Finding Interconnectivity Technologies
to Simplify Our Complex Systems
Anthony Grimani (email@example.com) is
president of Performance Media Industries,
with offices in Novato and San Anselmo, CA.
One of the biggest challenges facing
our industry is finding a way to simplify
connectivity and control for the
sophisticated systems that we design and
install. Operating even basic systems
can be so complicated that folks choose
substandard products, like home-theatersin-
a-box, just to make life easier. Even highend
systems can suffer poor performance
because the configurations and system
set-ups aren’t correctly integrating and
operating. I have repeatedly come across
audio systems from $100,000 upwards
that end up playing only 4-channel
Dolby ProLogic audio (downmixed from
a glorious 7.1-channel Dolby TrueHD
track) just because a flag in the HMDI
signal feed was set wrong by the matrix
So, for custom integrators, the real work right now is in developing and
implementing smarter and more robust connectivity and user interfaces.
In some cases we’re talking about finding ways to make the dreaded
HDMI pipeline work better. Of particular interest are the technology and
products of Silicon Image. These guys make chipsets for several functions of
connectivity, and they are very innovative. One of their initiatives is called
InstaPort. It allows super-fast switching of HDMI sources. They essentially
keep all the HDMI feeds active at the input side of the switching circuit.
This eliminates the handshaking and signal arbitration time that keeps us
waiting for seemingly interminable periods. InstaPort technology also offers
an upgrade called InstaPrevue that allows a picture-in-picture preview of the
signals feeding into the products. Another connectivity innovation is MHL,
Mobile High Definition Link, which provides high def surround sound AV
interface and connectivity for mobile devices right into the AV system through
a simple HDMI-like cable, which also powers the device.
For those systems where wiring an HDMI link to the
TV just isn’t possible or convenient, Silicon Image
developed chipsets for its WirelessHD standard–
running wireless HD signals at 60 GHz from a
source switching device to the display device.
The Altec Lansing LIVE 5000 Wi-Fi speaker is one
of several wireless AV connectivity initiatives that
leverage the ubiquitous adoption of Wi-Fi in the
residential environment to feed audio and video signals
from Wi-Fi enabled devices.
Airplay and Wi-Fi
Also of interest is a series of wireless AV connectivity initiatives. Some
of these leverage the ubiquitous adoption of Wi-Fi in the residential
environment to feed audio and video signals from Wi-Fi-enabled
devices. Apple’s AirPlay is one such technology that has been growing in
popularity for a while. It works well for simple applications involving the
distribution of one source to one destination. Altec Lansing LIVE goes
even further by offering multi-room and multi-user functionalities. It is
currently implemented in the LIVE 5000 Wi-Fi speaker. Further up the
ladder is FireCast by Blackfire Research, which supports full HD audio
and video, multiple sources and multiple destinations, with accurate signal
synchronization, low-latency delay, and powerful signal error correction
to get around the usual radio frequency hazards. The demo at CES was
very compelling and worked flawlessly within the totally saturated wireless
environment of the exhibit hall.
All of these technologies that ride on the Wi-Fi standard are of interest
to us in the custom residential space. To make them work properly, you
need to provide your client base with the right networking schemes–even
enterprise grade level–so that they are always on and always right.
I recommend looking for products that incorporate technologies and
chipsets that improve today’s connected lifestyles. They will make you
look better, please your clients, and improve the experience of navigating
and controlling sophisticated high-end AV systems. Leveraged correctly,
these technologies offer an opportunity to get through your work faster. If
getting a signal hop to happen with wires is too costly and time-consuming
for the client’s budget, then try a wireless solution.
Of course, be prepared to disclose that wireless can be subject to
interferences. If it is being chosen in place of actual wires to save time
or money, then some of the risk should be on the homeowner, too. Why
should you be left troubleshooting the flaky and inconsistent behavior
of wireless systems when the failures are only occasional and can’t be
reproduced or debugged?
Now that we have a quasi-universal adoption of HD video and multichannel
audio content, we are in an era of improved connectivity, with
simplified interfacing and control along with reliability. Keep your eyes
peeled for the products and vendors that are focusing their energy on
reliable interconnectivity, and pick their
products and technologies to keep you out
of trouble and margin loss.
Chase Walton contributed to this