With each passing year, the world is becoming more and more software defined.
Example: In 2002, TomTom created a new product category with it’s Personal Navigation Devices. You know, those square navigation systems with a suction cup to hold it in place.
Just 10 years later, you don’t see many of those devices stuck to the windshields of passing cars. (Maybe just the milky ringed shadow of a forgotten technology.)
Today, every smart phone comes with a navigation system. The TomTom solution was hardware defined. It required special hardware to run the navigation software.
Now the solution is software defined. The software doesn’t care where it runs. As long as a few minimal requirements are met, you are good to go.
Software Defined AV/IT
The beginnings of a software defined revolution are underway in AV/IT. Touchpanels are often replaced with iPads and other smart tablets. Digital matrix switchers are about to ride into the sunset and join its analog predecessors. One rack unit network switches are eagerly waiting on the sidelines to take their place.
Video conferencing codecs used to take up space in your rack. Now they have names like BlueJeans, Google Hangouts, Skype For Business and Zoom. Sure those services run on a server sitting in a rack somewhere. But the software doesn’t care where it is or whose brand name is silkscreened on it.
Software development techniques and standards are part of the reason for this trend.
Tools like Github make sharing and collaborating on software projects accessible to anyone. Because of this easy access, developers are motivated to write good code with best practices defined by active and experienced communities.
It is a snowball effect that just keeps feeding on itself.
Hardware gets smaller and cheaper, frameworks get more powerful, collaboration increases, quality improves.
Want to create a custom video conferencing solution?
There are open source projects to get you started.
Need a custom automation and control system?
IBM was kind enough to open source a drag and drop editor for the Internet of Things.
Need a video wall processor?
Check out Google’s Chicago Brick.
Freedom (with a price)
If you’ve been in AV for any amount of time, there is one thing you need to accept before exploring any software defined solution.
The kind of freedom that lets you run your software on multiple platforms.
On your laptop, in the cloud or on a $35 mini-computer – the software shouldn’t care.
The kind of freedom that lets you develop software with modern and efficient editors.
The kind of freedom that lets you adopt and expand upon other people’s work.
The kind of freedom that lets you contribute and share your work.
The kind of freedom that lets you find help and help others in active online communities.
But with freedom comes responsibility. You need to own the solution.
There will be no manufacturer to bail you out if things do not go as planned.
Training will be different too.
Luckily, the internet is full of information.
Some of it is helpful, some of it is even true. 😉
But in the world of Software Defined AV/IT, information is sparse.
That’s why I make the free tutorials and paid courses here on LearnAVProgramming.com.
And it is why I interview industry pros for their advice on Software Defined Survival.
We no longer need to wait patiently for proprietary (and expensive) solutions from a handful of manufacturers.
Reliable solutions can be created with inexpensive, easy-to-get hardware and modern, open source software.