AVoIP: a significant opportunity

Audio Visual over Internet Protocol (AVoIP) has grown over the last few years coinciding with the convergence of AV and IT. It is now beyond the early adoption stage and is becoming commonplace in many enterprises and installations as manufacturers and integrators realise the benefits and value it can bring to their customers. Greg Bennett, Exertis Pro AV, head of AV solutions looks at the significant opportunities that the technology creates for integrators.

With IP networks playing a fundamental role in an organisation’s infrastructure, carrying AV systems over IP is a natural extension to voice, security and audio systems. The ability to leverage an existing LAN provides much better centralised control for IT managers with the ability to manage all of their resources from a single point.

Indeed, AVoIP is a significant opportunity for integrators working on projects where low latency, cost effective, highly scalable solutions for content management and control are key. An AV over IP network is set up almost like a traditional AV system but instead of transmitters and receivers it uses encoders and decoders, and a Gigabit Ethernet switch.

However, in an AV system, there is a restriction on the number of physical ports that devices can be connected to but with an AVoIP system, it’s simply a matter of connecting to another switch, thereby not limiting the number of devices.

Traditionally, the distribution of video from multiple sources to multiple endpoints such as displays has required a matrix switcher – typically large, costly and complex. AVoIP replaces the need for this limiting hardware. Certainly, for new installations, the cost savings of deploying AVoIP compared to a point-to-point approach can be significant with the ability to manage, transmit and receive audio/video signals and control a plethora of devices over a local network. It can also provide full HD capabilities with virtually no latency, an important consideration as Ethernet cabling enables faster transmission of data with less delay which improves both video and audio signal quality

Simplified cabling is also a feature and benefit of AVoIP. With a more traditional point-to-point system, there are many devices that require separate cabling for each signal type whereas in an AVoIP solution, all sources and endpoints are derived from the data network. As a result, there is no need for a dedicated matrix switch in every room. Less conduit and expensive, AV cabling and connectors are required with more standard use of RJ-45 connectors.

In addition, an AVoIP system also offers greater flexibility should changes to an AV set-up be required. With a traditional AV set-up, dedicated cabling would need to be run to connect different rooms and there are limitations to cable distances. Clearly, AVoIP offers a big step forward in signal distribution, removing the issue of distance limitations and is an enabler for systems to go beyond the physical limitations of matrix switches.

Equally, AVoIP provides both flexibility and scalability. By using the data network, any audio and video can be routed wherever a data outlet exists, and any endpoint can be easily changed without disruption to the cabling. New features can be added to the system by updating software without impacting hardware, such as the requirement for a larger matrix switch, thereby saving on costs.

For IT managers, adding encoders, decoders or IP switches to an existing network is relatively simple and with the advancements in recent AV hardware, sending AV streams over IP switches is now easier than ever. In addition, there is the added advantage of greater control, monitoring and management over a LAN. Indeed, it’s possible to segregate which ports are dedicated to business traffic and which ones are for AV transmission which can be very useful in certain vertical markets such as education. Providing analytics on equipment usage and maintenance as well as being able to identify issues, minimise downtime and ensure futureproofing are all important factors enabling organisations to be more agile.

AVoIP is undoubtedly a fast-growing market and currently, we are seeing this technology being applied for those applications where there is either a high volume of inputs and outputs where control and scalability is key. i.e. large enterprises, large digital signage projects in travel, retail, banking, stadiums, government and corporate sectors. Or in those applications for low latency. However, for smaller systems with basic room set-ups and installations, there is little need for AVoIP – simple matrix switches and good old-fashioned HDMI cables will probably remain the preferred choice.

Exertis Pro AV has a Networked AV category within its solutions business unit. This category has been created to establish a value-add proposition to our reseller community around AV Over IP Solutions, HDBaseT Signal Management, Switching, Control, Digital Signage and IPTV.

Within this category we have a partner portfolio which at present consists of Kramer, SY Electronics, Aten, Seada, Signagelive, Intevi, Aopen, Netgear and DLink, providing certified AVoIP solutions from head end display to certified AV Over IP solutions and switches, content to control. This category sits as part of our overall solutions business which aligns with LFD, Projection, Collaboration, and Enterprise Voice and Video, enabling us to technically support at the design stages of a project and deliver a full end to end solution for our partners.

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