In a previous post, we talked about the evolution of A/V technology from isolated, standalone systems to networked components. Many of today’s A/V components are IP-enabled, which allows you to monitor, manage and control the A/V system over the Ethernet network. Devices can be installed anywhere there’s a network connection, and traditional A/V interfaces can be replaced by intuitive touchscreen panels.
This delivers tremendous value in terms of efficiency, flexibility, scalability and the user experience. But keep in mind that most of the technologies we’ve been discussing are designed to handle the configuration and management of A/V gear. Now we’re starting to put content on the network, which opens up new opportunities and a new set of issues for organizations to consider.
We are leveraging IP-enabled microphones from Shure that send sound through a network switch to the A/V equipment rack. A special device converts the audio to data packets that travel over the network. Some Shure products also integrate digital signal processors (DSP) that analyze the data and remedy problems such as feedback, varying signal levels and background noise.
In addition, some of the latest solutions use a technology called “beamforming,” which incorporates up to 16 mics in each unit. The mics work together to isolate where someone is talking versus other sounds that are just background noise. Beamforming can dramatically improve the audio quality in conferencing systems.
Another big advantage of networked sound is the ability to share resources. Instead of installing a small DSP in every conference room, we can put a larger one in the IDF closet or server room to support an entire floor or even the whole building. You no longer have to have a full rack of equipment in the conference room.
Before implementing IP-enabled microphones, organizations need to consider how the addition of audio traffic will impact network capacity. A greater concern is security — a person’s speech is content that could be intercepted by a hacker who is able to infiltrate the network.
When we were just managing devices on the network, we didn’t have to worry about security that much because the information that somebody could get would not be very important. It would be something like “the projector is on in room 3.” But when you place a networked microphone in a board room, you are going to be dealing with ultra-sensitive information. We have to take steps to protect that data.
Network segmentation can be used to carve out a separate, secure path for networked audio. It’s also possible to encrypt the audio signal itself so that it cannot be intercepted in a man-in-the-middle attack.
The key is to recognize the potential security risks of networked audio and take steps to address them prior to implementation. Rahi’s network engineers can help you develop the best strategy for protecting audio data throughout your conferencing and collaboration environment.
Our A/V specialists have extensive expertise in IP-enabled audio and video technologies. We can help you take advantage of the latest conferencing solutions to improve the quality of the collaboration experience.