At the heart of any audio visual integrated room or environment is likely a control system that facilitates both the communication between multiple A/V technologies as well as the interface to the end user. Control system platforms from vendors such as AMX and Crestron are continuously evolving and providing new features and functionality. One area that continues to be required, however, is the need to program these platforms to the specific room they are utilized in.
Understanding the nuances of control system programming can be rather complex for the user evaluating a new AV solution and even more, how do you know if you are dealing with a provider who has strong control system programming chops?
Here are some key areas to consider and questions to ask:
During the evaluation phase it is imperative to understand exactly what your needs are from a control system perspective. How do you want the system to work? What do you want the interface to look like? During this period it is important to consider the end users who will be working in the room day in and day out. If the room is an executive conference room, automation and simplicity will be important. Your CEO will likely not want to have to move through dozens of screens simply to start his or her meeting. If the users of the room are middle managers who are going to be working with a lot of different content sources or multiple locations, those functions must also be easy to access but also powerful enough to facilitate their meeting needs.
With these questions answered, sit with your AV solution provider and develop a requirements document that outlines all of this information as well as a general flow of how the system will work. Some AV providers will offer a prebuilt platform that provides basic functionality out of the box and your company can simply license this software for their room. If this is the path you follow, make sure you obtain a manual or other usage document that overviews how this platform will work. It will be critical to match this to the needs you have defined.
Programming projects can be tricky to manage and getting them completed on time and on budget maybe a challenge for some of the AV providers out there. When evaluating, speak to your solution center about their project management methodology and what steps they will take to ensure timely completion and how they manage their programming resources. Also, it is important to understand if any of the project will be outsourced or if programming is handled in house.
Testing and Quality Control
Once your AV programming is complete, it is critical that the code is tested with the hardware that will be implemented in the room. Speak to your provider to have a full understanding of their testing and quality control process. Particularly critical to this process is when the code will be loaded and tested. If the plan is to ship all hardware to your facility and then load and test the code there, huge problems can arise! It is possible you will have programmers on site attempting to debug bad code instead of technicians ensuring the room hardware is properly installed. Best case scenario for testing is that your room racks are fabricated ahead of time and tested with the completed code at your solution provider’s facility. This will allow for any changes to the code to be made on the fly and to also ensure that wiring and fabrication work is complete and tested as well.
A final consideration is what will happen to the source code for your project. If you have contracted for a completely custom programming solution, that code should be provided to you at the project’s completion. This is incredibly important because if changes are needed to be made in the future by another solution provider, they will need to have access to all source code. If you elect to use an AV provider’s standard control platform, that source will likely not be provided to you since it’s a standard platform that you are simply licensing.
Control System Programming is the brains behind your AV room so do not take the evaluation of that process lightly. Ask pointed questions of your provider and demand answers and a project timeline. The upfront work will help ensure a successfully implemented room.