As A/V environments increase in size and complexity, strategies and tools for cost-effective, comprehensive management grow more essential. And with A/V monitoring and control occurring more often via the network, security and culture clash with IT staff continue to draw scrutiny. Though vendors have the technology to build solutions limited only by budget and imagination, it remains the joint responsibility of A/V and IT to make it work.
“The biggest challenge facing us today is the convergence of A/V and IT,” says Marko Jarymovych, director of IT for Public Technology at the University of Pennsylvania’s prestigious Wharton School. “Whoever is developing your A/V system better know .NET, SQL, and the APIs and database calls necessary to tie into event scheduling, asset management, accounting, and other software, including Microsoft Active Directory and e-mail servers.” For Wharton, those tie-ins are to CollegeNET’s R25 Class and Event Management System and, for its hotel-based executive education center, Newmarket International’s Delphi.
With modern room controllers simplifying management of individual A/V devices, it is supervision of those controllers that is the new frontier. A university may have controllers for hundreds of auditoriums, classrooms, and labs while a corporation could have thousands at headquarters and branch facilities around the globe. Hospitals operate fewer controllers, but nowhere else is A/V system health literally a matter of life and death, especially as technologies like remote robotic surgery become more commonplace. Similarly, controller headcount in houses of worship is typically modest, but as sanctuaries grow to seat thousands and outreach programs multiply worldwide, assessing the status of A/V devices is no longer a walk down the hall.
Wharton runs 36,000 events annually, from labs and classrooms to video bridges and distribution of prerecorded media for live events. All events, venues, controllers, and edge devices are tied into Active Directory. “We precisely track which buttons are pressed, how often a bulb is changed, and develop room checks that generates e-mail for our ticketing system,” says Jarymovych. APIs in the A/V management systems provide access for third-party developers — PepperDash Technology for Wharton — to craft custom control code.
Vendors are continuing to step up with products designed for centralized supervision of the overall A/V infrastructure and tie-ins to scheduling applications. Among the leading controller