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ISE 2019: Evolution Not Revolution

I – along with 80,000 of my closest AV industry friends – am just back from a week in Amsterdam at ISE 2019. Lots of folks talk about what an exhausting week a tradeshow like this is. Personally, with two kids in diapers at home, I find relaxation any time I can sleep a few hours with no one screaming in my bed. I’m refreshed!

To my eye, ISE 2019 was more about evolution than revolution, and that’s OK. We’re in the midst of two significant revolutions already. Instead the show demonstrated the growing influence of the two most recent technology disruptors: AV over IP and LED displays. ISE 2019 also showed us these two merged for the first time.

AV over blah blah blah

Is there any AV over IP news left? Sometimes it feels like every AV industry pundit starts their post-show wrap up by emulating this guy:

Yes, IP is here. Soon video will move entirely over IP networks. Yes, Ethernet always wins!

I am tired of watching the AV over IP space fragment. Every time a manufacturer declares a breakthrough with their proprietary encoders and decoders, an IT guy falls asleep. What’s attractive about IP is not cheap switches, and it’s not really fast-blinking activity LEDs. It’s the promise of interoperability. Interoperability is something that PC users, IT admins, and technology end users expect from every type of communications equipment that isn’t AV. How long will users allow AV to survive with the walled garden approach?

Of course, the SDVoE Alliance featured our platform’s interoperable capabilities at our booth, but I think the story is told even better by an independent third party. Lang AG is one of the most respected AV integration firms in the world, and their perspective on why interoperability matters is critical for our industry to understand.

Product highlights

For me, the hottest product of the show had to be ZeeVee’s HDMI input card for the NETGEAR M4300-96X modular Ethernet switch. This may be the product that finally kills the matrix switch! The collaboration between SDVoE founding members illustrates what is possible when manufacturers work within a standards-based ecosystem, rather than focusing only on their proprietary portfolio. I can’t wait to see the market impact this new product class will have.  More coverage of the ZeeVee module.

In other product news – it was great to see Aurora Multimedia delivering (again!) the world’s only AV over IP wall plate. Extreme compression ratios ensure that every 1G endpoint dissipates so much power (heat) that it is often impossible to install them in a closed-in wall. It would seem that a 1G competitor to the IPX-TC3-WP is a long way off. Awesome to know that SDVoE’s interoperability makes it possible to integrate this wall plate into any existing SDVoE system.

Don’t forget audio

The big audio story of the show is this – Dante now works with your video system! No, I don’t mean Dante AV. I mean this cool new product from IDK that creates a path for audio to pass between SDVoE endpoints and Dante endpoints without ever leaving the network. Another great collaboration between SDVoE members IDK, Semtech and Audinate.

Bigger screens and more, smaller pixels

I tried to spend as much time as possible walking the show floor this year. Thanks to a well-staffed SDVoE booth, I had more opportunity than in years past. Still, I have a habit of asking folks “what have you seen?” The simplest answer I got back this year was “bigger screens and more, smaller pixels.” This certainly sums up what is going on in the display space, as so many manufacturers are working on impressive-looking LED-based displays.

The flawless quality SDVoE delivers matches perfectly to these devices. Image flaws introduced by other technologies become massive when the display is several meters across. Two of my favorite products at the show were Sony’s Crystal LED and Christie’s just-announced MicroTiles LED. Crystal LED is the standard bearer for high quality large format displays. For over a year now, Sony has collaborated with ZeeVee to use SDVoE as the method for distributing and processing video with Crystal LED. Also, MicroTiles LED is the first LED display with an integrated SDVoE receiver. That means the MicroTiles LED controller box connects to your 10G network and can receive video from any available SDVoE source – the ultimate in flexibility.

Speaking of big screens – all of Christie’s 3-DLP projectors are now available with native SDVoE connectivity!

There are only two technologies capable of delivering the image quality these top display manufacturers demand – the aging matrix switch and SDVoE.

A new application area

I also noticed a significant trend in the retail segment towards highly interactive displays and augmented reality. This is an application space with extremely tight latency requirements. For example, for the system to be effective, the user’s motion and activities must be responded to in real time. Many of these systems use high-bandwidth USB peripherals, such as multiple cameras, to do this tracking. The latency performance and integrated USB capabilities (powered by Icron ExtremeUSB) of SDVoE make it a strong fit for these emerging applications. I look forward to seeing what SDVoE members can deliver to the space.

Heading home

It’s a lot of fun to get to work on a show like ISE, but I love the flight home. It gives a nice chunk of solitude to relax and reflect on the week that passed, before jumping right back into home life, family, friends, and all the emails waiting at the office on Monday. As I flew home, I thought back to my conversations with colleagues and industry pros and I realized something very important – nearly everyone I spoke to had successfully built an SDVoE system. This is a huge change from our launch two years ago (“What’s an SDVoE?”) and even from last year (“SDVoE sounds cool. Maybe I’ll try it!”) I’m happy to see people having so much success with this platform.

Now if you’ll excuse me – I’ve got to get ready for InfoComm.

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