Inavate + NETGEAR: IT made for AV

As AV over IP gains traction and increases in popularity, NETGEAR is providing AV professionals with hardware specifically suited for the job. Patrick Lo, CEO of NETGEAR, talks about how the switch manufacturer is committed to helping AV grow.

NETGEAR the world of AV was driven by leadership and guided by intention. Patrick Lo, CEO of NETGEAR ’s entry into , details: “It started from conversations with ZeeVee and Semtech. They were in touch with us and our product manager and brought forward the possibility of joining SDVoE which we did as a founding member. At the start, in very simple terms, we understood the need for creating big videowalls and the fact that 4K signals needed to be transmitted, switched, and manipulated to create these videowalls with no latency. And we knew that we could solve this problem because our core proficiency is high-speed IP switching with multiple inputs and outputs of high-definition content with zero latency.”

After dipping its toes in the world of AV, NETGEAR started to formulate a gameplan. Lo says: “The first question we had was ‘how big is the AV market’? Our product manager started to lay out the possible applications of AV over IP. Screens are everywhere from retail shopping malls, airports, train stations to schools and offices. Media needs to be transmitted to all of these screens. And you need the capability to support different resolutions, split the screen, switch, and have picture in picture for advertising. Back in the day AV was not big enough to be comparable to our other businesses but we thought if we could capture 100% of the market share it would be worth it and that is what we set out to do.”

As NETGEAR’s plans were being implemented Covid-19 hit. The pandemic brought about disruption, but this also created opportunity and Lo details: “Everything turned hybrid and this meant that technology systems combined and came together. The biggest example of this was in the corporate office. Videoconferencing used to be a closed system, but that was something that had to change. With hybrid work, you had to be able to build flexibility and support UC&C platforms, you had to be able to allow participation from PCs and this became a driver for AV over IP.”

Lo continues: “And on a wider scale, people were not allowed to participate physically in many activities. You couldn’t go to church or to houses of worship. You couldn’t attend classes and lectures in classrooms. But people still needed to ‘access’ these services so they started to turn towards streaming and looking at AV over IP as a solution to stay connected during the pandemic.”

By the time the increase in demand and interest in AV over IP materialised, NETGEAR was in position to capitalise. It already had a rock-solid offering for AV in the form of its M4300 line of network switches. But not content to rest on its laurels, NETGEAR continued to improve the performance and suitability of its switches for AV. Lo says: “As we worked with the AV community, they started to give us feedback. There were quality of life features such as the orientation of ports and LED lights and support for 1Gb that we were very easily able to implement. But what they really wanted was NETGEAR switches that were more suited for AV applications. They wanted one-click configuration and more compatibility with products from OEMs such as Crestron, Kramer, Extron and more. So, we delivered this compatibility. All these developments are happening on the software side, and we are in a great place to keep expanding the capabilities of our products. We’re going to continue supporting more AV protocols and platforms and we’re going to continue to make it easier for AV to configure and deploy our switches at scale.”

NETGEAR has assembled all the components for success in the world of AV. NETGEAR’s hardware and software are geared for AV applications, it has partnerships with all the relevant AV players and the demand for AV over IP in the market is materialising. The next push is educating AV and tech so they can upgrade their skills to become proficient with AV over IP and placing NETGEAR switches in their hands so that they can do what they do best.

On the education front, Lo details: “We offer a range of courses for free on our training academy: is the URL. From AV-over-IP basics to detailed networking concepts such as the OSI Model, the Academy is a great, free resource for anyone to learn at their own pace. We host seminars across Asia Pacific for systems integrators to come and learn in person and virtually. And most importantly, across all our education platforms, we welcome AV professionals to come and challenge us and our claims of how easy NETGEAR switches are to configure and deploy. We’re confident that at the end our conversation you’ll be swayed to our side.”

NETGEAR is pairing its education efforts with the extension of support. Lo says: “One of the first things we did when we started to focus on AV was to hire a business development manager in every single region so that we have someone present to interface with the AV community. We’re looking at doubling our presence in the regions every year. And we will always be there to help AV professionals with consultation free of charge.”

He continues: “We’re also evolving our approach to distribution to ensure that NETGEAR products are available to AV professionals through the channels that they are familiar with. We’ve already made headway in Europe and USA and we’re looking to appoint relevant distributors in Asia as well. These elite distributors will not only carry our switches, but they will also serve as a line of support, providing assistance to integrators as required.”

NETGEAR’s commitment to AV is for the long term. There are already plans to enhance and upgrade its switches for the next phase of AV-over-IP deployments. Lo believes that AV over IP still has room to grow: “We’re starting to see applications in healthcare where the surgeon is in one location and the consulting surgeon is in a second location and the students are in a third location and the operation is being ‘livecast’ for all of them. AV over IP is particularly suited for these healthcare applications because it can transmit high-resolution content with zero latency and the fibre cabling it uses does not cause any interference with the other electrical equipment.”

Lo continues: “And the next big thing for AV over IP is broadcast. We want to take over broadcast from streaming to studio production. That is an unbelievably huge market where the potential for signal transmission over IP is immense. We’re already looking to support the SMPT 2110 protocols with our switches and IP is already making its way into the broadcast environment with developments such as NDI.”

Lo concludes: “The whole world is moving to IP for media and that is exactly what we want to enable at NETGEAR.”

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