Digital Audio Solutions: Why the Time Is Right for Integrators to Cash In
Audio solutions serve as an extra opportunity for security dealers already working with home networks.
IT’S been 15 years since Apple revolutionized the music industry and how the public consumes audio with the release of its iPod and companion iTunes software. Today through iTunes, as well as many other software programs, music lovers can manage and play their digital audio files via electronics that range from tablets, smartphones and computers, to traditional stereo systems with networked-enabled source components, and whole-house audio systems with access to local drives.
One method of music playback that gets overlooked by some, but is growing among enthusiasts, is the setup of an audio system chiefly sourced by audio files from network attached storage (NAS) drives. NAS-based digital audio systems provide homeowners with a proven way to store, protect and access their content, and with the prices of hardware and software plummeting combined with the rise of blazing Internet speeds, this method could soon replace disc players as a main means of playback in tandem with their favorite streaming music services.
Why should home security integrators care about digital audio options? The sales potential of delivering home entertainment solutions could be music to your ears. Consider that security providers in many cases are already tapped in to a residential customer’s home network with the amount of IP devices available for installation these days. Some installing security contractors already dabble in the connected home market – it’s not far from there to extend into networked audio and video.
Let’s take a look at the components integrators need to consider for building and delivering such robust audio systems.
Start by Building a Reliable Backbone
Pew Research Center noted that back in 2000 just 3% of Americans were subscribing to high-speed Internet services; research firm LRG found that in 2015 the number had increased to 81%. Thanks to the continued adoption of streaming video services such as Netflix and Amazon Instant video, the capabilities to support networked audio are in place for most of your customers.
Steve Crabb, user experience manager at networking provider Luxul, says home networks should include quality switches, routers, wireless access points (WAPs) and cabling designed to handle high-bandwidth and traditional data usage applications. Just as important as the hardware, Crabb points out, is the manufacturer of these components. Crabb suggests dealers should align themselves with suppliers that offer network design and educational resources, technical support and products with reasonable profit margins.
“A high-performance gigabit switch and Cat-6 cabling are indeed key elements to a network that will serve high-definition streaming media, but it doesn’t stop there,” says Crabb. “As an example, if an integrator is installing a Sonos system, he will want to consider a managed switch to ensure the best support for the method Sonos uses to route network traffic between its devices [called Spanning Tree]. Also, since people often listen to music or watch video on phones and tablets, roaming mobile devices should also connect to a high-quality wireless router or a high-performance wireless access point with support for the latest standards such as 802.11ac.”
Ideally, every system should incorporate wires because of the reliability that Ethernet cables offer, but realistically a majority of systems today combine wired and wireless technologies. Crabb says components such as servers and NAS drives should be connected to wired gigabit switches to optimize performance, while products like laptop computers, tablets and phones may leverage the flexibility that wireless connectivity offers.
Certain situations, he points out, may also dictate the use of alternative solutions such as powerline and MoCA (multimedia over coax). In these cases, Crabb recommends using MoCA for the streaming of high-resolution A/V content, but he says the first choice for retrofit-friendly networking solutions should be WiFi.
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