Both on this week’s AVWeek and during the recording of the March episode of A State of Control the conversation lent itself to talking about AV on the network. Whether we are talking about sending audio/video/control over a switched infrastructure (i.e. AVB), point-to-point systems like HDBaseT or something entirely new, the idea of AV on the network is not new. At the InfoComm 2009 show I remember manufacturers talking about the days when we wouldn’t have hardware switchers and everything would be driven by the network. It seemed like a pipe dream at the time, but it is clearly upon us. So, what does this mean and what will it look like? Let’s take a look.
One of the first steps that needs to happen is the infrastructure, the network, is going to have to get beefier and leaner by degrees. Most of the networks in companies today cannot handle the video getting ready to hit us all. Whether you are getting prepared for 4K, UHDTV, or 8K, your network is not ready. Remember when all the rage was going to a full gigabit network? That was going to be something. It would be able to handle “anything” we threw at it. Except, no one imagined some crazy AV pros would want to push 4K down those pipes. So, the first think you are going to need to do is shore up network where everything lives.
Most likely there will come a time when the big three and four RU switchers will go bye-bye. What does a switcher do, really? It routes multiple inputs to a single, or multiple outputs if it is a matrix switcher. Once that video and audio is made into 1’s and 0’s it’s information is little different than the email you receive. A switch can do what a switcher does. Imagine a world where the sources have their own encryption into computer network signals. Or, the wallplates themselves convert from HDMI, DisplayPort, et. al into 1’s and 0’s. Then those sources sit on the network waiting for the display to pick it. This can be done by control system or by the projector alone.
Does this mean Extron, Crestron, AMX, and all the other companies that make great switchers are out of business? Not a chance. There are smart engineers that work at these places. They will either connect with an existing technology that lets you put audio and video on a network (hello AVB) or develop their own. The issue with developing your own is inter-connectivity. That is not a big deal when you are dealing within one company’s ecosystem. Once you step outside their walls, though, you’ll have a bad time trying to play well with others. That is why working within an existing framework of network-based audio/video makes sense for current switcher manufacturers should they hope to transition into this new switcher-less AV world.
This is not all doom and gloom. The switcher is not going anywhere anytime soon. It will still take a number of years for all of this to get worked out. In fact, I would be surprised if there weren’t some great new switcher technology at InfoComm 2014 this year. However, the time is coming.
Thanks for taking the time to read my blog. Have a great week.