So what is the AV-IT convergence? “A/V really refers to three different types of systems, and AV-IT convergence is the fact that they’re converging into one method of transport,” says Jason Koehler, principal at TK Design Solutions, Inc., in Los Angeles, Calif. “The first system is audio, the second is video and the third is data and control.” Originally these systems relied on disparate cable infrastructures, equipment and software, but bringing the systems together into a converged framework means more of this information travels over IT’s centralized data networks. Koehler says one side of convergence relates to infrastructure — the common cabling and switching equipment used to support the systems — and the other part is systems-based, “where now you have control units that can handle multiple types of inputs and understand the different things that are coming into them.” This is in contrast to the conventional architecture, where administrators manage each system separately.
At Hotel1000 in Seattle, a recent upgrade brought the facility to a new level of AV-IT convergence. Gary Fagerholm, the hotel’s manager of Information Technology, says the new infrastructure is based on Crestron hardware and Crestron-enabled applications. “It includes touchpanels on the walls, in the banquet rooms — things of that nature.” Before the convergence upgrade, Fagerholm says the environment was a “mixed bag,” with hardware that didn’t always work together efficiently and a lot of old cabling in the walls.
Managing Just One System Rather than Many
Legacy systems often rely on their own cabling infrastructure (coaxial wiring is a good example). Convergence gets rid of those different flavors of cabling, bringing everything onto the same wires used by the data network. “You’re managing only one system,” Koehler says. It’s a solution that allows for significantly greater flexibility and measurably lower costs. This shift to a single, holistic environment makes future growth and innovation more cost efficient and easier to implement on the infrastructure side. “You’re building network, not A/V systems,” Koehler says. Adding components is simplified, as is expanding the system to incorporate new facilities. Instead of relying on system-specific cabling that may not support the next generation of audio or video transmissions or new technologies, convergence enables greater flexibility.
The Hotel1000 team “pulled out a lot of old cable” as part of their upgrade, replacing outdated wiring with a more robust solution while they also “introduced some new IP switches that are a little more powerful,” Fagerholm says. These changes allowed them to bring more components into their converged system and get more efficient use out of their capital purchases.
The AV Technology Converged Environment
Wondering what a converged environment looks like? At Hotel1000, it’s all about interconnectivity. “We can control all the A/V, we can tune in to our TV channels, we can pull down our big screens, we can pull in the overhead music,” Fagerholm says. His team has also integrated new hardware components, such as iPod and iPad docking stations, to make the system more powerful and flexible for guests to use. “They can easily plug in their own content and get it streamed throughout the banquet rooms,” Fagerholm says.