

“We’ve been in discussions with a couple of OEM manufacturers to build products specifically for residential applications. It’s not the 10Gbps switches that scare them off, it’s the cost of the end points. We do have more expensive end points than HDBaseT.

“Where HDBaseT transmitters and receivers can cost $300-500, our end points are more like $1,500-$2,000 – and that is what will hold back the residential market in the early days.

“In 18-24 months, we’ll release a new version of our product with a substantially lower cost, which will allow residential installers to use our technology.”

At this point, IP will surpass HDBaseT in network-based applications because “HDBaseT is a closed proprietary technology,” Gerry says.

“Where HDBaseT is still going to offer value is in point to point connections at a low cost. We can’t compete in that space; but in the AV network world we will really shine.

“I honestly believe that in the long run, HDBaseT will become obsolete in network-based applications but they certainly won’t become obsolete in point-to-point extension applications where it’s really about cost and efficiency.

“Of course, I’m sure the company behind HDBaseT will come out with some alternative of its own to try and keep market share, but they’ll have to embrace IP directly.”

Blustream general manager Martyn Shirley agrees.

“For smaller projects, traditional matrix switchers and HDBaseT solutions will still make more sense. For larger projects, say more than eight rooms and/or eight sources, IP becomes more cost effective and easier to implement,” he says.

“These systems are almost limitlessly expandable. And they remove the need to have all the sources centrally located.

“A good IP solution will have on board up and down scaling so mixing 4K displays with older, lower resolution displays becomes far easier. The scaling technology also allows for switching speeds of well below one second instead of the more traditional three to seven second HDMI handshake of a matrix switcher.

“That said, HDBaseT still has plenty to offer. It’s tried and tested technology, and IP still requires a high level of networking expertise that many integrators don’t possess. HDBaseT and IP will run side by side in the market for many years to come.”

Gerry says the value proposition of AptoVision’s technology as it currently stands is the bigger the project, the more cost effective it becomes.

“An average 10Gbps switch, whether it’s copper or fibre, can be purchased for about $100-150 per port. Other suppliers are on average $400-600 per port. The problem in the short term, particularly in the residential space, is that there is a relatively small number of end points, and in small end point applications our technology is more expensive.”

Why Gerry believes IP is the future is really quite simple: “IP does not lose convergence battles.”

“If you look at telephony, security and broadcast, it’s all IP now. AV has been a hold out for a long time but it’s slowly succumbing. Audio was really rebelling against IP but now it’s completely embracing it. Video is going that way as well,” he says.

“If an integrator wants to be at the bleeding edge and talk to the right customers then this is the way it has to go.

“This is the way forward and it’s important integrators see that.”

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Reference: Connected Home

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