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AV Control, the Future and going Virtual

Written by Tom Wilde.

AV Control – in this article we will explore the possibility of using Virtual Processors to replace dedicated hardware to control AV Systems. 

av control

DSP, otherwise known as Digital Signal Processing. This refers to the ingesting and processing of real time music, voice, video and  control signals. The technology is found inside headphones, smartphones, and used in broadcast, residential and various other many industries. 

Early DSP / AV Control

The earliest practical DSP applications in audio were in speech processing for telephony, such as the Speak & Spell in 1978. Fast forward to today and we have complex audio/video and control DSPs from AV control manufacturers such as QSC, Biamp, Crestron, Extron and BSS

AV – Taking Control 

As AV has begun to dominate the work environment, the era of individual remotes for every piece of equipment took over. Fast forward to the smartphone era and the expectation is that User Control Interfaces can be run on just about any iPad/iPhone or dedicated manufacturer touch screen. Allowing preset recalls, power functions or signal switching from the palm of your hand. 

Dedicated hardware processors have been the go to solution for AV control. However, with components being on lengthy back-orders due to the global chip shortage, this has made them difficult to come by. 

Going Virtual 

So, how is this problem being overcome? AV control manufacturers now offer virtual processors as an alternative. These are software-based solutions that run on an owner’s server or virtual machine. They communicate with AV devices over the network, just like a hardware processor would. The software uses the processing power of the owner’s existing server, making the solution scalable and cost-effective. 

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What about non-networked devices? 

As the device is virtual and sits on the network, I/O boxes with GPIO or IR will be required if devices aren’t network controlled. For example, a projector using RS232/Serial can have a dedicated I/O box in situ which can trigger projector On/Off functions. 

Can Virtual Cores control Audio/Video? 

Currently the use of Virtual Cores is limited to AV Control. As the CPU/Power requirements are low it can be installed easily on Enterprise-level hardware. The bandwidth of data is also low, since it’s sending simple signals and doesn’t require ultra-low-latency processing like audio or video. 

The AV Control Verdict 

Virtual cores may be a solution to Hybrid AV spaces. Particularly in large offices as it can be set up easily once the solution has been integrated into a corporate IT network. Whether it’s setting up a new space, or replacing end of life hardware; it could prove extremely useful to meet deadlines that would otherwise be difficult to manage due to ongoing global shortages. 

If set up correctly it could greatly increase redundancy, with multiple instances of vCore setup as primary and back-up to fail-over in the event of power loss. If hosted in different locations, it could increase up-time of critical spaces. 

Does your next project need AV control? If so, get in touch to chat!

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