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What's Old is New Again
By Greg Bronson, CTS-D
Whether you are a technology manager, or vendor, for the education AV market, much of what we do is incremental improvements to an organization’s broader AV communications infrastructure. This work is planned in the context of the latest and greatest technology and within a — perhaps, lately, not so great — budget. So at any given point in time, how does one really know how to prioritize available funds across a broad range of spaces needing technology improvements? Step away from the crimper and think assessment!
Assessment is “the classification of someone or something with respect to its worth.” This certainly is not a new idea for AV in education; I vividly remember my early career contributions to a detailed process for the institution I was employed with in the late 80’s. In fact, odds are your (and/or your client’s) organization has its own existing form of assessment, whether you call it that or not. It’s probably associated with the “cousin” processes of equipment inventory, campus standards, commissioning tests and/or space programming.
To be clear, what I’m referring to is a process that is applied equally across all existing systems, with an overall goal of determining their effectiveness in supporting audio visual communications. Approached from the Pro AV vantage point, the emphasis is on verifying performance of the sub systems: audio, video and control. Approached from the academic vantage point, the emphasis is more on the physical space, pedagogy and academic programming. The best assessment process has an awareness of all these elements.
The process needs to strike a balance between gathering enough data to establish a fair “snapshot” of each space/system, and yet not require too much time to actually complete each evaluation. It needs to be anchored to benchmarks, if not actual standards. Issues that fall below a minimum threshold need to be flagged for upgrades. Likewise ones that have elements that are “stars” in their category are flagged for replication elsewhere.
Above all make sure the basics are nailed for all spaces. Groovy looking rolling furniture is great – if everyone in the room can clearly hear what is being said! And, by the same token, creating and adopting new standards is great – if the majority of spaces/organizations have the resources to actually implement them. There is a danger of allowing the process and/or results to be skewed by a halo effect of hype (i.e., being billed as “innovative”) or burdened by detail beyond the resolution needed to facilitate organizational decision-making. These can’t be entertained, especially in these times.
Quite frankly, performing a large-scale assessment project is not very glamorous. It certainly doesn’t stand out like the latest technology innovation. By the same token, it needs to be performed by individuals with a comprehensive background in the elements to be assessed. It is work that might be done in-house or potentially outsourced. Either way, when the data is summarized, the organization will be in a much better position to plan future work. And then, what is old is new again.
The views expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect the views of the authors’ employer(s), past or present.
Greg Bronson, CTS-D, applies AV technologies in the development of innovative learning spaces for higher education. Greg spent the first 10 years of his career as AV technician and service manager, with the past 12 years as an AV system designer and project manager. Bronson currently works for Cornell University and has also worked for two SUNY (State University of New York) campuses as well as a regional secondary education service depot. Bronson is the originator of concept for Infocomm’s Dashboard for Controls and has had completed projects featured in industry publications. You can reach Greg at email@example.com
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Training More Important Than Ever in Bad Economy
By Scott Tiner, CTS
A few weeks ago I was talking with a colleague about this year’s InfoComm show in Orlando. He was disappointed that he could not attend. His institution, he told me, had “canceled all unnecessary travel.” As he was not the person who made this decision, I did not try to convince him that right now training is more necessary then ever. Recently, I was reminded of this discussion during a presentation I gave at the NERCOMP annual conference. An attendee asked me how to convince a CIO that travel to InfoComm, or any training for that matter, was a valuable expense considering the current situation. I answered his question, but I think that training is so important that the question deserved a more thorough answer.
This recession is going to affect colleges and universities for several years beyond the official end of the recession. Our endowments have shrunk so considerably that while we rebuild them, we will still be facing difficult budgetary situations. This means that Technology Managers will be making decisions on budgets, staffing and equipment with limited financial resources. The only way to make a good decision is to make an informed one. Professional training, like you can receive by attending InfoComm, can set you on your way to making these informed decisions.
Perhaps you need to find ways to save money in your installs. On the show floor you will have access to every vendor you can imagine. You can compare products, support and prices. It is perfectly reasonable to expect to return from InfoComm with a plan to change to a new manufacturer or model of any product (doc cams, projectors, racks, control systems) and save money. True, this could be done through web or print advertisements, but there is nothing like having a product in your hand while talking directly with a manufacturer to help you make a good decision. Also, it is extremely efficient to move from one manufacturer to another and be able to make a decision within a couple of days. Finally, theft has become a larger issue on campuses over the past few years. There are dozen of vendors on the floor who provide security solutions for A/V equipment. Preventing a couple of projectors from being stolen will pay for your trip to InfoComm on its own.
Due to the fact the economic effects of the current crisis will be felt in our budgets for several years, we also need to plan our future installs with both budget and future flexibility in mind. Perhaps the Super Tuesday session on Technology Trends would be the right session for you to understand what is down the road. If your school is one of the many who are looking to consolidate staffing and offices, then a merger of AV and IT may be right around the corner. For you perhaps the AV/IT Integration for Technical Professionals session would provide you some useful information. Better yet, maybe this session would give you information necessary to come back to your institution and recommend such a merger. Being seen as a person willing to bring new ideas to the table in order to save money can only benefit your standing in the organization. Manufacturer training is also available at the conference. Polycom and Tandberg both are offering training at the show. Gaining knowledge about video conferencing systems can save money immediately, by developing expertise on the systems, and it provides for future savings by cutting down on expensive travel.
So, how do you now convince your CIO to spend the money to send you to InfoComm? First, put a budget together. Obviously, you want to get to Orlando and stay there, for as cheap as possible. One of the official InfoComm hotels is advertising rooms for as little as $73 per night, and there are four others who are advertising at under $100 per night. Clearly, staying in a hotel does not need to bust the budget. Second, set up your itinerary for the show and provide it to your superiors along with your budget when making the request. What courses do you plan to attend? What direct effect will each course have on the bottom line for your institution? What vendors do you plan to visit on the show floor? Again, what is your end result from visiting each vendor? If you took a cut to your budget this year, identify to your CIO how your trip to InfoComm will help you deal with the budget cuts without a drastic cut in service. In our case, our projector replacement budget looks like it will be cut. I intend to find a quality projector model that will provide Bates with the same number of projectors for the lower budget amount. In the end make sure your CIO understands that you will return from this conference ready and able to save more money for your institution than they spent to send you to it.
Recognize that getting professional training allows you to make professional decisions that will help your institution. Being seen as a professional, instead of the “A/V person” will give you the opportunity to help your institution make wise choices to sustain the equipment now and into the future. I hope to see you in Orlando!
About Scott Tiner
Scott Tiner, CTS, has worked in the AV/IT field in public K-12, private K-12 and higher education institutions. As a trained educator, he has a deep interest in the use of various types of technology in the classroom. Currently, as the Manager of Digital Media and Event Support at Bates College, Scott designs the technology for learning spaces and works with faculty on innovative ways to use technology in these learning spaces. He also is responsible for the digital video and audio editing support on campus.
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SANYO Debuts Quartet of Wired and Wireless Projectors for the Classroom
SANYO announced today the introduction of four new ultraportable LCD projectors, designed for education and business presentation: the PLC-XU355, PLC-XU350, PLC-XU305, and the PLC-XU300.
The PLC-XU355 and PLC-XU305 feature what SANYO says is the industry’s first “simple wireless setting,” which means you can insert the supplied USB memory stick into any PC or MAC and be one click away from wirelessly connecting to the projector. Both projectors can be connected wirelessly to multiple computers, or up to give projectors can be connected to a single computer, which is pretty cool for presenters.
The PLC-XU355 and PLC-XU305 also have a wide 1.6x optical zoom lens for flexible placement, allowing the projection of a 100” image from as little as 94 inches away, and contain a built-in 7 Watt mono speaker.
All four projectors are 1024×768 with brightness varying from 3000 to 3500 Lumens. They will be shipping in mid-May 2009 and have the following retail prices:
For more information, go to SANYO’s website here: http://us.sanyo.com/Commercial-Projectors
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SDK Available for SMART Table
Could the SMART Table become the iPhone of the ProAV market? SMART hopes so, with the release of their own SDK (software development kit) for the new SMART Table multi-touch table design. The SMART Table is definitely a groundbreaking interactive display table designed specifically for pre-K-3 students (ages 4-8). And to encourage the rapid development of educational content for their product, SMART is inviting developers to participate in the evolution of the SMART Table by developing multiuser, multi-touch table applications. The SDK supports development in C++, C#, VB and Java languages, and includes source code for multi-touch interface elements such as photographs and text regions.
The SMART Table was announced in October 2008 as the first multi-user, multi-touch table for elementary school children. It provides a learner-centric experience that allows small groups of students to use the table’s interactive surface to select or move objects, draw or write on the screen simultaneously and work together to find answers to preset questions. The SDK includes a comprehensive manual that outlines usability guidelines, application packaging, application types and additional useful information. SMART will also host a website to showcase some of the best applications created by third-party developers for the table. The website will provide visibility for developers creating applications for the table and easy access for educators looking for table content.
Interested in becoming a SMART Table developer? Go to: http://sdn.smarttech.com/NonCommercial/default.aspx
At a recent technology show, I actually got my hands (and I mean both hands) on one of these. Yes it is small, yes the application was very basic and yes, it is very cool! Wondering if there is a “big kid” version in the works? –GB
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EPSON Debuts Another K-12 Projector
To address K-12 schools’ needs for interactive whiteboard projection solutions, Epson last week introduced the PowerLite 410W short throw, widescreen projector. An upgrade to the PowerLite 400W – the industry’s first short throw, widescreen 3LCD projector – the PowerLite 410W offers native WXGA resolution (1280×800) for use with widescreen computers and 16:10 interactive whiteboards, and additional enhancements including a shorter throw lens, increased brightness and an optional wall mount for added flexibility.
Featuring a shorter throw lens than the previous model, the PowerLite 410W projects a 60 inch 16:10 image from two feet away, making it ideal for wall mounting. This improved design gives more space to students and teachers in smaller classrooms, while reducing accidental shadows from presenters.
The $1300 projector is specified at 2000 ANSI Lumens. The new 410W is so new that EPSON hasn’t even put it on their website yet. But, when they do, it will be here: http://www.epsonprojectors.com
Ahh, yes, a native 16:10 projector for a 16:10 interactive whiteboard; it’s a match! Perhaps you read my November ’08 column on 16:9? But, you might have missed the follow-up on rAVe Talk of the Nations when I was taken to task that 16:10 is perhaps a better choice? –GB
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Hitachi Releases New LCD Projector Designed for Education
Hitachi announced at the end of last month a new native XGA 3LCD projector aimed specifically at the education market – the CP-X2010. The company says the projector offers a new 4,000-hour hybrid filter, which lowers the total cost of ownership.
The projector features a brightness of 2,200 lumens, 500:1 contrast ratio, and 16 Watts of built-in audio, while also maintaining a noise rating of 29 dBA in Whisper mode. It weighs 7.9 pounds and has a lamp life of 3,000 hours in Standard mode and 5,000 hours (Or 6,000, as it says on their website? This conflicts with their press release.) in Eco mode. It also has a “Transition Detector” which locks the projector and requires a password to be input when it is moved from a fixed position.
They say it’s available at an affordable price point, but don’t actually list that price point.
See the specs on their website, here: http://www.hitachi-homeelectronics.us/digitalmedia/lcd_projectors/guide/lineup/details/cp-x2010.html
Without actually trying it out, the “Transition Detector” sounds like an interesting theft deterrent (or perhaps theft revenge … as the thief is unlikely to find out until they actually power it up, back at the hideout). –GB
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Extron's VoiceLift Classroom Mic System Ships
Extron’s new VoiceLift Microphone, an infrared wireless microphone system, is now shipping. The VoiceLift Microphone integrates seamlessly into new or existing Extron PoleVault installations to create a sound field that allows a teacher's voice to be heard clearly throughout the classroom.
Studies show that use of a sound field system results in increased student achievement and a reduction in teacher health issues related to voice fatigue. The VoiceLift series of products includes a wireless pendant microphone, a ceiling or wall mounted receiver, and a desktop charging station. The lightweight pendant microphone can be worn around the neck or clipped onto clothing.
Check it out at: http://www.extron.com/product/product.aspx?id=vls
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Chief Ships In-Wall Power Extension System
Aimed squarely at simple wall-mount flat-panel mount applications, Chief Manufacturing has announced the release of the new PB1 In-Wall Power Extension System, shipping this month! The PB1 is a sleek solution for getting power where you need it, while managing cables and keeping them out of sight. For a clean installation, simply route cables in the wall from behind the flat panel display down to the floor level. Features include:
• Remote connection to outlet or power conditioner
• Power routing via 14 gage Romex wiring (not included)
• Integrated cable ports for low voltage wiring inside the wall
• Available in four colors (black, white, almond, ivory)
Want more information? Go to: http://www.chiefmfg.com/productdetail.aspx?AccessoryID=1070
So now we don’t need to use small floorboxes, in the wall, to recess connections for wall mounted flat panels? Yeah! –GB
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EPSON Launches "Budget-Conscious" Document Camera Aimed at K-12
I am continually amazed that document cameras are still in use in schools in departments other than science, but they are. Here’s a new one that’s not a budget-breaker. Last week, EPSON announced a new easy-to-use and affordable DC-06 document camera called the DC-06, featuring XGA (1024×768) resolution. Because of its small footprint (and it is indeed tiny), it is ideal for undersized classrooms where space is limited.
Check out the $399 DC-06 at: http://www.epsonbrighterfutures.com/products/documentCamera
Instructors come up with some really interesting uses for document cameras. The far and away best, for me, was a child psychology class instructor who did a whole “live” overhead view, segment of a shoebox sized “family” role-play. -GB
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SANYO Launches the Ultimate HD Projector
The new PDG-DHT100L is SANYO’s high-end DLP-based bright HD projector – it’s not one you’d put in all your classrooms, but if you need a new projection system for your school’s auditorium or large lecture halls, this is THE ONE. At 6500 specified ANSI lumens and a 1920×1080 native resolution, this projector is aimed at the large meeting room market (i.e., auditoriums or even the on-campus theater) and is spec’d at 7500:1 contrast ratio. As this projector is likely to be mounted, one nice feature — that all high-end projector manufacturers are moving towards — is the addition of an active maintenance filter that cleans itself. It’s Ethernet-ready, is available with interchangeable lenses and ships immediately.
The PDG-DHT100L has a twin color wheel system that offers increased color reproduction and light output efficiency, and comes with two different user-changeable color wheels that are optimized for either high brightness or rich color reproduction. The projector ships with the color wheel that is optimized for higher brightness. A second color wheel that is optimized for rich color reproduction is included in the package. Either of these color wheels can be easily changed for intended applications by users. Also, a built-in Color Matching function corrects variations in color reproduction when using more than one projector for edge blending applications.
Finally, the most unique feature for this $22,000 projector is the picture-by-picture capabilities – in addition to picture-in-a-picture. This allows for two sources (for example, a 720p HD source and a PC) to be connected and viewed simultaneously on the same projected image – a feature that’s historically only been available in the $40-50K range.
See the entire product details at: http://us.sanyo.com/News/SANYO-Introduces-High-Brightness-True-HD-DLP-projector-with-Picture-by-Picture-Capability
Spec’s sound right up my alley, and the active filter feature makes sense. Give the unit a look-see at Infocomm? -GB
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The Future of Classroom Projection Could be Pico Projectors
As quality continues to improve, we at rAVe think that ultimately every teacher will carry around a projector so they have it whenever they need it. And, it could be in a phone one day (remember we said that – think iPhone or iPod Touch with embedded projector). In the mean time here’s one with on-board memory. Forget about its weight (6 oz.) and 640×480-pixel resolution — the real news is that the P1 pico projector from AAXA Technologies offers 1 GB of memory, a microSD slot and an onboard media player. This means the P1 can decode most media formats and play them straight from the projector.
Additional features include a built-in speaker, 1,000:1 contrast ratio and a 3.5-millimeter headphone jack. The battery lasts 45 to 60 minutes, depending on use.
You can also buy a $15 AAXA P1 iPod A/V cable so you can adapt audio and video files to an Apple iPhone, iPod and iTouch.
You can see it for yourself at: http://www.aaxatech.com/
And that’s not even mentioning the low power consumption (Green AV?) … certainly agree this is technology to keep an eye on. So, with this news piece immediately following the much larger Sanyo unit, I have this mental image of an AV tech in a dingy, dark, projection booth – changing the “big” projector’s lamp … facilitated by shining a projected image of the instructions (step by step video?), from the “pico” projector! –GB
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Well, that's it for this edition of rAVe! Thank you for spending time with us as we muse the industry's happenings. To continue getting my newsletter, or to sign up a friend, click the link below. To send feedback, don't reply to this newsletter – instead, write to Contributing Editor Greg Bronson at firstname.lastname@example.org, Publisher Gary Kayye at email@example.com or Editor-in-Chief Sara Abrons at firstname.lastname@example.org
A little about Gary Kayye, CTS, founder of rAVe and Kayye Consulting. Gary Kayye, an audiovisual veteran and columnist, began the widely-read KNews, a premier industry newsletter, in the late 1990s, and created the model for and was co-founder of AV Avenue – which later became InfoComm IQ. Kayye Consulting is a company that is committed to furthering the interests and success of dealers, manufacturers, and other companies within the professional audiovisual industry.
rAVe Pro Edition launched in February 2003. rAVe Home Edition, co-sponsored by CEDIA, launched in February 2004. rAVe Rental [and Staging] launched in November 2007. rAVe Ed [Education] began publication in May 2008.
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