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Tech Talk: Freeing up Space

Remember the video-retrieval systems that required video switches, set top boxes, multiplexers, receivers, transceivers, routers, modulators and other equipment? Those systems and equipment soon may be obsolete. Welcome to the world of convergence and streaming digital video.

There's been a lot of talk about technology convergence — unifying multiple services such as voice, data and video on one network infrastructure. Manufacturers are building quality-of-service (QoS) features that can guarantee the delivery of time-sensitive information for voice, data and video over the same network.

Many schools have been running IP telephony systems and a data networking system over the same strands of fiber. Now video streaming can be added to that network. What are the advantages?

  • Lower cost of ownership.

  • Less wire required. Four strands of fiber go to each classroom: two strands for voice, data and video merged onto a network for send and return, and two strands are for future use.

  • Only one network has to be maintained, and most maintenance can be carried out remotely.

A streaming video system (SVS) is a digital multicast video-streaming distribution system that can access, retrieve and control audio/video information. As a result, virtually any program on any media can be made available to any station, area or room in any building.

Low bandwidth control and management information can be passed via the data local area network (LAN), and the high bandwidth video and audio information is transmitted via digital streaming IP multicast servers. This LAN architecture takes advantage of EIA/TIA wiring standards and can be scaled to handle thousands of simultaneous users. To make digital video streaming possible, a robust giga-speed backbone data network is necessary with QoS and V-LANS activated.

The system network architecture includes a centrally situated source origination and IP multicast distribution system equipped with video, computers or playback devices such as VCRs, DVDs and digital video file servers. Switching and control equipment can be provided for local, studio or remote origination of cable television, direct satellite viewing and teleconferencing. All signals are converted to MPEG and transmitted over the data LAN using IP multicast technology. The system also can provide a multi-menu system that allows on-demand access to the sources that are available to all classrooms: controllable sources such as VCRs, DVDs and digital libraries; non-controllable sources such as video news bulletin boards and cable TV stations; and other view-only information.

Simplicity is the driving criterion behind convergence. It gives staff a single icon on the PC desktop to access any type of video, whether it is live streaming video from an analog source or video-on-demand.

Day is senior analyst at KBD Planning Group, Bloomington, Ind., a firm that specializes in educational facilities and technology planning. He can be reached at [email protected].

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