Working with multiple video sources and displays is no longer an exclusive privilege for control rooms and traffic control towers. Distribution of video and sound over IP networks makes it possible to use multiple high resolution images in many settings. Video over IP is fast, offers many functionality features and can work with large bandwidths. SigmaXG by Technolution excels in utilizing these advantages.
Article from Objective 28, 2017
The importance of images
People are visually oriented. Technological developments make it easier to use this feature with multiple visual signals. In operating rooms of hospitals, displays provide the medical staff with crucial imaging from various sources. On the bridge of large vessels, an arrangement of displays show the crew all the necessary information regarding the outside world. Soldiers are trained with realistic simulations via high quality displays. And these are only some examples of situations and applications using multiple displays.
4K in the OR
The crucial role of video becomes immediately clear when we take a look inside the operating room (OR) of a modern hospital. The patient on the operating table is still the center of attention, flanked by OR staff and a range of medical devices. However, what is most striking, is that the OR is filled with displays. Displays on the wall show the patient's X-rays and CT scans. On another display, carefully monitored by the anesthesiologist, the patient's vital functions are being displayed: blood pressure, respiratory functions, heart rate and temperature. The surgeon operates by using an endoscope and is not looking directly at the patient during the operating procedure, but at a 4K or FHD display that is mounted at eye-level and shows even the tiniest details. The video signal is not limited to the OR. A couple of rooms down the hall, surgeons in training are making sure not to miss any details of the operating procedure via multiple displays.
Switching quickly, low latency and lossless
In a setting with multiple displays and video sources, a proper system for video distribution is indispensable. Depending on the application, it needs to meet different requirements. In some settings, like a control room, it is essential to be able to switch between video signals in the blink of an eye. For a surgeon in an OR, an accurate hand-eye coordination is crucial. There is no room for latency between the recording of the image by the endoscope and the image shown on the display. The quality of the image is another crucial aspect here. Image compression is undesirable because it can result in so-called artifacts in the image: blockiness or visual distortion. During the design of SigmaXG, speed and lossless display had therefore top priority.
High speed due to FPGAs
The desired high throughput speeds can be achieved due to the usage of FPGAs (field-programmable gate arrays, ICs with programmable logic components). 4K or FHD images are shown lossless with a latency of less than one millisecond. Switching between various sources is instantly. Although an active NDcoder (a video encoder and decoder all-in-one) produces heat, it turned out to be feasible to optimize the system in such a way that it can function without a fan.
In addition to speed and quality, implementability and ease of use were also essential. Our goal was a hardware solution that is easy to access and implement while maintaining maximum flexibility. Therefore, SigmaXG works with one NDcoder per source and/or display. Displays and video sources are connected to an NDcoder with a single cable; each video source can be shown at any connected display. This way, a setup with multiple displays can be realized quite simply.
Easy to use with open API
The user benefits most from the speed and power of video over IP when the controls are simple and intuitive. Thanks to a user-friendly tablet app, the user can use simple swiping and touch signals to manipulate the image sources. One 4K display can show 4 FHD sources simultaneously and in different layouts. For controlling the shown image sources, one mouse and keyboard will suffice: the user has direct and complete control by simply moving the cursor or using a touch signal to go to a particular image.
Since SigmaXG is distributed and implemented via partners in most cases, all the functions of the system are also available via an open API. This has been implemented in HTML. This means that the system can be adjusted quickly to all functional requirements, so that it can be implemented in almost any context.
The power of partners
The wide usability and user-friendliness of SigmaXG have contributed to the success of this product. The market shows plenty of interest and the system is being marketed by multiple partners worldwide. They supply SigmaXG as a separate product as well as integrated in displays. One of these partners is Advantech, international supplier of advanced computerization products. In addition, we have started a partnership with Dutch company Inter Visual Systems, a supplier of complete solutions in the field of professional visualization systems. The collaboration with these partners has already produced some positive results. Inter Visual Systems will take care of the computerization of 26 new operating rooms at the Erasmus MC. The displays by Adventech, with integrated SigmaXG, have played an important role during the acquisition of this assignment.
Technolution cannot work without partnerships like these, and vice versa. We are at the top of our game when it comes to system integration and product development. Our partners excel in product marketing, distribution and logistics. They know how to market a product like this. This collaboration strengthens all of us. In most cases, SigmaXG offers just what is needed. Nonetheless, our partners are asked about complementary functionality or adjustments for a particular design on a regular basis. These are the moments when we come back into the picture. We can provide customization and any other services when required. Sometimes we even create an adjusted version for an OEM client (Original Equipment Manufacturer) of our partner. The system is then marketed under a different name and in a different design. SigmaXG is therefore a product with many faces.
Developing for the future
The developments and innovations in the field of video and video distribution are not likely to come to a halt any time soon. This certainly applies to SigmaXG. Our partners pay close attention to the market's needs and we at Technolution follow the new technologies very closely. As we are in close contact with our partners, we can respond quickly to any new market demands with innovative solutions that are based on the latest technological possibilities.