When the COVID-19 pandemic began in early 2020, it was clear that business practices, educational methods, and ways of interacting across multiple industries would have to adapt rapidly to AV-over-IP solutions in order for these enterprises to stay afloat.
To a remarkable degree, that effort paid off. A fortuitous combination of pre-existing technologies and initiatives were well-timed to make this possible. IP-based AV, easy-to-use cloud-based conferencing tools, ubiquitous smartphones, and a global internet kept it all linked.
For institutions with physical infrastructure, such as schools, houses of worship, office buildings and broadcast studios, the transition has been more complex and has challenged many long-standing practices. There were challenges of keeping people safely distanced while inside, as well as the challenges of so many people working and contributing from outside.
Let’s take a look at several market areas to see which changes are temporary, and which are likely to become the new standards for getting things done with AV.
AVoIP In Corporate Spaces
In 2020, many businesses were scramblingremote l to stay functional as workforces were stuck in their homes. As business began to cautiously bring people back into workspaces, new rules around social distancing meant big changes in how conferencing and communications would work— both in and outside of the office.
The incredible rise of cloud-based conferencing services, such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams affected both home and in-office employees. While people in their homes might simply use a laptop and headset with these tools, their adoption meant wholesale changes to what we think of as a “conference room.”
In the absence of face-to-face contact, businesses have had to come to terms with the shortcomings of many legacy conference solutions. These older setups were constrained to use in small, confined spaces, and often provided sub-standard audibility for participants, both in hearing what is being said and being heard.
The days of people huddling around a “conference phone” were thankfully coming to a close as business sought to allow people access across large spaces as well as “at home” with far greater friendliness and intelligibility.
The hybrid approach that quickly evolved has relied upon AV-over-IP as backbone. AV-over-IP solutions move responsibility for conference solutions over to the IT department, where rooms can be monitored for proper function before a meeting starts.
AV-over-IP scales far beyond analog or USB-based legacy solutions, enabling seamless communication across large distances and through many simultaneous endpoints, allowing rooms to employ multiple high-quality microphones and loudspeakers for maximum clarity for all participants, both in-office and at home.
Given the vast improvements in the quality and productivity of meetings with this increased audio fidelity and ease of use, this hybrid approach seems destined to be with us for a long time to come.
AVoIP in Education
Schools ranging from K-12 to universities have had to work hard to ensure a safe learning environment for students. Like the business sector, they needed to address large numbers of pupils working from home as well as providing safe ways for people to participate on campus. Once again, a hybrid approach using AV-over-IP evolved to keep schools open and students learning.
In universities, many lecture halls were fitted with AV systems as part of long-running projects, hastened by the pandemic. AV solutions were required to distribute this content around campuses, allowing students to safely participate from alternative rooms and dorms in keeping with social distancing rules.
The use of AV-over-IP made this task far easier. Campus networks are already ubiquitous and make the task of extending AV nearly trivial— simply connect to the network and start routing signals where they need to be. Without this advantage, the costs and time required to implement campus-wide AV are simply daunting.
This use also opens up education opportunities to more people— no matter where they are located. This ability to offer educational opportunities has the potential to be transformative in the long term.
While social distancing rules will eventually be relaxed, the movie maxim remains: build it and they will come. With AV-over-IP available throughout a campus, students and staff can access key resources and live events more easily than ever before, and they won’t want to go back.
To a greater degree than many businesses and schools, broadcasters are tied to the physical resources required to do their jobs. Control rooms cannot be simply picked up and moved.
Stories and talent are different. Many on-air personalities were forced to stay at home, and shows had to be rebuilt on that assumption. We witnessed everyone from late night talk show hosts to sports commentators doing shows from kitchens and basements, sometimes to a charming effect.
Doing this was a heavy lift, and again AV-over-IP made it easier for everyone. With lightweight cabling and software-driving connectivity, networking can easily be brought into a home or other location to carry all the audio and video needed for production, without the complexity and sheer size of legacy technologies.
As the pandemic slowly fades, most performers understandably wish to work with live audiences again but AV-over-IP has made its mark as the easiest and best way to connect OB trucks to remote sites.
In Houses of Worship
The world of worship was profoundly impacted by the pandemic as the very essence of worship is to provide a gathering of community. Many houses of worship had to rush and find new ways to connect with their members once it became clear that large gatherings were problematic and/or banned by local jurisdictions.
AV-over-IP was already very popular in this sector and provided a basis upon which both worship and safety could coexist. With networked audio and video, extending services to remote parts of a house of worship was easy— all that is needed is an ethernet port on a switch and whatever new endpoints are required. Lobbies, classrooms and offices were converted into makeshift locations for worshippers to come together, albeit a bit more spread apart than previously.
Another area of expansion in this sector was the online presence of many houses of worship. Here, AV-over-IP makes that entire effort far easier, as audio mixes can be sent to a streaming server with just a few mouse clicks and no intermediate hardware required.
While worshippers will undoubtedly wish to enjoy each other’s close company as safety permits, the flexibility of AV-over-IP has demonstrated to this market that working over distances is entirely feasible and can help keep a community bound together. The trend in houses of worship towards increased dependence upon AV-over-IP seems very likely to continue for these and all prior reasons— it simply makes good sense.
AVoIP isn’t going away any time soon
The growth of AV-over-IP has been steady both before and during the pandemic, fueled by the countless practical advantages it offers: lower costs of installation, unprecedented flexibility and scale, and ease of use for everyone.
While we all wait for some sort of “normal” to reappear, it is clear that AV-over-IP provides more ways for people to overcome difficulties and make a difference. This means the use of AV-over-IP isn’t going away any time soon. Rather, it introduces the confidence necessary to meet any challenges that might be ahead.