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about different systems. But procuring such apparatus is

no small undertaking. An example is Sheffield Hallam, the third largest university in the UK with 37,000 students. Saville recently installed integrated audio visual kit in 40 rooms including 22 seminar and meeting rooms, 13 computer teaching labs, two electronics labs and a lecture theatre. All of these rooms were equipped with whiteboards, audio systems and projectors and control systems. Dante is the name of the cabling system

that connects every piece of AV hardware on campus, from PA systems to movie screens. James Kennedy from Peavey Commercial Audio, the biggest Dante infrastructure installer in Europe, explains some of the complexity, “The footprint of a university is usually very large, with multiple buildings – a biology lab in one corner and a physical education area somewhere else. So universities need to link up audio and video across large networks. For example, a performance, or a lecture, can be broadcast across a number of buildings to a number of people.”

The future for AV technologies According to James, there are two big changes afoot for AV: one is behind the scenes, and one is front-of-house. He suggests that the next big thing

is Audio Video Bridging layer three technology. James explains how the technology meant the process in the past was slower. He said: “You receive audio with one network and video with another. Then you have to synch the loop. Typically we have to delay the audio because over a network there will be a delay of five milliseconds on audio, and a video will have a delay of a second. The video processing is slower so it can be tricky to synch that.” Now, using the new AVB protocols, you can synchronise audio and video to within a microsecond of one another, with minimal data loss – making for faster and more accurate transmission. The other technical change is also

impacting on the user experience. Traditionally, the complexity of a university or college-wide AV system means it would have been controlled from a single office, but now users are demanding that things are simple and can be controlled on the go. So suppliers now offer a range of tablet-controlled software, typically managed using HTML5 with behind-the-scenes coding accessible even by those without a background in programming.

ABOVE: Guy With Virtual Reality Headset At Games Week 2013 In Milan, Italy.

Priorities from in-house Alongside these technological developments, universities’ own AV needs are likely to flex in response to changing budgets and strategic priorities. Stuart Davies predicts that as universities become more international with campuses divided not by roads but by oceans, videoconferencing will become a bigger priority. It’s no surprise that when universities

are procuring such a large amount of equipment, they’re also keen to make sure that it retains its value over time. Stuart explains that IT managers are increasingly looking for long warranty periods to avoid having to replace kit after three or four years – Epson now

offer five-year projector warranties. Universities are also looking to build up relationships with companies as another way of adding value to the equipment. But for a handful of universities, leasing is beginning to look atractive. Instead of a large spend upfront, renting equipment can allow them to spread the financial burden over a number of years, and upgrade when they need to, as well as allowing them to realise tax benefits. Perhaps, though, the demands of the

future will not come from university leadership at all, but from students, using audio visual equipment in new and interesting ways in lecture theatre, libraries and student halls of residence across the UK. ET

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