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Standards-based AV Infrastructure Over IP

By David Chiappini, Executive VP of R&D at Matrox and Chair of AIMS' Pro AV Working Group, and Samuel Recine, VP of Sales – AV/IT Group; Americas & Asia Pacific, Matrox

The market for professional AV technology and services has leveraged technological progress from multiple fields to drive down costs while simultaneously adding new capabilities in many applications each year. The most advanced installations always find creative ways to use technology to achieve what was previously impossible.

Some technological advances are more disruptive than others however.

AV over IP alters the limits of what can be done in an unprecedented way. The scope changes from thinking “across the campus” to “across nations”. It enables the convergence of data, live communications, and performance media over a common transport protocol inviting everything from disruptive cost compression to completely new applications.

The problem is that AV over IP is still in the stage of an undisciplined market, supporting hundreds of manufacturers, doing a lot of redundant development on quasi-identical products and workflows.

It’s not all negative: product costs have continued to improve incrementally owing mostly to extreme competition amongst the manufacturers. However, the true scale of AV over IP remains unlocked as most IP-based AV infrastructure product offerings today have remained proprietary.

Correspondingly, the AV integration services market has judiciously focused on helping organizations pursue the new capabilities without a particular bias towards hardware or software, nor whether ingredients for their projects come from the IT market, Pro AV market, or other. But there is a large efficiency gap here too. The service channel spends extended development cycles getting products to work together that fundamentally should work together automatically already.

Several attempts to create de-facto standards using proprietary implementations are engaged. But, like the PC market, it is extremely unlikely that these products and tools can anticipate and sustain all the needs of contemporary workflows and provide a road map that incorporates technological advancements from dozens of fields.

What is extremely likely to happen instead is that the multi-billion dollar Pro AV market will be pushed into better discipline and that R&D will be squeezed towards adding genuine value on networks of open standards-based and highly interoperable products.

Decision criteria for widgets will increasingly shift towards products that are compatible with each other without any programming services required.

And the role of integrators and service providers will continue to move towards exposing new man-machine capabilities in productivity and new wow-factor applications that continue to push the boundaries of inspiration and creativity.

For the consideration of readers, here are the likely economic camps:

Organizations that are likely to be slightly or strongly motivated towards open standards Organizations likely to be initially hesitant or possibly opposed to open standards
End users (enterprise, government, and industrial) Organizations that just invested a lot of money into something personalized
Display companies Proprietary technologies marketed as de-facto standards but supported by few intellectual property providers
Network hardware companies Manufacturers that did not want to wait for an open standard and made heavy IP investments alone
Camera hardware companies Manufactures of baseband hardware
Software companies (companies that want to make software compatible with many products) Actors that disproportionately monetize the bridging of non-interoperable equipment, the maintenance of proprietary site implementations, and the costly overhauls between generations of proprietary technologies
Pro AV companies trying to accelerate the growth of the overall Pro AV pie
Core tech companies (companies that make processing such as GPUs, CPUs, FPGAs, etc.)
Organizations concerned with deeper road maps (evolution of security, 8K, etc.)
HDBaseT manufacturers looking for ways to expand their Pro AV reach in the future
Industries interested in cross-pollination

The next question is: “Are there any actual standards for AV over IP that the Pro AV market can adopt?”

The short answer is: not yet.

The only serious effort with momentum today is a proposed suite of standards called Internet Protocol Media Experience (IPMX).

This is already an extremely accomplished suite of standards. In the field of broadcast, the industry built up SMPTE ST 2110 and the related AMWA NMOS specifications over many years through vigorous involvement by broadcast end users and network stations, manufacturers, and service providers. IPMX is fundamentally a proposed extension to the ST 2110 suite of standards and the AMWA NMOS specifications aimed specifically at Pro AV workflows.

Directly responsible for driving the IPMX initiative is the Alliance for IP Media Solutions (AIMS), one of the advocacy groups for many of the standards that made it into ST 2110. From their web site directly: “AIMS is a non-profit trade alliance that fosters the adoption of one set of common, ubiquitous, standards-based protocols for interoperability over IP in the media and entertainment, and professional audio/video industries.”

Based off SMPTE ST 2110 and AMWA NMOS, IPMX is a new open standard for Pro AV workflows.

Other organizations that publish standards, including the Video Services Forum (VSF), have admitted IPMX into review and debate with industry stakeholders.

IPMX was announced at ISE in February 2020. This represents one of the first true signs that the market has begun to drive up interoperability of AV over IP, how to drive down costs, and how to implement robust security – all three of which are identical ingredients to how other technological boom cycles got their launch pads.

What remains unlikely, is that organizations will continue to build out AV infrastructures that they need to shed every few years to migrate capabilities.

What is equally unlikely is that the Pro AV market can continue to support hundreds of vendors building overwhelmingly the same thing.

And lastly: the integration and services layer is well-staffed and highly capable. They too will opt for better costs and interoperability and migrate their offerings to increased value-add that leverages open standards and build on top of it.

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