An operations manager in California is preparing to travel to New York to make a presentation at the company's corporate office. As a backup, he loads his presentation onto the corporate Intranet, and then checks the status of the projector in the New York conference room. He notices that the bulb needs to be changed and sends an e-mail to the IT department. By the time he arrives the next morning, the bulb has been replaced and the presentation goes off without a hitch.
Projector manufacturers are striving to make these efficient scenarios a reality with the current AV/IT convergence trend taking place within the industry. More than ever before, the control and maintenance of such network-capable meeting room projectors are becoming the responsibility of IT professionals.
VGA in, networking out
Making projectors Ethernet friendly, however, is no small task. One company that has been instrumental in making projectors "networkable" is Irvine, Calif.-based Lantronix. The majority of Lantronix's expertise is in the networking field, and the company has developed Ethernet solutions for the medical, building-automation and security industries. According to Brad Jarvis, Lantronix's senior director of marketing, this networking experience let the company easily jump into the AV world. "In our history with other segments, we basically start with an external device because it has a faster time to market," he says.
As a result, Lantronix's handiwork can be seen in a number of projector manufacturers' networking solutions, including projectors from Christie Digital, InFocus and Mitsubishi. Mitsubishi has dubbed its external device (available this month for $699) the ProjectorView. OEMed from Lantronix, the ProjectorView is a hardware/software combination that can connect to any of Mitsubishi's LCD projectors, including legacy models. No bigger than a deck of cards, the little box connects to a LAN through an Ethernet port, provides an IP address to the projector and communicates through the serial port.
Christie Digital has also OEMed an external Lantronix module, adding its own custom touches and dubbing it ChristieNET. The device can connect any Christie Digital projector to a network, enabling monitoring and control of the projector from anywhere in the world.
So far the main interest in monitoring a projector's status has come mostly from companies with large campuses and from the collegiate education market. Lantronix's Jarvis won't give specifics but does say that the next evolution of networking for the projector market will be an Ethernet interface in the box itself — something that can already be seen on some models. "Remote diagnostics and troubleshooting are mainly what our partners want, and the external box is part of that progression. The next step is internal," says Jarvis. Like him, many believe that within the next two years, hooking up a projector to a network will be as commonplace as hooking it up to a laptop.