Lifespan of an AV System Installment 1: Budgets and IT

Those of us at a certain age can remember a day when technology moved at a pace that wasn’t driven by Moore’s Law (where the density of transistors doubles every two years). In terms of a home theater system, it meant you could buy a power amp for your speakers, and you would run it for several years until it burned out, blew up, melted down, or had some other malady happened. The same could be said for that speaker it was hooked up to or even your TV, for that matter. If you were someone in charge of a bigger facility the same philosophy held true, just on a larger scale. A distributed paging system could run for years, or even decades, without needing much attention beyond a few replacement parts here and there. And if your amplifier did go down after a few years use, you could send it off to a repair shop and get it worked on. But, as with everything else, networks and the digital transfer of information has snuck its way into these systems. Amplifiers, processors, video switchers and just about everything else in AV have computer chips in them doing all kinds of jobs, and it’s not just within the devices themselves. Because of the flexibility and interconnectivity, nearly all forms of AV are now connected to a network of some kind, moving audio, video, and control signals around.

When you look at the title of this entry you might be asking yourself “what does this have to do with budgets”? It comes back to how you look at all that network-based AV stuff. It needs firmware updates, software updates, updates to network client interfaces, and so on. All things which tend to have the same kind of turnover rate as other computer and network infrastructure. It’s true that your digital signal processor, for example, may keep chugging along many years past the warranty. The problem comes in when you try and connect to it with your laptop and find the app from the manufacturer no longer supports that device. So, when it comes to budgeting for the lifespan of the AV system, instead of thinking of it like you would a boiler or air conditioning, it would be more appropriate to include it in with IT. In fact, the trend is for all those devices connected to the network to be maintained by the IT department anyway. On the average, IT departments do equipment refreshes every 3 to 5 years. Including AV into the IT budget makes the tendency toward these constant changes in technology more manageable.