DisplayPort Interface for 4K, Explained

DisplayPort is the most recent digital video interface to be developed for commercial use. It is a standard for PCs.

The DisplayPort standard was designed as a replacement for DVI connectors on computer hardware. The connector is smaller and screwless for easier installation. The connector still has a locking mechanism to hold it in place, addressing a weakness of the HDMI connector. It is similar in specifications to HDMI, but it is more common for computers than for televisions.

DisplayPort uses a packet type of interface, just like an IP network does. The network-like design means a single connection can send multiple streams, so a single DisplayPort port can connect to more than one display.

DisplayPort uses very high speeds, enabled by the packet-type delivery that is implemented through chipsets. One can think of it as a high-speed network for digital video. DisplayPort uses a serial interface with up to four main data lanes that can carry multiplexed video and audio data. Each data lane supports a raw data rate of 1.62 Gbps, 2.7 Gbps, or 5.4 Gbps (DisplayPort 1.2 or later). Additionally, unlike with DVI, an audio channel is supported — up to eight channels of 16- or 24-bit at 48 KHz, 96 KHz, or 192 KHz.

DisplayPort and DVI
DisplayPort and DVI use different signal processing methods, but converting between the two can be done with adapters. Some DisplayPort ports have internal components to make them passively compatible with DVI signals, but this is not a DisplayPort requirement. This is known as Dual Mode, or DP++. It appears that DisplayPort is converted to DVI, but the hardware outputs a DVI signal through a DisplayPort port. If the hardware in use can’t output the DVI signal, then a DisplayPort-to-DVI adapter won’t operate. Users should look for the DP++ symbol.

DVI offers no audio support, which gives another advantage to DisplayPort. An additional advantage for DisplayPort is that packetizing data lowers demand on bandwidth. DVI uses separate data channels for each color, requiring high bandwidth all the time.

DisplayPort and HDMI
Since HDMI technology and DVI use the same signal technology, HDMI and DisplayPort have similar compatibility issues noted already.

HDMI is the digital standard targeted to home theater, and DisplayPort was developed for use with computer electronics. However, feature-wise, DisplayPort is very similar to HDMI, including the inclusion of the HDCP content-protection standard.

Some differences include:

  • DisplayPort has a maximum bandwidth that is larger than the maximum bandwidth of HDMI (10.8 Gbit/sec, compared to HDMI at 10.2).
  • DisplayPort supports DPCP (DisplayPort Content Protection) standard in addition to HDCP.
  • DisplayPort is an open standard, available to all manufacturers at no cost; HDMI is licensed, which raises costs.
  • DisplayPort supports resolutions up to 4K.

For additional information on 4K-ready DisplayPort solutions, visit www.blackbox.com/4K.

One Cable – That’s the HDBaseT Technology Way

Ultra-high definition multimedia content over a single cable. That’s the beauty of HDBaseT technology.

Around for just about five years now, HDBaseT technology gained popularity when LG Electronics, Samsung Electronics, Sony Pictures Entertainment, and Valens formed the HDBaseT Alliance. Today, it’s the standard for distribution of uncompressed HD multimedia content. As an installer, integrator, or even consumer of electronics you should be aware of the technology’s benefits, best practices, and challenges.

For starters, HDBaseT makes your life much easier. No more multiple cables and connectors in your home and business. Thanks to the 5Play™ feature set, which converges uncompressed full HD digital video, audio, 100BaseT Ethernet, power over cable, and other control signals through a single LAN cable for up to 328 ft. (100 m).

While the technology was developed to work with CAT5e cables, installers and integrators recommend CAT6 cables for better performance and error-free transmission. And, for even longer distances, the latest HDBaseT 2.0 specification enables the transmission of audio and video, Ethernet, USB, and controls over fiber optic cable.

So, why should you take advantage of HDBaseT technology? Our friends at HDBaseT Alliance put together a quick list of HDBaseT benefits on their website, which I’ve shared below.

HDBaseT technology benefits:
1. Distance
Cable length has always been a challenge, until now. HDBaseT technology can be used over 100 m [328 ft.] with a single hop or up to 800 m [almost a half a mile] with 8 hops.

2. 5Play
HDBaseT delivers video, audio, Ethernet, controls, and power over a single cable, enabling you to reduce your cable assortment down to a single super cable.

3. Elegance
HDBaseT requires only a single cable. Elegance. Aesthetics. Grace.

4. Quality
HDBaseT delivers smooth, uncompressed, ultra-high definition video in up to 4K effective resolution. HDBaseT technology fully supports all 3D video standards.

5. Simplicity
HDBaseT technology uses a standard CAT5e/6 twisted-pair LAN cable with standard RJ-45 connectors, enabling easy termination, deployment, and testing.

6. Affordability
HDBaseT relies on low cost CAT5e/6 infrastructure and hence greatly reduces installation costs. In addition, due to HDBaseT’s inherent power transmission capability, electricity infrastructure costs are also reduced.

7. Standard
HDBaseT technology is a true industry standard. HDBaseT Certification Program provides Alliance members with a formal framework that ensures cross-vendor product interoperability and standard compliance.

To add to their list, HDBaseT also is the only standard that delivers uncompressed Ultra-HD 4K video for up to 328 ft. (100m).

Given all these capabilities and backing by the HDBaseT Alliance, it’s hard to imagine there could be any HDBaseT challenges. As with any newer technology, they exist.

How to avoid HDBaseT system deployment issues
Not all electronic products on the market are HDBaseT-certified. For example, not all manufacturers follow the HDBaseT Alliance recommendations for power-over-Ethernet (PoE) capabilities. Technologists must be able to determine interoperability of different HDBaseT products.

The Alliance presents recommendations and workable solutions to reduce connectivity challenges. To find out more, download the Alliance’s white paper, HDBaseT™ Do’s & Don’ts and Best Practices. The resource covers the good and acceptable HDBaseT practices, the bad practices that should be avoided, and the recommended and preferred practices. It even includes a checklist for your next HDBaseT system implementation.

Ready to set up your next HDBaseT system? Black Box is an HDBaseT Alliance adopter member and has the largest selection of HDBaseT cables in the industry. Get free, application engineering from a Black Box technical specialist today at 877-877-2269.

Cable basics: Shielded vs. unshielded cable

One of the most obvious advantages copper offers is that it is less expensive than fiber cable and much easier to terminate in the field. The type of cable you choose depends on the environment and application.

Twisted pair cable used in networking applications typically consists of four pairs of 22–28 AWG copper wires, each covered by insulators and twisted together. There are two types of twisted pair cable, unshielded and shielded.

Shielded vs. unshielded cable
Unshielded twisted pair
This is the most widely used cable. Known as balanced twisted pair, UTP consists of twisted pairs (usually four) in a PVC or plenum jacket. When installing UTP cable, make sure you use trained technicians. Field terminations, bend radius, pulling tension, and cinching can all loosen pair twists and degrade performance. Also take note of any sources of EMI. Choose UTP for electrically quiet environments.

Shielded twisted pair
Over the past twenty years, the need for speed in networking has driven new cabling specifications and technologies at an ever-accelerating rate. Alongside the development of each generation of Ethernet are corresponding developments in cabling technologies. Part of that development is the increased use of shielded cable. It’s becoming more common in high-speed networks, especially when it comes to minimizing ANEXT in 10-GbE runs.

Shielded cable was traditionally used to extend distances and to minimize EMI over the length of the cable run. It still is. Sources of EMI, commonly referred to as noise, include elevator motors, fluorescent lights, generators, air conditioners, and printers.

Shielded cable can be less balanced than UTP cable because of the shield. The metal sheaths in the cable need to be grounded to cancel the effect of EMI on the conductors. Shielded cable is also more expensive, less flexible, and can be more difficult to install than UTP cable because of the grounding and bonding that’s required for a good installation.

Most shielded cable is heavier and thicker than UTP, so it fills conduits quicker. Keep that in mind as you plan your cable pathways.

Types of shields.
There are a number of different types of shielded twisted pair cable and the terminology has evolved over the years.

There are two common shields: foil sheaths and metal braids. Foil gives a 100% shield while a braid provides 40% to 95% coverage because of the holes in the braid. But, a braided shield offers better overall protection because it’s denser than foil and absorbs more EMI. A braided shield also performs better at lower frequencies. Foil, being thinner, rejects less interference, but provides better protection over a wider range of frequencies. For these reasons, combination foil and braid shields are sometimes used for the best protection. Shields can surround all the twisted pairs and/or the individual twisted pairs.

Shielding acronymsUnshielded-vs.-Shielded-Cable
Shielding acronyms have evolved over the years after confusion as to what FTP is versus STP and S/FTP. Now, the letter for the outer shield (under the cable jacket) is noted first. The letter after the slash denotes any shield on the individual twisted pairs.

U/FTP (Unshielded/Foiled Twisted Pair). This cable does not have an overall outer shield. It does have foil shields on each of the four pairs. Formerly called FTP.

F/UTP (Foiled/Unshielded Twisted Pair). This cable has an overall foil shield surrounding all the pairs. Formerly called FTP. Here are examples of CAT6 and CAT5e F/UTP cable.

Sc/FTP (Screened/Foiled Twisted Pair). This cable features an overall braided or screened shield underneath the cable jacket. It has individual foil shields on each twisted pair. Formerly called S/FTP. Here’s an example of Sc/FTP cable.

F/FTP (Foiled/Foiled Twisted Pair). This cable features an overall foil shield underneath the cable jacket. It has individual foil shields on each twisted pair. Formerly called S/FTP.

Sc/FTP and F/FTP cables offer the best protection from external noise and ANEXT.

Additional resources
8 Advantages to choosing fiber over copper cable
White Paper CAT6A F/UTP vs. UTP: What You Need to Know

7 Reasons you need a wireless presentation system

Preparing content for a presentation is daunting enough. You shouldn’t have to worry about how the presentation system works. If you’re a company that meets regularly or has reoccurring presentations, you need a wireless presentation system.

There are many reasons to use this cost-effective and flexible solution. Here’s seven to start:

1. No cables.
Ever have to get up and interrupt an important presentation just because you needed to swap cables in and out of the projector? Save yourself from the hassle of figuring out what cable goes where. Plus, cables add unnecessary clutter. Let’s not add them where they aren’t needed.

2. Display from any device.
We work in a mobile-centric world. To be efficient and user friendly, your meeting space should cater to all mobile devices. That includes tablets, smartphones, and laptops. Most wireless presentation systems allow you to display content from any of these devices. Oh, and save yourself the cost of buying a remote presenter. You don’t need it. Just install a smartphone application. The wireless connection enables the application to communicate with PowerPoint, for example, to remotely control your presentation slides from the convenience of your personal mobile device.

3. Multi-user collaboration.
Several users can access the system at once. Changing presenters is as simple as one click. This interactivity is perfect for open-forum discussion in conference rooms, classrooms, or lecture halls.

4. Long-range connectivity.
Some wireless presentation systems, like the Black Box Wireless HDMI Presentation System, can reach up to 300 feet! Ideal for large rooms like auditoriums and lecture halls where users are stationed far from a projector.

5. Multi-screen distribution.
Show multiple sources at the same time on one screen. This is great for education and training applications where the audience can make side-by-side comparisons.

6. Free up your IT team.
There’s no need for audio-visual support when you’re using a wireless presentation system. Just fire up your laptop, tablet, or PC; connect to the network; and open the wireless presentation system software. Then, it’s go time.

7. Take presentations on the road.
Slim, compact versions are available for when you need to travel or move frequently from room to room. These devices fit in your pocket. When you’re ready to present, simply plug it into a display or projector for quick presentation sharing. Some models, like the Black Box Micro Wireless Presentation Tool, provide 802.11n Wi-Fi support, which delivers up to five times the throughput and greater range of earlier Wi-Fi technology.

Need more reasons to go wireless? Comment below, or contact a Black Box technical engineer at 877-877-2269.

Additional Resources
Case study: Research Laboratory
SlideShare: Wireless Presentation System

How to choose between on-premise and cloud-based digital signage

You’ve seen them everywhere. At the mall. While in waiting rooms. On billboards. At your workplace. Digital signage is the hot, new way to communicate your message. And you need one.

But, how do you know what digital signage solution is right for you?

You may have heard the terms “on-premise digital signage” or “cloud-based digital signage.” These are two different ways to get your content from source to display. Each comes with its own set of benefits.

Knowing the difference between the two will help you to select the best solution for your needs.

What is on-premise digital signage?
An on-premise digital signage solution is designed as an owned system. With this type of system, you host the digital signage software on dedicated internal servers. This gives you full control over your system. You decide when and if updates are made. You are also responsible for maintaining the server associated with it.

What is cloud-based digital signage?
A cloud-based digital signage solution is designed as a hosted system. With the help of web-based digital signage software hosted on an external server, the device carries your message to your screens. You may access the digital signage solution via any standard Web browser.

On-premise solution Cloud-based solution
1. Cost More up-front costs, but you have no subscription or licensing fees thereafter. This model attractive to businesses that prefer capitalized expenses. Low start-up cost with subscription-based model. Can be broken out in monthly increments. This model is more attractive to businesses that prefer operational expenses.
2. Set up Designed for scalable deployment. E.g., if you are a simple small business you may configure two or three settings. But, if you are a large enterprise you might configure 100 settings that include advanced topologies, security schemes, and policy enforcement. The player side must be given direction on where to find the content manager on the network which also involves an IP address, credentials, and sometimes gateway settings. Designed as plug in and play. The experience with cloud-based technology is similar to Roku®, Google Chromecast, Apple™ TV, or Slingbox®. You just connect a few cables, power it on, and register online. That’s it!
3. Support Troubleshooting ranges depending on the scale of the deployment and the features enabled. Generally businesses with full-time IT resources would be more attracted to this to fulfill business requirements. The same troubleshooting rules apply as with technologies like Roku, Google Chromecast, Apple TV, or Slingbox. E.g., if the player stops working you might have to just power it off and back on. This is attractive to businesses with limited or no IT support.
4. Security As an owned system, the distribution of digital signage content is on your own network or possibly over leased public network spans. This ownership allows better security and policy controls to be in place to protect the content from being intercepted. It also provides an additional layer of security because it is all behind firewall devices. So, even if your login credentials are compromised a hacker cannot get to the content management system to use them. By hosting digital signage in the cloud you knowingly send content into an environment that has security challenges. In many cases digital signage content is designed for public consumption. But, occasionally confidential business data is communicated via digital signage.   In some cases this is not an acceptable risk. Since cloud services stream data to you over public infrastructure, it can be intercepted.
5. Content Requirements Does your digital signage require a high level of customization? If so, an on-premise system may be more attractive to you. On-premise systems are designed around scalability. You can make a very simple digital sign; however, most users purchase the sophisticated solution for advanced features. For example, some systems come with touch interactivity, HTML5 support, transitions, transparency, localized customization, streaming video, and a whole host of other advanced features. Perhaps you do not have a designer on staff, and are looking for a more simple solution. Cloud-based systems are designed around a website user experience. Most systems come with simple navigation, drag-and-drop technologies, and widgets. The experience is less complex. For example, some come with pre-built smart playlists, mash-ups, helper applications (widgets), and pre-defined text styles and sizes.

Make an Informed Choice
Now that you’re able to differentiate between the two, which one fits your needs? Black Box offers on-premise solutions for digital signage – see the iCOMPEL digital signage product line.

Have a question? Black Box has technical experts available to answer all your digital signage questions. Contact an expert today. Or, comment below.

Additional Resources
Case Study: College uses digital signage for communications, wayfinding, and emergencies
White Paper: 7 Questions You to Need to Ask when Choosing a Signage System

Black Box demonstrates 4K video wall at ISE 2015

The Black Box Team is back from Integrated Systems Europe (ISE) – the world’s largest tradeshow dedicated to professional AV and electronic systems integration. The show took place February 9–12, 2015, in Amsterdam.

We had a huge response to our innovative AV product line showcased at ISE. Commercial Integrator named Black Box as one of the top nine products changing the scope of video at ISE 2015.

If you didn’t have a chance to attend, take a look as Inavate captures Peter Brooke-Wavell demonstrating the new 4K-ready iCOMPEL and VideoPlex 4 live at ISE 2015.

In addition to our 4K video wall controller, VideoPlex 4, and 4K digital signage player, iCOMPEL P Series, we also showcased MediaCento IPX – our solution for HDMI-over-IP extension, switching, and video wall creation. This video extension product line includes devices that compress and encode source video for extending over a LAN using lossless compression technology. They can be for multicast distribution (multicast) or point-to-point (unicast) distribution. Other benefits include: easy integration, plug-and-play setup, optimal PC-to-screen performance, uncompromised digital content, and secure connectors. Plus, a controller is available for matrix switching and video wall creation.

Overall, the show was a success – it’s always great connecting with customers worldwide. The Black Box Team looks forward meeting again – see you at these upcoming events.

Additional resources
For more 4K resources, be sure to check out:
• 4K products: www.blackbox.com/4k
• Free white paper: Piecing Together the 4K Puzzle

The hidden cost of digital signage stream decoders

Why are more people signing up for digital signage installations? One reason is the drop in initial capital costs.

Recently I saw a player on Google Shopping for roughly $200. That is cheaper than two tickets to a first-class rock concert, and can offer much more than a few hours of entertainment. The low-cost player offers a chance to increase business revenue.

Wow, increase revenue for just $200? Before you sign up, keep in mind there is a reason these digital signage installations are inexpensive.

Unlike digital signage players that are PC-based (x86 process, storage, etc.), these inexpensive players are appliance-based and gather content by streaming data across a network. With simple content layouts, this is not a problem. However, when digital signage content is streamed over a wireless network, data costs can creep up if not careful.

Example of how quickly data costs can rise over time.
Suppose a company wanted to install three 3G media players at a price point of $200 on their business network. Let’s say that the company wanted Web pages, videos, and photos as part of their signage content. A quick estimate of data costs can be calculated using a data calculator*.

Let’s say the three players are on a total of 12 hours in a given day. During this time, these three players stream five Web pages, 60 minutes of video, and 50 photos (it can be assumed that RSS feeds, Twitter feeds, and text boxes consume negligible data). For all three players, total data usage would be 18GB/month (6GB per player).

This statistic is important for one critical reason: the cost of data overages. Data rates for businesses using a WiFi network can costs upwards of $80 per 10GB; however, data overages can cost up to $15 per 1GB overage. That being said, the overages themselves would cost $120 per month. This brings the total month data charges to $200. Multiplying this number for the year brings the total to more than $2600 for the three players. Suddenly, those “cheap” players become more expensive.

By adding the additional costs of the players, the total cost per installation of digital signage for the first year is equal to $3K. The other item to take note of is that these data charges do not fluctuate too greatly. Therefore, it can be inferred that a three-player signage installation can cost upwards of $8K for three years of operation. There are other players that do not use stream decoding; however, they are more expensive initially.

Digital signage players with no hidden costs.
If your company cannot afford to be surprised with operational costs that continue to add up over time, I’d recommend you go with a one-time investment digital signage system like iCOMPEL. You just pay one up-front cost. All digital signage software is preinstalled and updates are free. No expensive licenses are required year after year.

Plus, the PC-based digital signage player works right out of the box – keeping digital signage simple. It also comes packed with customization capabilities making it perfect for large-scale, sophisticated applications.

So, what digital signage player will you choose for your next installation?

*Data calculations based off a well-known telecommunications estimation tool.

Additional Resources
The Roadmap to Digital Signage Success
Digital Signage Content 101

10 Factors to consider when choosing a cabinet or rack

The sheer number and different types of cabinets and racks can make choosing the right one for your data center a daunting task. But, if you consider your requirements one at a time, you can zero in on the right cabinet or rack for your application.

A cabinet is an enclosure with four rails and a door (or doors) and side panels. A rack is an open, freestanding 2- or 4-post frame that doesn’t have doors or sides. The decision on whether to use a cabinet or rack depends on a number of factors.

1. Equipment
Before you choose a cabinet or rack, you need to determine what equipment you’re planning to house. This list can include servers, switches, routers, and UPSs. Consider the weight of your equipment as well. The extra stability of a cabinet might be important if you’re installing large, heavy equipment like servers. An open rack is more convenient than a cabinet if you need frequent access to all sides of the equipment.

2. Environment
With the open design, racks are a good choice in areas where security isn’t a concern such as in locked data centers and closets. And racks typically cost less than cabinets.

Cabinets, on the other hand, protect equipment in open, dusty, and industrial environments. Aesthetics can be a factor too. Will customers or clients see your installation? A cabinet with a door looks much neater than an open rack. When you’re trying to create a professional image, everything counts.

3. Ventilation
If your equipment needs ventilation, a rack offers more air circulation than a cabinet. Even if your cabinet is in a climate-controlled room, the equipment in it can generate a lot of heat. The requirements for additional airflow increase as more servers are mounted in a cabinet. Options to improve airflow include doors, fans, and air conditioners.

4. Size
Width: The width between the rails in both cabinets and racks is 19 inches with hole-to-hole centers measuring 18.3 inches. But there are also cabinets and racks with 23-inch rails. Most rackmount equipment is made to fit 19-inch rails but can be adapted to fit wider rails.

Rack Units: One rack unit (RU or U) equals 1.75″ of vertical space on the rails. A device that’s 2U high takes up 3.5 inches of vertical rack space. Rack units are typically marked on the rails. The number of rack units determines how much equipment you can install.

Depth: Cabinets and four-post open racks come in different depths ranging anywhere from 24″ to 48″ to accommodate equipment of varying sizes, particularly extra-deep servers. The rails on some cabinets and 4-post open racks are also adjustable to different depths.

When you consider the width, height, and depth of a cabinet or rack, clarify whether they are inside or outside dimensions.

5. Weight
Cabinets and racks vary in terms of the amount of weight capacity. Some cabinets can hold 1,000 pounds or more. Carefully consider the weight of your equipment and decide where you want to mount it before choosing a cabinet or rack.

6. Rails
The vertical rails in cabinets and racks have holes for mounting equipment. Two post racks typically have threaded 12-24 or 10-32 tapped holes. 4-post racks and cabinets often have M6 square holes for mounting servers.

7. Moisture, dust, shock, vibration
When housing electronic components outside of a protected data center, look for a cabinet with a NEMA (National Manufacturers’ Association) rating. NEMA standards are designed for corrosion resistance, protection from rain, submersion, liquids, dust, falling objects, and other hazards. There are also NEBS-Telcordia standards for protection against seismic activity, shock, and vibration. Cabinets and racks can also be bolted to the floor for extra stability.

8. Power provisioning
There are multiple options for powering rackmounted equipment. Power strips mount can be mounted vertically or horizontally. Power Distribution Units (PDUs) and Power Managers have additional capabilities such as remote management and metering. Uninterruptible power supplies (UPSs) typically mount in the bottom of a cabinet or rack because of their weight.

9. Cable management
Most cabinets and racks have built-in cable management troughs and cable rings for routing cable. For more information on cable management, see 9 Ways to Improve Data Center Cable Management.

10. The extras
The type of shelving you choose depends on the equipment you plan to mount. There are multiple options: solid, vented, stationary, and pull-out shelves. And there are shelves built to hold specific pieces of equipment, such as servers or keyboards. Other extras include fans, waterfall brackets, and grounding bars.

Additional Resources
Cabinet Configurator
Six Things To Know When Cooling IT Cabinets