Exploring the State of AV Standards

There are myriad ways to cobble together technology systems, and pros and cons when considering proprietary and non-proprietary protocols. Integrators’ customers — and their IT department — stand to benefit.

Tim Albright Leave a Comment
Exploring the State of AV Standards

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The nice thing about standards is, there are so many to choose. That may be odd to say, but the standards in the AV industry have continued to evolve.

From moving audio, video, and control over copper-centered cables to digitizing the signal and pushing it over the network, these standards help us all stay on the same page. Let’s take stock of where the standards stand today, and further explore why they matter.

Where We Are in AV

“Audio and video transport are still out there,” says Zach Snook, audio product manager at Biamp, a member of the AVnu Alliance. “AV is still looking for that one protocol to bring us all together.”

In moving to the network, we are using standard telnet and moving to SSH, which is encrypted telnet. This has been the result of concerns over hackers and other nefarious actors getting access to sensitive data.

“We are getting there,” says Justin Kennington, director of strategic and technical marketing at AptoVision and SDVoE, the recently established Software Defined Video over Ethernet Alliance of which AptoVision is a founding member (along with Aquantia, Christie, Netgear, Sony and ZeeVee). “Most technologies start as ana-log and migrate to IP; look at the telephone system. In AV, we are making the transition from digital to digital IP.”

In several of our systems we are still behind our sister industries in migrating completely over to an IP standard. But we are getting there. AVB gives us timing. HDBaseT provides us video over a single wire. Dante delivers multichannel audio. SDVoE is looking at solving the problem from the full stack.

“Without a proper standard interoperability will stumble and the industry will stumble,” says Gabi Shriki, senior VP, head of audio video business at HDBaseT pioneer Valens. “Standardization will lead to commoditization, which is useful for the end user.”

The standards that we have in front of us will indeed result in some products becoming commodities, resulting in manufacturers willing to produce the product for cheaper than the next. Be careful not to sacrifice quality when you head down the design phase. Yes, the price is important. Being able to integrate the product and support the system is also a factor.

Which Standard Should You Stand Behind?

When speaking with resources about this piece, the issue of openness came up. We interviewed two companies that have proprietary standards and one that is non-proprietary, or open. Which one is better? What standard will meet the needs of the project sitting on your desk right now?

AptoVision, Valens and Audinate (Dante) are manufacturers of a chipset that allows manufacturers to build products around their standards. You can buy a chip from Valens and follow their protocol and interoperate with another that does the same.

AVnu Alliance/AVB/TSN was created out of the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers). The IEEE is an open-source group dedicated to creating standards that anyone can use. You don’t pay one manufacturer for a single-sourced chip. As long as the manufacturer follows the standard, you can connect disparate pieces of equip-ment and they will communicate.

“No one is going to starve if AVB doesn’t work,” Kennington states. “Somebody starves if these others don’t work.”

What he means is there is not a single manufacturing source for the open standards. It is a group of volunteers working together to create an open platform. However, if the protocol fails, there is little repercussions for the IEEE.

“Being able to say this is a published IEEE standard is great when talking with IT departments,” counters Snook. “Proprietary protocols rely on the manufacturers for network documentation, not an open organization.”

“Everyone is saying, ‘Use my standard and here’s why.’ This year more systems will rely on IT infrastructure, and using proprietary systems will be
problematic.”
ZACH SNOOK, AUDIO PRODUCT MANAGER AT BIAMP

Adds Shriki, “The market needs to understand the importance of standards and which suits your needs.”

Where Will 2017 Take Us?

Companies are already designing systems that won’t be implemented for six, 12, or 18 months. Where do we need to go? What standard do we need to use? The IT/AV convergence has happened. Convergence happened a while ago. So let’s look ahead with that knowledge in mind.

“Everyone is saying, ‘Use my standard and here’s why,’” Snook says. “This year more systems will rely on IT infrastructure, and using proprietary systems will be
problematic.”

Now that Cisco has announced an AVB/ TSN switch, this is even more accurate. There are more Cisco routers in IT closets than probably any other switch manufacturer. The IT community trusts Cisco. It was no small announcement when last year it came out with a product that helps get AVB on the network.

“This year will be an excellent year for standards,” Shriki says. “The creation of new alliances reiterates the importance of standards and the market needs to understand the importance of those standards and which one suits their needs.”

“We need to be thinking more about the full stack and less of moving bits here to there,” Kennington says. “We know how to get HDMI from Blu-ray to a TV. We know how to get it on a network. Now how do we use it to create great experiences in an easy way?”

“We know how to get HDMI from Blu-ray to a TV. We know how to get it on a network. Now how do we use it to create great experiences in an easy way?”
JUSTIN KENNINGTON, APTOVISION/SDVOE

Each standards organization would like you to think that theirs is the best. AVB would say they are the only open source standard available.

One of the benefits of being open is IT professionals look to the IEEE for guidance and documentation. SDVoE, HDBaseT, Dante and others might argue a single-source solution is better because there are real people whose jobs are on the line if they product fails.

“As AV becomes part of the larger IT ecosystem, the next natural step of the communications evolution is for Pro AV to become part of the IoT,” says Patrick Prothe, AVnu Alliance’s Pro AV Segment chair. “For this to happen, you need a net-work that is continuously evolving.”

The bottom line for you and your clients is figure out what fits your needs. It sounds a little like saying, “it depends.” Well, it does. Do you have a single-room system that you only need to get video from a computer up to a projector, or does the project call for a whole-floor, building or campus-wide distributed system? In which scenario are you working?

Every integrator has a favorite vendor or two. If your favorite vendor doesn’t offer a standard, your second or third choice probably does.

These standards allow you to expand your sphere of offerings and create an inte-grated system that provides an exceptional experience to your client, their IT staff, and your team of talented AV professionals.

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