Welcome to the second part of the macom ISE trend report 2018. This time we’ll be talking about AVoverIP, Digital Reality and LED. In all three areas, a lot has happened since ISE 2017. Where many solutions were still in their infancy last year, real working solutions were presented this time around.

AVoverIP: Now only the standards are missing

This year’s ISE showed that the topic of AVoverIP has finally arrived with many manufacturers presenting solutions for the transmission of audio and video signals over standard IP networks. The promised advantages are tempting, not least because if AV signals can be transmitted over the company network, their need for separate AV infrastructure can be removed. That sounds good, but unfortunately it is not that easy! Unfortunately there are still no uniform standards and the issue of bandwidth remains unsolved. The most appropriate networks for the transmission of 4K HDR signals at 60 Hz are 10 Gbit networks. However, most corporate networks are designed for a 1 Gbit bandwidth.

What was on offer at this year’s ISE regarding IP signal transmission? The HDBaseT Alliance, which wanted to develop a standard for 1GBit to 10 GB networks with HDBaseT over IP, announced that they needed to go back to the drawing board and as such presented nothing new. The situation was a little different with the SDVoE Alliance, this group has developed a second “quasi-standard” based on 10 Gbit networks. Numerous exhibitors presented working solutions utilising this approach.

10 Gbit bandwidth remains the problem for now as most IT standard components are designed for 1 Gbit networks and most companies still lack the necessary infrastructure to deploy this type of solution. The way things stand at the moment, special components such as 10 Gbit switches are so expensive that they don’t really save costs compared to an HDBaseT infrastructure. With this in mind one of the main arguments for the IP-based transmission, lower price, is obsolete. A 10 GB system also significantly limits the flexibility and scalability over a 1 GB solution, and requires large bandwidths between switches for in-house distribution.
There are other issues to take in to account for example without a standards-based approach, products from different manufacturers are currently not compatible with each other.

In addition to the quasi-standards many manufacturers presented their own solutions for IP signal transmission. Crestron presented their NVX system for 1GBit networks, a pioneer in this field. Selecting a solution when comprehensive standards are lacking, commits you to a specific manufacturer with all the corresponding advantages and disadvantages. It is also to be expected that for the foreseeable future hybrid systems which combine IP with HDBaseT transmission will survive.

Recommendation of the macom experts:

Currently there are three main directions available on the market. Which one is best depends on your use cases.

  • 1 Gbit systems:
    These systems are relatively easy to implement and are a suitable replacement for existing systems. Today, the biggest advantage is that 1 Gbit systems can be integrated into existing corporate networks and standard IT components can be used for signal distribution significantly reducing costs. Although higher compression rates are required for audio and video transmission, 1Gbit systems are often sufficient for many applications. Direct integration into production networks without further mechanisms like VLANs for example is also not generally recommended.
  • 10 Gbit systems:
    Based on SDVoE “quasi-standards” this offers very good transmission options thanks to the higher bandwidth, especially if, for example, 4K HDR with low latencies are being transmitted. Since the development of 4K solutions will not stop (display manufacturers are looking to present 8K displays this year) the future probably lies in this direction. However today SDVoE solutions still offer little cost advantage over HDBaseT infrastructures.
  • Specialist solution:
    There are some special solutions, from manufacturers such as EvertzAV or Lightware. These use IP technologies as a basis. However, they are highly optimized in certain parameters and are therefore proprietary solutions. EvertzAV for example use their own switch hardware for some of their solutions. Although this means losing one of the main advantages of IP technology (utilisation of standard IT network hardware), it is a very powerful solution.

Digital Reality: What are the use cases?

With the XR-Summit, digital reality (collective term for virtual, mixed and augmented reality) was a central theme of this year’s ISE. Digital reality has generally been considered only in relation to the gaming industry, it is now clear that: These technologies are ready for professional usage in corporate and industrial environments. The market is growing. (Marco DeMiroz, co-founder of the VR fund, expects market potential of up to $107 billion by 2025). Numerous manufacturers are now jumping on the bandwagon. For example, Epson presented various AR solutions at their stand.

However, anyone who expected the “Next Big Thing” would have been disappointed. Important solutions like Microsoft’s HoloLens or Intel’s Usix were missing and other manufacturers were only presenters at the XR summit. With those who did exhibit there was a lot if focus on the solutions where AR and VR added value and not and not just the product It seems that many manufacturers fear users have too little experience with possible use cases and their associated benefits.

ISE has revealed one thing: If digital reality is to be rolled out in the professional mass market, it needs to develop further potential applications. The existing use cases such for the example DHL that used the Google Glass Enterprise glasses are just a starting point. There were other good starting points on display For example, VR-On and MatrixWorks presented VR solutions for collaborative working and at macom we are working on remote working, and solutions in the construction and manufacturing industries

Recommendation of the macom experts:

The technology is available and it works it’s now all about the use cases. DHL demonstrates that VR Collaboration can be very useful for product and component development. Several developers can work on a prototype virtually, even if they are located at different locations. VR meetings may – after video conferencing and unified communications- be the next step in the evolution of meeting and conference systems we are working with a number of our clients in this direction already. We have also used VR and AR systems in various planning projects. These include the Porsche showrooms on Sylt and Tennet Virtual Vision, as well as the Audi Walking VR Experience. Where could you imagine possible applications? Use your own creativity and ask us. We can support you in the understanding your use cases design and managing Proof of Concepts and live implementation of final solutions in this exciting area.

No longer just bling-bling: LED replaces projection in the conference room

As expected, LED was one of the hot topics on this year’s ISE. It felt like there was hardly a stand where at least one LED video wall did not illuminate the visitors. Even manufacturers that had no LEDs in their portfolio in the past showed LED solutions this year. Overall, the quality of the image reproduction and the mechanics has consistently increased year-on-year. Thanks to falling prices and ever smaller pixel pitches LED walls are also becoming interesting for new applications, for example Samsung presented a MicroLED wall for meeting room applications.

Chip-on-board (COB) technology, (mounting of a bare LED chip in direct contact with the substrate to produce LED array), was one of the main trends in LED this year. One advantage of CoB is that it makes the LEDs more robust to touch, which is certainly useful for digital signage scenarios and interactive applications.
Many manufacturers have simplified the mechanics of LED modules. They have equipped their modules with a click system that allows the individual modules to be simply plugged together. In these systems, the power supply and the signal paths are integrated so removing the need for additional patch cords. Several manufacturers offer matching wall brackets so that users in principle receive complete packages. Most manufacturers today also offer LED panels with front access, where the individual LED modules can be removed from the cabinets predominantly with a magnetic mechanism from the front. This obviously considerably simplifies servicing and the exchange of components.

Recommendation of the macom experts:

The quality of the LED modules has improved significantly in recent years. This is especially true in image processing and image display, to the extent where real quality differences between products are becoming increasingly difficult to detect. Therefore, before selecting an LED wall product, a direct shoot-out of different manufacturers should be made. Tests should be made in with respect to the individual use case functional requirements and support expectations. This will help you find the best solution for your application

CoB technology will increase in the coming years. If the manufacturers further develop their solutions even higher quality results can be expected soon. COB will only be a transition technology to the MicroLEDs. These were already presented by Sony last year and joined by Samsung this year. This MicroLEDs currently allow for pixel pitches of up to 0.5 mm. these reduced pixel pitches Coupled with falling prices, LED walls will be of increasing interest for indoor digital signage and conference room applications. The distant goal of the manufacturers is to use this technology for TV devices in the consumer segment. We think however that it will take time until MicroLEDs can really be used for the mass market. When asked Samsung suggested that they expect the actual market launch of their Micro LEDs not to take place until at least the third quarter of 2018.

Next week, read about the trends in AV management solutions and room booking systems. In addition, we will we venture an insight into the significance of ISE as a source of inspiration for the event sector and event technologies with our colleagues of macomNYU.

(Author: Martin C. Wagner, marketing manager macom GmbH)

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