Coming together under one network
We have talked for years about the AV and IT fields merging. Let’s take a deeper dive into what that means. In today’s technology, world everything has an IP address. Physical security integrators are increasingly involved with AV (Audio Visual) over IP (Internet Protocol) and touchless technology solutions. How about Dante and what explains their strong position in the industry? Also, We can’t forget about cybersecurity as we integrate devices on the network either. As we move toward a convergence model it is important to understand the critical need for device and network security.
AV over IP
AV over IP is a rapidly growing category targeting large enterprise deployments. This is not typically for the small to mid-size conference room installations, unless it’s part of a much larger campus eco system. The AV over IP boom began a few years ago when major manufacturers sold specific products designed for the enterprise market. As a larger “big picture” network strategy developed, it became important for manufacturers to consider all functional aspects of their offerings, including keeping a sharp eye on cost and return of investment (ROI) calculations. AV over IP is a great solution for enterprise deployments and with the proper security measures in place, they can be a win for all parties involved.
Covid-19 represents unprecedented challenges for our industry and has resulted in touchless solutions becoming a top priority for end users. The ability to walk up to a screen and wirelessly present is paramount and several products introduced into the market allow for solution requirement. They each have their own bells and whistles, but the integration remains the same. It requires an appliance on the network to be attached to a display. This function merges the AV and IT worlds, and technical details must be coordinated with the IT department when deploying the solution. For example, which network will it reside on? Most large organizations have multiple communication options with varying levels of access. The coordination of network access needs to be the initial focus of an ongoing joint venture between the AV and IT teams to assure success.
Clearly the majority of technologies are now using the network to transmit their signal. Audio is no different. Over the last few years our industry has seen the battle between Dante and AVB. Each solution offers valuable features, with Dante having been more widely adopted. To date the AV industry is experiencing a big boost in manufactured products using Dante equipment and providing one ecosystem of networked audio products. This is a huge time saver to system integrators from both an installation and programming perspective. In today’s world networked audio is a proven solution that provides measurable value by reducing cost and delivering a ROI.
Network convergence in the form of IoT (Internet of Things) is becoming the new normal today. In years past, the general attitude of the IT department regarding additional device support was “not on my network” as many companies were already overworked and understaffed. That attitude has changed as IT managers and system administrators now require more control over networked devices as data security and corporate liability issues have become priorities. Today, IT departments are active participants with their physical security and AV integrators partners providing products that utilize their networks and storage architectures. As networks expand, so does the actual “threat surface” from a cyber breach perspective. A continuous focus on cybersecurity solutions is the new normal for any integrator that connects their product and service offerings to a network. “You sold it, you secure it” is the new mantra for integrators moving forward. Integrators that discount the critical importance of cybersecurity expertise in their own organizations will quickly find themselves at the mercy of competitors. Currently, the trend is toward RFP and Statement of Work documents requiring cyber resources to be included on job bids. Eventually, cybersecurity protections will be regulated for all devices on public and private networks. This trend is already occurring overseas in the European Union with the GDPR (General Data Protection Requirement) which also impacts American companies doing business in Europe: https://www.csoonline.com/article/3202771/general-data-protection-regulation-gdpr-requirements-deadlines-and-facts.html. Cybersecurity is an emerging solution “requirement” for integrators deploying devices on networks, period. Today integrators need to partner and hire to implement cybersecurity best practices if they plan to be relevant in the future – which is here today.
Clearly everything is becoming network based and includes the AV endpoint, security cameras, or any number of current and future sensors for emerging applications. They all have IP addresses connected to a network – and they all need to be “managed and secured”. This combination of managing and securing networked devices is a common requirement across all markets. The explosion of traditional network attached devices and the emerging need for more functional sensors has simply outpaced the ability of manual IT and security staffs to scale with the demand. The IoT opportunity is upon us! The integrator can now evolve from point product sales and support to consolidating devices into platforms managed by dashboards that provide real time status and alerts, predictive maintenance capabilities and continuously update security patches. This solution capability can be tailored to specific market requirements from commercial buildings to higher education or health care facilities. Platforms that manage and secure networked devices in real time is the future. The beauty of this opportunity is that the continuous nature of managing and securing network devices lend itself perfectly to recurring monthly revenues and account control over the long term. Integrators become strategic partners to their customers and evolve far beyond product sales and service maintenance vendors.
We will see innovative low voltage integrators start to diversify their offerings to include AV, IT and security. They will embrace partners where they can leverage 3rd party expertise as they develop their own internal skill sets. Covid-19 has pushed system integrators to look at different markets and offerings, this pivot was inevitable, Covid- 19 simply accelerated the pace by five years. When we look back, this will be the silver lining in the Covid – 19 Cloud – for those integrators astute enough to ADAPT.