A Great Time to Be: AV/IT

I enjoy meeting new people and am always interested and often fascinated by what they do for a living. There are a significant amount of people that work in an industry or job they do not like. In the AV/IT industry there is a long standing joke that once you are in you are in for life. I think that is largely true, I believe that is because those of us who have been fortunate enough to work in this great industry love it unconditionally. The fact is that what we do is hard, if it were not for the “love” I do not think we would see the level of talent and commitment sustain as it has year over year. That said we all have a responsibility to bring new talented people into the industry, we have to bring in and “raise” the next generation of AV/IT professionals.

There are many books and business leaders that suggest that every business has to reinvent itself every five to 10 years. Technology based industries are absolutely required to reestablish themselves and keep innovating. There have been significant changes in the AV/IT industry that define milestones and seem to bring a natural balance to things. Sound contractors used to be the dominant companies, video was deemed “not worth the trouble” and often left to more niche companies. Control systems were also left to those same types of companies focused on those “small” nuances of the industry. Of course we all know what happened, video and control became the focus as computers began to dominate the workplace and sharing information was requested by the clients. Many of the big dominant sound contractors didn’t have the skill set or talent to fulfill these requests from their clients so that niche company quickly rose to the challenge and the AV Integration market was formed. Of course sound is still a crucial factor and making sure the “A” is well thought out in a design is incredibly important.

The change is happening again, in fact it has been taking shape for years. The convergence of audiovideo and information technologies has been occurring and despite the buzzwords there has not been as warm of an embrace as there should be. From an engineering standpoint we can argue for days about the best method to transport high resolution video. The simple fact is every solution varies therefore the transport methods will vary, standardization on transport is not necessary. What we can agree on is the most effective methods rely on standards based on technologies from the IT world. The more critical part of the conversation involving convergence is the focus on having everything connected to create a manageable and fluid ecosystem. The most important components in the AV system and most of the devices connected both up and down stream have intelligence and are addressable. Understanding the manufacturer based technologies is crucial but more critical is to understand how to implement a full end-to-end solution with all of the proper networking hardware and settings considered. There should also be very clear and well thought out planning if existing or client owned networking hardware will be utilized.

The simple fact is that in 2017 we will see the beginning of the “Digital Sunset.” Yes, I assure you this is going to happen. TMDS/Displayport will be shoved aside as IP transport becomes the standard. Many of us have already used IP transport to move video, but this is just the start. The simple fact is that most networks and the existing infrastructure cannot properly handle native 4K signals. 25 gigabit networks and fiber will be necessary to implement high quality video over IP. I have been very passionate in my consultations that fiber infrastructure is critical when building new or retro-fitting any network environment. I continue to see new buildings being cabled with low grade CAT-5/6 with giant bundles going into narrow cable trays. That practice is disheartening as before anyone even occupies the space the bandwidth losses are extreme.

This is a great time to be involved in the AV/IT world because we have the opportunity to establish faster, higher quality, more robust, and consistent solutions to move the signals critical to today’s enterprise, education, entertainment, government, or worship spaces. There is no question that responsible AV/IT firms will continue to utilize fiber and higher bandwidth networking gear to insure that the solutions we are implementing can handle the requirements of high quality signals. The upfront expense is minimal compared to the expense of having to completely redo the infrastructure a few years down the road. I would encourage anyone involved with the management and decision making of your infrastructure and networking appliances to not allow anyone to use improper cabling, appliances or practices inside your facility. The great time we are all excited for will be far more painful if we do not get on the same page and embrace these incredible opportunities to change.

This blog was reprinted with permission from Frank Sabella and originally appeared here.