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Joe Cornwall – AV Connectivity in an Information Technology World – Pt 1

Show 130, Pt 1

SVC Podcast – Show Notes – Show 130-1:

In this edition of the SVC Podcast, SVC Contributing Editor Bennett Liles talks with Joe Cornwall of C2G-LeGrand about his upcoming Infocomm courses. They include Universal Serial Bus for AV Design and Integration, Deploying USB, HDMI and DisplayPort Bus-Powered Solutions in AV System Design and wrapping up with AV Connectivity in an Information Technology World. Joe will be taking participants into all of these technology areas in-depth with the latest developments.

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From Sound & Video Contractor Magazine, this is the SVC Podcast with Joe Cornwall of C2G/LeGrand. Show notes for the podcast are available on the web site of Sound & Video Contractor Magazine at

USB and other AV connectivity options are proliferating so fast it’s getting confusing, but there’s a way to sort it all out. That’s by taking some courses on those topics at Infocomm and Joe Cornwall from C2G/Legrand is here to outline what you’ll learn when he lays it all out at the show. That’s coming up next on the SVC Podcast.

Joe, thanks for joining us for the SVC Podcast from C2G, formerly known as Cables to Go and I guess you would be the guy who knows all about connectivity and that’s what your Infocomm courses are all about.

I don’t know if I know all about connectivity. Yeah, C2G is now part of Legrand so I am the technology evangelist for Legrand North America which also encompasses not only C2G products but Middle Atlantic and our LDC data side with all of the wonderful products we make there for the data centers and the networks. So quite a large assortment of connectivity solutions we have. [Timestamp: 1:23]

I love the job title Technology Evangelist.

It definitely raises eyebrows. It’s a very unusual title in the hardware side of the world. It’s still unusual on the software side, but originally it came from the software world. This was a position that was actually pioneered by the likes of Steve Jobs and company; Guy Kawasaki probably the best known of the evangelists out there. And some day I hope to be operating at a level like those folks are. It’s a neat place to be because my job is to think about and talk and live with technology and train externally – go outside and talk about what we make and how it’s going to affect the industry, and also to look internally. So I look at the industry and come back and talk to various elements and stakeholders within Legrand and talk about emerging technologies and emerging trends and see how we’re best positioned to make sure that we’re a part of that. [Timestamp: 2:18]

All right. That is very much a two-way street and I’m sure that in addition to teaching, you learn quite a bit on this, too.

Indeed. In fact I will tell you that teaching is how I learn. That’s what got me here in the first place. I would find something that I needed to know more about and in the course of educating myself I thought boy, probably a lot of other people have these questions too. Let’s go ahead and make a class out of it. So that’s how that came to be. [Timestamp: 2:42]

So how long have you been teaching these courses at Infocomm now?

I’ve been teaching for Infocomm specifically for, I’m going to say, six years now. I think it was about six years ago I did my first Infocomm class at the show, a manufacturer’s training class. We started about that time ago doing webinars for the good of the industry. The webinars we present are technology webinars, not product related. So I would say that I’ve been doing this for a solid six years with Infocomm. [Timestamp: 3:07]

And you can’t just record and playback these courses. The technology has changed quite a bit during that time.

Oh my gosh, if you just go back just five years ago I was talking about well, this thing called DisplayPort is really going to be moving into the industry and we’re going to see VGA being deemphasized and even going away. And people would look at me like, “Oh, that’s not going to happen.” And here we were in 2015 and in fact VGA is a legacy technology. DisplayPort is everyplace used to be and is going to become an even bigger part of our environment as we see the new USB type C technology move in which supports DisplayPort natively as part of its connectivity suite. So tremendous changes; a really great time to be in this industry because it’s just so fascinating. There’s so much happening so quickly and it really does change the very fabric of our culture, I think. [Timestamp: 4:02]

And what has the response been in terms of the feedback from the attendees of these courses?

One of the things I do that’s a little unique is I definitely take the evangelist part of my title to heart. So I tend to be very, let’s say, animated when I teach these in person and even on webinars and the response is great. I think people really react to this level of excitement about the technology. I get a lot of comments, and one of my favorite ones is I’ll get somebody and they’ll just get this mad-me look on their face and I’m thinking I must have said something wrong. But then they’ll go, “You know, you solved a problem that I had two weeks ago. I wish I had talked to you two weeks ago because we were facing this very problem.” That’s probably one of the best forms of feedback is to see the light turn on and folks sit back and go, “That’s what that problem was! That’s what was causing all those headaches!” So there’s – the response has been universally positive and has encouraged me to make this a much bigger part of what I do. [Timestamp: 4:57]

And that makes these courses a great opportunity because out on the show floor things are pretty hectic and you can’t really maintain a long train of thought or carry on a conversation with people because they’ve got 45 people waiting to talk to them at the same time so the courses are the real opportunity at the show to get away, catch your breath, relax a little bit and really go one on one and go back and forth on Q and A with this stuff.

Absolutely. That is the truth of it. When you get onto the show floor you’re looking at products, you’re having a short discussion, it’s a noisy environment, and sometimes what you find is something you want to look into more later. The classes themselves are the looking into it later. So that’s really, I think, the core of the value, to a very large degree, of the show. And the exciting part, of course, is we’re seeing these classes take on, I guess, a new spin in that we’re really looking at much more advanced, much more technical topics. We’re going into a lot more depth that has much larger applicability across a lot of different places. So when we talk about, for instance, USB type C we’re not talking about a USB connector for the desktop. We’re talking about a technology that is going to influence the desktop. It’s going to influence our fixed AVS. It’s going to affect the way we look at unified and collaborative communication in huddle rooms and conference rooms and all of these things. So it’s going to be a good effect. [Timestamp: 6:21]

And you’ll go into that in depth with the course Universal Serial Bus for AV Design and Integration, your first course. I believe that’s Tuesday June 16th from 10:30 to noon.

I believe that is correct. And what’s so exciting about that is I think this is the first time that Infocomm has offered these advanced courses in a shorter format on Super Tuesday. Normally Super Tuesday was given over to full-day training programs. There’s a number of these more advanced classes that’ll be coming out on Super Tuesday and the first one I’m doing, the USB, is going to be a USB deep dive. So we will be going through things that we don’t normally think about as AV professionals. Where did USB come from? Why is it all of a sudden on every single product I touch? How can we leverage this and how is this going to grow? How is it going to affect the way power is distributed, for instance whether it’s at a teacher’s station or a podium? How is it going to affect the way devices are charged and plugged in and transmit their signals? So we look at everything from the history of USB, to the hierarchy of USB, to the backward compatibility because right now of course we’re living in a world where we have USB 1.1, which has two different speeds that it can operate at, USB 2.0, USB 3.0, USB 3.1.  We have a plethora of different connectors – type A, type B, mini, micro, type C. What do all these things mean and how do we put this into one package with a power delivery system that also has four different profiles that allow devices to interact with each other. So USB is a complex system and we’ll go through all of that. We will analyze power budgets. We’ll analyze tier bit hierarchy – the way that USB is organized as a pyramid. And all of this comes back to inform us when we’re installing, for instance, an interactive white board, an interactive projector, what’s making it interactive? That’s the USB part of the control. How do I troubleshoot that? How do I understand when it’s working right and when it’s not, because this is not really a traditional AV signal, is it? This is something new for us. [Timestamp: 8:27]

As you said, everything has USB on it now in one version or another and you really can’t get away from it but it has become more user friendly. In looking at all the latest hardware do you see USB extension being integrated into other things like AV switchers, controllers and things like that?

Oh, absolutely. I spent a fair amount of time this morning actually troubleshooting some issues with how do we get multiple USB end points off of a very sophisticated control system, because there’s really not a lot of guidance on this. We don’t – as an industry, we haven’t adopted USB as one of the signals.  We can talk about HDBaseT and HDMI and all of these things, but USB, well that’s sort of a computer thing isn’t it? And then maybe it’s not. Maybe it’s something different there. But it’s also going to be a part of the way we charge things. In the not-so-distant future your desktop will consist of a monitor that’ll have a power supply and your tablet or your computer, your cell phone, all these devices, will connect and charge and operate via a USB bus to this one end point. That end point could be a speaker’s podium, it could be on a teacher’s desk. It could be in a collaborative workspace on a conference table, or it could be in your home office. The technology is the same, the applications are different so for the 21st century integration professional, having a really deep understanding of the USB networking topology is a critical thing to have in the toolbox. And that’s really what that course is designed to deliver. [Timestamp: 9:58]

And while you’re pondering what you’ve learned in that course and you’ve got some time for lunch you can come right back and get into Deploying USB, HDMI and DisplayPort Bus-Powered Solutions in AV System Design. So what are you covering in that?

Well, I gotta tell you. Maybe I went a little bit overboard in writing the title for that one, but I wanted to make sure [Laughs] – you probably won’t see it on the best-seller list, but I wanted to make sure everybody understood what it was about. So let me give you an example because that’s the easiest way for us to talk about that class which takes place Tuesday afternoon. That’s also a 90-minute advanced course. When we look at, for instance, a cable that has a chip set in it – and I’m talking about things like FSR or Rainbow Fish or rapid run optical cable or any of these kinds of things where there’s a chip in a cable – that’s an embedded technology. It’s either a media convertor or it’s doing some equalization or compensation of some sort. Well those chips, by definition, they have to be powered by something and they’re usually powered by the bus, whether that bus is a USB bus – a universal serial bus; it’s right there in the name.  HDMI has a bus power.  It’s five volt, 55 amp that’s used to power some of the chip sets, for instance, in these specialized USB cables.  DisplayPort has a power bus that’s used to power the digital to analog converter, so if you want a VGA connector for your Microsoft Surface, you need to be concerned about how is that active chip set in that dongle being powered? A lot of failure points in simple installations revolve around a failure to adequately analyze what’s happening at a bus power level, anticipate the correct kind of power budgets and make sure that we have solutions in place and that we have the right kind of troubleshooting capabilities in place. So that class is really designed to analyze those three in particular, DisplayPort, HDMI and USB, but we will also touch lightly on – we’ll touch very early on the new USB type C – but we’ll touch lightly on things like HDBaseT as well and talk about how is DC power moving. I always open that class by telling a really simple story, but one I think so many people can relate to. And that is go back 150 years and we have Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla and they’re fighting for world domination. One of them is backing the idea that we’re going to distribute DC power on every street into every home, and the other one is saying – Nikola Tesla – no, it’s going to be alternating current. Of course Nikola Tesla went on to create the first AC power plant in Niagara Falls and we now have an AC electrical grid. So we know how that war was fought and won. But here, from the perspective of 2015, we’re back to distributing low voltage – DC power – for low-voltage lighting in these projects; low voltage to power devices at end points. HDBaseT, of course, has power built into it, so we need to now have as part of our AV scientist toolbox this ability to look at an analyze the way power is delivered across these connections in ways that we wouldn’t normally consider it when normally considering signal content and not the operational status. So once again, that’s a class that really does get into the nuts and bolts of our technology and looks at what can go wrong, what can go right, what can you do and how can you tell where the problem is coming from? [Timestamp: 13:26]        

And it seems like a lot of what can go wrong is the fact that there is just an ocean of little gizmos and adapters people can pick up and plug them into a cable somewhere, maybe try to go from analog to digital using nothing but a passive adapter and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.

Exactly. And then now you’re faced with standing in front of a client and your system works, or perhaps it works intermittently, and you don’t have a real explanation because we’re not really thinking in terms of how do we parse this bus circuit out and figure out what’s happening at that particular level. So that’s what that class is about. We spend a little bit of time talking about Ohm’s law and getting in touch with the inner geek in all of us as we look at some of these things. There’s not gonna be a lot of math involved. I’m not gonna take you down that path. But we do look at, I think surprisingly, a lot of the elements that make these devices operate; elements that are hidden from our everyday view. [Timestamp: 14:19]

And knowing the limitations of bus powering USB, HDMI and DisplayPort and I guess one of the trends in that is to be able to power more things and carry more power.

Oh, absolutely and just from a selfish perspective, right? If you’re installing a system and you’ve got a $20,000.00 gizmo connected to a $15,000.00 gizmo and in between the two of them is a $50.00 cable and the system doesn’t work, what’s the first thing that we’re going to point at? I’m a cable guy. [Laughs] So I had to look at this and go okay, how do I figure out a way to educate our customer base to educate the industry that here’s where these problems are coming from and it’s not that there’s – that any one particular product is as fault, but we are looking at bringing together technologies that weren’t really envisioned playing in the same sandbox. We’re expected to do this on command and to have these very complex systems work without question every time. And to do that we really do have to be thinking at this granular, detailed level so the more we tear it apart, the more we peel back the layers of the onion, the more we understand exactly what it’s composed of and how we can predict outcomes and how we can address shortcomings when they do occur. [Timestamp: 15:36]

And then to take what appears to be a somewhat wider view of everything it’s your third course, AV Connectivity in an Information Technology World. Tell us about that one.

Oh, that class is actually one of my favorite classes to deliver because it’s more of a standup comedy routine, I think, than technology sometimes. That class really came about from, once again, me trying to understand. We have all of these industry organizations. You have CompTIA, you have BICSI, you have Infocomm. You’ve got all of these groups that are out there. We have all of these various things that are happening in terms of is it an IP, is it a direct connection?  How are these things working? So I started looking at this and that class really takes us all the way back to Alexander Graham Bell and says here’s where we started. This is where telecommunications started. How did we get here in 2015? Let’s follow the path that brought us here. And along the way we have a little bit of this history lesson. How did we get to here? And once again you see the lights coming on, “Oh, that’s what that means.”  “Oh, that’s how that relates to me.”  And then about halfway through we shift gears and we go from the history lesson, how did we get here, to where are we going? What are the emerging technologies? What are the things that are going to change the way we do design and integration over the next 5 or 10 years? What does it really mean that DisplayPort is going to grow in size? What does it really mean that USB type C is going to be the connector of choice on mobile electronics and how does that affect BYOD? And how does that affect how I put together a classroom or a conference room? So that course really is – to me, it’s almost a performance because it is start with history, end with the future, and along the way I change hats from the professor’s hat to the fortune teller’s hat. So it can be a lot of fun. [Timestamp: 17:29]

Well, I guess that five years to project ahead in AV technology is really kind of hanging it over the edge but one of the things that I’ve already seen happening is functional integration; things that you had to get separate boxes to do and cable them all together in a chain. A lot of that’s being combined. Say, HDBaseT outputs are becoming fairly common on AV switchers.

Absolutely. They’re becoming common outputs on switchers, common inputs on projectors, but then we have to figure out what’s inside of that HDBaseT and how’s that going to affect the way we create these devices and what is this wireless thing anyway? And if I want to do wireless, what does that mean? We think wireless, we all think 802.11. We think Wi-Fi. But there are other wireless systems that are out there, so these are some of the technologies that we look at and kind of pull all this together. I don’t know that we’re gonna say that we’re going to put a fence around the pasture, but at the very least we’re gonna survey the pasture and figure out what land is ours and what land isn’t and what we should be focused on. So that’s the fun part of that class to me is really getting through and talking about how we’ve evolved and how we’re continuing to evolve as an industry. [Timestamp: 18:35]

Well, there you go. Attendees, get your names in early because I think these courses are going to have a full house. They cover so many things that people still have a lot of questions about so don’t be afraid to show up and ask what may seem like a dumb question.

Oh, no, no. In fact I encourage dumb questions. That’s how I got here is I had so many dumb questions I just kept asking them, that eventually somebody said well, you’re a technology evangelist. Go start answering some of those questions now. So by all means, one of the things I love to encourage in all of the classes is I’m not the kind of fellow who stands there with a boring lecture behind the podium. Trust me when I tell you I will be walking through the seats. My arms will be waving. You’ll be wondering how many Red Bulls it takes to be that excited about a piece of wire. And absolutely encourage questions throughout the entire event. I’m not the smartest guy in that room, I’m just the facilitator. The audience, that’s the smart folks in that room and if we all become part of the conversation then I think that we have a very interesting takeaway indeed. [Timestamp: 19:38]

Alright. Joe Cornwall with C2G/Legand, and some great courses on USB and the new AV connectivity options. You’re on the course schedule so everybody go to that on the Infocomm web site and make sure you grab a seat. Thanks for being with us.

Thank you so much; it’s been a pleasure. I’m looking forward to seeing everybody at the Infocomm show. Stop by the booth, the Legrand booth, the C2G booth.  Stop by and say hello. I’ll be there in between classes. I’d love to meet everyone.

Thank you for being here with us for the SVC Podcast with Joe Cornwall of C2G/Legrand. Show notes are available on the website of Sound & Video Contractor Magazine at Get with us again next time for the SVC Podcast.

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