Adder and Avocent Branch From KVM Solutions To Streaming Delivery

Continuing a trend that first became evident last year, this year's InfoComm show is seeing crossover between the AV and streaming markets, with new products from Adder and Avocent being of particular note.For years, the audio-visual (AV) integration market has been using Cat5 cabling to send composite, component (RGB) and graphics (VGA) signals around education and corporate campuses to projectors, televisions and—more recently—flat panel monitors.

Most of these solutions consisted of a transmitter that converted the analog signal to digital (via and A-to-D convertor) and then converted this digital signal to multiple unshielded twisted pairs (UTP) low-voltage wiring.

The composite and audio solutions used a 4-conductor (2-pair) Cat3 cable similar to a 2-line telephone wire, but component and VGA required three pairs for the red, green, and blue video signals, respectively, plus one additional pair for either audio or power, with the latter used to power the remote receiver that reversed the signal from UTP to standard video and audio.

This required an 8-conductor (4-pair) solution, similar to a Cat5 data cable with an RJ-45 (network) jack. With the advent of DVI signals, which require not only the digital RGB and audio but also a device control (DDC) signal, many of these twisted-pair solutions expanded out to two Cat5 data cables, even while the signal being passed was not data packets but instead digital image transmissions in non-standard block sizes.

In fact, the use of the Cat5 cables was implemented for the lower frequency bleedover (or crosstalk) that wasn't cable in Cat3 cabling). Since these transmitters and receivers were only used in point-to-point scenarios, not for data transmission, they also could not be connected to a data switch, since the expanded power transmission of these transmitters had the capability of frying a data switch.

Even up until last year's InfoComm AV tradeshow, as HDMI entered the scene, the use of UTP potential was in full swing, and several manufacturers of traditional AV transmitters were hard at work on competitive differentiations between fiber or Cat 5 (HDMI could require as many as three Cat 5 cables to carry higher-resolution dual-link DVI, audio and power.

At the Infocomm 2008 show, however, a group of vendors which were known in industries separate from either AV or streaming began to show products they had created for their respective industries but sensed might be of interest to the AV industry's systems integrators. A few met with surprising interest, and these companies are back with shipping or expanded solutions at Infocomm 2009.

Two companies are of particular interest.

The company is best known for its keyboard-video-mouse (KVM) solutions for desktop (4-port or 8-port) or data center (16-port and above) hardware units that switch a set of computers to a single monitor, mouse, and keyboard.

How does this fit in to streaming or AV? Apparently, as the company began to get requests to send USB and DVI signals across a campus, they originally considered IP-streaming solutions for point-to-point delivery, but found the AV market was using UTP point-to-point solutions at price points that wouldn't allow a rapid ROI for initial IP implementations.

Adder also found the market had difficulty differentiating between IP and UTP solutions for point-to-point implementations, especially since the manufacturers in the market were blurring the terminology.

"Education was a huge issue for us when we initially talked to customers about IP streaming solutions," said Tim Conway, Adder's VP of North American operations, "so we went with UTP solutions initially since the market was mostly educated to the benefits of using Cat5 versus using traditional coaxial cabling."

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