Zdi Earns Patent for Communication Path

Approval helps Zdi generate new business with worldwide clients, could lead to new partnerships.

Jay McArdle didn’t know what would happen when he sent an application to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in March 2014 related to a communication path that centers on the codec.

In fact, the VP and CIO at Zdi believes there’s never been an approved patent for any AV systems integrator for system design or design methodology – until, that is, Oct. 4, when McArdle secured U.S. Patent No. 9,462,225 for its “presentation systems and related methods.” In short, Zdi patented its communication path for all RoomReady rooms.

Electrosonic and other integrators have patented and sold patented products to integrators but Zdi may be the first integrator to earn a patent on a process.

“The core of our patented system is the codec,” says McArdle. “We do everything through it. This streamlines the communication path and removes some traditional AV components that add cost and complexity to the system.”

“We thought we had a pretty unique idea and wanted to protect ourselves. We didn’t even tell our partners we had applied for the patent until it was granted. It becomes powerful as Cisco releases buttons they can add to touch panels,” he says.

The patent was in part the result of a challenge Cisco lobbed at Zdi to “make a conference room that doesn’t suck,” says McArdle.

“We wanted to know we could base our business on this,” he says.

Under the patent, the codec communicates with a controller in a Room Ready room, which splinters to several types of end points, from displays to amps to cable TV to digital signage to lights to the HVAC system. It takes about two minutes using Zdi’s patented approach to get all the technology in the room working together and the call connected as compared to about 15 minutes without it, says McArdle.

“We didn’t think we could get this patented,” says McArdle. “The irony is we’ve had a number of our customers ask us lately who owns the intellectual property.”

Although the patent is new, the methodology is already being adopted. In fact, Zdi got RFPs that included the patent-protected IP.  That led McArdle to reach out to the designers and IT partners, tell those companies there’s a patent in place and that they’re looking to partner on the opportunity. 

“We’re not trying to hold anyone hostage,” he says. With the patent in place, Zdi is now “looking to leverage the IP in the marketplace by forming strategic relationships with key manufacturers,” says president and CEO Aaron McArdle.

Zdi has employed its patent in places such as 80 rooms in the Manhattan headquarters for a major global financial institution as part of Project WorkPlace. That job led to Zdi winning the bid to design and partner on the installation of another 1,100 rooms for the global financial institution around the world with the same interface.

McArdle, who espouses Cisco as the heart of Zdi’s solutions, says the company is “fundamentally changing the way the conference room is being done.”

“We believe it can be pretty industry-changing. The key to this for the IT companies is we’re giving them the ability to sell more IT equipment, more Cisco and it avoids fights with IT, so now the IT integrator gets to sell mics,” he says. The codec is the core of Zdi’s room system patent, which also includes the control system, DSP and presentation switcher.

Here’s a look at Zdi’s patent in a real-life application:

The irony of the patent is “we can’t do all the work this is going to generate,” says McArdle. “We have to figure out how to license it or to partner with others who want to use it.” The patent has applications in presentation systems, audio conferencing and video conferencing, he says.

McArdle is working on another patent application and is awaiting word on another application tied to videoconferencing equipment assembly he filed at the same time as the one that was approved. That application has to do with a unique approach to mounting AV equipment.

“It’s really about learning the process of writing something that’s specifically vague and vaguely specific,” says McArdle. Although patents are a rare commodity in AV, “we come from an IT and telephony background and know the role patents have in that industry,” he says.

McArdle expects to see others in AV follow Zdi’s lead and patent their own unique approaches.

“People are fighting standardization because they see the use for custom,” he says. “Regardless of who owns the code, the real question is who owns the idea.”

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