WyreStorm on the challenges and opportunities of delivering AV over IP

After years of dominating the residential space, WyreStorm has successfully secured its seat at the table in the commercial world. Charlotte Ashley finds out how they did it, and what lies ahead for the AV over IP industry from product manager James Meredith.

Surprisingly, the career newly appointed WyreStorm EMEA sales manager and former product manager for the company’s NetworkHD AV over IP line, didn’t start in video technology. “I studied audio engineering at Anglia Ruskin University (UK),” explains Meredith. “When the iPod was released in my second year of studying it was a game-changer. There were no streaming services at the time and internet radio was in its infancy, so I was really focused on how I could make the future of audio better.”

Following graduation and joining a music server company, his first product management roles saw him overseeing the development of the company's first video server platform.  Subsequent experience in digital video distribution and control products lined him up perfectly the role held at WyreStorm for four years until taking over EMEA sales responsibilities from outgoing general manager, Adrian Ickeringill, in September.

James Meredith, WyreStorm NetworkHD and Control Product Manager headshot

“I joined WyreStorm just prior to a restructure in our approach to R&D and the overall AV market,” recalls Meredith.  “At that time, 80% of our sales were residential. We had a solid reputation as a specialist in HDMI and HDBaseT technology, with a 54% of market share of distribution in the CEDIA Region 1 market, which was more than double our closest competitor.” However, aware of the likelihood for residential market plateau and the opportunities offered in the commercial sector, the company sought to expand their reach.

“When it comes to distribution we’ve always been about giving options,” says Meredith.  “With 4K and transmission technologies advancing at such an incredible rate, we knew flexibility would be demanded by both pro AV and CI applications and an integrated multi-platform approach would be required."

WyreStorm’s solution was to create the three sub-divisions: WyreStom Custom Install for its residential business, the Express line aimed at the retail/end-user market, and WyreStorm Professional AV Solutions, focused on developing commercial offerings specifically for pro AV applications.

The company committed to a five-platform approach to product development; adding to its HDMI and HDBaseT technologies with its NetworkHD AV over IP line that now includes low bandwidth H.264 HD over 1GbE, low latency JPEG2000 4K over 1GbE and the soon-to-be-released uncompressed SDVoE 4K over 10GbE for full coverage across all AV over IP for pro AV and residential applications.

Meredith notes that repositioning the brand after widespread success in the residential industry was no small task. “Moving into the commercial space was challenging because we had to overcome the perception of us as a residential brand,” says Meredith.  “Of course, NetworkHD and our other commercially-focused HDBaseT and HDMI products were being specified with some progressive customers on board who bought into our vision for AV over IP early on. But we needed to work hard to persuade integrators of much larger projects to consider us alongside the brands they had used on previous projects. Overcoming early reservations about the brand and products so they could stand on their own merits has been vital - with the University of Hertfordshire's Science Building project completed last year a key landmark in WyreStorm and NetworkHD being embraced in the commercial realm.”

Meredith says key to making a successful transition was having a point of difference in the marketplace. “As well as being competitive in terms of price we wanted to maintain that choice in the AV over IP line, so we didn’t commit to just one or two technologies,” he says. “Every installation has different requirements and with so many technologies out there, there isn’t one technology to fit all scenarios.”

The resulting change in WyreStorm’s strategy has seen their commercial business grow approximately 50% - helped by an increase in the use video technology across all verticals meaning 300 display projects are no longer the novelty they used to be.  What started a six-person strong team has also now grown to a team of 50 working across the three separate AV over IP categories.

"What I’m finding at the moment is a disparity between how manufacturer and integrator understand integrated networks and how easy they are to do.”

There is still industry progress to be made according to Meredith, however.  He pinpoints lack of communication between the industry and its customers regarding full requirements of shifting to AV over IP as a significant challenge. “What I’m finding at the moment is a disparity between how manufacturer and integrator understand integrated networks and how easy they are to do.”  He adds: “Effectively, AV over IP can be installed on a switch with full control in minutes, but when dealing with financial and security corporations or a university campus with a network that needs to be online 24/7, the requirements are completely different. What should be a ten second power pull and two minutes of waiting for it to reboot actually becomes a two-day process.” Meredith concludes: “No one is having the conversation about the uproar that can cause in terms of testing and changes required. Too often people are learning the hard way, which can sour their experience of AV over IP."

Looking ahead, Meredith says the industry is going to see sources push the limitations of HDMI over the next two years. “The industry will either need to compress or change cable infrastructure to handle this increase in data rates,” he notes.

The development of 8K, Meredith states, will be a long, slow process, with the technology to facilitate its capture and post-production not yet in place. “Of course, by that period the draft standards of HDMI we currently have will be ratified and things will become more real at that point as we’ll be dealing with double or perhaps even quadruple the data we’re working with at the moment.” 

This, Meredith says, will usher in new technologies for compression and levels of efficiency that will shift AV over IP into the mainstream. “We’ll see the cost of switching components come down,” he concludes. “Category cable and fibre infrastructures will become commonplace for a greater amount and higher quality compressed content to be distributed. I’ve seen demonstrations for technologies like Dolby Cinema that have blown my mind, so it’s incredibly exciting to imagine what we’re going to see in terms of video quality in the very near future.”

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