How Cheap Hardware Is Driving AV/IT Convergence

Do you roll your eyes when you hear the word convergence? Almost every AV system has a network switch and a wireless access point these days. So it is easy to think that AV/IT convergence is old news.

But there is so much more to come. Someday, our beloved matrix switchers will sunset and AV signals will be distributed completely over the network. Using a network switch you can order from Amazon (with free next day shipping).

Even today, affordable and easy to get hardware like network switches, wireless access points and iPads are found in most AV systems. Avoiding vendor lock-in, adherence to open standards and low prices are a few reasons why commodity hardware will continue to replace premium-priced specialty equipment and reshape AV integration.

Specialty equipment like encoders and decoders will be around for some time. But some of the things we take for granted, like Audio DSP’s and Control Systems are starting to be replaced with easy to get hardware.

av control system

Last year, NEC announced a collaboration with Raspberry Pi. The Raspberry Pi is capable of running many different operating systems – including media servers – and allows developers to create custom applications to monitor, control and interact with the display.

This past Infocomm Global Cache announced a new modular product line that provides power and rack mounting for a Raspberry Pi. With the Pi sitting in a rack next to their IR, RS-232, Contact Closure and Sensor ports (and HDMI switcher), it is not hard to imagine how this can be used in place of a traditional AV control system.

Using commodity hardware is an opportunity to deliver flexible, standards based, low-cost systems. This can be a big differentiator for consultants and integrators, but it is not without challenges.

The downside of using commodity hardware is the lack of centralized support. When premium pricing is taken out of the equation, so are manufacturer training and support hotlines.

Using online support platforms like StackOverflow is a common and accepted way to get help in the software development world. And there are enough online forums and Facebook groups offering support for traditional control systems to say this is already a legitimate and useful form of support in AV.

Online courses can help you learn the software languages needed to program these devices. AV professionals are perfectly capable of learning new programming languages.

The experience and knowledge of AV Programmers is something your typical software developer does not have. As the equipment we work with continues to change, AV professionals can stay relevant and play a major role in the ongoing AV/IT convergence by doing what we have always done. Keep learning.

Now is a great time to start learning modern software languages.
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