One of the most important recent developments in the realm of IP-based video networking is the ability to transport very high-quality video – up to 4K/60/4:4:4 plus HDR – with near zero latency (under one millisecond), regardless of the number of endpoints in the video network. More than merely a technical triumph, this milestone in AV distribution offers significant benefits to end-users in a variety of applications. Bundled in with those benefits to end-users are major business opportunities for integrators.
While integrators may recognize the value of near zero latency in areas such as live events, there are several other verticals where they are learning to leverage the low latency feature to gain a real advantage in competitive sales situations. According to Dustin Boyle, a sales engineer for Wisconsin Audio Video, an integrator based in Madison, near zero latency is “absolutely a strong competitive selling point” for customers moving to IP-based distribution. “We always emphasize it.”
Looking across our customer base, ZeeVee has identified several different markets where being able to offer a (near) zero latency solution has been a primary factor in integrators closing major sales. And it’s not just integrators that are keen to latency considerations: we have also seen projects where end-customers specifically sought out a near zero latency AVoIP solution when their integrator failed to offer such an option.
While it’s true that matrix-based solutions may offer similarly speedy performance, the hardware limitations of matrixed distribution, compared to switched data networks, makes choosing a matrix less attractive to buyers. This is particularly true among customers envisioning future expansion as well as those aiming to avoid systems based on proprietary technology or a single-brand solution. AVoIP systems based on the SDVoE (software defined video over Ethernet) platform address both concerns.
The advantage of so-called “zero latency” solutions (we’ll use this term for convenience henceforth) for live performance and events, including worship, should be obvious. At events where video walls or projections display on-stage action, AVoIP can minimize lag to an imperceptible level. It can also ensure that an audience, even if split among different rooms or venues from where the event actually takes place, will see, hear and react to the performance or presentation simultaneously with the live audience. Applause or reaction from one room won’t interfere with or disturb audience enjoyment in another.
Museums have become great customers for technology, and especially video, as exhibit designers aim for new ways to attract, engage and enthrall visitors. For U.S. museum exhibitions involving dozens of synchronized sources, 4K displays and audio zones, a national design company chose a zero-latency IP-based network for signal management and distribution after vetting other possible options.
Other applications for zero latency systems can involve more life-critical situations. Consider the medical arena, where the use of video for remote diagnosis and surgical observation, especially endoscopy, is growing rapidly. Medical professionals are seeking out video technology that not only provides superior image quality and color – 4K with HDR – they also want as little latency as possible between actual events and their appearance on screen. Being able to offer a zero-latency solution for these environments has shown to be a prescription for sales success, in the U.S. and internationally.
Public safety represents another arena where end-users increasingly demand high quality video and zero latency distribution. Emergency operations and emergency management centers in particular are applications where officials want the best image quality and fastest distribution they can have. The ability to distinguish objects clearly and quickly, especially when layered with technologies like facial recognition, can mean the difference in deterring a terrorist or saving precious moments in responding to crises.
Command and control centers, whether in industry or more esoteric areas, offer other applications where very low latency distribution of very high-resolution video demands levels of scale and performance that can only be delivered with IP-based systems. NASA recently installed such a system at one of its space flight centers precisely to reduce video lag to the lowest possible limit when observing live steaming 4K video of space systems undergoing tests.
As one would expect, there are many situations in business management where zero-latency AV distribution has high practical and perceived value. An international foundation recently installed a zero-latency AV distribution system to improve the synchronization of simultaneous translations when AV presentations are made to its multinational board of directors. For boardroom presentations, zero latency video systems will eliminate the always annoying (and often distracting) lag that commonly occurs between moving one’s mouse and actually moving the cursor on the display at the front of the room.
Casinos, always quick to harness new technology to enhance customer experience (and their bottom line), are also becoming big believers in zero latency with AVoIP. For example, to display the results of rolls, spins and even bingo calls with momentary immediacy, gaming centers increasingly opt for IP-based video systems with the lowest latency specifications.
Lastly, education, especially higher ed, continues to be strong market for video and IP-based video networks, including advanced, zero latency technology. The applications in a school or university setting – inside and outside the classroom – are many and varied and they mirror many of those mentioned in earlier examples, including live events, presentations, security, scientific observation, etc. For schools eager to portray technology excellence and leadership in education, top-notch video technology helps make that statement.
Certainly, integrators will find other niches where zero latency (or near zero latency) AVoIP distribution delivers the superlative solution to satisfy customer needs. As always, the AV companies able to provide technology that best improves their customers’ capabilities and competitiveness will reap the greatest rewards.
Bob Michaels is the CEO of ZeeVee, Inc., a leading global developer of digital technology and products for distributing audio-video content from any source or multiple sources to any number of displays.