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Essential Install | Awesome Alliances

Ethernet? Who cares?

The SDVoE Alliance is a nonprofit consortium of technology providers collaborating to standardise the adoption of Ethernet to transport AV signals in professional AV environments. The aim is to create an ecosystem around SDVoE technology, allowing software to define AV applications. Here, president of the SDVoE Alliance, Justin Kennington, talks through the tech.

The SDVoE believes the resi market is ready for its tech. Photos courtesy of Savant

The residential consumer does not care about AV over IP. I am the president of the Software Defined Video over Ethernet Alliance (SDVoE), and I don’t think your customers care about this alliance’s technology simply because it is based on Ethernet. Ethernet permeates every piece of technology in the modern smart home. Wi-Fi thermostats, Apple TVs (and a host of other low-cost devices) streaming HDR content, internet radio, and cloud-controlled lighting are all mainstays of the custom install industry. In fact, in-home video distribution on a matrix switch is probably the only system left that is not fully Ethernet based. That is changing fast, now that the SDVoE Alliance has members like Savant, Techlogix, VuWall, Wyrestorm, and ZeeVee building products targeting the high-end residential install market. Why has video distribution been such a hold out? Because – say it with me – the residential consumer does not care about AV over IP. He cares about experience, about convenience, about cost, but not about underlying transport technology. And now that SDVoE is a part of the residential ecosystem, AV over IP can deliver all those things the homeowner cares about. One thing the homeowner cares a lot about is image quality, and specifically high dynamic range (HDR) video. SDVoE technology has offered support for HDR since the beginning of the alliance. In fact, HDR was considered a key use case in the design of SDVoE. This contrasts with point-topoint-only technologies like HDBaseT, which are scrambling to find ways to move HDR content (and force you to upgrade those matrix switch cards yet again!). But SDVoE is much more than a video transport technology. SDVoE is a complete platform for controllable video distribution. This platform allows software to define the system’s functionality, and therefore the user’s experience. This means that video distribution is no longer considered as a standalone subsystem, but rather as an integrated function of the home.

This makes it easy for hardware and software manufacturers to seamlessly integrate user interfaces as controllers for the video distribution system. Handheld remotes, wall stations, smartphones and tablets, and smart watches can all be integrated with ease to drive the distribution system. This could be something as simple as putting a ‘Watch TV’ button on a remote, or as sophisticated as using nearfield tracking to have a user’s favorite content follow their smartwatch around the premises. And all this intelligence can allow your video distribution system to exchange control and data with cloud-based services. This means easier system maintenance and management for the system integrator. When your client is having problems in the bedroom (ahem I mean with their TV), you will be able to communicate with the encoder, switch, and decoder behind their TV to analyse and repair the trouble. The central point of video distribution is that any screen in the environment can have any content delivered to it. In fact, with SDVoE, each screen is no longer limited to a single piece of content. The advanced multi-view capability of the platform means that any screen can be treated as a canvas where multiple pieces of content can be composited together. Whether this means popping up a doorbell camera on top of a movie when the doorbell rings, or displaying 2, 4, 9 (or more) sporting events at once is all up to the creator of the control software. In the old world of matrix switching, this functionality required dedicated image processors for each display wanting this capability, plus several outputs of your matrix switch dedicated to each tiling display. As you can imagine, this was very expensive and typically limited to a small number of displays. SDVoE brings more advanced capabilities for a lower cost than the old ‘hardware-defined’ approach. Ever had a client with an 8x8 matrix switch ask to add a 9th display? Of course you have – and they got upset when they found out what it would cost to upgrade to a 16x16 just for that one extra display. With SDVoE and 10G Ethernet, expansion is easy. In the Ethernet environment, there is no such concept as ‘input’ or ‘output.’ A switch port is just a switch port, and you might connect an encoder or decoder to it. Furthermore, if you do run out of ports on your first Ethernet switch, it is easy to expand an Ethernet network by adding a second switch – no need to throw out the first one. The residential consumer does not care about AV over IP. But the SDVoE platform is about much more than AV over IP. SDVoE is a platform for making installers’ lives easy, and for creating the best user experiences possible, from the boardroom to the bedroom. SDVoE Alliance +1 514 446 2412, sdvoe.org

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Essential Install February 2018  
Essential Install February 2018