Justin Kennington has a background in hardware engineering, he spent some time working for Google and also as a technology manager for Crestron’s DigitalMedia products before moving on to Aptovision and creating the Software Defined Video over Ethernet Alliance, a.k.a. SDVoE.
SDVoE aims to create a standardized hardware and software platform for AV signal distribution.
Because it is software defined, it could have a lot of consequencens for the way we do things in AV.
this is a software defined survival where we talk to AV IT professionals and software developers to find out how to leverage software to reinvent ourselves and we do business we listen to their stories and ask for advice and tactics on how to survive and thrive in a software defined what today software defined survive Netflix’s in YouTube’s in the world all gone through the same transition of analog digital relying more on software is not a bad thing my name is Patrick Murray for everyone out there sitting behind a rack on their way to a job site or changed to a laptop welcome to software defined survival today’s guest has in background in hardware engineering he spent some time working for Google and also as a technology manager for Christians digital media products before moving on to Activision ends creating the software defined video over Ethernet alliance also known as STV away as the view we aims to create a standardized hardware and software platform for E. V. signal distribution because it is software defines it could also have a lot of consequences for the way we do things in AV so I’m really excited to talk to Justin Kennington about the future of software defined AV welcome to the show Justin hello thank you for having me excellent to have you on the show as one of the first guests I’m is there anything about that introduction that you’d care to correct or expand upon while I’m not nearly as impressive as you made it sound but I have no intention of correcting that nice a little bit of modesty goes a long way so AV you know it’s kind of this weird niche industry and %HESITATION nobody really grows up saying they want to work in navy there’s usually a story behind it so %HESITATION tell me what’s your story how did you wind up working in audio visual wow I don’t think I’ve ever answered that question on the record if you want to know the honest truth I was sitting in my living room in Mountain View California where I did he said work for Google as a hardware engineer I was about eleven beers into a case of course light and programming like writing this custom software stack to make my I pod control my home theater and I was bored and thinking about career he stuff and I was like what should I do next was like well I like this kind of like stuff I’m doing right here somebody would probably pay me to do this he would pay me to do this restaurant across from the pain to do this stuff so I’m like I don’t even know where the restaurant is right on and I started a website like restaurant I come home where is it Rockley New Jersey **** I was hoping for Sunnyvale right to the black tie and I look at the map I circuit pretty close to New York City I could deal with that and does so I called the guy who knew a guy and I said Hey when you when you talk to them over there telling you know a guy who works at Google and is thinking about coming to take a look at your shop and so as to be sure Google that’s important and those are served up the next day folks across from called me and said Hey we want to we want to talk to you had this new product line called digital media and they needed someone to take charge and run it also you know in in an interview on a cross country move later there I was in the world maybe was sort of a front row seat to the analog to digital transition digital media crow exactly and will blame it all on the silver bullet right on on the eleven course lights you know the one thing you will do is slow you down if you go so I remember when when DM first came out and like you said that was a big transition from from digital from analog to digital right a lot of talk about the analogs sunset and not write the first DM had had like three wires for every signal and it was a lot different than what HD base T. looks like today right just one cat cable but it was a really big change at the time it was actually an improvement you know you look at those three wires today kinda looks a little Frankenstein dish but if you take a step back to analog whose RGB HP and three is better than five three is better than five and even audio on top of that you could have up to seven cables and that’s kind of how I grew up in navy was %HESITATION you know stripping back Kovacs and crimping DNC’s on these connectors things that you just don’t deal with today at all so what were some of the challenges about those first steps with with digital media you know what was hard is is we didn’t know what we didn’t know %HESITATION you know question was in a great spot at that point because I mean they had analog video switches you know Big Five wire BNC high band with also points but what really known for it right question was very much known as a control company and it was extranjeros it was where the name auto patch on a patch and got picked up by a Max of that were sort of seen as the the video guys and some questions in a good spot to say look we think there’s digital video thing is going to be beating and and frankly we don’t have a lot to lose so let’s let’s give it a shot and so in the early days what we underestimated was just how much of a lack of understanding and knowledge there was out there in the design and installation community about digital video systems right we thought it was going to be easier for us and easier for them and it turned out to be so for those first couple years with three wires I’m talking in two thousand ten yeah there were a lot of of challenges in the it upset a lot of people right because they were frustrated you know installer frustrated and have to go back to the job fix this fix that early on we figured out that you know education was key to this and this and this is how the DMZ the digital media certification courses eat when we realize like all my god like we’ve got this new product line of course a new product line in a two new paradigm has has bugs and problems six of these people installing it just haven’t been given the opportunity to learn about this New World so DMC got created armor back in like two thousand eleven twelve when when the training it really gotten up on its feet we we show these great graphs that showed like in a number of DMC training people and you see this big you know increasing her and you overlay on that number of digital media support calls and you see this like huge fall off like the real like well education is hugely important so so educating the the customer base improving the product and then finally that moves from the the the original freeware approach HDAC once that became available you know simplified things and and next thing you know Crestron is is the leader in that matrix switching digital video space right the other guys who had such a vested interest you know in their analog stops didn’t make the jump I remember going to you know Infocom twenty ten income twenty eleven Infocom twenty twelve and every year being nervous like although you know extreme gonna happen this year AMXs gonna bring something perhaps real competition it’s gonna be tough gonna show up and it’s nothing you’re still talking analog you guys Sirius I’m in so so restaurant got such a big head start you know by bringing the right technology at the right time and being willing to just suffer the the you know the settlers get the error of their the arrows absolutely that’s what that was but then but then you’re the first one first one there and and that’s what is tablets Crestron as a real leader today and in that digital video distribution space definitely there’s still a they’re still seemingly way ahead of the pack us or good head start really it doesn’t go away too quickly into yeah really gives you a boost that lasts for a long time huge that so there are a few other things you mention that I want to circle back to obviously I didn’t think the biggest challenge would be education but it does make sense now that you say that but what I really like was that you use data to see if what you’re doing was working as you do that and the training aspects right so the number of certifications against that type of support calls that you were getting it really shows the power of data why don’t we do that more navy it’s well it’s hard it’s hard %HESITATION because good data is bigger data and it’s it’s often hard to find you know big data sets MTV you know individual companies you know integrators programming houses and things are so many of them are relatively small it’s hard to build up a solid data set that you can really make decisions based on %HESITATION you know Christ has a great advantages of having such a big reach that they can build that kind of data set %HESITATION in maybe we as an industry can find ways you know through through a mixer through the through organization and and in smaller groups smaller companies working together to start building up data sets right you know thinks it does that for their for their annual or semi annual like market trend analysis report but how to use that at at the smaller level is is a great question and it’s it’s I think it just needs focus needs people to realize that it good data is highly valuable is the best way to make decisions on enemy willing to put in the time and effort to do it right sometimes it can be hard when you’re in a crisis situation or a high pressure situation and and and you need to make decisions quickly it can be hard to say you know what let’s take a step back let’s take a breath let’s gather information and analyze it before we react just just that sort of emotional %HESITATION challenge can be what holds us back from from data driven decisions yeah definitely great great inside %HESITATION I’d like to retire back to you know the human factor %HESITATION and that need for the need for speed and to make quick decisions and %HESITATION data needs time to develop before becomes usable so let’s switch gears and talk about is the V. only what does software defined mean to you it’s it’s the way the world works today and what we’re trying to do with S. EBOV is is show the AV industry that that’s the way the world works and show the AV industry how what I mean is you know today when you when you decide what smartphone you want to buy rain you’re you’re probably an iPhone diary entry rate that’s not about heart that’s about a software plus it’s about the experience that the software creates and how it makes you feel it’s about the applications that are built on top of those platforms and which ones are most important to you and then once we get on down into it sure like if I decide I don’t want my phone I need to decide do I want to eat or an axe or whatever I want to enjoy it I maybe I wanna Samsung or LG here what have you but the first decision you make is what software platform appeals to you no that’s true in the in the enterprise I. T. world software is everything there rate if your I. T. house like you might be everybody in your enterprise runs windows everybody in your enterprise runs mackel straight and you might you might have a world where where route you know this year the I. T. director gets a good deal for H. P. and decides this year were buying HP products and we buy a bunch of computers and laptops network switches but then a year and a half two years from now we need to refresh you need some new items and it turns out del is having a sales we sell you know we’re gonna buy a bunch of dell’s today and nobody thinks about %HESITATION well then that’s fine by some double let’s throw away all the leech P. stuff in replace everything now because the hardware is less interesting the hardware is truly interoperable what matters is the software and so we’re going to drive to a world where IT it were easy works a lot more like that IT model right we’re software is what drives the decision making more software is what creates the experience and more hardware is a a necessary component but a secondary part of the decision making process thanks for that I really like the way you are you sum that up with a different types of of computer models so when when software is the first decision you make then you then you just basically have a lot more flexibility and agility with with the hardware decisions that of course you’ll need to make right the software does need to run somewhere I I say yeah it’s some somewhere electrons need to wiggle exactly even if it is in the cloud right there’s hardware in the class exactly right exact well last night that was my Google background right I was in the platforms group we build good luck as bills the data centers right if you’ve never had the experience of of being in a warehouse with seventy five thousand computers while I I recommend it the first time I walked into one I remember the guy I was with said welcome to the point where we turn electrons into money nice like that’s it isn’t it that’s the thing here fascinating they must have some cooling bill %HESITATION actually Google’s good one of Google’s main insights in the early days of of how data centers are constructed today was to cut down on cooling costs immensely it turns out we were wasting a lot of energy keeping computers cooler than they need to be so modern a modern data center headed by Google now fifteen years ago is like eighty eighty two degrees Fahrenheit instead of like the sixty five degrees they used to be held that really is that because the technology has changed or is it just we were over doing it back then I I you know I’m not the expert on that history I don’t think there’s any like fundamental technology change in terms of of how they are trying to handle it it’s been about that managing this concept of a hot Islander kuliah yeah she higher away from the cold air right so actually if I’m trying to just to describe this without pictures but imagine that the area your standing in front of computers is sort of the cool out now that still eighty eighty two degrees %HESITATION ate my international friends forgive me I’m I’m speaking Fahrenheit so it but that air is getting sucked through the computers into this chamber behind them that’s now hotter because there’s been heated up by the by the sea and and it’s only a matter of the gets sucked out of the building through the air handlers to whatever mechanism is cool right and sometimes the mechanism is Hey let’s let’s only build datacenters words really cold outside is it used exhaust that heat and then draw in cooler from the outside and and not have any sort of air conditioning the building yeah modern modern data centers are all about energy management or is S. as is as I was taught when I was there were thinking about queries per joule that’s our that’s our metric here how about that all right yeah you get more yields of out of the electrons the cool where they are and anyone who’s electrons and more money than the more money fascinating modern day farming so anybody who’s sitting behind a rack and had a HVAC duct blowing in their faces they were trying to our things up will will appreciate that site you will meet your your data centers built wrong yeah exactly all right I’ll have to go back to that job that was a long time ago so do you need to take that no no no no no okay so back to STV we why is there no a this or do you have a place in STV away always because I’m a I’m a video guy and and neglectful of that question from a marketing perspective but but let’s be clear that the the the software defined video everything that platform absolutely considers audio from Handal stereo audio multi channel audio down mix between the two can send audio independently from video we even have building on the platform Aurora multi media who have taken the STB elite platform and all they can do but then added on for example Dante devices to their hardware so now the the STB a lead part of their platform can interact with feet Dante hardware in in the broader parts of some AB system where this is all so yes of course audio as well as control are significant and important parts of this all right so you talked a bit about what why is the V. only exists I’m curious about that time right before the alliance got started what what were your real main motivations and concerns about about making this leap the the challenge that we face is you know we recognize that that AV over IP hasn’t as a category as a general approach %HESITATION is obviously the next important step for our industry and yet everyone out there especially today everyone out there has some kind of product to meet that challenge to meet that new paradigm but there’s no concept for anyone manufacture of having these these pieces fit together and and work together intelligently right arm you know it has to be assigned Kotor works with SCSI decoder and and that’s it %HESITATION and and back to my I. T. example that’s just not the way of the world right can you imagine if if your HP laptop couldn’t send an email to your dell laptop it’s makes insurance it’s a ridiculous question right arm and yet and yet that’s how we’re okay with that in AV it seems but that’s not okay alone and so and so the real impetus for us the VLT is about %HESITATION trying to build a standard approach to how we do AB override Pete also that the hardware can become interoperable with one another so that in our own Aurora box can talk to Izzie box just like an H. P. box can talk to a dell box all because only once you solve that inter operability problem can you then have the concept although other software platform if if if android phones didn’t talk to I fold it would be a very different world than what we have today is wouldn’t be successful product because people have preferences right somebody once an application works one way me once an application works another way on him by building instead of building products like like an SBS I request from the acts or a or a just and power instead of building products we build a platform we thought that we could really help gives the AV industry the tools needed to sort of grow up rate and and to live in this world where user experience is is at the forefront of what we do all the time and to create the tools needed so that software engineers programmers and can build the applications that the users demand without being without having to also consider at the same time what hardware do I need to have yeah so I’ve been having a lot of great conversations lately and it seems like a navy were really just a custom to selecting the box first selecting a hardware first and you mentioned user experience and of course everybody knows that’s where the where they should be starting and %HESITATION but we start with the box first possibly because there is no other there’s no standards out there really to do this sort of things ends what you’re talking about is building a platform where you can have the user experience come first and and pick and choose the hardware that you’re working on do you think that kind of flexibility and agility obviously you you believe that will be good for the industry overall but for people %HESITATION integrators and programmers working in AV what kind of effect do you think that could have on their business will they need to change their business model at all obviously will still be selling hardware but but there’s gonna be some kind of change that affects our our day to day I think it it just gives new opportunities more than anything right it doesn’t it doesn’t take much away from what we do today the fact is as we set electrons need somewhere to wiggle right so so even if the decision making changes at some point we need to buy some hardware we need to install some hardware we need to plug it in right now maybe if we can standardize well on some of that plugging it in part comes a little smoother a little easier all but someone still has to do it when it comes to programming systems up there are always going to be customers who need and demand you know specific customized solutions for their application right I want my carpentry work exactly this way and so programmer can continue to serve that calling it the way they always happen again meaning STV we might make that a little bit easier because if if we get to the world where estudio is is as ubiquitous as we plan then that then that program were coming in to customize something for an end user is customizing on a platform that they’ve been well versed in are well familiar with probably already built some libraries of their own so it’s it’s easier to come in and tweak what they already have and start from scratch in the new opportunity I think is is once you build up when it comes more feasible for software programmers Evey programmers and engineers to to identify certain types of applications that are common in start to build those and and sell them even more generically %HESITATION again just like software works in the in nineteen right like if I if I want a platform for or having an audio video conference like run right now I can go build soon charge people money to use it because enough people want that application right if if if we have a solid and ubiquitous platform of the developers can feel comfortable that that there that they were custom needs can always be mad but that the more generic problems that they need to solve the don’t have to solve over and over again they can solve them once and then and then commercially offer that solution because the platform that makes it possible is available everywhere so it sounds like a STV OP apps that’s exactly the world I would love to see right I think were it’s gonna take some time to get there right there’s a lot of transition we have to get your we’re still as an industry transitioning away from the matrix which right not to rest easier we offer performance that’s unique in a V. over IP world because only has the theory actually replicates the performance of the matrix which there’s no latency compromise is no image quality compromise other other radio over IP solutions are about Haiti I’ll give you some great flexibility some good scalability but you’re gonna have to pay for that in latency and quality and that’s fine as a short term solution but as the only actually replaces the matrix which so we’re we’re getting through that transition as an industry %HESITATION then once we really stabilized on TV over IP as how we do things it’s time to start really changing those mines and showing people the value of as opposed to the value of individual products but absolutely I will I will know that the alliance has succeeded completely when when one one day there’s an STD apps store and anybody who has a good idea for a piece of the application right that created and sell or make a business well obviously given the name of this podcast you know that I’m on board with that too but %HESITATION I’ve been using software defines control for a few years now and by that I mean controlling devices directly from an iPad we’re using a cheap processor like a raspberry pi for control and all of it technically works great there’s absolutely no issues with it technically reliability you can I mean raspberry pi’s Aline Xbox so even security wise it’s it’s not an issue but there is a ton of resistance to the solutions sure and not from any user’s state really don’t care as long as things %HESITATION work as they expect then they’re fine with it but integrators and consultants are kind of quick to call when I’m doing a science project so why do you think there’s so much resistance to software based solutions I think it’s just in its its its history and its workings what’s easy and it’s again that lack of education that’s what the alliance has to go that’s about all we have to go fight is to teach and show people %HESITATION that when the IT industry became the identity industry everything was okay right relying more on software is not a bad thing and in that moving away from this older paradigm of the hardware defining the application actually as real benefits for system designers and for system installers it makes their job simpler it makes our job a repeatable and it allows them to have more bandwidth and capability to be able to take on more work in to be able to deliver better suited as sort of more custom tailored experience to those users there there are there a lot of focus a little more on each of their customers user experience as they focus less on the the raw details of this boxer that box which is you know that’s something that that some people love to do it’s a world that they were moving away from and and that move is inevitable so it’s it’s it’s our job as an alliance show people how they can not only survive in this New World but strive and take their business to new places that are just as interesting and justice profitable or more so than the old way so what do you think the technology is kind of clear but what do you think like it from a business perspective what do you think about the model will look like in say five or ten years you know that’s that’s hard to say because we’re enabling a lot of new and different approaches right ATV as a services is an idea that started to see kicked around places and that becomes more possible once we have a handful of the right platforms available it’s hard for me to predict that will be all the way there in five years up but I think we will be in a world where software much more and more is is is the key selling point for any system right user experience and software that drives it I I think that’s just inevitable because because those two resistant frankly will be will be taken over by those who embrace it and and get to use this as more flexible more responsive business approach to satisfy the customers that are being satisfied by those who stick to a up your hardware world yeah it’s some I’m on board with that but it’s it’s kind of hard to believe when when everything is still kind of moving so slowly and and there’s a lot of the old ways of doing things just don’t seem to change at all but %HESITATION as they say things happen slowly and then very quickly that’s it said well we’ll look back and see how my goodness I mean it’s like I guess a member of the pioneers take the Arabs yeah and that’s and that’s where we are right now we’ve got to keep driving this forward right we’re gonna find the like minded individuals the folks everybody that’s a member of the SDP alliance guys like yourself who are really pushing this message of %HESITATION software defined controlled software defined experience right we’ve all just got to find ways to work together to show people the benefits of this and then one day we’re gonna look back and say wow I can’t believe that anybody ever did this a different way yeah there are some gifts is anybody is anybody looking back at wistfully at their analog video switches today I don’t think so now that they’re looking for ways to get rid of them so I I know that you’re a little pressed for time and just got a two more questions for you would you care to share any plans for the future that they may have for the alliance or anything else what we have just announced at I MC and and we’re launching at the end of this month officially is the the STB only partner consultant program which is a program it’s it’s game to consultants but also says system designers generally you know even those who work for integrators or is independent designers and the way this program works is you can come to the STB we dot org website %HESITATION get a little bit of we put together a nice five module reading curriculum out about an hour hour and fifteen minutes worth of material followed by a you know a quiz on what you’ve learned and once you pass that quiz you’re grounded status as an amnesty deal we partner and that really says that you know you you’ve achieved some level of education understanding about what AV over IP really needs but the STB alone and that you’re someone who can be counted on entrusted to design an STD we based system from any of the member manufactured right we have thirty five members today most of whom are building encoder and decoder devices on the spot you’ll be you’ll be trying to design with any of those products are and and then we’ll list you publicly as you know someone who can be counted on to build a high quality design on the system so that’s something to look for you can go to escape the only daughter works to sign up to to get the notification as soon as the curriculum is available this month all right is it is it out yet is available yet it is not available right now we’re on the needles to see %HESITATION Steven got right we’ve got it in in beta right now to a couple of a of test Guinea pigs just to make sure that the curriculum you know comes together in a cohesive way and then we’ll be launching in the next days excellent looking forward to that do you have any advice or tips for someone who may have a new approach or solution whether be software based or otherwise and is trying to find an audience for it I think so I think my main messages is stick with it right look at what’s going on in in all the industries that surround us all the other electronics and communication industries right telco IDE of video distribution through the at home right now flexes and you tubes in the world all gone through the same transition of analog to digital type pizza platform what we’re all trying to do here is is only accelerate the inevitable we’re not we’re not actually trying to create something that might not happen so just stick with it are and and she she could believe that this is where the industry has had it and that all we have to do is is create the right tools and and educate people right that’s a studio ease goals around us offer education of come come communicate with us we have ways you want to work with us about that and and and let’s just all work to drive this transition together because it is going to happen thanks Justin that’s just the kind of motivation that I need because it is hard yeah yeah well eating anything worth doing is right out there you go so if anyone would like to get in touch with you how would they go about doing that you can reach me at Jake can internet as the VOA dot org %HESITATION but I must recommend you check out the website you can read a little bit about the technology and the platform and STV OP dot org you can sign up for the newsletter and kept up to date on all of our latest goings on anybody on the newsletter list of course get an announcement as soon as that new training curriculum excellent Justin thank you so much for being on the show you gotta Patrick good luck with the new program thanks take care eight Patrick thanks for listening to the show if you enjoyed this discussion if you liked what you’ve heard if you want to hear more discussions like this please go to I tunes leader if you to the show get in touch with me somehow and let me know that you’re out there listening and that’ll motivate me to keep doing these shows get mad so if you’re driving or whatever said something in your calendar to give you a reminder to go to I tunes thanks for listening to software defined survival for transcripts and show notes go to software defined survival