A spate of announcements and articles have come out of AptoVision in recent weeks all revolving around AV/IT convergence on 10 gigabit Ethernet networks and the growing importance of software-defined video architectures in pro AV.

CIE speaks exclusively with Justin Kennington, strategic and technical marketing director at AptoVision, to provide some perspective.

Our industry has known for years that AV and IT convergence is coming. What’s your take on that?

Today’s 1 gigabit per second networks are insufficient to enable ‘convergence’. In the past, we were held back by the fact that IT systems could not meet the performance requirements of AV users. Then control systems moved to the cloud, network audio slowly started gaining traction, and finally a few approaches have been used to carry video through Ethernet hardware.

The holdup is no longer bandwidth. It is shared bandwidth. The promise of convergence is AV and IT systems coexisting together on one infrastructure. But find an IT guy with a working 1 Gbps data network and ask him it’s ok for you to add dozens of video transmitters consuming hundreds of megabits each to his system. The answer will be a resounding ‘no’ because he knows that can’t work. The users of the data network expect that nearly all of the 1 Gbps bandwidth is available to them for file downloads, collaboration, and even PC and mobile video streaming.

If the AV system starts consuming the majority of that bandwidth, the data user’s experience is significantly compromised. Integrators, IT system administrators and even 1 Gbps video product manufacturers have already realised this and so standard practice is to create two parallel networks, a 1 Gbps data network (likely pre-existing) and alongside it a physically independent 1 Gbps Ethernet network dedicated solely to the AV system. What’s the point of that? If you want to build two infrastructures, just use HDBaseT and don’t pay any video quality or latency penalty.

To truly converge these networks, we need to upgrade the capacity of the data network. 10 Gbps infrastructure is here and it’s cheap. Using this class of network, HDMI video can be transmitted with little to no compression and a full 1 Gbps (or more) can be set aside for the data network users. Their experience is completely unaffected by the behavior of the AV equipment. On top of that, no compression means no latency and no compromise of image quality. And the 10 Gbps equipment is an easy expansion of the 1 Gbps network, they can be interconnected, so that your existing 1 Gbps infrastructure can function as it always has, while the 10 Gbps upgrade is only needed where you want to add video capacity.

And that’s where your BlueRiver NT+ AV-over-IP chipsets come in, right? They rely on 10 GbE networks. What are some of the key products/categories the technology is being used for?

Wherever you see zero-latency, uncompressed 4K streaming advertised, you can be sure BlueRiver technology is inside. Our chipsets enable end-to-end systems over 10 GbE for AV and KVM signal extension, IP-based switching, video wall and multi-view applications. More than 25 manufacturers are now incorporating BlueRiver chipsets in over 35 AV signal distribution products and winning installations across all market verticals with their unique product implementations, education, corporate, medical and military to name a few.

What advantages/changes to the industry do you feel it delivers?

These manufacturers are leveraging the IT industry’s multi-billion-dollar investment in Ethernet hardware while applying unique capabilities to endpoints and bringing a whole new level of creativity and innovation focused on advanced AV management software.

We recently announced a new member of the BlueRiver NT+ Series, the BlueRiver NT1000, which delivers all the advanced IP-switching and extension capabilities AptoVision is known for, while reducing the bill of material costs for AV over IP encoders and decoders by up to 50%. This new chipset is purpose built and cost optimised for AV/KVM switching and extension applications. It’s HDMI 2.0 and HDCP 2.2 compliant and can transmit true 4K/60Hz (4:4:4) video with zero frame latency over 100m of CAT‐x or 30KM of fiber. It supports the complete range of signal types including audio, GbE, USB 2.0, RS232 and IR, all of which can be routed independently. Audio can be extracted from or injected into any HDMI stream within the network.

Along with AptoVision’s flagship chipset, BlueRiver NT2000, which includes high-value AV processing capabilities to enable video-wall, multi-view and seamless switching applications, manufacturers now have what they need from us to offer a top-to-bottom portfolio of AV-over-IP products which address the full range of feature, performance and pricing requirements for virtually all AV applications.

End users benefit from increased flexibility, more applications tailored to their particular needs and the opportunity to reduce both capital and operating expenses.

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We’ve also been hearing you talk about ‘software-defined video’. What is the significance of that?

This is a topic that you will be hearing a lot more about as we move toward ISE 2017. Basically, what it comes down to is that as the pro AV industry makes its transition away from proprietary point-to-point matrix switches towards a world of IP-based distribution over commodity Ethernet switches, manufacturers add value and differentiation focused on the endpoints (encoders and decoders) and on new software applications to create customised user experiences.

We recently announced BlueRiver API, a complete application programming interface that lets developers easily harness all the features of our chipsets. The API provides a set of simple subroutine definitions, protocols and tools that control complex tasks to make it easier for developers to program their applications and get to market faster. The building blocks in BlueRiver API include easy interfaces to control upscaling up to 4K, downscaling, aspect ratio management, frame rate conversion, chroma sample conversion, video wall processing, image compositing, audio downmixing, video routing, independent audio routing, multicast IGMP management and much more.

This combined hardware/software platform approach means our customers can focus on creating the perfect user interfaces and AV management tools for their targeted market segments whether that’s in education, healthcare, enterprise, entertainment, hospitality, retail, houses of worship, government, military, industry or security.

What are the main challenges in seeing your technology rolled out across more manufacturers?

We are facing the same challenges every successful company faces as they grow quickly. We see so many opportunities for our technology and so many directions we can take it that we need more great engineers and support staff to keep things rolling. We have taken steps to invest in the people and infrastructure we need to support our customers’ ambitious development efforts. We’ve made strategic new hires in R&D, product management and customer support plus we’ve just moved into a wonderful new facility in the Montreal Technoparc that quadruples lab and office space.

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