InfoComm 2016: AV-over-IP steals the show
InAVate APAC and EMEA editorial teams report from an InfoComm energised by key product launches and wide-ranging positive market outlook.
In terms of visitor numbers InfoComm 2016 fell slightly short of the 39,105 figure reported from the 2015 show. It’s hard to draw comparisons however when the yearly events alternate between locations on the East and West coasts of America and the 2016 figure of 38,833 represented a 4.8% increase in visitors compared to the last time the show was held in Las Vegas (2014).
And, whilst visitors were down, exhibitors, confidence and product launches were most certainly up. InfoComm now has to share the stage with ISE as a show where new technologies are unveiled. Whilst that fact is still evident, a number of manufacturers used the show to reveal key launches, which you can read about here.
Those launches were arguably dominated by AV-over-IP technologies. We’ve been aware that this is where the market has been heading for a number of years but the technologies to achieve that aim are growing in sophistication and in number. We’re also seeing vendors elbowing their way into a wider range of markets - whether through acquisition or product development – to offer products that would not have been considered within their competencies just months before this show.
The world is also becoming a smaller place with global enterprises demanding standardised global systems. The evidence of integrators responding to this reality was clear at InfoComm 2016. The Global Presence Alliance, staged events to engage 24 members from around the world. UK headquartered integrator AVMI also revealed the opening of a New York office to further expand its global network. And further up the channel, US distributor Almo headed to the show fresh off the back of buying IAVI, which expands its presence into Latin America. Perhaps more global expansion will follow.
InAVate.TV also covered the show and InAVate APAC joined forces with Hewshott International to stage a round table event during the exhibition.
AV-over-IP and the rise of the ‘one-stop-shop’ provider
InfoComm 2016 was the year of AV over IP. The show was dominated by a flurry of video-over-IP launches that also included some newcomers to the market.
Both Biamp and QSC made steps into video distribution. Biamp, with the introduction of the TesiraLux that uses AVB; and QSC by bringing video into its Q-Sys system. The latter also introduced its own PTZ camera.
The Biamp product delivers 4K60 4:4:4 video transmission, which the manufacturer claims is visually lossless, guaranteeing a total system latency of less than two frames (33ms at 60Hz), including scaling, compression, and network transit over AVB. According to Chris Fitzsimmons, product manager at Biamp, Lux has been in the works for close to 10 years while engineering efforts began in 2013.
As previously mentioned, TesiraLux uses AVB and 10 gigabit infrastructure to distribute video. Fitzsimmons stated that the company's decision to go with AVB for its products was made due to the ‘V’ in AVB which ensured future video transmission over the same networks would be a possibility. AVB also has bandwidth reservation tools that help with bandwidth management.
Support for HDMI 2.0 and DisplayPort is available with TesiraLux. The product also has its own built-in scaler which can change resolutions and well as framerates according to the wishes of the user. Proprietary compression with manual presets also gives the user further control over the transmission of video signals.
An interesting feature on the Lux is Lip Sync which ensures that video and audio signals are in-sync even after being transmitted through different paths over the same network. Fitzsimmons said that this was made possible by the fact that both the audio and video signals can now be managed with Biamp Tesira products.
Aside from the Biamp launch, InfoComm 2016, was a landmark event for AVB. While TesiraLux made the promise of video transmission without dedicated networks a reality; it was the announcement from Cisco that AVB Ethernet switches will be available for use that will have a greater impact and ramifications. With the introduction of an AVB Ethernet switch the core component for AVB infrastructure is now available to ICT and system integrators. The hope is that this translates into greater adoption of AVB on the ground.
While Biamp and QSC were busy entering the world of video, Crestron introduced the Avia DSP to add audio control to its range of products. Dennis Fink from Crestron stated that the manufacturer looked at the deployment, integration, usage and maintenance of DSPs and thought it could improve on the market’s present offerings.
The Avia seeks to help integrators with the task of acoustic room tuning and audio performance. A particular feature that Fink was keen to highlight was the ease with which Avia allowed programming of DSP channel strips as well as setting up GUIs for DSP controls.
The Crestron DM also received Dante blades to further support Crestron’s move into audio verticals.
Other notable introductions at InfoComm 2016 from Crestron were 4K60 transmitters and receivers over fibre which are also HDCP 2.2 compliant.
Harman showcased a range of new products across its multiple brands. Of particular interest was an AMX Enzo showcase with a Microsoft Surface Hub. Enzo allows extension of mobile connectivity and the latest feature to be added is VOD support courtesy of Vision 2. This now allows Enzo to also deliver IPTV services.
Harman was also demonstrating a technology concept where SVSi video transmission products were integrated with BSS DSP products leveraging AS67 standards. The purpose of the demonstration was to showcase how Harman products can function together to manage both the audio and the video streams.
Over at the Kramer booth the Israeli manufacturer was making moves to transition from a box supplier to a software company. Kramer Control is a new platform that was introduced and it has been built and designed for enterprise data management and reporting. From the dashboard users can access the platform and get information, data and reporting regarding AV products in use. They can also diver deeper and setup alerts as well.
Kramer Network is an AV-over-IP virtual matrix switcher that was also showcased at InfoComm. The software manages any H.264 encoders and decoders that are on the network and acts as an enterprise management platform, accessed via a web based interface.
Diversification was a major theme as multiple manufacturers released products that brought them into new product verticals. The Holy Grail for manufacturers in the professional AV industry seems to be becoming a ‘one-stop-shop’ for all of a client’s AV needs and, for some of the larger players, that may be because AV-over-IP is allowing some younger, smaller companies to cause ripples in the market.
Among the other notable launches was Atlona’s Omnistream, a line of networked AV products designed for integrating and distributing 4K/UHD video, audio, and RS-232 control over Gigabit Ethernet networks employing off-the-shelf network switches. The five products that comprise the range offer dual-channel encoding and decoding, 4K video compression with low latency and the ability to convey 4K video and Dante audio simultaneously over the same network.
There was also interesting news from RGB Spectrum, which unveiled its Zio technology that offers video and audio distribution over an IP network. Zio endpoints attach to a 1Gig Ethernet switch, with encoders accepting computer and video signals at resolutions up to 4K, and decoders for feeding displays.
Continuing to assert its presence in this space, ZeeVee showcased its ZyPerMX HD IP video encoder that uses industry standard H.264 (MPEG4) encoding technology, and provides a bridge between the company’s high definition iSeries and the 4K/UHD ZyPer4k products.
While visitors were faced with a huge choice of AV-over-IP technologies, AptoVision wanted to demonstrate the capabilities of the different codecs that are used to send AV over Ethernet networks. In a shoot-out the chip manufacturer demonstrated its BlueRiver NT+ technology against VC-2, H.264/265 and MPEG 2000. The company’s demonstration did show superior picture quality and lowest latency served by the BlueRiver NT+ chipset.
The newly launched Sony LED display called Canvas drew a huge crowd at the show. The Canvas display is composed of Sony’s CLEDIS (Crystal LED Integrated Structure) technology, which offers a pixel pitch of ‘around’ 1.2mm (Sony wasn’t giving an official figure). Sony says the ultrafine RGB LED pixels used in the tiles are 1/100th the size of a traditional LED pixel. Shown in a massive 8k x 2k resolution measuring nearly 10 metres wide, it was undoubtedly impressive in the flesh. Given it is not due to be available in Europe till Q1 2017, the finished product should be even better than the one on display at InfoComm 2016, which had the odd issue with handling high-motion content.
Another interesting launch in the displays area came from Barco, which introduced RGB laser-powered rear-projection video walls. The Flagship laser series looked visually stunning at the show with Barco explaining the units do not use rotating phosphor/colour wheels.
On what was the best looking stand at the show - a cross between the Starship Enterprise and an Apple store - Christie was launching Mystique, a suite of tools including software, hardware and services. Created to support the design, installation, and operation of sports venues, entertainment venues and attractions, Mystique provides pre-visualisation tools, including VR technology and 3D printed scale model systems, camera-based alignment tools and system-level monitoring. Christie Mystique consists of the three parts; Design, Install and Operate. Design helps integrators create a virtual environment to test content either through VR or a physical model. Install provides warp and blend tools to align multiple projectors in a range of configurations (CAVES, domes etc). Operate provides tools to meet the operational requirements in visitor attractions, stadiums or other large venues by monitoring ‘system-level’ metrics that can’t typically be monitored by individual projector monitoring tools. It’s a great example of a manufacturer listening to the needs of integrators and responding accordingly.
Probably unsurprisingly the area that seemed to feature the biggest leaps in innovation was the Unified Communications and Collaboration (UCC) Pavilion. Everyone we spoke to there said business was improving year and year, and clever products were either being launched, or updated throughout the pavilion during the show.
One interesting update on a product was Nureva’s Span collaboration system. The company is an interesting one as it is headed up by ex-Smart founder Nancy Knowlton, so she brings with her a wealth of interactive experience. Span resembles the old Polyvision Thunder system, which allows multiple projectors to create a wall on interactivity. To simplify the product somewhat, it resembles an electronic interactive version of putting Post-It notes on a flipchart. Based in the Cloud, Span 1.3 now allows users to capture screenshots from their web browsers and other applications without leaving Spa. Canvases may now be duplicated to allow break-out groups to work on their ideas, starting from the same point or to serve as a template for future work.
Coming from the same standpoint, but on a far grander scale, was MultiTaction which was showing its impressive MT Canvas system. It’s a very high-end product, which was one of only a handful to be addressing the corporate need to harness big data. The functionality of the system was extensive, without being overbearing, and during the demo it was clear it could bring a visual element to what can sometimes be a complicated subject.
Also making noises in the UCC pavilion was Logitech, who has been very price aggressive in the normally high-cost VC world. Alongside its Group video conferencing system and Conference Cam Connect products, it was adding a plethora of new members to its Logitech Collaboration Program, including Pexip, InFocus, and Smart Technologies. It was with new partner Pexip that Logitech announced a rather cool tie-up. Using the NFC inside Logitech’s ConferenceCam series, and the Pexip Infinity Connect Mobile app on a phone users can walk into a room and join a video meeting in just 3.87 seconds (their timings by the way, not ours, but we saw a demo and it was very quick).