The first commandment: “Thou Shall Know Thy Application!”
Redacted transcript from a common call.
Caller: “Hi, we want to try a couple wireless signal distribution options for our customer and were considering [option apple] and [option orange]. Which is better?”
Me: “Well, these are very different units designed for different needs. Tell me more about the application – most importantly, what are they looking to accomplish?”
Caller: “The customer wants to take video from [point A] to [point B]. The signal type is [X] going about [Y] number of feet to their [Z] room. Perhaps we can try a couple [very different units] and we’ll see which is best for them?”
Quick digression… An essential element in creative problem solving is knowing what you are really trying to “solve”. One of my favorite analogies describes a person who goes to a hardware store to buy a drill. The sales people, in an attempt to help, may ask questions about what they are looking for in a drill to help narrow down the choices. Unfortunately, what gets lost in the process is that the shopper does not really need a drill. They need a hole. The focus shifted away from the actual need to an assumed solution which may or may not fulfill the underlying objective. [Note: we could take this further and look at why they need a hole to begin with – but I think you get the point.]
Back to our caller…
While most wireless distribution solutions are similar in that they move signal from point A to point B (and possibly points C, D, and E), the commonalities usually end there. Time otherwise spent on conducting a “shoot-out” between units can sometimes be reduced by understanding how the differences between various options impact their suitability for different applications – thereby narrowing the field and simplifying the process. To illustrate this, let’s compare applications and see how well these fit with different solutions.
Scenario 1: A corporate environment wants to show training DVD’s or cable news in up to four locations around the office. The office manager needs to be able to control playback of the DVD’s while at any of the display locations so she can stop playback to answer questions. Occasionally, they have vendors come in to conduct training and would like them to show their presentations on those same displays. These outside presenters would be located in the main training room which also houses their equipment rack.
In this situation, we would look closely at the HD Flow™ from Peerless-AV. This HDCP compliant device has multiple AV input and output formats that can be switched from an included wireless remote. IR return for up to three devices (such as DVD players) is supported via emitters. Packages are available with one to four receivers with secure pairing between units. Presenters control the presentation locally on their own PC and it shows up in the training room and the three locations around the office. Straight-forward enough.
But what if we changed the need slightly. A corporate trainer needs the option to show materials either from the training room, from a sales floor, or both locations simultaneously. With the presentation materials being resident on the computer in the training room, they want to be able to go between locations without moving a computer or anything else. Locating a second keyboard in the sales location and providing real-time wireless keyboard and mouse (HID) return back to the PC is required. In this case, PeerAir™ Wireless HD unit may be a better solution.
PeerAir™ Wireless HD offers 2 HDMI inputs, along with IR and USB HUI return control back to a source PC. The differences between this and the HD Flow™ mentioned previously, goes beyond I/O. Being that this has zero latency on the video, it makes keyboard and mouse control practical – without any discernible lag. Since the transmitter has a local HDMI pass-through, placing the receiver in the training room and locating the transmitter, secondary keyboard/mouse and local display in the sales floor could be a viable solution.
Additionally, zero latency makes PeerAir™ Wireless HD much more suitable for IMAG applications, such as in a house of worship or rental and staging environment – where an image from a stage is being magnified to large screens within the same location – where you wouldn’t want a visible delay between the live person and the displayed image when they are both in the same field of view.
In our last application, we have large a retailer wanting to retrofit digital signage into their stores, but they don’t want to pull cables throughout the facilities. They may also need the flexibility to relocate signage displays as they periodically rearrange the floor plan. They want to update content instantly on every display throughout the store. The same content may need to appear on a large number of displays throughout the store, and yet they may have different content in some locations.
In this application, Pico Broadcaster may be best option. This unit has an RJ45 input intended to work with a transport stream from a computer. A variation is available with AV inputs. The transmission method is via ATSC compatible broadcast utilizing frequencies in FCC allocated white spaces. This means any television with an ATSC tuner within the 350’ range can receive the transmission. This well exceeds the range of most other options on the market and means the number of available receivers with a single transmitter is unlimited. The range can also be extended with third-party hardware. If you want the content to vary by location within the store, multiple Pico broadcasters can be set to output different channels. Each receiving display’s tuner would then be left on the corresponding channel to the preferred Pico Broadcaster.
Since this is essentially working as small over-the-air television transmitter, there are none of the same security features as provided by other units, and a small annual FCC licensing fee is required (currently around $55). While not ideally suited for presentation sharing within a conference room, or remote playback and control of AV sources, the applications for this type of device are vast.
Some other applications where we see Pico Broadcaster include outdoor displays in mass transit applications, marinas, train yards, factories, warehouses and the like – providing updates to passengers, boat owners, engineers and yard workers, and employees, via a large number of displays over a wide area – all without pulling any cable. In addition to the benefits of wireless signal distribution to an unlimited number of displays, running a transport stream from a computer allows for easy management of the content.
While elements such as connectivity, range and security, are typically among the first factors addressed when considering options, understanding the underlying application can help make sure all pertinent elements are addressed. This may include the number of simultaneous sources displayed, which may differ from the number of connected devices, how many destination displays are required or supported, along with the implications for Bi-directional control and latency. Each solution on the market handles audio differently and the transmitted resolution or frame rate may change from the source, so these may need to be taken into consideration as well. Focusing on the underlying need and objective in any situation can help improve the results and simplify the process. In practice, the next time you contact us for a solution – wireless or otherwise – don’t be surprised if we ask some questions about the application. The answers will help make sure your customers get the right hole and not just a drill.
|Peerless-AVHD Flow™||Peerless-AVWireless HD||Peerless-AVPico Broadcaster|
|Simultaneous Sources Connected||2x HDMI, 1x Composite, VGA (or Component)||2 HDMI||1x RJ45 for Transport Stream(AV Version Available)|
|Simultaneous Sources Displayed||1||1||1|
|# of Displays||1-4||1+ HDMI Pass-through||Unlimited|
|Max Range||131 ft||100 ft||350’|
|Return Control or HUI||IR return||IR and USB HID Return||None|
|Common Application||Sending AV sources between rooms||Home entertainment, gaming, or when zero latency is required||Digital Signage, large number of end-point displays|