Evaluating the Technology Utility Horizon

Almost every audio/video installation or project comes with a parameter that is almost never mentioned in the specifications or bid packages; often is not defined in the design stages; is likely an assumed attribute by the client; and is never fully guaranteed by any party involved in the creation of the system. That parameter is the true, useful life of the infrastructure and products deployed to answer the A/V needs of the job. Exactly how long will that A/V investment last, and when should the client be thinking about their next investment in upgrades and changes?

On December 8, 2010, Intel posted a news story titled “Leading PC Companies Move to All Digital Display Technology, Phasing out Analog”. The story states that “AMD, Dell, Intel Corporation, Lenovo, Samsung Electronics LCD Business and LG Display today announced intentions to accelerate adoption of scalable and lower power digital interfaces such as DisplayPort and High-Definition Multimedia Interface® (HDMI)” and that “Intel and AMD expect that analog display … would no longer be supported in their product lines by 2015.” AMD went so far as to state it “plans to remove native VGA output starting in 2013”. This is not unexpected; in fact it is defined. The Advanced Access Content System Licensing Administrator (AACS LA), a consortium that includes such notables as Intel, Microsoft, Panasonic, IBM, Toshiba and Sony, has in directive stated clearly that “No Licensed Player that passes Decrypted AACS Content to analog video outputs may be manufactured or sold by Adopter after December 31, 2013.”

You might be thinking that this is a directive that is designed to limit the connectivity of consumer-grade Blu-ray and DVD players and, as such, has nothing to do with the wiring going into a corporate board room, public school classroom or business meeting room. Think again. Nearly every computer has a built in DVD player and there is no content protection exception for material broadcast on satellite, off-air or via the Internet. In short, unless the A/V installation will never be expected to play back a snippet of movie, a link from YouTube, or a scene from a DVD in full resolution, then those carefully installed VGA cables are all for naught. If a project has only analog connectivity, then it is doomed to obsolescence sometime after the next IT cycle replaces the computers connected to it. In some instances, this might occur even before.

The Technology Utility Horizon is a concept that tries to put a date on that period where infrastructure becomes a hindrance to, rather than a conduit for, performance. Economic utility is defined as the “ability of a good or service to satisfy one or more needs or wants of a consumer.” The Technology Utility Horizon helps to pinpoint that time when the ability of technology infrastructure begins failing to satisfy the needs of the system owner to access, present or manipulate audio and video content.

Here is the exercise. Ask how long a project is intended to survive without updates or major modification. If it is a simple projector installation in a room with a suspended ceiling and easy access, and where only one room is involved, the answer might be “one or two years”. In a more typical project with wiring run behind drywall or in conduit, the answer might be “ten years” or even more. Then look at the connectivity associated with the project and determine if that functionality will be compromised by the changing demands of Analog Sunset (or other technological changes). The Technology Utility Horizon is that point where confidence in the solution dips below 50 percent, a decidedly subjective assessment. If a project being designed today offers only analog connectivity such as VGA, and with the clear message that major manufacturers will not support analog connectivity past 2015, then the Technology Utility Horizon for a VGA-based analog infrastructure is about three years.

How do you ensure the usefulness of the project beyond that period? Make sure you have installed a TMDS (transition minimized differential signaling) compatible connectivity solution. HDMI is capable of transmitting DVI-D, and DisplayPort can typically be adapted to HDMI. HDMI is the right connectivity solution for A/V projects going forward. Inclusion of HDMI cabling, or installation of UTP (unshielded twisted pair) for use with HDMI conversion products such as HDBaseT, is the safest way to guarantee that your project has a projected Technology Utility Horizon that will meet your clients demands and provide adaptable, dependable performance now and in the future.

This white paper is for informational purposes only and is subject to change without notice. C2G makes no guarantees, either expressed or implied, concerning the accuracy, completeness or reliability of the information found in this document.