Its 2014 and the Analog Sunset is upon us.  Although the Analog Sunset has been on-going for several years, many people are unaware of the issues that may arise from this phasing-out process.  We’d like to take some time to inform you of what exactly the Analog Sunset is and how it will affect mission-critical communications for Public Safety and Emergency Management agencies.

What is Analog Sunset?

The term ‘analog sunset’ is part of the Advanced Access Content System, or AACS, license agreement adopted by content owners and device manufacturers to insure copyright protected content (like movies and other consumer media) is not illegally copied and distributed.  From a consumers point of view, what it really means is that laptops, computers, televisions, DVD players, projectors and other A/V equipment will no longer be manufactured with analog connections i.e. VGA and Component video. The ultimate goal of the Analog Sunset is to migrate to an All-Digital A/V world.

As of the end of 2013, no laptops, monitors, or televisions will be manufactured to include an analog (VGA) connection.

How does Analog Sunset affect Public Safety and Emergency Management?

Most Public Safety and Emergency Management agencies have an A/V system in place, either mobile (Command Vehicles, Trailers) or fixed (Operations Centers, Command Rooms).  Agencies use these systems to view video feeds from varying sources including mast, tactical, and perimeter cameras.  These feeds provide surveillance, crime-scene, and field video giving agencies necessary situational awareness.  Many times these video feeds and systems are Mission-Critical.

In 2006, the FCC changed broadcasting signals from analog to digital and devices started to be made without analog tuners.  Many mobile and fixed video systems were built around the pre-2006 standards of analog.  With the changes of signal broadcasting and device tuner changes, issues develop within video systems that may cause them to fail.

A/V systems can be very intricate with numerous pieces of disparate equipment (monitors, switches, DVD players, VCR’s, televisions, camera’s, etc) and advanced engineering.  In the past, if one piece of equipment failed, say for instance a monitor, it could easily be replaced with a “like-model” because the same analog connections were in place.

Now it’s not that easy.  Manufacturers are starting to produce devices without analog connections, and the majority of replacement devices only have digital connections (HDMI, DVI, DisplayPort).  Issues of signal conversion, device connection, switching and programming now all come into play in order to have a functioning A/V system.

A Public Safety Example

Lets say your Mobile Command Center has an A/V system that allows users to view television feeds, mast-camera video, and computer screen images on several monitors throughout your vehicle.  Your team uses this system to view information such as the weather channel, video from incident scene response, maps, recovery team locations…the list goes on and on.  In the middle of a response effort, the main monitor in the command area of your MCV stops working.

Pre-2006, you would simply replace this monitor and reconnect the system as it was.  But now monitors are no longer being made with the analog tuners that previously fit your A/V system.  You will now need to replace the monitor with a new version that only has a digital tuner.  This creates an issue with your entire A/V system and the signals going to each monitor.

In a perfect world, agencies would replace and overhaul entire legacy analog systems to be strictly digital.  But budget is always a factor.  Today’s technologies allow the construction of a fully digital routing system with the ability to convert legacy analog inputs to digital signal.  These systems allow you to implement the latest technology while still using older laptops and devices that will continue to be used for the several years.

Being Proactive

Communication systems, in regards to Public Safety and Emergency Management, are always mission-critical.  When it comes down to emergency response and lives being saved, any lapse or failure in communication and information sharing can be costly.

Agencies need to be proactive about upgrading their A/V systems.  Understandably, it is hard to look at the prospect of replacing equipment that is currently working properly. However, with the phasing-out of analog signals and the intricacies of A/V systems, it is more likely of a question of “when” you’re system will fail, not “if”.

Solutions

PEAKE has been at the forefront of tracking any news coming from AACS and the FCC about the Analog Sunset and the impact it will have on the current A/V systems for Public Safety and Emergency Management agencies.  Our Extron-certified engineers have developed solutions and different options available to those agencies that are looking to upgrade there mobile or fixed-site A/V systems.  We are available to assess the impact that this migration will have on your system and provide feedback and options on how to migrate your mobile and fixed sites to digital.  Each agency has different needs and different systems in place.  Solutions are customized based on your agency needs, budget and concept of operations.

For More information on A/V system changes and integration contact PEAKE at info@peake.com.

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