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Considerations for AV Over IP Technology in Classroom Settings

March 08, 2017

Institutes of higher education are increasingly turning to twenty-first century technology in the classroom. While the days of a professor lecturing to note-scribbling students probably aren’t over, a modern lecture hall today needs to be able to accommodate network-heavy audio-visual (AV) content in the form of teleconferencing by guest lecturers or subject matter experts, and video streaming. Standard IP (Internet protocol) may not always be able to cope with these heavy AV need. Enter the idea of AV-over-IP.

AV over IP is about sending uncompressed audio and video information over standard IP mediums. This may require encoding the sources and streaming the content with some compression in order to mitigate bitrate over IP mediums. The goal is to provide extension and switching of video and audio sources over standard IP. Without a dedicated AV-over-IP network, IT workers responsible for wiring classrooms often look to transport video, audio and control signals throughout their classrooms using twisted pair extenders and point-to-point systems with transmitters at source devices and receivers at destination devices, according to a recent article by Mike Tomei writing for Campus Technology. There are limits to this approach, however: a limited number of inputs and outputs.

The AV over IP model is different, according to Tomei, in that it's essentially a streaming infrastructure.

“We're all used to video and audio streaming over the network, but AV over IP technology is taking streaming to a different level,” he wrote. “Instead of placing HDBaseT transmitters and receivers at all the devices in the room, the AV over IP model calls for an encoder at each source device and a decoder at each destination device.”

The encoders and decoders are all connected to multi-gigabit Ethernet switches. Using this approach, classrooms would (in theory) no longer be limited to a finite number of inputs and outputs. With the right infrastructure, the room could connect as many encoders as the network design allows. The latter point, however, is very important. Not all networks are going to be able to run free with AV-over-IP without significant modification.

 “You can't just start throwing these high-end AV encoders and decoders on your network and expect flawless results,” wrote Tomei.

Universities and other educational institutions will need to pay more attention to their classes of encoders and decoders.

“For instance, SVSI (AMX) offers everything from low-bandwidth H.264 compression that's friendly to your enterprise networks, to higher bandwidth technology like JPEG2000 compression, and beyond,” wrote Tomei.

Organizations shopping for an AV-over-IP solution need to be prepared to compare features to ensure they’ve made the right choice for their network and their classroom needs. Considerations such as resolution, frame rate and color compression capabilities will depend entirely on the existing infrastructure, so organizations that purchase these solutions should ensure they’re realistic in their expectations. 

Edited by Maurice Nagle

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