In the world of connectivity, digital video trends can change quickly. Aside from the rapid development of new interfaces such as Thunderbolt, and the need for manufacturers to quickly produce connectivity solutions for system integration, large trends are taking shape that are changing the very landscape upon which we’ve operated for years.
In the consumer arena, one of the most influential developments upon which our future is based in the rise of IP in the home. Today, nearly every major consumer device, most particularly television sets, comes equipped with Internet connectivity.
In a new report from IMS Research entitled, "Over-the-Top Video — Hardware and Connectivity — 2011 Edition," the research firm predicts dramatic growth in shipments of connected TVs over the new five years, forecasting that in 2016, yearly shipments of connect TVs will reach 180 million units around the world. Parks Associates just reported that one-fourth of U.S. broadband households intend to purchase an Internet-connectable CE device this year as well.
For years, Blu-rays and gaming consoles have been equipping their devices with Internet connectivity, making the connected home one of the most compelling trends we see shaping the future of manufacturers operating in the consumer space.
The ability to seamlessly switch between multiple sources and displays in the home—all connected on a home network—is of paramount importance. The multi-room, TV anywhere/anytime model is a development that has had a major impact on our own product development. Most all of Gefen’s hardware for the home, including matrix switchers, splitters and extenders, all have included Ethernet connectivity.
This includes the first product in the industry to be officially certified by HDBaseT: the HDMI over CAT-5 with Ethernet extender, announced in 2009. It uses just one CAT-5 cable to deliver 1080p full HD with Ethernet connectivity up to 330 feet (100m) in distance. It offered the first extension of all Ethernet 100BaseT features, enabling Internet access to be extended over the same CAT-5 cable as the HDMI signal. It works with all high definition devices using HDMI and provides an instant, long-range delivery of high definition video, audio and Internet anywhere in the home over the same cable.
Today, being integrated on the home network offers greater possibilities for new business than ever before, particularly the ability to monitor and maintain the entire system remotely using any interface with access to the network.
In anticipation of this type of connectivity, and the need for an inherent management solution for all hardware connected on the network, Gefen announced its new PACS (Professional Automation Control System) at CEDIA 2011. Designed to provide access for all key functions in the home, it gives access to audio/video devices equipped with RS-232 or IR control using any network system. Users can select sources, control volume, distribute video and more from any browser on the network. Existing automated systems can be accessed from anywhere, including home or office computers, delivering always-on access 24/7. The PACS makes it simple and effective to control HDTV displays, Blu-rays, add-on switchers, distribution amplifiers, scalers and more from a central interface.
We see the rise of tablets in linking the smartphone’s 24/7 mobile access to television entertainment making huge strides in the coming year. Tablets have absolutely turned the industry on its ear. The ability to access, control and monitor every digital function in the home from anywhere on the planet, provided you have internet access, using an intuitive, high quality LCD display is a viable reality today. We see this ability increasing and growing even more profitable in the future.
Basically, anything that can link all your functions in the home, be as easy and intuitive to operate as an iPhone and simple to program will be a compelling solution for consumers seeking easy and convenient ways to control their connectivity.
This integration of traditional A/V equipment on a network brings up another key trend: the merger of IT and A/V. This is affecting the reseller markets because traditionally they do not have a deep or extensive background in networked systems. A/V has always separated itself from the IT geeks but this is changing. This new marriage has been discussed for a couple of years now, but today it is a truly happening. Tomorrow’s successes will be awarded to the reseller who is able to offer a solid understating of the unity between computers and all other devices in the home.
Tablets, IP and everything we’ve already discussed have only solidified this path, and very quickly.
If you are not already training in IT basics from an A/V perspective, now is a critical time to prepare for adding new IT-based business services to your sales model. This year’s CEDIA had several classes in this type of training, and we urge all of our resellers operating in the home market to take advantage of these types of education sessions. It is fine if you don’t know every tiny detail of IP functions, but you definitely need a broad overview of the basics with some deep knowledge of integrating.
For manufacturers like Gefen, we see this as an exciting time! Rapid evolutions present opportunity as much as challenge and we can’t wait to unveil what is currently in the works for A/V integrators in 2012.