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SDVoE Looks Ahead

At InfoComm, the SDVoE announced another alliance member had joined; VuWall is a developer of video wall management software. One reason this matters, says Justin Kennington president of the SDVoE Alliance, is that VuWall is solely a software company.

VuWall becomes the 23rd member of an alliance that was founded by AptoVision, ZeeVee, Christie, Sony, NetGear, and Aquantia and debuted at ISE in February.

SDVoE is an acroynym for “Software Defined Video over Ethernet”. The SDVoE Alliance is a nonprofit consortium of technology providers. They’re collaborating to standardize the adoption of Ethernet to transport AV signals in professional AV environments, and to create an ecosystem around SDVoE technology allowing software to define AV applications.

“This is a new concept for the industry—and it’s not,” Kennington says. “It’s really just recognizing that this is where we’ve gotten to and putting a name on it.” AV technology can be focused on enabling applications, he says, rather than solely focusing on moving, processing, and integrating signal.

Like many (most) other technology alliances, the SDVoE wants to support and foster an ecosystem of interoperable products. (Though there is no licensing fee, all technology used by SDVoE is supported by the AptoVision chipset). That kind of goal is not new, in part it helps companies proliferate their technology and sales. In addition, it’s not practical to think about applications without knowing the underlying signal path is solid and repeatable. One way to do that is to bring companies together to rally around a single standard and/or technology.

Beyond good business, the driving viewpoint at SDVoE is something that’s increasingly important to the industry. It’s clearer all the time that the future opportunity is about understanding and providing applications and software. “The AV industry is ready to grow up and start looking at things the way other bigger industries do,” Kennington says.

By that Kennington means envisioning AV as a platform to enable the real value proposition. That value? AV software applications that can drive end users’ revenue, improve efficiency, or better support workflow. Most important, he says, the AV industry has to get closer to what its users are trying to accomplish at a high level and be ready to envision those solutions—usually in collaboration with IT people.

For SDVoE a big part of the vision, is decoupling the hardware from the software and helping its members differentiate on user experience and problem solving, rather than the more traditional arguments that tended to revolve around latency, speed, compression, and other technical comparisons and numbers.

“I feel we have gotten to a point where the transport itself isn’t the interesting part. I think AV over IP will just be inevitable; people will want to move everything over the Ethernet infrastructure. What’s sets SDVoE apart is moving the focus to a full Ethernet protocol stack solutions, all the way up to layer 7 which is the applications layer. Our standard API controls all the devices living in the network over the API. It guarantees that comm ports will talk,” he says.

Beyond that, the room for interpretation, the competition and differentiation comes through application software. “It’s absolutely in the manufacturers’ interest to differentiate. But they don’t have to differentiate at the layer of hardware.”

Kennington is a clear cut fan of 10G, and one agenda for SDVoE is to make the case for the ultimate cost benefits of 10G infrastructure; when all costs, including switchers and endpoints are taken into consideration and when all factors including cabling, legacy infrastructure, and future goals are included.

Kennington is also clear about where he stands on the latency, bandwidth, image quality tradeoff trifecta. “If you want to be on the right side of history you compromise with higher bandwidth, because over time bandwidth always gets cheaper. At no point in the future will we look back and say ‘I’m glad we stuck with 1G.’ “

Kennington says SDVoE is also committed to helping AV professionals stay relevant. He sees two critical areas there. “The people who will have the most success are the ones who understand the user experience. The consumer space is a good place to look to understand aspects of that kind of vision.” The other place to look, he says, is IT education and learning basic fluency in those concepts and terms. To that end, SDVoE is taking the next step from their ISE and InfoComm IT courses with a world tour of courses starting later this year.

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