have to plug into them, program their logic, add AMX and Crestron to control them. They’re complex to install and integrate and maintain. And then the homeowner goes out and gets a CD or MP3 player and all they want to do is plug it in somewhere and listen to it in that room. That’s $5000. The dealer has to come back and reprogram the panels and hope there is input to the matrix system or otherwise it’s $7000 to buy another one.
NetStreams asked why can’t it be plug ‘n’ play and why can’t it be simple. We said the only way to do that is to leverage the best of both worlds. To leverage all of the performance parameters that we’ve learned from the audio/video side of the world—a lot of us have come from that world. And leverage all the things that we’ve learned on the control side of the world to make things easier. Then we needed a third element, which is networking. An area that our market doesn’t know about but that the computer world does. So we hired people from Dell, Motorola, TI, and other companies who bring us that experience.
It took us awhile. We have been building a strong DNA of people from networking, audio/video, and control. That puts Net- Streams in a unique position not only competitively—we can spin out these types of products faster than most companies—but it forced us to create a technology that no one else has. Everyone else’s streaming solution was to deliver audio from A to B. It didn’t address network administration, it didn’t address plug ‘n’ play, it didn’t have a screen for how things are configured and how things are autodiscovered— none of that.
TPV: What are the key challenges to streaming audio throughout a house? HC: Technologies out there only address streaming from point A to B. For example, Microsoft’s Media Center will stream different songs to different rooms, but it can’t stream the same song to different rooms at the same time for a party, say, because of the delay— something we never even thought about in the analog world; in the digital world that would seem to be possible.
From the kitchen to the dining room, there’s a huge echo. Even worse, the sound can be three seconds apart and you hear different words at the same time. And consider video. A phenomenon that is occurring now is that homes have more than one home theater. I didn’t think that would ever be true for me, but I’m now building a home that has three home theaters: a dedicated home theater, a 62-inch plasma screen in the family room; 52- inch plasma screen in the game room for the kids. All have 7.1-channel surround sound.
Now that multiple theaters are common, playing a concert DVD for a party or a music video is something people will want to do. First of all you can’t have the audio and the video on different time delays; which is what people experience today when they try to distribute video and distribute audio separately. Second point: after you are able to stream fully synchronized video and voice, the next thing is to get all the TVs in the house—audio and video—synchronized perfectly together. You may not be able to see that the video is off when you walk about the house, but you’ll hear the audio is off. NetStreams is planning to solve all of these problems.
TPV: So you have technology under development for multichannel home theater?
HC: At CES we’re showing a product for video that we’ll release just before the show, with more to come during the year. This first product is a video switch that is IP-controlled. We did that because in our Musica line with entry-level DigiLinX, a lot of guys are saying we just want to distribute the video. We’d rather the cost be lower, and we want to control it from systems we offer today. So we actually developed a plug ‘n’ play switch. If you own a Musica system today and your dealer goes in and buys a video switch for you now and plugs it in; it works with no programming. As soon as he hits the keypad, the two products will work together.
With DigiLinX, we’re going to develop a plug ‘n’ play driver. Same thing. It’s autodiscovered by the DigiLinX system and with minimal configuration; you can get the digital system to control it. Now the audio will travel over CAT5 up to a thousand feet away.
It’s what dealers are using today. Even when you buy a $7000 video switch from Crestron, that’s what you’re getting. The difference with our system is that our video switch will work with what the market has today. The market will sell you an expensive switch that requires programming, and it’ll do a good job of distributing one thousand feet away, but it only controls the source. If you want to integrate it into control monitors, now you have to buy a Crestron and add programming.