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Category Archives: Digital Signage

Cybersecurity In Audiovisual Systems

You Should Consider Cybersecurity During All Phases Of An Audiovisual Installation

By Paul Konikowski, CTS-D

Earlier this month, the San Francisco Bay Area was graced with the presence of President Barack Obama, who was here to participate in a Cybersecurity Summit at Stanford University.  *Side note*, I am still unsure if it’s spelled as one word or two, cyber security, or with a dash, cyber-security, and the online jury seems to be rather undecided. So for the sake of brevity, I am sticking with the one-word-version, cybersecurity. *End side note*. At the aforementioned summit of cybersecurity experts, students, and information technology managers in Palo Alto, Mr. Obama signed an executive order encouraging the private sector to share cybersecurity threat information with other companies and the U.S. government.

Rising stock prices of cybersecurity software firms like Palo Alto Networks (PANW), FireEye (FEYE), and CyberArk (CYBR) have also reflected this increased level of awareness. Why? Because unlike guns or nuclear warfare, cyber hacking can happen right under our noses, for years and years, without anyone even noticing. Larger firms have realized that they need the best of the best to combat these criminals, and investors have taken notice to the growth potential of these new age software “heroes” who will do battle for a price, much like the Routiers, the early mercenary soldiers of the Middle Ages.

As audiovisual experts we also need to become IT cybersecurity experts, at least to some degree. At minimum, we have to know what risk we are adding to the network before, during, and after the AV installation. Here is a list of ways you can protect your audio, video, and control systems against theft and hackers, in no particular order:

  • Have a frank and honest discussion with the project team about cybersecurity. Find out who is in charge of the network, and who will need access to the systems.
  • Use motorized projection screens that are fitted into the ceilings to discourage theft.
  • Mount projectors using security boxes, or scissor lifts to hide them up inside the ceilings.
  • AV touch panels and camera controllers often have passwords, but are they updated?
  • Portable TVs and poorly mounted speakers are easy targets; don’t “tempt” thieves
  • Ping all projectors and flat-panel television type displays once every minute. If the display does not respond, assume it is being stolen and automatically email security
  • Interactive whiteboards, mice, and keyboards are generally trustworthy, but who is really checking that USB stick that automatically downloads this or that app to the laptops?
  • Don’t assume that the person in charge of your computer network is the best one to test the AV installation for bugs or security breach points. Hire an expert to test it.
  • Backup all files at least once a day to a secure offsite and/or cloud storage facility.
  • Microphones and tableboxes should be periodically checked for James Bond type “bugs” that can listen to private meetings. It’s not always the newest technology that you need to worry about!
  • Videochat and audio conferencing suites should never be left unlocked while not in use
  • Make sure that end users know when a camera is on or when microphones are open.
  • Digital signage and way-finding kiosks are updated via website; use unique passwords.
  • Unfortunately, most AV equipment racks are made by just a few manufacturers, and each uses one or two different key codes in their door locks. Once you have a set of the common AV rack keys, you can open almost any locked AV equipment rack in the U.S.
  • “Security screws” can also limit the amateur thefts, but any real crook will have tools.

These are just a portion of the areas that the AV Design Engineer and Project Manager need to address during a project. The real problems are the bugs and “holes” that are accidentally left in a program, that nobody catches, mainly because, no one is looking for them. That is why it is critical that today’s AV integration firms hire a well-trained, experienced QA (quality assurance) department who will double-check the engineer’s design, the programmer’s code, and the completed installation.

We all make mistakes, its human nature. And even when we don’t make mistakes, we certainly overlook things that others might catch. Having someone else check your AV design, bug test your code, or evaluate your network or website for cybersecurity threats will always uncover more than checking it yourself.  If you are not putting up “constant vigilance” against the hackers, and paying an expert to test your systems, then you are just living in denial, thinking that your systems are working properly and secure. If these hackers can break into insurance companies and Target, you have to assume that they are trying to hack into your systems as well, (or that they already have!)

constant vigilance

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Integrated Audiovisual Systems

Why Do You Need An AV Consultant?

By Paul Konikowski, CTS-D

Architects Better Homes & Gardens 1956

I recently came across this advertisement from a 1956 Better Homes & Gardens magazine:

Advertisement Better Homes & Gardens

Although the setting is a home, and the topic of the ad is cutlery, I believe the headline still holds true today, especially in commercial projects.  Larger projects will have multiple architects, engineers, and consultants, each working on different disciplines.  There are structural, mechanical, electrical, and plumbing engineers, acoustical consultants, landscape designers, lighting specialists, and telecom and data experts.  And last but not least, there is often an audiovisual/technology consultant on the team.

Nowadays, the AV consultant works hand in hand with the information technology designer, who engineers the structured cabling, category 6, and fiber optic networks. For smaller projects, the role of AV designer and IT consultant are one in the same. So what size project do you need to hire an independent AV consultant, and when do you bring them on to the project? 

Generally speaking, any new construction project team should include an AV/Technology consultant from Day 1, because everything in life these days revolves around technology.  Retrofits and remodels are even tougher, because the technology is usually an afterthought.  So its best to think of it early!

Novato City Council

An audiovisual system should be designed at the same time as the lighting and acoustics

Here is a list of audio, video, and control systems that will be specified by the project’s AV Consultant:

  • Properly sized projection screens
  • Projectors with correct lenses
  • Flat-panel television type displays
  • Interactive whiteboards and software
  • Microphones and table-top connections
  • Videochat and audio conferencing
  • Digital signage and way-finding kiosks
  • Ceiling speakers, spacing and placement
  • Wall-mounted speakers including angles
  • Floor boxes and wall-mounted input plates
  • Conduit sizing and cable/wire pull schedule
  • Power requirements for audiovisual racks
  • HVAC coordination for studios, mixing booths
  • Acoustical ceiling tiles and fiberglass wall panels
  • Audio mixing consoles and digital signal processors
  • AV touch panels and camera controllers if needed

These are just a few (okay more than a few) of the things that an AV consultant will specify and draw using CAD or Revit.  You can hire an AV consultant at any time in the project, but remember, it’s always best to start that “audiovisual integration” sooner, than later, so it doesn’t look like an afterthought!

Audio Visual Technology and the Exhibitions Industry

James_BarnettGuest blogger James Barnett is a former Audio Visual Consultant and New Media Graduate researching the evolution of Digital Technologies in niche industries. The article was submitted on behalf of Exhibition Stand Contractors Nimlok who design and supply high-impact custom modular exhibition stands that get your brand noticed on the exhibition show floor

Audio Visual technology played a significant role within major global events of 2012. Both the Democrat and Republican conventions utilized the technology as a vital tool to nominate their leaders. The events were broadcast to millions of Americans and the footage was transmitted to almost every news outlet around the world. With the stakes set so high, a technological failure would have catastrophic consequences– resulting in a failure to communicate a party’s message.

AV ExhibitsLondon 2012 also stands out as an Audio Visual spectacle, with the Olympics’ coverage featuring the transmission of the athlete’s performance around the globe as countries celebrated the games. One of the most notable elements of the critical AV coverage was the huge video wall present. Capturing both these events in real-time provides a unique public experience which can influence, enthuse and arouse emotion amongst the world’s population. AV technology is undoubtedly predominant on the global events stage, but it is equally important within smaller exhibitions where the role that digital media takes has undergone a transformation in this industry.

The Guardian’s B2B network recently held a live debate to examine these changes as businesses seek to diversify their customer engagement through interactive AV technologies. The role of the exhibition has been able to extend itself from an exclusive business meeting to a global PR campaign which has social interactivity as an accessible feature integrated into its AV. Digital displays serve as marketing tools for brand exposure and can demonstrate a products potential and encourage audience participation. The digital revolution may have been a famous phrase of the 1990’s yet not all businesses are realising its potential to engage consumers in the exhibitions industry.

Let’s consider the development of Brand Engagement, Social Media and Augmented Reality through the Audio Visual medium and how small exhibitors can leverage this technology to the public.

Brand Engagement

AV ExhibitAn exhibitor stand can harness a brands power through a digital display and interactive interface. Digital displays provide a contemporary approach to display marketing. Customers are drawn to the exhibitor stand and are subsequently more likely to engage with the stand staff. Web interfaces and interactive flash games can mirror the brands personality and provide a focal point and engagement tool for your stand.

Social Media

Accessing social media through the interface encourages consumers to promote the product which is great brand exposure. Social tools such as Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest; should be at the heart of the live marketing strategy and encourage product information to trend. The brands success is dependent upon a genuine consumer relationship and the product excitement can be marketed before, during and after the show. Encourage all audience members to participate.

Augmented Reality

Augmented reality blurs the lines between what is real and computer generated and applications which enhance the customer experience could become the most revolutionary aspect of the exhibitions industry. Exhibitors are currently using smart phone applications to add a dimension to their display, turning them interactive and providing virtual environments within the exhibitor booth.