Audio On The Go

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An example of Audio Everywhere’s app dashboard. Credit: Audio Everywhere.

With the proliferation of smart devices, tech innovators have been experimenting with different technologies to bring every individual a unique, personal experience. The concept of “Bring Your Own Device” (BYOD) spans across many applications and is especially prominent in the UC and collaboration industry. But how about audio solutions that also make use of these smart devices to deliver a personal auditory experience while you are on the go?

Recent innovations saw solutions where users can connect their smart phones and tablets via Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, NFC etc., to a digital signage they see on the street or a public TV in a pub/museum and stream live audio from it. Instead of blasting loud audio in public spaces, these BYOD solutions provide a more personal, audible sound experience.

So what are the benefits of this BYOD Audio solution and what should you consider before implementing such technology in your premises? SI Asia’s Shireen Ho gathered the thoughts of key players in the eld for this special feature.

Personal Audio Experience
We have heard a lot about BYOD these days. BYOD to meetings, BYOD to lectures, BYOD to work etc, but the BYOD technology we are talking about here is one that enhances your personal audio experience.

• Have you ever been in a sports bar, gym or even an airport waiting area where there are multiple TV screens playing different content but with the audio switched off or barely audible?

• Have you ever been in a foreign museum or attraction where the commentary is in a language you don’t understand and wish there’s something you can do about it?

From an end-user point of view, it is likely that they will think, ‘Surely, all the venue operators need to do is to install more headphones, buy more audio guides or hire translators etc’. But often for venue operators, that is just not commercially viable due to budget constraints and practicality – so what can you do?

To address these concerns and improve the experience of their customers, an increasing number of venue operators have been turning to BYOD audio over Wi-Fi as a solution.

“Whether it is in the gym or bar, people these days are much more careful with their Android or iPhone than they are with public equipments,” said Lance Glasser, President of Audio Everywhere, a leading provider of systems that stream audio over Wi-Fi.

“In my gym, the maintenance person replaces about 20 jacks a month on broken public equipment. Also the economies of scale make the device you have in your pocket superior to anything else you can buy for twice the money.”

Opening Up Opportunities
Not that it was not impossible a decade earlier, but streaming audio over Wi-Fi to your mobile devices can be costly and the experience can be poor due to subpar internet connection. It’s not like we had 4G right from the start so that means GPRS was all we’ve got at the time.

Flash forward to present day, wireless technology has come a long way and so have mobile devices. According to IDC, the world’s mobile worker population has reached 1.3 billion in 20151. With Asia Paci c consumers accounted for half of the mobile phones shipped globally at 527 million by 20151, mobile devices have become a necessity for many.

Combine that with the fact that developing a mobile app is so simple these days – thanks to the open communities around the world who would gladly share their knowledge and experience – it is no wonder that 31% of retailers in Asia Paci c have adopted some kind of mobile/wireless solutions in their stores1.

“We see opportunities with firms in the hospitality and MICE sectors adopting BYOD solutions for small, mid or even large scale meeting events and conferences,” states Vince Tan, Head of System Solutions, Sennheiser Asia.

“Entertainment- related businesses involved in films or theatrical productions can also adopt innovative BYOD audio applications either for enhanced entertainment purposes or assistive listening for various groups of audience.”

Lance also adds, “As BYOD are not only reasonably high fidelity, but they are also social – In-app messaging, branding, and so forth allows BYOD Audio to deliver far more value than their analog predecessors.”

How Does it Work?
Solutions like Audio Everywhere and Sennheiser’s MobileConnect offer systems that support audio live streaming functions from TVs, digital signage or any other audio sources, over Wi-Fi to an end-user’s smart phone or tablet.

The system typically comprises of three parts: the app (usually customisable and downloadable on iOS or Android devices); a connecting point that connects the audio sources to local area network in the venue; and a server that manages the overall system.

“(For Audio Everywhere) the heart of the system is the ExXtractor that connects each audio source, such as a DirecTV receiver, to the Ethernet. The system works within the venue’s public Wi-Fi system… Once audio is connected to the ExXtractor, it digitizes and packetizes it and sends it over the local area network and then over the venue’s Wi-Fi,” explains Lance.

For Sennheiser MobileConnect, the core of the solution is a smartphone app that end users can use to connect to a Wi-Fi network.

“When installed at theatres, it can be used to access to additional soundtracks for audio descriptions, language subtitles, or even for assistive listening purposes,” said Vince. “With the proliferation and adoption of mobile phone applications today, BYOD solution can be used to make communication more inclusive for people from all walks of life.”

Challenges Ahead
With wireless freedom and connectivity being a key trend today, manufacturers now have the task to find out what are the actual and future standards of connections and wireless transmissions. This is especially crucial for completely wireless systems and there are different challenges involved.

“Things like what kind of wireless transmission should be used (i.e. frequency issues, stable transmission, country specific frequencies) and what security of wireless transmission (i.e. encryption, transmission range), are questions integrators and end-user clients should ask themselves before implementing these solutions,” asserts Vince.

Besides transmission issues, Lance also shared that basic IT skills are important when it comes to field deployment of the solution.

“The biggest challenge in BYOD audio is dealing with the diversity of digital networks out there. 99% of our issues in the eld are mostly IT-related, which is why it is critical that integrators develop or acquire basic IT skills.”

So for systems integrators quoting a BYOD solution to their customers, what are some considerations or factors they need to take note of?

“First, assuming one picks a great vendor, the biggest issue is the quality and robustness of the Wi-Fi system. The second issue is making sure that one takes into account where the audio sources are located. If it’s in a rack at the back room with an Ethernet tap nearby, you are blessed, but if the receivers are strapped to the back of each TV, then costs will be higher and basic integrator skills such as running balanced audio lines become important,” explained Lance.

Where Is It Going?
Lance opines that BYOD Wi-Fi Audio is taking over the fitness/ gym industry. “There are new major adoptions announced everyday,” he said. “The next market we expect to see mass adoption will be Assistive Listening, where 20th century technologies such as inductive loop, FM radios and IR systems cannot compete with either, the economies of scale of BYOD Audio over Wi-Fi or its ability to deliver additional value (branding, marketing, social) on top of the basic audio delivery.”

Vince also sees a similar type of growth for BYOD Wi-Fi Audio. “The system can be used for hearing support, audio description or language translation. (Within MobileConnect) we have a personal hearing assistant which is developed in cooperation with the Fraunhofer Institute for Digital Media Technology in Germany, which provides intuitive sound customisation tools for people with hearing disabilities… With it, we hope to address more and larger target groups that focuses on hearing support.”

In other applications, BYOD audio can also be used to assist attendees of global conferences overcome language barriers. Users can do away with bulky interpreter systems and access live audio interpretations through their own smartphones.

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*This article was first published in the Jun-Jul 2016 issue of Systems Integration Asia. 

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See, Hear, Touch & Get Real

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The Advancement In Audio Visual Technology Has Made Simulation Applications Much More Realistic

The possibilities are endless. From simulating flight experiences to surgical procedures, cargo handling to F1 racing and even religious rituals(!), the use of simulators are so common nowadays that almost any vertical industry would be able to find a good use for it.

With the 4K boom and 3D projection mapping trending in recent years, the simulation market has never be en more exciting with images now made sharper and resemble closer to life.

In this special feature, SI Asia explored the types of audiovisual technology used in different simulation systems. Bringing you the perspectives of various end-users and an exclusive interview with one of the leading simulation projector manufacturers, we learned how audiovisual is used in simulation, what are the concerns using AV tools, and overall market potential of simulation.

But before we go into that, let’s begin with a little crash course on simulation systems.

What Is Simulation?
A technique for practice and learning, simulation can be applied to across different disciplines to train operators and/or traine es. Serving as a bridge between traditional classroom learning and real-life execution, simulation allows users to apply their knowledge in a true-to-life settings.

Used as a set of techniques, simulation is mostly used to replace and amplify real experiences with guided, ‘immersive’ ones. Simulation evokes or replicates – to a certain degree – substantial aspects of the real world in an interactive fashion.

Why Use Simulation?
Simulation-based training has been largely successfully across various industries such as aviation, maritime, and military, where high risk and high costs have made it impractical for live training all the time. Furthermore, simulation training has also been proven to dramatically reduce risk, cost, unscheduled maintenance, increase operators/trainees skills and efficiency while maximizing productivity.

Simulations provide trainees and operators a safe environment to learn, practice their skills, and test their response to emergency situations where operators can be shown and assessed for the proper operating technique much more quickly and accurately.

Recently, the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) has reported that they will be building a $1.3 million training simulator to improve the road-accident rescue skills of its officers. Using 3D goggles, the simulator in discussion will allow officers to interact physically with the 3D models of prop vehicles such as cars and trucks, in a road-accident scenario.

Market Potential
Although simulation is widely used across various industries for training and learning purposes, bulk of the simulation market revenue comes from the military training.

According to Frost & Sullivan’s 2012-2021 market insight report on Military Training and Simulation, it is predicted that the global demand for training and simulation (T&S) is expected to steadily grow at a CAGR of 2.51 per cent between 2012 to 2021. This presents a revenue opportunity of up to $411.06 billion available to the industry.

In the same report, the Market Attractiveness Map has shown the Asia-Pacific region with highest potential growth, at C A GR at 4.36 per cent, followed by Middle East region at 3.92 per cent – making these two regions highly attractive for simulation and simulation-related manufacturers to invest in.

Simulation Modalities
Simulation may use various modalities – with or without different kinds of technologies – to replicate key aspects of the real world. Unlike constructive simulations, which requires no fancy visualization or interaction technologies, immersive simulations require replication of at least three senses: audio, visual, and touch. Also called virtual simulation, this simulation typically involve humans and/or equipment in a computer-controlled setting. Time can be continuous or discreet (depending on the unit). Since it uses computer to generate graphics and sound, audiovisual hardware are often used here to create a synthetic, interactive environment where representation of the scenario is fed to the eyes and ears.

Creating An Immersive Simulation
According to Lin Yu, Vice-President, Christie Asia Pacific,

“Simulation environments come in many different forms, shapes, and sizes, and use a wide range of technologies. The two major components are the visual display system and the actual, physical components that duplicate the type of machinery the user is being trained on.”

Firstly, using a computer model of the simulation, installers/integrators will need to decide on the means of tracking visual, audio and touch fields of the user so as to determine what is to be displayed and to identify what physical action are being performed for each simulated scenario.

Next, it is important to source for appropriate display hardware for every sensory modality and appropriate input hardware for each action pathway (e.g., touch, spe ech) so that the user’s interaction with the machinery is interpreted correctly by the system. Last but not least, the hardware to compute scenarios, conduct tracking, and produce resulting audiovisual outputs in real time is equally important as well.

Role Of Audiovisual
To deliver realistic sensory stimuli, the audiovisual equipment play an essential role.

For visual display of the scenarios/ images, simulation projectors or large-format displays are often used to provide the visual stimulus to the user. Ranging from wide-angle 3D projections to 4K curved displays, the choice of visual hardware depends on the type and objective of the simulation. For example, the mobile version of the F1 Racing Simulator by RAVE Productions has used displays for the visual presentation of the race track, while for a fixed residential installation, projectors were used instead to create a more immersive, realistic racing experience.

So what are some other important factors to look out for when installing visual display? NEC Asia Pacific’s Display Solution Architect, Ranjit Singh, explained,

“The factors would differ for different applications. The projection area, distance of the viewer from the image would drive the resolution required and ambience light needed will drive what technology is required.”

To fool the human senses, audio is another area that is important in a immersive simulation. Using surround acoustics, simulating the sounds/audio aspects of the scenario creates another level of realism. While the sound quality is just as important as in any AV projects, aesthetics of the speakers are usually less of a concern as they are usually concealed in most simulation units.

Enhanced Simulation Experience
To conclude, immersive simulation is a rapidly developing fi eld. With the advancement of audiovisual technology, more realistic visuals are made possible, upgrading the experience of simulation. For instance, the proliferation of large-format displays, 3D projections, 4K projectors and curved displays have provided more visual options for simulators.

Due to new technology breakthrough, many end-users have had the intention to upgrade their current visual hardware to provide a better simulation experience. One such client would be end-users like RAVE Productions who owned the F1 simulators.

“We have intentions to upgrade the displays of our mobile units to curved screens, so as to give a more immersive feeling.” said Prem Lulla, Event Director of RAVE Productions.

There is intense interest in virtual reality in a number of domains, particularly in the training, education and entertainment industry, making it a very exciting market to look out for.

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*This article was first published in the Feb-Mar 2015 issue of Systems Integration Asia. 

AR/VR: Alternate Realities

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Virtual Reality Is Here To Stay This Time.

Shots have been fired. Whether you like it or not, it seems Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) are here to stay. Predicted as one of the most disruptive technologies in this decade, analysts forecast that more than 24 million devices will be sold in 2018¹.

According to industry analyst firm CCS Insight, VR and AR have now reached a tipping point after years of development. It is estimated that more than 12 million VR headsets will be sold in 2017. Although VR and AR are essentially two different types of technologies, the potential is immense for both as each delivers a niche visual experience.

Realities Explained

  • Virtual Reality: Also referred to as immersive reality or artificial reality, VR is a computer simulated environment created in the digital realm. Sometimes it simulates a physical place in the real world or an imagined world that allows the user to interact with it. VR technology can artificially create sensory experience such as sight, touch, sound, and smell. There are two forms of VR: semi-immersive and fully immersive. The first is often constructed using projection technology in an enclosed room, while the latter uses a VR headset to ‘immerse’ the user in the virtual world via sight.
  • Augmented Reality: Also referred to as mediated reality, AR is a fusion of the real world and the digital world by overlapping visual experience between real-life and digital realm. Open and partly immersive, computer-generated sensory graphics are superimposed onto or integrated with the visuals you see in the physical world, modifying/enhancing one’s view of reality. Smart phones and smart glasses are often used as a medium to overlay data and rendered images onto physical objects and real-life environments.

The Hype of Realities

When Facebook acquired Oculus Rift in 2014, expectations for VR and AR ran high as several technology giants soon followed suit to make huge investments in the area. Some notable firms include Google (for Google Glass); Sony (with Project Morpheus); HTC – who has a partnership with Valve; and Samsung, who had worked with Oculus to produce the company’s first VR Gear for Samsung smartphones. In the AR realm, Epson launched the Moverio smart glasses at CES 2014, while IT giant Microsoft announced its first holographic computer – the HoloLens – in early 2015, officially marking the beginnings of Age Of Realities.

Two years on, in 2016, we see investments coming to fruition. Starting with Facebook’s first consumer version of Oculus Rift scheduled to ship later this year, Sony also announced that its first VR headset for PlayStation which will be out in the same year too. Concurrently, Intel has also announced its AR headset plans and Epson also stepped up on its smart glasses development with Moverio BT-300 due to release in late 2016 with several major improvements.

Billion-Dollar Industry

Indisputably, gaming and VR films are top applications for VR. Citing CCS Insight¹, video, entertainment and user-generated technology are also helping to drive its adoption. But besides the consumer market, what potential does VR has for commercial businesses?

Eugene Goh, Vice President & Head, IT & Mobile of Samsung Electronics Singapore, reasoned that businesses can embrace VR as a cost effective way of developing and delivering a product or service.

“The vivid nature of VR allows business to do away with actual set-ups, allowing their customers to have a remote yet realistic experience without being physically present… The added bonus is how VR can provide an intriguing experience,” said Eugene.

In contrast, AR are quickly gaining traction with various vertical markets such as Logistics, Support, Design, Medicine and Education. As of today, Europe is believed to be the largest test bed of AR, with numerous blue-chip companies across all sectors evaluating its capabilities.

Not Just Games

Ben Wood, CCS Insight’s Chief of Research observed:

“… Companies have realised augmented reality can be used to increase productivity and cut costs. Over the next two years we’re going to see the technology move out of trials into full-scale deployments. Companies that embrace augmented reality will gain a competitive advantage,”

While the focus on gaming and entertainment has not changed (gamers rejoice!), it is evident that enterprises and corporations are beginning to see the value of VR and AR to improve their training and work processes.

“(Imagine) a home tour of a show fl at instead of a physical setup in real estate, a five-minute tour around the city in the comforts of your hotel room before deciding on your day’s itinerary, catch the latest fashion shows with models walking down the runway, cheer for your favourite team from the soccer pitch, or trying on new outfits in a retail fashion store,” Eugene enthuses. “The possibilities are limitless.”

Additionally, a large AR user base would also be a major revenue source for TV/film, enterprise, advertising, and consumer apps. E-commerce businesses such as Amazon and Alibaba will have a new platform to sell to a mass audience.

Content Is Key

VR headsets and smart glasses are cool and all, but ultimately they are just mediums to deliver content in a different way. With Facebook launching 360 video and a series of VR games later this year (most probably to complement its Oculus VR gear launch), content is another key factor to consider to make the VR/AR adoption much more seamless.

“As with any new medium/platform, to make VR grow as an industry, content will play a significant role to determine why would people use VR and how quickly will people pick up VR in the near future,” said Jeff Zhen, Co-Founder of Hiverlabs, a VR content producer based in Singapore.

As VR covers a wide range of genres and applications, from entertainment, to education, training, tourism, property and more, creating content for VR application can be challenging especially if you also take into account that it is only in recent years that the technology has picked up.

“VR is still very new to consumers and developers. As we develop VR content, we have to think about when and how will people access VR content,”explains Jeff. “The key challenge we feel in making VR content is not only the technical challenges like maintaining a high display frame rate, quality of graphics, intuitive user interfaces, etc, but also the actual use case scenario of a specific VR content.”

According to Jeff, there are numerous problems faced by VR companies at this early stage and the industry developers are still exploring how to solve real problems and get effective results with VR.

On the AR side, Epson has also been aggressively pushing for more content producers and software developers to create apps for their Moverio smart glasses. With a robust, informative site dedicated specially for developers and an expert team of email support, the company recognizes that the fastest way to push for adoption will be interesting content.

Just like how Apple’s iPhone burst onto the smartphone scenes in 2007 with a wide array of interesting apps, the rate of VR and AR adoption and acceptance will also depend on how creative and novel the content is and the kind of experience it can bring to its users.

Not A Bed Of Roses

However, as exciting as AR/VR might seem, its future is not going to be as rosy and positive if health issues such as simulator sickness is not resolved.

Also known as VR sickness, simulator sickness is a type of visually induced motion sickness that occurs when using VR and AR devices for a prolonged period of time.

When the VR devices fails to completely fool our vestibular and proprioceptive systems (the sensory systems responsible for balance, spatial orientation and bodily positions), it causes discrepancies between the motion perceived from the screen and the actual motion of the user’s head and body. In short, simulator sickness is developed when what our eyes see does not match how our heads move.

Symptoms of simulator sickness include dizziness, headache, nausea, vomiting and other discomforts. Though it is said that simulator sickness decreases with repeated exposure there is still a minority of 3-5 per cent who will never get used to it.

On the other hand, privacy issues are also another concern for the industry, with Google Glass raising a lot of questions from privacy advocates.

But on the bright side, some VR developers have already claimed that they have come up with motion sickness-free devices, while AR developers are treading more carefully than ever with their developments.

Coupled with the help of tech enthusiasts and AR/VR fanatics pushing for more adoption, the future of AR/VR may look uncertain at first but it’s definitely heading to where it wants to be.

Now, conducting a virtual meeting using VR technology doesn’t sound like such a far-fetched idea isn’t it?

¹CCS Insight. Augmented and Virtual Reality Devices To Become a $4 Billion-Plus Business in Three Years. http://www.ccsinsight.com/press/ company-news/2251-augmented-and-virtual-reality-devices-to-become-a-4-billion-plus-business-in-three-years

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*This article was first published in the Apr-May 2016 issue of Systems Integration Asia. 

DRONES: Flight Of The Future

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Is the Age of Drones here for the proAV industry? We spoke to key stakeholders in this emerging market.

Drones, or more formally known as UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles), are in the spotlight in recent years. From what was started out as a hobbyist’s toy, companies and organizations have also begun to realise that drones could be used in commercial applications. One such company would be Amazon, who, in late 2013, announced a plan to use drones as a mode of delivery in the near future.

In the realm of proAV, drones came into prominence at InfoComm in Orlando last year. For ISE 2016, drones are once again set to make their salient presence in Amsterdam. So just what are drones, where are the opportunities and what has triggered this drone movement?

Why Now?

“The possibilities are endless. As the technology becomes more accessible (pricing-wise and retail touch points), mass adoption is inevitable. On the other hand, we also see huge commercial implications which will create positive economic and social impacts across different industries,” said Kevin On, Associate Director of Communications, DJI.

It’s true. Besides Amazon’s unorthodox plan of using drones as delivery vehicles, drones have been used to benefit commercial and government bodies in the field of search and rescue, surveillance, traffic monitoring, weather monitoring, firefighting etc.

In many ways, the seemingly sudden surge of interest in drone technology is the result of improved drone hardware and software. Because drones are now more powerful, sophisticated, and useful, the public has more of a reason to be interested in them.

Quoting Kevin Kelly, President & COO of Stampede, “The increase in computing power at a smaller size improved the flight performance of small aircrafts. Also, stable flight control systems became far easier to implement. The technology improved as the ease-of- use increased.”

Opportunities Arise

So what business opportunities will this Age of Drones bring to the proAV realm?

As one of the largest AV/IT technology distributor in North and Latin America, Stampede is one of the first few companies to hop on the pro-drone wagon and has been actively involved in promoting drones for commercial use.

“Drones are a means to put AV in the sky,” said Kelly. “With an integral consultative sales approach, the ProAV industry is prime for drone integration. Key vertical markets such government, education, corporate, and houses of worship are already benefiting from drone integration. ProAV integrators that capitalize on this category are sure to remain relevant in years to come.”

Equally optimistic, Shenzhen-based drone manufacturer XIRO, also commented that affordable price points will see more and more people using drones for aerial videos and that in turn, will lead to more business queries and proAV integrators, dealers, resellers, should be prepared for that when it comes.

“For the professional audiovisual industry, we believe that this is an important step stone to differentiate themselves from their competitors. By having possibilities in their product range, it gives your customers more freedom of choice,” said Deng Yuheng, Product Manager (Asia Pacific), XIRO.

Echoing Stampede and XIRO, DJI’s On also agreed that the proAV should see the rise of drones as an opportunity. “UAVs present a real growth opportunity for the AV industry and there is already a strong link between AV and UAV – capturing compelling visual content.”

“The UAV industry is gaining interest and capturing headlines because people are starting to realize how capable and powerful unmanned aerial vehicles can be.”
– DJI.

V Is For Video

The rise of drones also, inevitably, brought attention to the inconspicuous action cameras (Irony huh?). Small, lightweight, wearable, mountable, portable and sometimes even waterproof, action cameras were the talk of the town at many consumer electronic shows.

Moreover, a drone won’t be all that special if all it does is fly. I mean, toy helicopters can do that too right? But attach a high performance action cam to it and BAM! – you call it a drone now (even the name sounds cooler).

Looking at it from this perspective, you can say that video quality is important in drone applications. After all, it is such a killjoy if you were to bring your drone up to a nice valley, hoping to capture the beautiful scenery, but end up with a grainy video. And that is speaking from a recreational point of view. For industrial applications, the implications of a bad video can be detrimental especially if it is used for surveillance or firefighting purposes.

So what are some factors to consider when selecting a suitable camera for drones?

Singapore Hobby Supplies shares that excellent picture quality in both videos and still images is a priority when using action cams in drone applications. Because drones are always on the move, action cam with features like Sony’s Advanced SteadyShotTM can boost image stabilisation by approximately three times. It effectively suppresses shake and high-frequency motor vibration so users can film vibration-free aerial footages. Additionally, the ease of usage on a drone itself is also important.

“One minor shortfall of Point of View cameras in the market is that the current shape of the devices makes it slightly awkward to mount onto a drone sometimes,” remarked Ronald Yong, Singapore Hobby Supplies Pte Ltd.

Furthermore, there is also the need for smooth post processing of footages. According to Yong, software like Highlight Movie Maker, an in-built programme within Sony action cams – makes it easy to assemble a share-ready clip as it saves the trouble of editing long footages.

“There are definitely improvements to be sought after in Point of View cameras in the market. For example, it would be great if it comes with the ability to capture still images in full pixel format, as well as being weather-proof on its own without having an outer tight-case over it.”

“Currently, some drones carry these Point of View Cameras without an outer case. As such, many of these cameras have a high chance of sustaining water and physical damages. Other drones which carry the Point of View cameras with water-tight protective cases, sacrifice some flight time due to higher payload or video quality as these protective cases cannot be mounted onto a brush-less camera stabilizer,” concludes Yong.

Safety & Security

Stampede’s Kelly puts this across very well, “The lack of regulations on the legal, proper and safe use of drones is one of the biggest challenges in commercial drone use today.”

With as many as one million drones predicted to have been sold last holiday season as gifts¹, government bodies around the world are scrambling to come up with regulations that will contain and regulate rogue drones. This in turn, could possibly change the game for commercial applications as more laws are written and more restrictions are placed.

It also doesn’t help that pranksters with rogue drones have made international news regularly, further contributing to anti-drone sentiments for those who fear their privacy and safety will be compromised. So what lies ahead? At first look, drone regulations for most of Asia are less comprehensive than its Western counterparts. Admittedly, the reason could be due to the fact that drone activities in Asia are not as prominent as compared to Europe or America. But with globalisation, it is only a matter of time that the drone fever will hit the region. And when that time comes, hopefully, regulatory bodies in the region would already have a concrete set of regulations for commercial drone operators.

“Law and regulations are very important and we believe more and more countries will impose regulations for users and manufacturers like us.”
– XIRO Drone

Another major challenge for drones is negative public perception. A January 2015 Reuters/Ipsos poll found that 64% of respondents said they would not want their next-door neighbour to have a drone, and 71% said drones should not be allowed to operate over other people’s private property². In short, people are concerned about their privacy and safety.

Addressing public safety concerns, DJI recently updated their geofencing technology and launched a beta version of GEO (Geospatial Environment Online) feature in US and Europe. The feature will provide DJI drone users with up-to- date guidance on locations which may be restricted by regulation or raise safety concerns.

“Pilots will have, at the time of flight, access to live information on temporary flight restrictions due to forest fires, major stadium events, VIP travel, and other changing circumstances,” explained On. “The GEO system will also include for the first time restrictions around locations such as prisons, power plants and other sensitive areas where drone operations raise non-aviation security concerns.”

“In terms of technical challenges, the current drone itself is limited in flight duration due to battery life. Flight durations can range from a few minutes up to almost an hour. However, few if any multicopters can fly for more than an hour while carrying a sensor payload. Advances in batteries and alternative propulsion systems should overcome this limitation in the future.” – Stampede Global

Future of Drones

For the proAV industry, drone technology appears to present a stream of interesting opportunities. Advocating that drones should become a category within the ProAV sector rather than an entirely separate commercial drone industry, Stampede has developed the Drone Video System (DVS) category to further this notion.

Within the DVS category, AV components are integrated with drones. By pulling together drone equipment, related add-ons, command & control capabilities, and the professional training services needed, the Drone Video System (DVS) category allows ProAV Integrators to create a complete drone solution for their client, regardless of the application. Stampedes sees this as the future of drone integration in the ProAV industry and the opportunity offers enormous benefits for integrators in various vertical markets.

In terms of drone technology, XIRO hopes to see more ‘smart’ drones which can adapt to different environments and avoid obstacles intelligently, with longer battery life and better portability.

“We see great potential in industry- specific applications for UAVs including agriculture, surveying & mapping, disaster prevention, search & rescue and the possibilities are endless,” remarked DJI’s On. “Our technology is also opening doors for the ecosystem, especially in the developer community, which will create new applications, use cases and jobs.”

“The next three to five years will be a very exciting period as we bring more innovation and new ideas to the UAV industry.

1The number of drones expected to sell during the holidays is scaring the government http://fortune.com/2015/09/29/drones-holiday-sales/
2Ipsos Poll Conducted for Reuters. Drones 01.29.15. http://www.ipsos-na.com/download/pr.aspx?id=14209

 

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*This article was first published in the Feb-Mar 2016 issue of Systems Integration Asia.