Is it now stable and reliable enough for proAV applications?
The proAV community has taken some convincing about wireless AV. The industry’s cynicism has often been fully justifiable as some early products have proved to be unreliable, difficult to install and complex to operate. Today, some leading AV manufacturers have developed a new generation of products with assurances that these problems are consigned to history. AV News reports.
Why have wireless products so often described as ‘plug-and-play’ been a complete nightmare to set up? Why have AV professionals been so reluctant to embrace wireless technology, particularly when wireless products have so many advantages for distributed AV solutions?
Gordon Dutch, Managing Director of Peerless-AV, has overseen the development of a range of wireless networking products and is now confident that the standards of performance and reliability meet the needs of professional integrators:
“We are now a number of versions on from our original product, and so the good news with the new Peerless-AV PeerAir Pro is that it is genuinely ‘plug-and-play’ with no set up issues. The base kit comes pre-paired, and to add another receiver the installer or user simply needs to press and hold the Link button on both the transmitter and receiver to put them into pairing mode. They will automatically search for each other, meaning no tedious configuration is required. The entire process takes under 1 ½ minutes.”
“High quality ‘plug-and-play’ solutions like our PeerAir Pro therefore may cost a bit more overall. However, the simplicity of a well-designed ‘plug-and-play’ solution is very appealing – no software or driver installation, no wiring or cables. This makes the Peerless-AV PeerAir Pro ideal for meeting and training rooms in the hospitality and corporate sectors, set up is quick and easy so the system can be up and running almost immediately.”
Dutch attributes this improvement in quality to the change in design and manufacturing practice for wireless products intended for use in professional applications. Many of this are designed and built from the ground up, rather than adapted from consumer products.
“There are more and more wireless devices being brought to market. However, the ones that are still the most reliable are the ones built on a Wi-Fi backbone. A site survey using a Wi-Fi scanner is great for a device like Peerless-AV’s PeerAir Pro because it allows the integrator to “see” the devices signal strength and determine if it is appropriate for that environment.”
“What it allows the integrator to accomplish today is leaps-and-bounds beyond how they could accomplish it before. We have worked very hard in the development of PeerAir Pro to ensure it also works through solid walls, which whilst it will slightly reduce the distance of course, means it is useable where many other wireless systems simply fail.”
The responsibility for the reliability of the wireless product passes to the integrator or installer – perhaps inevitably, given the variable nature of broadband provision. Dutch argues that this problem is in decline as broadband provision improves:
“The stability and speed of networks all over Europe are increasing, and so we have seen far few issues in that regard nowadays, and also, of course, the quality of the chip sets and products has come on immeasurably in the past 2-3 years. Therefore, the application possibilities for PeerAir Pro are diverse and perhaps the biggest opportunities right now are in the hotel, high end retail, education and corporate markets, where there has often already been major infrastructure investment. As the quality of wireless networks continues to improve across the UK and Europe, so will the opportunities for wireless streaming in any building where messaging needs to reach a target audience across multiple rooms and floors.”
Even so, integrators cannot assume that wireless provision is consistent without a site survey:
“Installation failure can result if the installer hasn’t conducted a full site survey to identify and remedy any potential issues in the environment. However, most ‘set up’ issues we have found are not normally down to our products. It is the correct setting up of the device, feeding the Peerless-AV PeerAir Pro, as our product will simply deliver what it receives. Therefore, we have a sheet of FAQ’s that answer 99% of the few technical requests we get.”
“Peerless-AV enforces strict quality control procedures to ensure that products work as they should when in the hands of the installer. PeerAir Pro is a problem solving tool for installers and integrators. For end users, it’s a simple, effective and highly reliable means of streaming full HD wherever it’s needed, no strings attached. Interference susceptibility is a thing of the past owing to the system’s secure private network that resists ‘noise’ or delays from other devices and blocks network sharing from nearby wireless routers. It can also transmit through walls and ceilings with a ‘line of sight’ extended range of 210ft (64m) with no reduction in picture quality”
PeerAir Pro is now in its third generation using the very latest chip sets available. The HDS300-EUK offers the furthest wireless distance of any Wi-Fi-based device for complete coverage. The system can multicast full HD 1080p wirelessly to up to six displays in addition to a seventh wired display using a pass-thru port on the transmitter. The transmitter now has three HDMI inputs while maintaining VGA or Component input, and features a new quick push-button multi-cast configuration set up.
It also has a secure private network and a range of accessory options are available such as wireless security enclosure, wall shelf and IR extender.
As quality and reliability continue to increase, the range of products and applications available for wireless networks is increasing exponentially. The advantages here include: ease of installation in inaccessible regions of a building: outdoor installations; cost savings over wired installations; network resource sharing; and remote access to network resources.
Also new to the market are two solutions from Vision AV that use the same WHDI by Amimon chipset that Extron and others use, and widely considered the best at the moment. This wireless technology sends uncompressed HD video, with no compromise. It operates in the 5GHz frequency band and uses Dynamic Frequency Selection (DFS) to select a clear channel for transmission. The signal is made secure with 128 bit AES encryption
The TC2-HDMIW7 Wireless HDMI is a product that we have tested for our sister publication TEKBuyer. The point of the product is to stream content from a laptop screen to a flat-panel or projector, which can be up to seven metres from the source. The user just has to plug the transmitter dongle in laptop’s HDMI port and it will automatically start sending to the receiver in the display. No software or drivers are necessary, keeping network and IT managers happy. As long as you have an HDMI port or a DisplayPort to HDMI adaptor it will work.
An internal antenna in the transmitter gives a range of between 2 to 7 metres for HD content – further if the content is lower resolution. Too close or too far away and the image will degrade. It uses the same 5GHz band as modern Wi-Fi routers so it will work through dry-walls but performance drops off with distance and physical obstacles, so we recommend using the product in the same room.
The solution supports resolutions up to 1080p and it is 3D ready if you have an available 40 MHz channel. It is HDMI 1.3 with HDCP 1.2 compliance. Latency is less than 1 millisecond. The HDMI ports are required to output up to 55mA but most laptops produce a lot more so in most cases it will work. In case it doesn’t, Vision AV includes a USB cable to get additional power from a USB port, and if that doesn’t work a spare mains power adaptor is included.
For those with longer distances to cross, Vision AV also offers the TC2-HDMIW20 which has a range of between 2 to 20 metres (6.6 to 65.6 feet) for HD content. The transmitter features two HDMI inputs so you can connect multiple sources. An HDMI output on the transmitter passes the selected source on to a local screen.
A remote control is included which changes the input on the transmitter. This can be used from either the transmitter or receiver The IR Pass-through feature allows you to use the remote control from your source devices (like a Blu-ray or satellite tuner). The receiver passes the remote control commands back to the transmitter, which passes them on to the source devices via a cable with three IR emitting diodes.
Wireless ProAV devices have numerous benefits for the end-user customer in terms of speed and flexibility of installation. Take, for example, the Evoko Minto wireless conference phone. This is from the same people that produce the room booking systems and arrives ready for use with your mobile phone, tablet or laptop. It can be deployed to turn a standard office into a meeting room for group audio conferences. For well under a £1,000, the Minto gives an end-user genuine flexibility in the way that commercial space is utilised.
On pretty much the same theme, Evoko’s soon to be introduced Liso room management system. For those familiar with earlier versions of the Evoko room booking system, Liso is built on a completely new platform. Liso is designed to make it easier than ever to book a room through your preferred digital calendar, or directly on the screen using your fingertips.
All relevant information is elegantly presented on the screen. You can even search for other rooms and book them on any Evoko Liso within the network, and find the optimal room based on availability, size or equipment. Liso actually changes information on the display when someone walks up to it, thanks to a built-in proximity sensor.
Meeting and huddle spaces
But perhaps the most interesting and widespread wireless application emerging today is the collaboration-enabled meeting space or huddle room. With BYOD mobile devices now part of the mainstream, the need to share content in the workspace is no longer a luxury.
But, many network managers are averse to loading software onto company devices, but there are solutions that avoid this problem. The i3 SYNC from i3 Technologies (available from A+K) is genuinely user-friendly and enables different participants to share content on a central screen with the push of a button. The tool is compatible with all technology devices that have a HDMI connection. The users only need to plug in the wireless transmitter and receiver and you are ready for instant sharing.
For those who follow the ‘one throat to choke’ principle, i3 Technologies also offer the preconfigured, all-in-one i3 HUDDLE solution. This integrates i3SYNC, i3NOTES as well as an optional button giving easy access to i3MEETINGHUB, Skype, Excel, PowerPoint and web browsing. The i3 HUDDLE includes a 4K capacitive touchscreen, and a standard wall mount.
So our conclusion? Having either tested or been a party to demonstrations of the solutions described above, we can agree that wireless AV technology has, for the most part moved on from the flaky dongles and floppy antennae of yesteryear. Does this mean that wireless solutions are guaranteed to work in every instance? No, but at least manufacturers’ claims are grounded in reality and when they advise a site survey before recommending a solution to a customer, it probably makes sense to do one.