HDMI Reaches Into the Boardroom

At CEDIA 2007 the big story was HDMI (among other things). And it seems like everyday there is another manufacturer being added to the list of HDMI this or HDMI that for the residential market. But w 11/08/2007 7:00 AM Eastern

HDMI Reaches Into the Boardroom

Nov 8, 2007 12:00 PM, By Jessaca Gutierrez

At CEDIA 2007 the big story was HDMI (among other things). And it seems like everyday there is another manufacturer being added to the list of HDMI this or HDMI that for the residential market. But what about HDMI for the corporate application?

“HDMI is definitely an option for commercial or business installations,” says Steve Lapen, Belden’s multimedia technology manager. “I can imagine many places where these cables might be used such as boardrooms, where LCDs or plasmas might be used for teleconferencing, video playback, or off-air viewing; malls, where LCDs or plasmas are inexpensive advertising, with a video server or other video loop source.

I see them in airports (flight listings) or airport video playback, racetracks, auditoriums, stadiums. I'm even talking to a customer about an opera house, where he can feed HD to a roll-around LCD, so that customers and staff in the lobby know what's happening on stage before they open the door.”

The application, Lapen says, isn’t the issue, but rather the number of device sources becoming HDMI-only for the benefit of displaying “true HD” content. While some displays and devices offer an alternate RGB output, many of them are down-rezzed below the quality of “true HD,” Lapen says. With the proliferation of high-def digital signage and videoconferencing, the demand to deliver HD is growing. No longer is HD a nice feature, but the feature in the latest round of products. With the general population becoming more audio and video savvy, that need that stemmed from sleeker and more robust consumer product entertainment is snaking its way into classrooms and boardrooms alike as the next means of providing professional presentation.

The other concern, and of possible debate on the CEDIA show floor, was just how far HDMI will go. Although HDMI is a great solution for those smaller business entities where the signal won’t have to go far, larger spaces that require longer runs may be more questionable (and possibly more expensive) for the HDMI market. With the latest onslaught of manufacturer news, it’s also a question that is front and center for manufacturer’s to solve. Belden, for example, has a HDMI cable that’s tested and verified (distributed with Blue Jean Cable) to run up to 23m (75ft.), Lapen says. “If you want to go really far, we introduced a new design for HDMI in partnership with Gennum, a chip manufacturer, showing active HDMI going 100 meters (328 ft.) at [this year’s] CEDIA show,” Lapen says.

“The problem with active cable, cable that needs boxes and power at each end, is that there is more to go wrong or not work. HDMI is already really complicated, so when things start not working right, it's often hard to tell where the problem is or what to do about it,” Lapen says.

Another issue is that among the scores of cables being manufactured abroad is that they aren’t necessarily plenum-rated, which is usually a requirement for drop ceilings or raised-floor commercial installations. Belden is currently in the works creating a plenum-rated HDMI cable. “The Blue Jeans Cable version out now is CM rated, which means you can put it in a conduit for commercial applications. Most offshore cable has no fire rating, which means, for most of the USA, it cannot be ‘installed’ in a commercial applications (home use is still fine),” Lapen says. “This could be a big problem.”

While not every commercial installation is going to be a boardroom-turned-home theater, it would be nice to think that going into the office doesn’t necessarily mean second-rate quality. After all, the average person spends roughly 90,000 hours working.

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