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‘Green’ AV systems a key area of focus at InfoComm 2011

Casio’s Short Throw lampless projectors allow a 60-inch image to be projected from less than three feet from the screen.

From low-energy digital displays and lampless projectors, to control systems that automatically turn off electronic devices when they aren’t in use, to “network monitors” that bring the concept of network computing back to life, products designed to save energy and reduce operating costs were a key area of focus at InfoComm 2011 in Orlando.

Christie MicroTiles

Christie demonstrated its new MicroTiles technology—visual building blocks, 12 inches high by 16 inches wide and 10 inches deep, that can easily be stacked and tiled in any conceivable shape, creating a flexible and modular digital display. With no practical limit to the number of tiles that can be used in a display, Christie MicroTiles create a low-energy, virtually seamless display canvas with an unlimited number of super-fine pixels, the company said.

Christie MicroTiles reportedly have 70 times more pixels than the most popular 4mm surface-mount display LEDs, resulting in crisp, clear, flawless images. What’s more, their environmentally friendly and low-energy design makes them inexpensive to operate.

Christie MicroTiles are free of hazardous substances and LEED certified. They have no lamps or other consumables, so there’s nothing that gets “used up” and thrown away. They have no moving parts that require replacement or recalibration, and their LEDs are rated at 65,000 hours to half brightness—or more than seven years, Christie said.

The MicroTiles have built-in ecopower consumption modes, and their adjustable brightness means you only use the wattage you need for your setting. Plus, the tiles are designed for reinvention: They’re easy to disassemble and reassemble so you can use them in different configurations for different spaces and extend their life. The MicroTiles’ metal housing and internal components are 80 percent recyclable and made from 90 percent recoverable materials, Christie said.

Lampless projectors

Last year, Casio introduced its Green Slim Projector, an eco-friendly projector that uses a patented hybrid “solid state” light source—combining laser and LED technology to achieve high brightness—instead of a traditional mercury lamp.

Designed to last 20,000 hours, or about 18 school years, the Green Slim Projector aimed to save schools money by eliminating the need for expensive lamp replacements. A typical mercury lamp lasts roughly 2,000 hours and costs about $400 to replace—meaning schools could spend thousands of dollars in new lamps over the life of a projector.

The Green Slim Projector was only 1.7 inches thick, making it among the market’s most portable projectors. But its slim form factor also was somewhat limiting. At this year’s InfoComm, Casio launched two new series of lampless projectors—a Pro and a Short Throw series—that “remove the shackles of the slim form factor,” said a Casio representative.

Casio’s Short Throw lampless projectors allow a 60-inch image to be projected from less than three feet from the screen. They can display 3D content and include an optional pen and software for turning any surface into an interactive workspace, allowing users to annotate and save projected content.

The company’s Pro series of lampless projectors also are 3D-ready. They are networkable, put out 10 watts of sound, and offer up to 3,500 lumens of brightness, Casio said.

For schools that already own lamp-based projectors, Extron Electronics announced that its PoleVault and WallVault AV switching systems include an automatic shut-off feature that can save power and extend a projector’s lamp life.

If the systems determine there has been no action taken within a certain amount of time (as set by the user), they will power down the projector automatically, Extron said.

The PoleVault system is designed for classrooms with a ceiling-mounted projector, and the WallVault system is designed for rooms with a wall-mounted projector. Both include complete, centralized AV switching with audio amplification, as well as network connectivity for web-based monitoring and problem resolution.

Crestron’s RoomView AV scheduling and control software, which runs on Windows-based servers, also enables schools to be more energy-efficient.

Designed to give users control of their AV and electronics systems over an IP network, RoomView allows administrators and support staff to manage AV resources, perform remote system diagnostics, track the usage of projector lamps, log network activity, and automate tasks, all through a single browser interface.

Users can see whether projectors, lights, TVs, and other devices are on or off, and they can schedule these systems to turn off automatically at certain times of the day. Users also can preset the thermostat levels of various rooms to correspond to when the rooms will be in use, thereby maximizing energy efficiency.

A PC-based version of the software, RoomView Express, is available as well. And if school leaders want even more ability to track and monitor their energy usage, Crestron’s Fusion EM software tracks an organization’s carbon footprint while letting users change and schedule temperature settings, lighting levels, and more. It also saves energy by automatically turning off lights and reducing HVAC use in unoccupied spaces, the company says.

Network computing makes a comeback

School IT managers might remember the term “network computers” from the late-90s: early-generation thin clients that never really took off, because network infrastructures weren’t robust enough to deliver on the promise of true networking computing back then. Well, this idea is now making a comeback with the emergence of cloud computing—and at InfoComm 2011, LG Electronics unveiled a new series of what it called “network monitors” that can save schools energy and money by tapping the power of virtual computing.

LG’s P Series Network Monitors use what the company calls “zero client” virtual computing technology and VMWare software to connect to a server host and simultaneously redistribute its capabilities to multiple users through an IP network. With enough bandwidth, one server computer potentially can support more than 100 redistributed systems, LG said.

“The P Series Network Monitor solution helps reduce high costs associated with maintaining a multi-computer setting,” said Y.K. Cho, senior vice president of commercial displays for LG, in a press release. The 19-inch LED monitors not only are cheaper to buy than traditional computers but also use less energy, meaning a school’s long-term costs will be reduced as well.

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