AV-over-IP No Longer Taboo, Acceptance Emerges at InfoComm 2017

A slew of AV-over-IP product introductions at InfoComm 2017 demonstrate that the once-taboo AV distribution approach is now embraced — as long as it’s done right.

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AV-over-IP No Longer Taboo, Acceptance Emerges at InfoComm 2017

System designers are getting the green light from their customers' IT departments when it comes to distributing content over their networks. InfoComm 2017 offers plenty of best practices for AV-over-IP.

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There was a time when AV-over-IP was a taboo topic for AV integrators and their customers looking to (rightfully) protect their networks. At InfoComm 2017 with a slew of AV-over-IP products released, the taboo is clearly lifted.

It reminds me of a technology transition that I previously covered. From 2003 through 2010 I wrote for Commercial Integrator’s sister publication CE Pro, which is targeted to residential integration firms. Back then there was a lot of debate on a topic that, with the benefit of hindsight, seems irrational.

Click to browse some (not all!) AV-over-IP products at InfoComm 2017

The audiophiles that ruled the residential market in those days were very reluctant to embrace digital audio. Many grimaced at the idea that their custom designed home audio solutions would ultimately be fed by compressed music via the homeowner’s MP3 player.

I’m not saying those guys are wrong about audio quality, but it’s very clear that for the next generation of homeowners (their customers) it wasn’t a priority.

In the commercial market I see parallels to the reluctance, turned to slow acceptance and ultimately coming around to AV over IP. Integration firms, consultants and end users are right to raise flags in order to protect their networks and their systems, but the reality is that AV over IP has matured to the point of acceptance.

Related Archived Webcst (Play Now) — AV over IP: How to Thrive in a Post-Matrix-Switching Era

I talked to Bob Michaels, CEO of ZeeVee, after he returned from Integrated Systems Europe 2017. He noticed quite a difference in AV-over-IP acceptance since the previous ISE. “At ISE last year I saw IP lip service and there were a lot of questions about internal networks and talking about the IT guy saying no [to AV over IP],” he said. At ISE 2017, however, “it was more like, ‘You can do it but you have to do it the right way.’”

AV-over-IP Accelerates at InfoComm 2017

InfoComm 2017 is taking it step further. So many manufacturers are launching AV-over-IP solutions. Meanwhile, Software Defined Video over Ethernet (SVoE) Alliance, a group aimed at speeding up the transition to AV over IP, is making a big splash at InfoComm after debuting at ISE.

Customers have come around to the point where they are comfortable connecting AV devices to their networks — as long as it’s done right. Mark Peterson, associate principal at Shen Milsom & Wilke, recently talked to me about what customers are typically willing to put on the network. He said it would be easier to give a list of devices not connected to the network.

“Practically all AV devices” are, he said. Then he listed AV controllers, touchpanels, video conferencing codecs, cameras, remote diagnostic tools, thermostats, microphones, collaboration components, media streaming encoders, IPTV and many more.

It’s the folks who have been involved in AV over IP that really see that a shift in the acceptance. WyreStorm has been offering its NetworkHD AV-over-IP solution for four-plus years. “Initially we had trouble communicating the benefits of our technology because the terminology wasn’t well understood,” James Meredith, WyreStorm’s Global Product Manager, recently told me.

“I used to spend my time talking about the difference between latency and switching speed and these days everyone is aware of what those things are. Everyone is aware of the pitfalls of AV over IP and the huge benefits of AV over IP. So the conversation with everybody has gotten easier and now it’s more a point of differentiating everything.”

So that’s where we are in the AV-over-IP conversation — moving forward instead of holding back, recognizing that the concerns were never misguided and focusing on providing solutions that protect and benefit the customers.