Volume is Key Factor
Acceptance of networked projectors among manufacturers has increased as many more have become networkable. For customers, the determining factor to network is volume. And that volume is becoming possible as more and more projector manufacturers are selling units below $1,000. Its become the magic price point for all, with Mitsubishi Digital Electronics America Inc. being one of the latest entrants with its SE1U unit. The next noticeable change in the industry is the dramatic improvements in networked projector software control. It used to be that networked projector management meant you could only reactively turn a single projector on and off and see how many lamp hours were left. Newer control systems let you proactively manage multiple projectors over a network. For example, you can save power by setting the control system to shut down all the units automatically at midnight.Networking has become synonymous with standards. But thats not the case with projector management applications; they work only with that manufacturers brand of projectors. Such software design is not conducive to the purchase cycle of projectors, which usually happens over time with little regard for brand loyalty. At the University of Minnesota, the school has a network of more than 300 projectors that comprises units from Eiki International Inc., Sony, InFocus, Proxima (a brand of InFocus), NEC Corp. and Sharp Electronics Corp. To manage such an eclectic mix of units, most organizations rely on third-party control systems from companies such as AMX and Crestron Electronics Inc. Waveguides Walker said he rarely sees a projector manufacturers native tool, like InFocus ProjectorNet, being used. Most opt for a universal tool that can interoperate with multiple units. Thanks to MeetingManagers just-in-time notifications, the University of Minnesotas IT staff can avoid projector downtime. "We were pleasantly surprised that we were able to receive notifications overnight," said Jim Gregory, the universitys manager for classroom technical service. "[The alerts allow us to] get into classrooms in the morning before classes start so that we can have the system repaired before the class starts," Gregory said. All this projector usage is tracked and recorded into a data log. By analyzing these data logs, its easy to see which projectors are getting the most use. When the budget for new projectors becomes available, youve got the knowledge and the audit trail to prove which departments need one the most. "Its a benefit that doesnt jump out immediately but over time becomes evident," said Walker. Kayye Consultings analysis of the industry predicts that within three years, almost all AV systems will be built with networking. Much of this will not be for the purpose of asset management but rather a consequence of the globalization of business and the need to make AV rooms more collaborative. "I think youre going to now see products that utilize the network very efficiently, not just projectors," Kayye said. "Cameras, control systems, all the important elements of a system, videoconferencing, that are required for a collaborative meeting will become readily available via the network." David Spark is a freelance writer and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out eWEEK.coms Server and Networking Center at http://servers.eweek.com for the latest news, views and analysis on servers, switches and networking protocols for the enterprise and small businesses.
Lastly, content delivery has become more sophisticated. Projectors have built-in thin clients complete with an operating system and storage space to hold presentations. Newer systems can pull content off a server without relying on a connection to a computer. Its a new trend in the industry that Sony led more than six months ago with its VPL-FX51 system.