Programming Ahead

As Control Concepts gets ready to celebrate 15 years in business, we travel back in time to share our perspective with you on how control systems programming has evolved in the past decade and half; what the control system programmer’s unique contribution to the audiovisual industry is right now; and what the future holds for AV and IT through control systems programming for out manufacturer, integrator and end-user customers.

Up through the early 1990s, systems were very basic.  Touchpanels were used only in the most complicated systems.  Video conferencing was nowhere near main stream, and systems were limited to the devices within a room.

At that time, systems were much simpler to design and program.  The challenge was obtaining the proper information to interface with and control the equipment, making the majority of system components more difficult to integrate and control.  In the early 90s, control systems were just starting to be used in significant numbers and integration was truly an art form.

Though systems were much simpler and easier to program at this time, they were not designed with control in mind.  Obtaining control protocol was more of a challenge and required accessing proprietary information.  Information became coveted and it seemed pretty daunting to install and integrate a video conference system and setup a video projector.

Progressing through the 90s, integration became more main stream and projects grew from single isolated systems to larger multi-room systems that share devices, functionality, combine, and can be controlled individually or centrally.  Inter-room communication through RS-232 or RS-422 point-to-point connections were, at that time, the most advanced methods of sharing information or providing control between systems at that time.

The ability to put control systems on an Ethernet network in the late 90s and early 2000s brought tremendous advancement to our industry.  As much of an advancement as we now know it to be, at the time, many were intimidated by the new technology and what it could mean for the future of the industry.

It took a different mindset, different knowledge and skills, and the ability to interface with different equipment and players to capitalize on this technology.  This marked the beginning of AV and IT coming together.

Ethernet control allowed systems to be inter-connected easily and to provide remote access from anywhere in the world.  What would happen if we hadn’t embraced the challenge of Ethernet control?

As we have learned to leverage Ethernet control and to put systems on networks, opportunities have continued to grow.  Web control and remote access evolved into resource management, centralized support, and remote monitoring.

Resource management systems such as the Crestron RoomView and AMX RMS allow system data to be collected and reported, making it possible to schedule system and trigger system events globally, settings from a centralized system and send fault and threshold notifications.

So if we take a step back, twenty years or so, we have moved from single room presentation systems where it was a challenge to interface with individual equipment ,to network based systems that can be managed remotely and controlled from anywhere in the world.

We know that we need to progress in order to be sustainable and valuable, so what is the next for the AV industry…

AV/IT convergence is now.  Control Concepts is a member of BICSI and AITP and sees a future where all control systems programmers maximize the use of information technology for AV projects.

I predict that every AV device will have an Ethernet port or wireless connection in the near future.  Devices that don’t communicate over the network will be left behind.  As a result, the AV industry needs to understand the requirements and responsibilities of being IT savvy and how to adhere to their standards and best practices.

Building control is a new frontier of opportunity for the AV industry.  The same way that control systems programming looked at the AV/IT convergence that the Ethernet capabilities created for system and multi-room control, we now see the opportunity for whole building control using the tools that we have been perfecting over the last twenty years.  Control systems programming for whole building control creates efficient, sustainable systems that are flexible, easy to fix and maximize the capability to embrace new technology for greater savings and functionality.  And with that, greater opportunities for AV.