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Technology Showcase: IP-based AV Control Systems

Hardware options for centralized control. 3/01/2008 7:00 AM Eastern

Technology Showcase: IP-based AV Control Systems

Mar 1, 2008 12:00 PM, By Bennett Liles

Hardware options for centralized control.




Crestron Pro2

Crestron Pro2

In the realm of AV systems, especially those deployed in mid- to large-sized plants, the clear trend is toward centralized control, and the most economical and hardware-familiar way to design central control of AV presentation elements is through Internet Protocol (IP) transmission. Well-established IT networks in academic, corporate, and — increasingly — house-of-worship environments offer a ready-made highway for AV-control signals that typically generate far less bit traffic than email and other traditional office applications.

The central element in the AV and IT convergence lies in the fact that IP networks facilitate a common language of configuration and conveyance for an even broader market — including digital signage, corporate podcasts, broadcasting, and videoconferencing. Evidence of this can be seen in the steadily increasing IT influence on certification requirements for AV technicians and system integrators. Skills such as IP submasking and hard tools such as RJ-45 connectors and network analyzers have migrated from the toolboxes of IT engineers to those of the AV techs.

The large, proprietary IP-based AV-control systems still rule the roost in market share with their ability to provide a total package from nuts and bolts right up to processors and control panels. Of course, one negative factor in those systems still offers a niche for companies supplying more generic solutions that tie together common, off-the-shelf hardware items: On a large deployment in a multiple-classroom situation such as a university campus, what happens if the flush-mounted touchpanels installed in all those classrooms are discontinued and no follow-on model of the same size is offered? Break out the saws and wood files.

Something else to consider is the fact that when each conference office or classroom had its own IR remote-operated projector, replacing or upgrading it with a new make and model meant simply laying another remote on the table. But now, the control system must be reprogrammed with drivers for the new make and model of AV gear, provided the system manufacturer has one already. Fortunately, most of the big-name makers of IP-linked AV systems can make and deliver drivers for new equipment, but it is usually up to the client to thoroughly test it, report problems, and wait for an updated version to be delivered for installation. The moral of that story? Check the manufacturer's database of drivers before deployment of a large-scale upgrade — particularly in data projectors.

Still, the IP-based solution offers so many advantages that it has taken hold in both the proprietary hardware systems and those with off-the-shelf hardware solutions. Let's have a look at what the fast-growing market currently holds in both of these persuasions.


Technology Showcase: IP-based AV Control Systems

Mar 1, 2008 12:00 PM, By Bennett Liles

Hardware options for centralized control.




AMX NI-3101-SIG

AMX NI-3101-SIG

THE MARKET

While some companies offer either a programmable hardware button control approach or a system using a configurable touchpanel, Altinex markets a very customizable system centered on the company's MultiTasker. The MultiTasker exists as a rackframe unit with a selection of client-ordered slide-in cards and a front panel that can take the form of a hardware button panel in a wide range of configurations. A series of smaller satellite control button panels such as the DS801-301 and the ISM5000-W can be mounted in user locations to operate the central MultiTasker remotely. The DS801-301 has 11 buttons, a control dial usually programmed for volume control, an IR receiver, two RS-232 ports, and a serial-to-Ethernet port. The Altinex AV control system can also incorporate a touchpanel, and it uses the AVSnap software application to design and configure the system. MultiTasker's slide-in cards include a huge range of functions, and its controllers communicate with devices through RS-232, TCP/IP, USB, or RF. Customization and future expansion are fine points of the Altinex AV control system.

The AMX NI-3101-SIG packs a lot of control capability into a 1RU space. With its rack ears removed, the unit is designed to sit on a tabletop or shelf, and its glossy black face and blue/white LED panel indicators accentuate its appeal in the home theater market. The blue LEDs light up to show proper connection and blink when receiving Ethernet data packets. However, its home-theater-style appearance conceals the fact that the NI-3101-SIG has 32-bit processing power and a 64MB onboard RAM for some very heavyweight command stream handling capability. The unit has eight IR/serial ports; eight digital I/O ports; eight single-pole, single-throw relays; six configurable RS-232/RS-422/RS-485 serial ports using DB-9 male connectors; integrated USB programming; and a diagnostics port. It operates on either of two communication networks: AxLink or 10/100 Ethernet. The Ethernet protocols used include ICSP (a peer-to-peer protocol used for both master-to-master and master-to-device communications), ICMP, HTTP, and FTP. A four-position DIP switch is also used for configuration. Each of the digital I/O ports is capable of sensing 0VDC to 5VDC, and the input format is software selectable. The serial ports are terminated on two 8-pin mini-Phoenix connectors.

Aurora Multimedia has taken the generic hardware and widest compatibility approach with all its AV-control systems. The WACI NX+ E2 can control up to 60 separate devices through IR and RS-232 in a multiple-OS-compatible platform. The unit's capabilities can grow with demand through the use of WACI NX expansion bus add-on packs, which include hard disk storage, battery backup, and streaming audio and video features along with the additional ports. Programming may be done in Flash, HTML, DHTML, SOAP, XML, CGI, RPC, and Visual Basic, and the internal web server is compatible with Microsoft Internet Explorer, Netscape, Firefox, and Apple Safari web browsers. Built-in diagnostics and an advanced event manager allow for configuration and equipment testing. The NX+ E2 also offers built-in network security features including encryption and password-protected multiple access levels with intelligent remote Telnet capabilities, and the unit provides the WACI NX controller with 12 serial ports, 12 relays, 12 IR/RS — 232TX ports, and 12 DSP I/O ports. By adding Aurora WACI PODs, the control system can be expanded almost without limit within a network. It is possible to provide full control for hundreds of rooms from a single WACI NX control processor.


Technology Showcase: IP-based AV Control Systems

Mar 1, 2008 12:00 PM, By Bennett Liles

Hardware options for centralized control.




Calypso Control Systems Ion-16i

Calypso Control Systems Ion-16i

Calypso Control Systems follows the universal compatibility theme with its Ion series of intelligent AV controllers. These may function as standalone controllers or as components in an IP-integrated network based on open architecture. The low-cost devices such as the Ion-16i controller use the Calypso c_Link for hyperlink control from a wide variety of third-party software applications — including Microsoft PowerPoint, Windows desktop icons, and other hyperlink-friendly software applications. Controlled through its onboard web server, the Ion-16i and other Ion controllers function on an embedded 128-event-by-512-action database to translate the incoming links to schedule and coordinate outbound events. The Ion-16i offers an RS-232 port and 16 inputs on block terminals, along with the RJ-45 port for Ethernet connectivity. A blue LED indicates the power state, and an amber LED shows input activity on this simple but versatile 12V, 4W unit.

Primarily marketed for cinema chain and postproduction house automation, the Christie ACT from Christie Digital Systems is a 2RU chassis with seven non-isolated, general-purpose I/O posts with a 12V rail; 14 SPST relays; 16 opto-isolated bidirectional inputs; RS-232, RS-422, and Ethernet connections; and a realtime internal clock. The front panel offers status LEDs and a USB connection for a local computer interface once the rackmounted chassis is in place, and it contains eight hot buttons and integrated web services. As is now typical with such systems, the unit can be configured and controlled through IP with a common web-browser user interface. This can be used to set up predefined scripts for up to 8 channels of programmable manual actuators. An expansion slot with a D-sub, 9-pin connector allows for future growth.

Crestron 2-Series control systems are well established, and they form a product group that is very adaptable in the capabilities provided. At the top of the 2-Series line is the Pro2 dual-bus control system for medium to large installations offering six COM ports, eight IR/serial ports, eight I/O Versiports, eight isolated relay-contact closures, and optional Ethernet connectivity. The 32-bit Freescale ColdFire processor works with a 40Mbps Y-bus to provide fast control operation, while the 300Mbps Z-bus supports fast Ethernet linking. The unit communicates with touchpanels, lighting controls, and keypads through the Cresnet interface. Ethernet connectivity provides a link for centralized control, monitoring, diagnostics, and programming through Crestron RoomView, SIMPL, and VTPro software applications. The onboard web server and email client allow very easy remote monitoring and email alerts with both static and dynamic IP addressing. The unit can provide expansion capability when configured as a Cresnet slave device. SNMP, SSL, and NAT support augment the unit's ability to be centrally managed and monitored by the Crestron RoomView application, which allows event scheduling and conditional email alerts.


Technology Showcase: IP-based AV Control Systems

Mar 1, 2008 12:00 PM, By Bennett Liles

Hardware options for centralized control.




Cue USA ipCue-epsilon

Cue USA ipCue-epsilon

New to the Ethernet-enabled controller family of products from Cue USA, the Motorola ColdFire processor-based ipCue-epsilon sports a very versatile array of control interfaces. On its captive screw ports, the unit supplies two bidirectional RS-232 ports; one bidirectional RS-485; eight infrared serial outputs; and eight general-purpose I/Os that can be configured as analog inputs, digital outputs, 0V to 10V analog outputs, and 24V relay outputs. The ipCue-epsilon also contains a realtime clock and an internal web server that allows graphical monitoring and control of all ports from a standard web browser. Front-panel LEDs indicate power state and activity on Cuenet, CPU, and all control ports. Internal IR sensors can take commands from handheld remotes, and a 5V output has been added for powering external low-voltage equipment. WXL web-compliant programming makes touchpanel control and custom design of touchpanel surfaces possible. The ipCue-epsilon is aimed at single- and multiple-room control scenarios. Support for Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) ensures a secure environment. Memory expansion is possible using any Type II CompactFlash card up to 4GB.

As the hardware component of the Dukane ConVA media control system, the ConVA protocol converter takes one of three forms depending on the size of the job. Each unit has an Ethernet RJ-45 port that connects to a network for centralized control and monitoring. The converter passes the commands through RS-232, IR, or relay closures to the various devices to be controlled. These include sensor inputs that can interrupt or be polled by another network device. The base model provides a power input, network connection, a serial port, and three independent IR outputs or sensor inputs. Coupled with this hardware, the ConVA software allows realtime monitoring, asset management, and logging along with a welcome screen, schedule wizard, and preferences setup.

Extron Electronics MLC 226 IP

Extron Electronics MLC 226 IP

The Extron Electronics MLC 226 IP is deployed in a wide array of applications, including university classrooms and corporate boardrooms. The unit can be flushmount into a wall or podium or go into a surface box for control of up to six AV sources, motorized screens, and lighting. Six relays can be programmed to activate in conjunction with any button on the unit, and display control is set up through Extron's huge library of display drivers using IR and RS-232 control. The MLC 226 IP has an internal web server for remote control/monitoring, which can be programmed to send email alerts in the case of display disconnect, lamp burn-out, or high lamp hours, among other events. Digital inputs can sense switch closure from external devices and activate any function automatically. Events can also be set on a time schedule and activated in a sequence by manual button control or external switch closure. There is also an inactivity timer for display cut-off and a front-panel security lockout. Button illumination can also be programmed for flashing pattern and color.

FSR RN-8200

FSR RN-8200

The RN-8200 Room Navigator from FSR offers a versatile array of switching control capabilities including 4×1 RGBHV video, 8×1 composite video, and 8×1 S-Video at a standard 75Ω impedance and 8×1 audio switching. It also offers device control through four serial ports, four IR ports, four contact closure ports with IP remote control via an internal web server, and RS-232. RN-ARP wall plates enable remote control from various local user locations, and COM ports allow computer control from adjacent locations. Relay outputs allow lighting control, and stereo sound outputs can connect directly to the unit on four 10-position pluggable screw terminals to provide balanced or unbalanced stereo or mono audio outputs at a nominal 0dBu level. On the Ethernet connection, compatible network protocols include TCP/IP, SMTP, ARP, DHCP, HTTP, ICMP, and Telnet. The FSR RN-8200 is intended for classrooms, training rooms, meeting facilities, lecture halls, and boardrooms.


Technology Showcase: IP-based AV Control Systems

Mar 1, 2008 12:00 PM, By Bennett Liles

Hardware options for centralized control.




The Mediatech ControlMate can control up to four RS-232, four IR devices, and four contact-closure devices. The MT-444-CM-SL model has the Ethernet port in addition to the standard RS-232 control port. All models come with a Windows-based software application for easy control and configuration setup. On the SL model, an internal web server with pre-configured virtual control panel allows the LAN-based remote control. The unit also contains a built-in IR learner with 60 internal command storage locations and non-volatile storage for all settings and stored commands. Control capabilities include multiple mixed-command sequences, programmable delays, toggling command functions, and time-elapsed auto execute functions such as auto shutdown. Relay functions include set/reset, toggle, timed pulse, and combinations, and the relay states are indicated by LEDs on the front panel. Each unit may be assigned an individual address for future expansion.

The DigiLinX IP-based AV control system from NetStreams introduces centrally stored audio on the Streaming Music Manager, digital conversion of up to four analog audio sources on the MediaLinX Pro MLA4000, and IP audio/video encoding from legacy sources on the MediaLinX A/V MLAV300. The system centrally switches these signals on the SwitchLinX SW208/SW324/SW1024/SW1048 family of fast Ethernet switches using Internet Group Management Protocol (IMGP). The system is powered by the PowerLinX PL750/PL600 intelligent power supplies, which distribute power to components through the system. The TouchLinX TL430 and TL700 in-wall touchscreens can be custom-programmed to meet the demands of any installation using a variety of designer skins to provide a professional appearance. Amplifiers, IP cameras, IP speakers, media players, intercoms, and other devices may be controlled from any location on the system, their signals distributed wherever needed and setup using automatic device discovery.

For lighter and simpler AV control needs, the Sena LS100 control interface allows generic RS-232 control at up to 115Kbps through either a wired 10BaseT Ethernet connection or 802.11b Wi-Fi. Configuration is made on either the serial port or by Telnet on the RJ-45 using the included Windows-based management software application. Front-panel LEDs show ready status, link, and activity for Ethernet, serial receive/transmit, and power. The unit also supports both 64-bit and 128-bit WEP security. Compatible protocols include ARP, IP/ICMP, TCP, Telnet, DHCP client, and PPPoE. The unit includes a quick start guide, external 100V or 230V power supply, serial data cable, and CD-ROM.

Designed for AV control in small- to medium-sized venues or home theater, the Xmonopro from Vity has an imaginative array of control protocols in its repertoire. The rackmount unit can be operated by a Vity touchpanel, such as the Tactum or Tac models, or driven directly by computer by way of its RJ-45 LAN port for 10BaseT Ethernet. There is also the MBC bus for daisy-chaining multiple units, and options include an infrared emitter and even an X-10 bus for device control over existing power lines. The Xmonopro can also sense digital inputs on eight dry contacts using up to 24VDC at 50mA on Phoenix contact connections. There are also eight analog feedback connections using 0V to 36V and six infrared inputs through 3.5mm jacks. There are eight 24V output relays, eight 0V-to-10V outputs with 256 dimming levels, and six infrared outputs. RS-232 serial control exists on six DB-9 connectors, and there are three balanced or unbalanced VCA audio volume controls. Power connections include 12VDC terminals on the rear panel.


For More Information

Altinex
www.altinex.com

AMX
www.amx.com

Aurora Multimedia
www.auroramultimedia.com

Calypso Control Systems
www.calypsocontrol.com

Christie Digital Systems
www.christiedigital.com

Crestron
www.crestron.com

Cue USA
www.cueusa.com

Dukane
www.dukcorp.com

Extron Electronics
www.extron.com

FSR
www.fsrinc.com

MediaTech
gomediatech.com

NetStreams
www.netstreams.com

Sena
www.sena.com

Vity
www.vity.com/eng


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