An increasing number of broadband,satellite (DBS and uplink facilities), data path providers, content providers, and even traditional broadcasters, are faced with growing numbers of channels/services, sources and system path points to monitor. In addition, all are tasked with the basic operational accountability issues we know so well: assurance of signal quality, outage recognition, service restoration time and source uptime. All of these issues are underscored by the ultimate accountability concern of customer satisfaction.
However, in today’s quality control environment, people remain the primary monitoring medium, and are normally found perched adjacent to the typical broadcast monitor wall. These individuals may be responsible for upward of 80 monitors, and regardless of the wall makeup – tube or flat screen display – it can mean tired eyes and dazed minds. Further, personnel costs, as well as skilled talent allocation needs, demand an automated solution. In light of tightening quality control standards, the limitations of this age-old approach to quality control are increasingly questioned. Yet, until recently, there has not been a viable, cost-effective alternative. In the mid-90s, some major facilities recognized the shortcomings of this quality-control approach and began designing “home-grown” systems in an attempt to address issues directly associated with QC. Equipment manufacturers have recognized the recent need for more cost-effective, central monitoring systems. Development of a QC central monitoring system must also take into consideration the ever-changing demands of the industry. One company that has launched into this arena is Videotek.
Focusing on current needs and a changing future, Videotek has been developing a comprehensive QC central monitoring system to standardize the way facilities address this QC concern. Videotek’s Signal Quality Manager (SQM) tackles many issues faced by facilities. The system has been designed to grow in an industry that continues to evolve in the area of standards, consolidation and delivery medium. It provides centralized monitoring of core video, audio and data parameters; alarm capability; system expandability; and network compatibility.
The system monitors multi-standard video and audio feeds and specified data through a set of modules mounted in a CPU-controlled frame. Users set their own alarm limits for monitoring specific parameters to identify degradation, outages and system conditions. The QC monitoring system allows the mixing of any video/audio format in the same frame. Each frame reports to a central database, which in turn distributes information to multiple viewing stations in the network. Videotek’s system has been designed for use in all types of signal monitoring environments, from smaller local stations to large satellite receive/transmit centers to POP sites located around the globe.
The SQM has plans in place for current and future system growth. Currently, the system will support analog video, analog audio, digital video, digital audio, MPEG, GPI/GPO, signal routing and router control. In the future it will support other MPEG, data and HD video formats. This issue of quality control will continue to be a concern for broadband, satellite (DBS and uplink facilities), data path providers and traditional broadcasters in years to come.
Companies like Videotek will need to continue to develop solutions for the communications industry that can evolve with future requirements.
Greg Huttie is director of product development for Videotek.