Encourage collaboration with modern huddle spaces and conference rooms

Research shows collaborative environments foster innovation, improve team performance by ensuring everyone is working towards the same goal, and increase employee retention since people prefer to belong to a team and contribute to the team’s goals. Next generation workers and the need for companies to compete on a global basis will drive demand for collaboration solutions throughout the organization, according to a Wainhouse Research study.

Perhaps that’s why, in recent years, a more agile approach to meetings and working in collaborative groups has been embraced by schools and businesses of all sizes. Implementing collaboration solutions such as huddle spaces, or small-space meeting areas, in addition to larger conference rooms is one of the ways organizations are making this change.

What is a huddle space?

A huddle space is a smaller meeting space, which can take place just about anywhere. It typically accommodates six or less attendees. They range from basic spaces to well-equipped and advanced rooms. Basic huddle spaces, with either open area or private closed rooms, may be equipped with a small table, some chairs, a speakerphone, and perhaps a dry erase board. Whereas, well-equipped and advanced huddle rooms may include flat panel displays, integrated AV conferencing, and a wireless presentation system. Huddle spaces do not typically include enhancements such as ceiling speakers, acoustic wall treatment, or AV control system.

What should your huddle space include to promote collaboration?

The way huddle spaces are used varies by organization, location, vertical market, culture, etc. Whether or not a huddle space is effective depends on the given task and requirement of the space. If you’re planning for a well-equipped huddle space, you should also consider your AV technology needs as well.

In general, your huddle space should include equipment that has:

  1. Interoperability with other products you may have in the space such as screens, projectors, panels, or touchscreens.
  1. BYOD support which allows collaboration/sharing of any type of device the meeting participant has. For example, participants could bring a laptop, tablet PC, mobile phone, or netbook and connect with ease.
  1. Content sharing capabilities. For example, a presenter may need to share any number of pieces of content with other participants simultaneously.
  1. An intuitive interface, which will reduce barriers to use. The easier your equipment is to use, the more participants feel comfortable using new technology.
  1. The ability to allow an unlimited number of users to participate. While there is a practical limit to the number of people that can fit in a room or share a screen, facilities change and so do user’s needs. Try not to get locked into limiting systems which only allow 4-6 concurrent users.

In addition to many of the items needed to make a good huddle space, for your larger conference rooms you may need additional AV solutions.

What should your modern conference room include to promote collaboration?

Today’s larger meeting rooms often come with higher expectations. They will certainly start with the same type of collaboration solutions discussed earlier for huddle spaces. Additionally, they must provide support for tomorrow’s technology using today’s design. These rooms often require more types of equipment, which may require support for a wide range of video signals.

In general, your modern conference room should include equipment that has:

  1. Switching capabilities to manage video signals that need to be shown on one or more displays.
  1. Presenter control options for switching. For more efficient meetings, select a switch that automatically switches to a new source when a new user connects a device.
  1. Scaling able to work with a wide range of video signals, both current and legacy, to ensure the display is compatible with anything that needs to be presented.
  1. Reliable video distribution capabilities to send and receive audio, video, control and even power from another room or building.
  1. Video wall capability to display any source from anywhere with switching control.

When designing and outfitting the spaces, it’s important to think ahead and design for AV systems that can adapt and grow as technology changes.

Have a collaboration space that needs to be enabled by AV technology? Call a Black Box AV expert at 877-476-0478.

Black Box Conference Preview: High-performance KVM and instantaneous switching solutions

The media and entertainment industries are fast paced, and innovations are always happening quickly. Especially now that broadcast operations are digitally-based, media and entertainment companies need to stay on top of the latest technology.


SMPTE 2015 Annual Technical Conference & Exhibition is the perfect venue for finding out about new tech in the industry. Black Box will be there with high-performance digital KVM extension and switching options to enhance your work environment from the desktop to the control room.

Visit the Black Box team at booth #305 to see new technology demonstrations of:

Our specialists will have additional information about the small but powerful DCX3000 Digital KVM Matrix Switch as well. Small in size, but big in features, this 30-port digital KVM matrix switch is for multiple users in smaller broadcast studios and control rooms. The intuitive graphical user interface with thumbnail previews makes setup and configuration simple.

To learn more about these products, see a demonstration at booth #305 at SMPTE 2015 in Hollywood, CA, October 26–29. Ask about our free application engineering. If you can’t make this event, call a Black Box technical specialist today at 724-749-5554 to talk about your upcoming KVM project.

Oil & Gas Networking and Control Room Solutions

Industrial connectivity and KVM control room solutions for upstream, midstream, and downstream environments.

As the oil and gas industry continues to grow, more and more well sites, pumping stations, pipelines, processing plants, and refineries are being built. Along the entire route, safe, reliable networking and industrial automation are critical to smooth operations, efficiency, and productivity.

In 2014, the United States produced 9.2 million barrels of crude oil a day. The U.S. is now the largest producer of oil and gas, overtaking Saudi Arabia and Russia due to production from the Marcellus Shale. However, reservoirs of oil are becoming more difficult to access and increasingly less productive. To keep pace global consumptions, oil companies must constantly look for new sources of petroleum, as well as improve the production of existing wells.

Read more about industry solutions at our landing page for the oil and gas industry at blackbox.com/Oil-Gas.

Digital KVM Control and Monitoring Solutions for the Energy Industry: Automation, processes, and workflow

Black Box is committed to helping our customers succeed as they transition to the digital media environment. We help clients in the energy industry design and deploy mission-critical solutions.

In drilling operations, KVM systems provide high-quality and instant access to video and control signals from multiple sources to multiple users. In oil and gas exploration, rapid access to graphical data and processes throughout a seismic survey and the ability to respond quickly to status changes are crucial for safe and efficient operation. Remote monitoring solutions in control rooms provide users with better overview, quicker access to data, and failover connectivity. With KVM solutions, users can switch and extend real-time HD video and USB HID over LAN/WAN for remote monitoring.

Black Box KVM Solutions

  • KVM and hybrid KVM peripheral switching platforms
  • Virtual desktop remote management
  • Signal conversion and signal distribution
  • KVM extension to improve ergonomics by reducing heat and noise in the workplace
  • KVM extension over fiber for long distances

Benefits for you:

  • Updating current analog systems to faster and more reliable digital KVM.
  • Remote monitoring operations reduce risk for injuries in dangerous areas.
  • Reduced risk for downtime and accidental environmental disasters.
  • Asset Integrity Management (AIM)
  • Maximize human capital by running parallel tasks with fewer users who have instantaneous access to critical resources.

Learn more about high-performance KVM solutions for the oil and gas industries.

If you have a control room project coming up, contact Brian Lang at Brian.Lang@blackbox.com, or register for our upcoming Control Room seminar with product demonstrations, which is Tuesday, October 27.

Stay Ahead of the Curve: Visit Black Box at Rocky Mountain AV Expo 2015

Innovation happens… fast. How do you keep moving forward with the cutting edge technology? How do you stay informed? How do you make the right technology buying decisions?

For those in the audio/video industry, events such as the Rocky Mountain Audio Video Expo (AVX 2015) give you the opportunity to connect with the top minds and tech in the industry. AVX 2015 brings together decision makers and experts in IT, film, AV, video, broadcast, sound, animation, computer imaging, and editing industries to present and exhibit emerging technologies. The event takes place October 28–29 at the Crowne Plaza DIA in Denver, Colorado. Register by October 24 for free access to exhibits, seminars, and keynote sessions.

To stay on the forefront of AV, video, broadcast, and digital signage developments, be sure to connect with Black Box technical experts at booth #902. The team is excited to share these AV and KVM technology solutions and more at the event.

    1. New Modular Video Matrix Switcher
    This new, configurable AV matrix switch enables seamless switching of audio and video with up to 4K resolution as well as extension up to 230 feet (70 m). The modular matrix switcher with built-in conversion and scaling enables users to mix legacy equipment with new digital systems. Although the world is moving to digital, there are still a multitude of interfaces around. This flexible solution meets those needs with switchable input/output cards for HDMI, DVI-D, DVI-I Universal, VGA, and RJ-45 for extension.

    2. DCX3000 Digital KVM Matrix Switch
    Small in size, but large in features, this 30-port digital KVM matrix switch is for multiple users in smaller broadcast studios and control rooms. The intuitive graphical user interface with thumbnail previews makes setup and configuration simple. The DCX3000 supports up to 30 endpoints and features an attractive price point.

    The space-saving switch uses Server Access Modules (SAMs) powered by the interface to extend DVI or DisplayPort signals over CATx cable 30 feet (10 m) from the KVM switch to the workstation and 165 feet (50 m) from switch to CPU.

    3. HDMI-over-IP Extension, Switching, and Video Walls – MediaCento IPX
    The popular MediaCento IPX video extenders enable HDMI video distribution over an IP network to a virtually unlimited number of screens. Add the MediaCento IPX Controller to the system for easy setup, user friendly matrix switching, and video wall control from any source to any display.

    4. 4K Solutions
    Black Box’s 4K video solutions allow users to create impactful, state-of-the-art video systems. The 4K video product line includes:

    • VideoPlex4, a video wall controller that enables users to create stunning video walls with 4K output across four or more screens.
    • iCOMPEL P Series, an enterprise digital signage solution with high-quality video display and 4K resolution support.
    • A high-resolution DisplayPort video extender with USB 2.0, DisplayPort 4K KVM Extender over CATx, which enables the user to create an unchanged user experience at remote consoles with 4K monitors.

    5. DKM FX Video and Peripheral Matrix Switching System
    A highly reliable video and peripheral matrix switching and routing system supporting high-resolution HD-SDI, HDMI, and KVM in one flexible, scalable product.

    6. Multiviewer KVM and Video Processing
    The 4Site Flex KVM Switch provides fluid video performance in a multiscreen viewer with KVM and video processors for monitoring and control. Process high-resolution video signals from four sources to one monitor.

    7. Freedom II 4-Port KVM Switch
    Get fast, reliable switching between computer systems simply by moving a mouse from screen to screen. Freedom II creates a unified desktop across multiple PCs and operating systems.

    8. Agility IP-Based KVM Switching and Extension
    Improve workflow and efficiency, and send HD video and KVM signals over an IP network. The Agility IP-based KVM transmitters and receivers extend signals over CATx cable up to 330 feet (100 m), and even farther with the addition of network switches.

If you see something that sparked your interest, stop by booth #902 for a demo from a technical expert. Ask about our free application engineering. Can’t make the event? Call a Black Box technical specialist today at 877-476-0478 to talk about your upcoming AV or KVM application needs.

Black Box Knows KVM: Client Testimony

In the fall of 2013, Anthony, a senior engineer from a global energy company headquartered in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, was tasked with implementing a new, customer-facing command and control room. The center was being designed to showcase the energy company’s capabilities to potential customers. Shortly after being assigned this job, he received an invitation to a presentation at Black Box.

Anthony had heard of Black Box, but didn’t know very much about them. His company had purchased cables and other infrastructure technology products from them, and he knew their headquarters were close to Pittsburgh. The topic of the event was “High-Performance KVM Solutions.”

He decided to attend on the basis of his company’s past relationship with Black Box. He was pleasantly surprised to find his investment of time paid off in dividends.

Anthony learned that Black Box does more than cabling. Until he visited the Lawrence campus, he was unaware of their extension and switching capabilities.

At the presentation, Garrett Swindell, Black Box KVM engineer specialist, talked about signal management and extension, high-definition video and USB switching, and streamlining operator desktop workstations for a leaner organization.

Anthony immediately scheduled a follow-up visit during the session to have Garrett and Brian Lang, a Black Box KVM sales specialist, come to his company’s headquarters. The goal of the visit was to capitalize on Black Box’s KVM capabilities and design a solution that met the needs of his newly developed control center.

“This event gave me the opportunity to visualize how Black Box products will help us improve the level of monitoring and control we have over our systems,” Anthony says. He thinks other engineers who work in control rooms can benefit from attending a Black Box presentation. “Seeing your products operate in person allowed me to fully appreciate how well Black Box has implemented these new technologies, and the value that they can add to my projects.”

If you’ve got a control room project coming up soon, please contact us. Our next high-performance KVM event is Tuesday, October 27. You can register here, or email Brian Lang at Brian.Lang@blackbox.com.

8 Critical features next-generation KVM switching and extension systems should offer

Here’s a checklist to use as you shop for a future-proof, high-performance digital KVM switch or switching and extension systems. It’s easy to remember as FAR-PARSS.

Any enterprise-wide KVM system should be flexible enough to input and output many types of video and peripherals, especially if you are in broadcast or command and control. Video signals such as DVI, HDMI, and VGA should be supported with resolutions ranging from 1080p to 4K. Other signal types to look for are audio, USB 1.1 or 2.0 for peripherals like keyboards and mice, and serial signals for industrial applications.

A flexible system should also be scalable for future growth. Calculate the total number of video sources and displays you have, and try to plan for growth. The KVM switches need to support current and future users with enough ports so that users do not have to create silos of servers and users. Look for a KVM system that can replace a video-only router with a high-performance digital KVM matrix switching system. A management controller enables central administration of the system. Does the management controller use a graphical user interface, or a text-based OSD?

When a KVM system can support video resolutions of 1920 x 1080 at 60 Hz or 3840 x 2160 at 60 Hz, test to make sure video does not lag or drop frames with rapidly changing content. Not all analog KVM systems or IP-based systems are up to the task, although most digital systems, including digital IP-based systems, can support fast, high-definition video.

Test keyboard and mouse setup to make sure there is no latency. A true USB emulation KVM switch is responsive and consistent; an unresponsive K/M jars the operator out of his/her workflow.

Optimally, a high-performance digital KVM system improves users’ productivity. In a matrix setting, all resources and displays can be connected and switched between by multiple users. Collaboration is enhanced by the ability to view and control the same resources simultaneously.

Calculate the longest distance between your endpoints, and make sure the KVM system can work over CATx or fiber cabling – or a mix of both – to reach all your targets. With digital matrix KVM systems, multiple users should have real-time access to targets.

New generation KVM systems will support redundancy options such as multiple power supply units for 24/7 uptime. Be sure to eliminate single points of failure. Make sure the system you select can support routing transmitters and receivers through two separate core KVM switches for full redundancy.

Many digital KVM switching systems support video-switching speeds of under a half second. Anything longer interrupts an operator’s workflow as he or she switches between resources and may be noticeable to a viewer. Does your KVM solution support custom keyboard shortcuts (also called hotkey shortcuts) that can be set for switching a local display as well as remote displays, such as other user terminals for collaboration or a video wall?

Lastly, KVM switching and extension systems need to be secure. Be sure administrators can assign specific access rights to specific resources. Remote configuration and maintenance of the KVM system enables an admin to securely log onto a system.

When you can mark off all eight of these categories, you’ll have maximized your ROI.

View our webinar about how digital KVM benefits the broadcasting industry.

Mining Solutions Company Increases Productivity with Black Box Digital Signage [Case Study]

Many companies are using digital signage for corporate communication to replace posters, boards, and other printed notices. The real-time messaging saves the cost and time associated with printing posters and static signage. Moreover, small and large organizations are leveraging the benefits of digital signage to:

  • Increase sales and profits
  • Inform, educate, notify, and alert
  • Encourage certain behavior
  • Satisfy customers or employees
  • Improve business processes

Find out how a worldwide leader in high-productivity mining solutions found a real-time digital signage solution to improve communications and processes, and increase productivity.

Read the case study: Mining Solutions Company Increases Productivity with Black Box Digital Signage

Need help planning your next digital signage solution?

Black Box offers digital signage solutions that range from plug-and-play to highly scalable, sophisticated solutions. If you’re considering a larger deployment with a fully integrated network solution, enlist the help of a seasoned digital signage professional. Contact a Black Box technical engineer at 877-877-2269, or comment below.

Nine types of fiber optic cable and how you use them

Simplex vs. duplex patch cablesSimplex-Duplex-Types-Fiber-Optic-Cable

Simplex cable has one fiber, while duplex (zipcord) cable has two fibers joined with a thin web. Simplex (also known as single strand) and duplex zipcord cables are tight-buffered and jacketed, with Kevlar® strength members.

Because simplex fiber optic cable consists of only one fiber link, you should use it for applications that only require one-way data transfer. For instance, an interstate trucking scale that sends the weight of the truck to a monitoring station or an oil line monitor that sends data about oil flow to a central location.

There is a unique application where simplex cable can support two-way communications if the equipment can transmit and receive on two different wavelengths. For example, transmit could be at 1310 nm and receive could be at 1550 nm. This application is found more with single-mode cable.

Use duplex multimode or single-mode fiber optic cable for applications that require simultaneous, bidirectional data transfer. Workstations, fiber switches and servers, Ethernet switches, backbone ports, and similar hardware require duplex cable.

Indoor/outdoor cableIndoor-Outdoor-Cable-Types-Fiber-Optic-Cable

Indoor/outdoor cable uses dry-block technology to seal ruptures against moisture seepage and gel-filled buffer tubes to halt moisture migration. Comprised of a ripcord, core binder, a flame-retardant layer, overcoat, aramid yarn, and an outer jacket, indoor/outdoor cable can be run from building to building. Because indoor/outdoor cable is typically plenum-rated, it can be run from equipment room directly to the other equipment room without worrying about fire-safety codes or terminating the cable within 50 feet of the building’s entrance. The cable should be run in a conduit.

Interlocking armored cable is jacketed in aluminum interlocking armor so it can be run just about anywhere in a building. Ideal for harsh environments, it is rugged and rodent resistant. No conduit is needed, so it’s a laborand moneysaving alternative to using innerducts for fiber cable runs.

Outside-plant cable is used in direct burials. It delivers optimum performance in extreme conditions and is terminated within 50 feet of the building entrance. It blocks water with dry blocking, absorbent tape, or powder. If it is armored, it will require grounding. Outside-plant cables are also rodent resistant. If they are too used in aerial applications, they will have a messenger strength member. Outside-plant cables also have a much higher tensile strength and can withstand the rigors of long, campus-wide installations.

Distribution-style vs. breakout-styleDistribution-Style-Breakout-Style-Types-Fiber-Optic-Cable

Distribution-style cables have several tight-buffered fibers bundled under the same jacket with Kevlar or fiberglass rod reinforcement. These cables are small in size and are used for short, dry conduit runs in either riser or plenum applications. The fibers can be directly terminated, but because the fibers are not individually reinforced, these cables should be broken out with a “breakout box” or terminated inside a patch panel or junction box.

Breakout-style cables are made of several simplex cables bundled together, making a strong design that is larger than distribution cables. Breakout cables are suitable for conduit runs and riser and plenum applications.

Loose-tube vs. tight-buffered Loose-Tube-Tight-Buffered-Types-Fiber-Optic-Cable

There are two types of fiber optic cable construction: loose-tube and tight- buffered. Both contain some type of strengthening member, such as aramid yarn, stainless steel wire strands, or even gel-filled sleeves. But each is designed for different environments.

Loose-tube cable is specifically designed for harsh outdoor environments. It protects the fiber core, cladding, and coating by enclosing everything within semi-rigid protective sleeves or tubes. Many loose-tube cables also have a water-resistant gel that surrounds the fibers. This gel helps protect the fibers from moisture, which makes loose-tube cable great for harsh, high-humidity environments where water or condensation can be a problem. The gel-filled tubes can also expand and contract with temperature changes. Loose-tube cable also has a higher tensile strength than tight-buffered cable.

But gel-filled loose-tube cable is not the best choice when cable needs to be routed around multiple bends, which is often true in indoor applications. Excess cable strain can force fibers to emerge from the gel.

Because loose-tube cable is typically 250 microns, you’ll need a fan-out kit to build up the individual fiber strands to 900 microns when making the transition at the entrance point from outdoor loose-tube to indoor to tight-buffered cable.

Tight-buffered cable is optimized for indoor applications. Because it’s sturdier than loose-tube cable, it’s best suited for moderate-length LAN/WAN connections or long indoor runs. It’s easier to install because there’s no messy gel to clean up and it doesn’t require a fan-out kit for splicing or termination. You can install connectors directly to each fiber.

Additional Resources
White Paper: Fiber Optic Technology
Fiber Cable Selector
Custom Cable Configurator