Q&A: Harman Professional CEO Blake Augsburger
Harman’s DriveCore chip, which is dwarfed by conventional circuit boards and was co-developed with TI exclusively for Harman, is included in several of the Harman brands’ new Class D amplifiers. Harman CEO Blake Augsburger (pictured) says its benefits include energy efficiency and weight reduction.
Harman is a member of AVnu Alliance, an organization that promotes IEEE 802.1 Audio Video Bridging (AVB) for the interoperability of networked audio/video in homes, commercial environments and automobiles - three areas for which the company makes a lot of products.
Ultimately, Augsburger says that traditional automation and multiroom networking systems are too complicated - for both end users and installers - to have longevity. He says Harman is working on networking solutions that are easier to install, easier to use and easier on the wallet, and expects them to start trickling onto the market not long after CEDIA Expo 2010.
CEDIA Expo is a big one for Harman and its brands - Crown, JBL, Lexicon, Mark Levinson, Revel, to name a few. Not only does it want to get the word out about its upcoming Ethernet-based networking products, but it also wants to talk about its minuscule Class D amplifier chip technology, co-developed with TI exclusively for Harman, that it says makes amps far more energy efficient, lighter and easier to install. It’s also high on its Quantum Logic technology which it says will solve one of the custom electronics industry’s biggest dilemmas: the public’s almost universal embrace of compressed audio files.
Augsburger recently spoke to CE Pro about all that Harman has in the works.
What impact will IEEE 802.1 AVB have on residential integration?
We’ve invested heavily over the past 10 years in networking components. For us, it was out of necessity because when you do a large stadium, for example, you have equipment rooms spread out and it’s a challenge to control all these components and monitor all the pieces remotely.
That drove us to put together the SDIG (Systems Development Integration Group) about eight years ago and we started really focusing on control and monitoring; we were moving data around with Cobranet. Then about two years ago we got very involved in this [AVnu Alliance]. Up to that point we were able to move data over an Ethernet cable; we knew it was going to get there but we didn’t know the time it was going to get there; you’d have all sorts of jitter problems.
What Ethernet AVB did for us was it solved that jitter problem and then it also allowed us to increase the bandwidth so we could move audio and video. So that’s really how we’ve developed the pro side of the business. What we want to do is take that technology and integrate it into this CEDIA type business. We see a lot of opportunity in the residential side and the office side.
I think we have the expertise from our professional side and it’s all about creating a value solution. It’s got to be easy to use. Nowadays when you look at a professional system, you’ve got engineers that work with contractors that have to do the programming and set it up. We need to get over that hump. So we’re trying to deal with that with Ethernet AVB wall panels so you can control the stuff and it’s an easy to use interface.
What does it mean for installers?
The key for us, and I think the key for this business in general, is that we have to simplify the installation. Today, to do a Crestron or AMX system, you have to be trained and constantly stay up on the training. How do we simplify that whole process?
Our goal at the end of the day is to make it easy to use, plug and play. That would mean guys [integrators] can lower their costs. If you look at a contractor today on the professional side, if he’s going to put in a system he’s got to have somebody on his staff who’s an expert at every component. It’s the same thing for a residential installer. If he’s going to put a system in, he’s got to have somebody on his staff who knows everything.
If Harman can bring a whole system solution and you have one guy on your staff that understands the whole thing and it all plugs and plays, it saves them money.
The key takeaway point there is: How do we make it easier to use and easier to install?
How do you see IEEE 802.1 AVB fitting in the market versus other existing cable networking solutions?
We’re Ethernet guys. That’s where we see the future and that’s where we’re investing all of our money.