Dynamically upgradable AV systems

Keeping client’s AV systems up to date

When QSC announced a new auto-mixing function for their TouchMix-30 Pro it was done through a firmware upgrade. Whether it is sound mixers, control processors, or video transport systems the ability to improve audiovisual devices is one of the advances made in the last ten years that enables ProAV integrators to stretch the life of a system.

Listen to AVWeek 357: The World is Watching

Companies like utelogy, QSC, Atlas-IED, and Kramer have developed products that run on traditional servers. These software-first AV equipment give engineers the ability to add to the existing feature set of a given line with the push of a piece of software.

Cory Shaeffer from QSC commented on AVWeek 357 “we try to do as much as we can in software and have that be something downloadable so that a customer has the best solution that serves him well over time.”

Most manufacturers have had the freedom to adjust functionality to their equipment with firmware. This is a bit different update process. In addition to downloading whatever the update would be, the audiovisual integrator would then need to get access to the equipment to update firmware. The technician would then transfer the firmware to the equipment. Some ProAV dealers have a policy of not updating firmware remotely but do so onsite. The benefits of updating remotely is there is not a need for a truck roll. The con would be in a case where the firmware did not upload properly and the piece of AV gear is suddenly locked up. Either way, you choose, updating firmware should be a part of any ongoing maintenance of your clients’ systems.

Nevil Bounds of Feltech said “I think it’s essential and we’re seeing this a lot aren’t we across the board with people just downloading license keys or firmware updates. It has to be the way that the platform works because as the manufacturers come out with more and more functionality, just coming out with new functionality every you know three or four years where you might want to buy a new piece of hardware that they’re coming out with. Cory said quarterly or even more than that possibly so actually the firmware updates ability for this kind of thing is really important.”

With this new dynamic of software-forward AV equipment design, what does this do to the design and install process for dealers? It will mean a more dynamic design that not only allows for the current functionality but also gives the AV system in a given room the ability to grow with the client as well as with the manufacturer as they add features and functions.

You also don’t want to promise something to clients based on what a manufacturer may or may not add at a later date.

“We tend to wait for a couple of good case studies so that we limit the risk. Of course, there’s always early adopters. But in an emerging market like ours, we always wait for a couple of studies so that we can start proposing this” says GirishNarayanan from Granteq.

Whether it is a software update or firmware update, manufacturers will continue to make their products more secure and relevant to their dealers and their customers. Exercising caution as to when and how you update a piece of audiovisual equipment will be paramount moving forward. Check with your clients and gauge their level of comfort with risk exposure and craft a process that works best for them and their company.

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