Are you thinking of making the shift to A/V over IP, but you aren’t quite sure where your investment will have the best payoff? Industry experts say that there are three system-wide areas where A/V over IP can have an immediate, positive impact, and they aren’t limited to any one platform: scalability, flexibility, and diversity. As you evaluate your organization’s needs and available resources, consider the advantages you could gain in these three areas to ensure you haven’t underestimated the potential rewards.
Today’s requirements are important, but don’t overlook what tomorrow might bring. “It helps to have enough sufficient bandwidth long-term to accomplish not only what you want initially, but the demands that are forthcoming,” says Michael Schwartz, principal consultant at Deliberative Designs Consulting in Colorado Springs, Colorado. “There are more demands being dumped on the network all the time.” Many legacy applications have less sensitive requirements when it comes to delivery times, but supporting real-time distribution of A/V content requires a more robust network. When your infrastructure must meet increasingly demanding mission critical needs, an IP solution scales more efficiently than traditional configurations. “You’re sending out drops to IP addresses over the network in different buildings or different cities…but it’s absolutely critical that the signal arrives within a certain latency window,” Schwartz explains. “It really helps to have an IT group within a corporation that can appreciate what those demands are beyond the typical office IT demands.”
An IP network’s scalability refers not only to how much A/V content it can support — it’s also an important factor when it becomes necessary to add locations, either to increase the density of access points within a static environment or to branch out to new sites. “Because IP networks have become so commonplace throughout many facilities, it enables users, and of course installers, the ability to leverage existing infrastructure to transport audio and video,” says Paul Krizan, product manager, network media products at Richardson, Texas-based AMX. Rather than investing in all the components needed to expand a classic A/V solution, an IP environment allows administrators to consolidate equipment purchases and take advantage of shared cabling, networking equipment, and other hardware.
The ubiquitous nature of IP networks means that installers and system administrators are able to leverage existing infrastructure to support their audio and video needs, but the flexibility doesn’t stop there. “For users, it also creates the ability to store and retrieve content on-demand, and the ability to access A/V content on mobile devices, purchase, and displays,” Krizan says. Remote management of A/V sources and content is enabled once everything is