It’s hard to believe so much has already been written about AV over IP (audio and video over Internet protocol, or AVoIP), with so little being said about why it is essential to the future of every AV integrator and integration business. ZeeVee, one of the leading global developers of digital technology and products for distributing audio-video content, recently released a white paper focusing on the importance of adopting AV over IP solutions in the corporate environment.

With the industry focus on engineering and cost benefits stemming from simplified system infrastructure, configuration, deployment, control and expansion – which are indeed all real and significant advantages – too little attention is devoted to a critical customer benefit that has already become a driving force accelerating its adoption: the capacity for real-time and interactive applications that enhance end-user experience and value.

These applications, some available now with many more to come in the future, will make IP-based data networks the must-have foundation for commercial AV solutions – in business, education, government, industry, hospitality, healthcare, entertainment, retail, public safety and every other market where pro AV integrators make their living.

“Several research studies have documented the steadily-growing use of streaming and interactive video within all types of organisations as an essential, multi-dimensional element of business operations.”

TIME FOR CHANGE

While conventional point-to-point signal distribution has its role in the presentation and another simplex (one-way) communication, the ability to convey, communicate and interact vocally and visually in real time, from every endpoint and multiple end-points – throughout an office, building or campus – heralds an exciting and promising future for the pro AV business.

Several research studies have documented the steadily-growing use of streaming and interactive video within all types of organisations as an essential, multi-dimensional element of business operations. The ability to enable virtual collaboration, meetings and group presentations, corporate communications, instruction, training, and other interactive activities, in real time or on-demand, and with high cost-effectiveness, is essential in keeping pace with the working world.

One recent study reveals not only steadily-increasing numbers of organisations utilising video streaming and collaboration but also that the amount of time workers spend weekly utilising these services continues to grow. The trend is far from peaking: researchers forecast continued growth in both adoption and utilisation. The global market for video conferencing alone, estimated at $5 billion in 2016, is forecast to exceed $10 billion (in 2016 dollars) by 2026.

PUTTING ASIDE TO AUGMENTED REALITY

Putting aside applications in use now, it is also essential to consider that innovative, interactive business and workplace applications, potentially involving artificial intelligence, virtual or augmented reality, are already on the horizon. While it’s not the purpose here to explore or predict what form they will take, it’s more than sensible to assume that future AV systems should be designed to operate on a platform likely to be compatible with these technologies – systems based on (non-propriety) IP network standards.

The low-latency and high-speed at which many AV networks need to operate, a concern especially when handling rich content, also favours an IP-based approach, since data networks provide a proven, reliable and continuously improving means of moving huge volumes of real-time information at ever-increasing speeds with near-zero latency.

“IP-based data networks are the must-have foundation for commercial AV solutions”

INDUSTRY OUTLOOK

Looking at AV from an individual user’s perspective, the ease with which everyone can stream, conference and video chat using a smartphone or laptop creates the expectation, particularly among younger people but also persons of any age in positions of influence or authority, that cutting-edge capabilities be available at work. Whether utilising public or private networks, workers and other colleagues expect levels of interactivity and interoperability similar or superior to what they experience every day on their devices.

The AV systems providing these resources need to accommodate the demands of the modern workplace: they must be readily scalable and configurable to meet changing staffing and organisational needs. Systems that require less time and cost to adapt – a clear advantage of IP-based networks over matrixed distribution – have a distinct competitive advantage.

In 2014, a handful of manufacturers, including AV over IP pioneer ZeeVee, were early entrants into the AV over IP space that served to define and prove the viability and effectiveness of AV over IP as an AV distribution technology. These veterans paved the way for more than two dozen AV manufacturers, in the first half of 2018 alone, including every significant maker of AV distribution systems, the ability to unveil AVoIP components. Simultaneously, traditional IT network switch companies such as NETGEAR introduced entire lines of high-speed switches preconfigured explicitly for AVoIP applications. Leaders and innovators in both the AV and IT industries have made it abundantly clear where they see the future of AV headed, and integrators not offering AVoIP solutions will find themselves at a competitive disadvantage, with solutions that do not keep pace with industry innovations.

Integrators in Western Europe indicate that AV over IP has been the go-to standard for new project builds since ISE 2018, further reinforcing the global trend of AV technology in developing markets which have little or no legacy investment in (or comfort level with) matrixed or RF-based systems. In these places, where integrators and end-users start with a clean slate and the desire and freedom to choose best-in-class technology, AVoIP is taking a market-leading position.

While there is real peril for integration firms in not keeping pace with the network trend in AV technology, there is an excellent opportunity for those looking to embrace it for the benefits it can provide to customers and their businesses. IP-based AV networks offer real advantages that reduce cost while increasing capability, and they have an immediate appeal to many clients. Organisations that don’t embrace AVoIP early for a competitive advantage will eventually have to adapt (and adopt) merely to keep up or because of diminishing support for legacy technology.

Rather than a creating a roadblock between AV integrators and their customary commercial clients, AV data networks open new avenues for integrators to serve (and sell) clients – while preserving their position as the expert authority to specify and install AV systems that meet the precise quality, performance and feature requirements of each customer.

Failing to offer suitable AVoIP solutions results in integrators and integration companies marginalising their business to a shrinking segment of the systems market. As explained more deeply in the full white paper, competitive pressure is another factor pushing the market toward AVoIP solutions.

Integrators, if they have not done so already, must begin to make the transition, since trends in the workplace and technology development foreshadow a future for AV systems functioning on IP-based platforms.

For more information, including a helpful guide about how to select an AVoIP vendor, please consult the full ZeeVee white-paper: www.zeevee.com/av-over-ip-whitepaper.