In our last blog post we introduced the concept of utilizing AV over IP in UCC spaces. If you have not yet read this, please check it out as it provides a great deal of context for this follow up and those to come (link to previous post). In this post, we want to discuss how building this ultimate solution would require a significant change not in terms of infrastructure but rather, in traditional AV-over-IP thinking. There are multiple areas where traditional AV-over-IP would not have previously been appropriate in UCC. Below, we are pointing out what these areas are and also inviting you to reimagine what the future could look like:
Video in both directions: The largest potential difference between traditional AV-over-IP and UCC is that for some installations, predominately Microsoft Teams installations, an HDMI capture component is required by the specification. Consequently, there is video data from the room PC to the display for the user GUI. In addition to the GUI, video data in the form of captured HDMI must simultaneously be transmitted from the table display back to the room PC. No traditional and currently available AV-over-IP implementation supports 2-way video transmission. The ultimate solution would be able to do this over the same cable.
Cost: Utilizing enterprise-class equipment from traditional AV-over-IP in UCC would result in a 10.1” IP-based touch panel costing over $2,000, but would still be missing critical features. While touch panels at this price do exist, this would severely limit the market. However, it’s important to keep in mind that the ultimate solution we’re referring to can cost more than a traditional touch panel because the goal is to reduce the cost of the installed solution as it will not require expensive extenders, cables, and installation. It will also save cost through reduced maintenance, and it will not require the cost of an electrician to install an outlet at the table. That said, a cost below $1000 should be expected.
Latency: While there are low latency AV-over-IP systems for specific needs, for most traditional installations latency is not important. A few seconds Is not going to matter when distributing content across a campus. However, because a touch screen is by definition interactive, latency should be below the level where a human can detect it. Latency is in this context defined as round trip meaning time from the touch, to process the touch on the panel, to send it to the PC, for the PC to react to the touch input, to send whatever different frame to the LCD, to the LCD displaying the new information. The round-trip latency should be below 100 mS since that is about the level of detection. Therefore traditional H.264/H.265 solutions are not viable because of the frame-to-frame compression latency.
Resolution: Traditional AV-over-IP systems today support 4k and in some cases even 8k. This is state of the art, however, and one advantage to UCC touch controllers are that the resolutions are not generally high. Mimo Monitors solutions are (almost) all 1080p or less, so 4k support (and certainly 8k) is not necessary today. However, keeping in mind other considerations, 4k support should be considered for future proofing the ultimate solution.
Decoding: It is easy to hide and power a decoding box behind a 65” big screen, but a traditional solution cannot be hidden inside a small 10” display. In the ultimate solution, the decoding would ideally be inside the touch display. Consequently, power consumption, heat generation, and size must be considerations if it is to be installed inside a desktop case. An external, at the table decoder is viable, but not ideal, so long as it does not require external power.
Compression: While highly compressed, low bandwidth video is probably fine in the majority of cases, because of the HDMI capture capability, it could be transmitting practically anything, so the ultimate solution cannot make simplifying assumptions about how or how much to compress to content. It could be a high detail but low frame rate Excel spreadsheet where the highest resolution is desired, or it could be a 1080p video where the best frame rate is desired, but minor compression artifacts would be acceptable. With the help of the latest technologies, compression does not have to be a bad word that implies image scaling and unacceptable quality. Systems that use the latest compression algorithms can reduce signals to reasonable levels. The ultimate solution should strive for full frame rate, visually lossless compression….in both directions simultaneously.
Bandwidth: In a traditional AV-over-IP installation, bandwidth matters. Even when a separate AV only network is built, there may be many end points to support. This is another place where a UCC installation makes things easier. Since a UCC touch controller is a point-to-point connection between a room PC and the controller, it should not be necessary to run the data over the corporate data or video network, therefore eliminating the bandwidth constraint. However, the ultimate solution should allow for point-to-point dedicated cabling and IP switched over traditional corporate networking infrastructure depending on the situation and end-user preference.
I hope that you can see that extending AV over IP into UCC spaces would make a lot of sense, if it were possible to meet all the requirements listed above. It could reduce cost, increase flexibility, and ease installation. However, today’s AV-over-IP products are not suited to the task, so today’s only answer is to deal with PC interfaces, extenders, and the problems they create. However, we have an inkling that could change in 2021.
Keep an eye out for more thoughts on AV over IP in UCC spaces at the Mimo Monitors blog.