HDBase-T applications, news and tips

April 1, 2017
Alliance shares success stories, vendor shares guidance, lab implements new testing program.

By Patrick McLaughlin

In the years since the HDBase-T Alliance’s founding in 2011, the group has produced several specifications, certification programs and member services. Recently the alliance also produced a series of case-study success stories profiling installations of HDBase-T technology in different environments. Among those environments are residential and commercial properties. We’ll summarize a few of them here.

Property developer Luxlo outfitted a luxury apartment in Mayfair, London with HDBase-T gear featuring audio-video equipment from HDanywhere. According to the alliance, the custom install, performed by EasyComp “comprises a total of eight sources, including SKY HD boxes, Apple TV, Blu-ray, CCTV, DVR and AV receivers, and seven displays - both high-definition and 4K - distributed in the living rooms, bedrooms, master bathroom, staff room and kitchen.”

The fact that the residential property has a “staff room” suggests that budget was not a primary concern. The entire installation connected through Category 6 cabling for up to 35 meters. All sources are housed within an out-of-sight equipment rack.

As it does with several of these profiles, the alliance asks and answers the question “Why HDBase-T?” In this case the answer is: “Ease of installation, including running Cat cable; ease of use and management; clean and elegant look, without cable clutter.”

Connected home office

Another residential HDBase-T install took place in the home office of a financial executive who wanted the ability to conduct business and watch financial markets from home. The alliance explains, “The request was fairly simple - be able to receive up to five different video sources simultaneously over a video wall of four flat-panel displays placed in the room, with no latency or quality issues.” The setup had to provide the ability to monitor markets and news, to work on presentations, and to participate in video conferences with the same quality and efficiency that a commercial office provided. A one-month project timeline was required.

New Jersey-based FieldTrees Design Group completed the installation of a full video wall, with switching and display capabilities. FieldTrees chose WyreStorm’s 6x6 HDBase-T Matrix, “which allows up to six integrated media sources with full switching control of all inputs and outputs from a central control point,” the company explained. “The media sources include cable boxes, Apple TV, a Dell computer with dual HDMI video cards, and a Skype camera … The four Samsung displays can be used individually, or as a whole for an 80-inch full HD monitor showing a single source. All sources are located in the basement, for a sleek and elegant look.”

Hospitality applications

HDBase-T technology is also deployed in a number of commercial and retail environments. Among the many other case studies in the alliance’s portfolio are two dining establishments.

One is a fast-food restaurant, unnamed but U.S.-based. The alliance explains, “The customer’s needs demanded a rugged, heat-resistant solution to extend digital AV media reliably using HDBase-T technology from a computer located inside the proprietor’s venue to an interactive display located outside the venue in the drive-through lane bearing variant temperatures (extreme cold, heat and humidity). An HDCP-compliant [High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection] extender was needed to run up to 100 meters over Category 6, delivering crystal-clear audio and video to the GDS [global distribution system] display located at the drive-through store.”

Another installation took place at the Wash Park Sports Alley Bar and Grill in Denver, CO. Tech Dwellings installed the system, which featured Key Digital equipment. “Multi-zone video is accompanied by audio and lighting control,” Key Digital and the HDBase-T Alliance explained. “All displays are able to select and view any video source at any time in any combination while also able to view any desired source on all displays.” Key Digital’s Compass Control system “utilizes HDBase-T to send control signals for audio and video over the same wire,” they added. “The HDBase-T KD-HD8x8Lite Matrix Switcher was specified, delivering out uncompressed content for the patrons and enabling the bar and server staff to have complete control of each display with a touch of a button.”

Answering “Why HDBase-T?” they note, “Simplicity and flexibility in installation. High performance and quality with distribution of uncompressed content. Easy control and monitoring. One-cable connectivity for displays around all video zones in the bar.”

Four tips

A document from Leviton titled “Installing HDBase-T in AV Projects: What You Need to Know” addresses the cabling infrastructure chosen for these applications. Within that document the company says, “Large displays are driving the need for higher resolution, moving beyond today’s high of 1080p. Ultra high-definition TV with 4K resolution is regarded as the next standard delivering 2160p format at 3840x2160 pixel density. Digital signals for these displays are increasingly sensitive and consume greater bandwidth; that’s why having the optimal cabling infrastructure in place is paramount.”

Leviton offers four pieces of advice for these installations. First, the company advises us to consider the application and installation environment. Specifically, one should ask and answer the following questions: 1) Should I use HDBase-T Class A or Class B equipment? 2) Are there any power considerations? 3) Where will the AV link go?

Next, Leviton urges, understand the signal characteristics. The company explains, “AV signals over HDBase-T look much like the data signals you encounter every day - they are just a little less forgiving. HDBase-T is packet-based like Ethernet, but it doesn’t have a retransmission mechanism. So there is no recovery from packet errors. You can avoid pixilation or complete video dropout due to packet errors by using the right cabling.”

The third piece of advice from Leviton is to recognize the capabilities of twisted-pair cabling. Category 5e, 6, and 6A UTP cabling - the alliance’s specified media types - “will deliver varying performance results, depending on the type of installation, video resolution, and distance” Leviton explains. “While Cat 5e channels can carry HDBase-T signals in an isolated point-to-point link, they do not support HDBase-T in real-world high-density installations with adjacent data or HDBase-T channels.”

Leviton added that its own testing “finds use of Cat 5e in these applications can lead to high packet error rates and total link loss, as the channels are not designed for resistance to alien crosstalk. Even Cat 6 cables can be limited in carrying HDBase-T signals when adjacent to other cables carrying HDBase-T. We recommend Cat 6A with alien crosstalk prevention technology … to support HDBase-T signals that are in the presence of multiple disturbers, including other HDBase-T signals and 10 GbE.”

The final tip for HDBase-T users is to select the right media and components. “To ensure the best HDBase-T installation, use only HDBase-T-certified components,” Leviton says. “These products are tested by the HDBase-T Alliance and will ensure full compatibility with 5Play performance. Also, as mentioned earlier, we recommend using Cat 6A cabling with alien crosstalk prevention technology as the backbone of the cabling system.”

New certification

In addition to the program that certifies components for HDBase-T transmission, the HDBase-T Alliance, along with Underwriters Laboratories, recently launched the Certification Program for Power over HDBase-T (PoH) Cables. The alliance and UL issued a joint statement that said in part, “This program, targeted at cable manufacturers, addresses the increased performance and safety requirements related to heating due to current levels being carried under PoH of audiovisual installations. With increasingly complex installations and the proliferation of PoH equipment, AV vendors, manufacturers and professionals have indicated the need for standardization and consistency for high performance, regardless of the size of cable bundles. The new certification program evaluates the cable’s ability to carry direct current power up to 100 watts over the four pairs of the cable and to maintain HDBase-T data transmission performance.”

The certification program is based on the pending standard UL 4299 Outline of Investigation for Power over HDBase-T Cables. “The cables will be covered under UL’s Follow-Up Services surveillance program that includes both regular inspections at cable manufacturing facilities as well as ongoing testing to determine continued compliance,” the two organizations said.

Patrick McLaughlin is our chief editor.

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