Category Archives: High Performance KVM

KVM Matrix Extension System Supports 4K60 Over a Single Cable

Extend 4K resolutions at 60Hz over a single fibre cable in a point-to point extension or multipoint-to-multipoint matrix configuration for the highest onscreen resolutions in post-production suites. DKM FX 4K60 Interface Cards support 4K60 in full, 8-bit color depth.

More production suites are deploying 4K monitors for viewing, live production, and post production. For example, the Black Box DKM solution is being deployed at fileCAST Media GmbH. The manufacturer of the new LiveLogging solution for its Online Media Library (OML) platform is using Black Box technology to extend signals and connect to live production multi-feed environments. The purpose is to tag media content from multiple sources during a live event. This will enable content owners to offer valuable media assets in a searchable format in near real time.

4K in post-production editing suites will enhance an editor’s ability to see how the finished product will appear. 4K extension at 60 Hz has been challenging in the past because 4K requires higher bandwidth. The DKM FX 4K60 cards can overcome this challenge because the system also uses high-speed interface cards to support high-bandwidth signals. In addition, control surfaces for post-production editing that use high-speed USB, such as DiVinci Resolve, can be deployed using these interface cards.

The DKM FX system is flexible, scalable, and highly reliable. Video standards supported by interface cards in the modular housing include DVI-D up to 2560 x 1600; HDMI up to 2560 x 1440; and DisplayPort 1.2 (4:4:4) resolutions up to 4K.

The DKM FX Modular Housing frames come in 2-, 4-, or 6-slot chassis with optional redundant power. The 21-slot frame is 1U for rackmounting in a server room or machine room. Fibre cable supports distances up 1000 metres over multimode fibre or 10 kilometres over single-mode fibre, which means editing and post-production suites can be in different buildings in a large enterprise solution.

For more information, call our application engineers at 00800-2255 2269 or use our online DKM configurator to plan your high-performance KVM extensions system.

Related Links:
Black Box Whitepaper: 4K video – piecing together the puzzle

Top 10 Products from Black Box for 2015

Taking a look back at 2015, it’s clear that Black Box provides end-to-end infrastructure, professional AV technology, and networking solutions. The variety of products that made our Top Products’ list is representative of many different walks of IT and AV. Let’s take a look at our best sellers from 2015, and how they fit your applications.

1. IP-Based KVM Switching and Extension

Transmit DVI, USB, and audio signals in real time over an Ethernet LAN with the Agility IP-Based KVM Switching and Extension System. Standard CATx cabling delivers IP traffic via the Agility transmitters and receivers up to 100 m. For longer distances, add a network switch, which will give you an additional 100 metres.

With the Agility Controller Unit turn your IP-based Agility system of transmitters and receivers into a managed matrix switching system with this component at its center directing traffic over your LAN.

For more information, visit our Solutions pages.

2. MediaCento IPX Solution
Distribute digital video signals, including HDMI, over IP to multiple screens. This system is big in hospitality, retail, and other applications where you need to share video. Lossless HD video means crystal-clear images on every display. Check out this digital solution for the future, which comes at an analog price.

MediaCento IPX Receiver
MediaCento IPX Receiver

The MediaCento IPX solution integrates easily into your local area network. Transmit HDMI video and audio over an Ethernet network to a virtually unlimited number of screens as far as your network reaches. The MediaCento Controller adds many features to the solution, including flexible control of video walls, up to 8 x 8. In addition, the LPB2900 Series Gigabit Ethernet Managed PoE+ Switches can be outfitted with the MediaCento Controller software for HD video extension and switching. It’s the market’s first network switch that enables users to remotely control and switch AV from any source to any display. Three switches plus the software is available at Black Box.

3. GigaTrue™ CAT6 550-MHz Bulk Cable and GigaBase™ 350 CAT5e Solid Bulk Cable
ETL-Verified. HDBaseT recommended. Reliable performance. Guaranteed for life. When it comes to cabling, Black Box doesn’t fool around. Our bulk copper cabling integrates into new building projects whether you’re expanding or starting from the ground up.

All cabling solutions offer performance designed to last the lifetime of your system, whether in the data center or at the desktop — or beyond. Visit our CATx cable selector or our cabling home page for more choices.

4. Media Converters enable you to connect to different types of media within a network. To find the right media converter for your application, visit our media converter selector.

For example, look at the Multipower Miniature Media Converters. The autosensing MDI/MDI-X copper ports of these small converters means you don’t need to worry about what kind of cable to use. Easily migrate networks from Ethernet to Fast Ethernet all the way to Gigabit Ethernet. Compact in size, and still supports distances up to 10 kilometres.

5. KVM Extenders

Extend digital video signals and USB functionality over CATx or fibre cabling in order to streamline workflow, improve operator efficiency, and benefit from reliable signal distribution without interruption.

KVM extenders that support digital signals enable you to reduce noise and heat in the workplace, which improves productivity. Secure your hardware and secure your data by backracking vital workstations. A few examples are the ACX300/310 Series KVM Extenders, Wizard SRX DVI Extender for USB, and the Dual-Head DisplayPort KVM Extender over CATx. Digital signals are higher in quality, interconnectivity is more reliable, and the technology is future proof in regards to connected devices. Remain competitive by integrating KVM solutions across the enterprise.

To choose the right KVM extenders for your application, visit our KVM extender selector, or call one of our tech experts at 00800-CALLBBOX (00800-2255 2269).

6. Video and multimedia extenders enable you to distribute audio and video signals for digital signage, enhance presentations, and extend video beyond the boardroom. With Black Box video extenders, you can send video and audio signals farther than with conventional cabling. Deliver pixel-perfect video and high quality audio to remote displays.

Mini CATxVGA Extender Kit
Mini CATxVGA Extender Kit
Multi DVI-D CATx Extender Receiver
Multi DVI-D CATx Extender Receiver
3D HDMI CATx Extender
3D HDMI CATx Extender

7. Copper Patch Cables, 3-Series Lockable Patch Cables
Our high standards shine through with our 3-Series patch cables. These CAT5e/6/6A cables give you three levels of security, depending on the optional locking pin you choose. Secure your network ports, but only when you need to. Guaranteed for life!

These cables offer easy Layer 1 security for many environments, including healthcare, education, finance, government, retail, transportation, and more. Choose from locked (Red), secure (Green), or protected (no pin) to get the level of security that suits your application best.

8. Console Servers

Ensure maximum uptime with out-of-band management console servers, sometimes called terminal servers. They give network managers a single-point-of control to remotely monitor, manage, and troubleshoot critical IT infrastructure from anywhere in the world. Console servers offer backdoor management for business continuity, multiple applications for multiple industries, and problem solving for distributed sites.

See our selection of console servers here, and find one to fit your application.

9. USB Extension

Demanding users trust Black Box USB extension products for applications like pro audio visual, industrial automation, education, medical diagnostics and imaging, remote desktop extension, security, surveillance, and military systems.

Learn more about extending USB over CATx, fibre, and IP networks, and how to deploy USB extension in applications including healthcare, manufacturing, security, and harsh environments. USB extenders are simple to use and cost-effective.

IC282A_PC
USB 1.1 and 2.0 Extender over CAT5e
IC400A_PCS2
USB Ultimate Extender over UTP
LGB304A_PCS
USB-Powered Gigabit 4-Port Switch

Use our USB guide to configure your ultimate serial solution.

10. Black Box networking products make the list with ethernet switches, industrial solutions, and console servers. Find what you need to connect and improve your network, including USB switches for increasing network speeds, such as the USB-Powered Gigabit 4-Port Switch, pictured above. Expand a small network without breaking the bank. Increase to Gigabit speeds via four autosensing 10-/100-/1000-Mbps ports. This compact and convenient switch can be powered via a PC’s USB port or the included AC adapter.

For more information about integrating and deploying infrastructure, networking, and extension products for your organisation, please contact Black Box pre-sales application engineers. Call 00800-CALLBBOX (00800-2255 2269) to talk to a technical expert today. Visit the Black Box store to see all our products, and shop for your end-to-end solution now.

Machine vision: 100% assembly line inspection

Machine vision technology—the image-based automatic inspection process—has matured greatly and is now becoming an indispensable tool in manufacturing to increase quality and profitability. USB 3.0, with its 5-Gbps throughput and ability to send power and data over the same line, has greatly contributed to this growth.

What is machine vision?
Machine vision is an image-based, automatic inspection and analysis system for applications, such as process control. It automatically takes pictures to inspect materials as they come down the assembly line.

Other machine vision applications include:

  • PCB inspection.
  • Medical vial inspection.
  • Robot guidance and orientation of components.
  • Engine parts inspection.

Machine vision uses a small industrial camera and lights mounted near an assembly line to take pictures of product as it passes. The images are then analysed by software to determine if various aspects of the product meet acceptable specifications. For instance, if a label is misplaced, the bottle will be rejected. All of this is done at incredibly high speeds—fractions of a second.

Years ago, machine vision systems were very expensive, costing hundreds of thousands of dollars. But in the last 15 years or so, advances in technology have brought the cost of machine vision down, making it a practical solution for 100 percent quality control. And the cost for implementing machine vision keeps decreasing as technological capabilities increase.

Machine vision is now an indispensable tool for quality assurance, sorting, and material handling in every industry, including electronics, food processing, pharmaceuticals, packaging, automotive, etc. It is an economical way to make sure sub-spec product is rejected. Machine vision can be used to inspect for geometry, placement, packaging, labeling, seal integrity, finish, color, pattern, bar code, and almost any other parameter you can think of.

USB 3.0 and machine vision
USB 3.0 brings a number of advantages to machine vision systems. Because of its 5-Gbps throughput, ten times more than USB 2.0, it eliminates problems of stability and low latency for image transmission and camera control. USB 3.0 enables the transmission of higher-resolution, higher-frame rate video with no loss of quality.

USB 3.0 also sends data and power on the same line. This is enough to power a camera without worrying about a separate power supply or power line.

In addition, compared to older systems, USB 3.0 is plug-and-play, making it easy to swap out cameras and other hardware, such as USB 3.0 extenders, and other devices.

Related:

USB Product Selector

Virtualized remote computing for retail outlets

KVM matrix switching gives multiple users access to a variety of target devices, including but not limited to CPUs, digital signage, and servers; the ability to monitor workflow; and flexible control of visual and peripheral elements.

Deploying KVM extension that operates over a LAN/WAN (local area network/wide area network) and incorporates virtual and physical CPUs gives retailers access options, reduces clutter in the workplace, and saves on energy costs.

In retail and inventory management systems virtualized remote computing is especially advantageous. Receiver units at the cash registers can access information on a virtual machine that runs on a server appliance.

This remote virtual system gives users access to their Active Directory accounts that is incorporated into a connection broker, with no need to set up a separate directory on the KVM system. The receivers gain access to virtual machines via Microsoft® Server 2008 or Microsoft Server 2012. By utilizing a connection broker, the virtualized machines can be easily duplicated, enabling workers to connect to the first available target without having to identify the target. This streamlines workflow and simplifies processes in busy retail applications.

Retail Point-of-Sale Application
A) Cash registers with KVM receivers
B) Server with virtualized CPUs
C) Manager workstation with KVM receiver
D) System manager unit

In addition, a KVM system that works over a LAN/WAN this way supports NLA (network level authentication) for security. It also can continue to support physical CPUs while expanding into virtualization.

As is seen in KVM technology, other benefits include a low total cost of ownership (TCO); improved operability and quick ROI; maximum, scalability, and improved reliability; and green IT solutions with energy-saving design and distribution.

To see details about Black Box’s virtualized solution, visit our InvisaPC pages. Contact our application engineers to see how this next-generation KVM can improve your organization’s workflow and ergonomics.

Oil & Gas Networking and Control Room Solutions

Industrial connectivity and KVM control room solutions for upstream, midstream, and downstream environments.

As the oil and gas industry continues to grow, more and more well sites, pumping stations, pipelines, processing plants, and refineries are being built. Along the entire route, safe, reliable networking and industrial automation are critical to smooth operations, efficiency, and productivity.

In 2014, the United States produced 9.2 million barrels of crude oil a day. The U.S. is now the largest producer of oil and gas, overtaking Saudi Arabia and Russia due to production from the Marcellus Shale. However, reservoirs of oil are becoming more difficult to access and increasingly less productive. To keep pace global consumptions, oil companies must constantly look for new sources of petroleum, as well as improve the production of existing wells.

Read more about industry solutions  for the oil and gas industry at our website.

Digital KVM Control and Monitoring Solutions for the Energy Industry: Automation, processes, and workflow

Black Box is committed to helping our customers succeed as they transition to the digital media environment. We help clients in the energy industry design and deploy mission-critical solutions.

In drilling operations, KVM systems provide high-quality and instant access to video and control signals from multiple sources to multiple users. In oil and gas exploration, rapid access to graphical data and processes throughout a seismic survey and the ability to respond quickly to status changes are crucial for safe and efficient operation. Remote monitoring solutions in control rooms provide users with better overview, quicker access to data, and failover connectivity. With KVM solutions, users can switch and extend real-time HD video and USB HID over LAN/WAN for remote monitoring.

Black Box KVM Solutions

  • KVM and hybrid KVM peripheral switching platforms
  • Virtual desktop remote management
  • Signal conversion and signal distribution
  • KVM extension to improve ergonomics by reducing heat and noise in the workplace
  • KVM extension over fiber for long distances

Benefits for you:

  • Updating current analog systems to faster and more reliable digital KVM.
  • Remote monitoring operations reduce risk for injuries in dangerous areas.
  • Reduced risk for downtime and accidental environmental disasters.
  • Asset Integrity Management (AIM)
  • Maximize human capital by running parallel tasks with fewer users who have instantaneous access to critical resources.

Learn more about high-performance KVM solutions for the oil and gas industries.

If you have a control room project coming up, contact your local Black Box office.

6 Reasons to switch to digital KVM

Analog technology can’t keep up in the digital marketplace. Digital video is sharper and digital KVM is faster. Don’t get left behind in the digital revolution.

1. The VGA standard is being discontinued.
The VGA standard will not be supported going into 2015. Analog KVM and video won’t work any longer either. VGA sources and displays are getting increasingly difficult to find. We recently heard from a client who had to buy VGA parts on eBay.

2. Digital technology is distinctly better.
Digital technology improves users’ experiences by providing crystal-clear images at any supported distance. HD video is delivered pixel by pixel to digital displays at higher resolutions and increased color depth.

3. Digital systems are bigger and better.Broadcast Booth
New larger matrices and IP-based systems increase flexibility and enable connecting to a much higher number of endpoints. Thousands of devices can be incorporated into one unified system. On a digital matrix system, I/O ports are interchangeable, making changes and adds as simple as plugging a device into a port.

4. HD video switching is faster than it’s ever been.
Digital systems provide instantaneous HD video switching with no delay. Digital KVM switching is much faster, too, nearly instant rather than having to wait several seconds for video to show up.

5. Digital KVM improves the user experience.
Digital KVM systems feature improved USB support and compatibility with most other USB devices on the market: touchscreens, flash drives, tablet computers, as well as the workhorses, keyboards and mice.

6. Higher resolutions mean better images.
Increased bandwidth gives users the capability to work with images at higher detail levels as well as fit more content on the desktop for a more efficient workflow. Future-proof systems accommodate support for WQXGA (2560 x 1600) and 4K/UHD (3840 x 2160). Wherever users need pixel-perfect image transmission, they can now get it, via CATx or fiber cabling. Plus, send USB, serial, and digital audio signals.

Black Box Digital KVM Switch chosen Best of Show at InfoComm 2015

AV Technology named the DCX3000 Matrix Digital KVM Switch from Black Box a Best of Show Winner at InfoComm 2015. This innovative product was demonstrated at the show, which took place in Orlando, FL, June 17–19.

Small size and big performance set the DCX3000 apart from otherBlack-Box-InfoComm-2015-Booth digital matrix switches in its class. Created for smaller organizations that need to upgrade to digital KVM signal switching and extension, the DCX3000 reaches 30 endpoints over CATx cable. Go up to 10 m from the workstation to the KVM switch and up to 50 m from the switch to the CPU.

The DCX3000 Matrix Digital KVM Switch features zero latency and zero compression of the signal transmission. The Graphical User Interface (GUI) is simplified for ease of use. In fact, according to the judges at AV Technology, this was an award-winning feature. “The unique thumbnail preview provides a simplified graphical user interface, making it easier to view multiple screens than text-based, on-screen menus,” according to one of the judges.

Digital KVM matrix switching gives multiple users access to the same systems in real time for monitoring and controlling processes. Learn more about migrating to digital KVM.

View the full list of winners of the AV Technology Best of Show Awards. AVT bases awards in part on the ability to see and test the products it selects on the trade show floor. The decision to award a product a Best of Show designation is also based on a combination of the following criteria: perceived value, ROI and TCO, richness of the feature set, ease-of-use, reliability, versatility, and overall network impact. According the AV Technology, “The Best of Show Awards support our objective of meeting the needs of the tech manager community by spotlighting products that genuinely solve problems, offer value, and consider the operator’s PoV.”

View Black Box’s Garrett Swindell giving a brief demonstration of the GUI of the DCX3000 in the video link below. AV Technology is able to talk to product managers and team members, such as Garrett, that help develop and test products.

Additional resources
More about the solution: DCX3000 explained in details
Video: DCX3000 setup and applications

 

8 Critical features next-generation KVM switching and extension systems should offer

Here’s a checklist to use as you shop for a future-proof, high-performance digital KVM switch or switching and extension systems. It’s easy to remember as FAR-PARSS.

Flexibility
Any enterprise-wide KVM system should be flexible enough to input and output many types of video and peripherals, especially if you are in broadcast or command and control. Video signals such as DVI, HDMI, and VGA should be supported with resolutions ranging from 1080p to 4K. Other signal types to look for are audio, USB 1.1 or 2.0 for peripherals like keyboards and mice, and serial signals for industrial applications.

A flexible system should also be scalable for future growth. Calculate the total number of video sources and displays you have, and try to plan for growth. The KVM switches need to support current and future users with enough ports so that users do not have to create silos of servers and users. Look for a KVM system that can replace a video-only router with a high-performance digital KVM matrix switching system. A management controller enables central administration of the system. Does the management controller use a graphical user interface, or a text-based OSD?

Accuracy
When a KVM system can support video resolutions of 1920 x 1080 at 60 Hz or 3840 x 2160 at 60 Hz, test to make sure video does not lag or drop frames with rapidly changing content. Not all analog KVM systems or IP-based systems are up to the task, although most digital systems, including digital IP-based systems, can support fast, high-definition video.

Responsiveness
Test keyboard and mouse setup to make sure there is no latency. A true USB emulation KVM switch is responsive and consistent; an unresponsive K/M jars the operator out of his/her workflow.

Productivity
Optimally, a high-performance digital KVM system improves users’ productivity. In a matrix setting, all resources and displays can be connected and switched between by multiple users. Collaboration is enhanced by the ability to view and control the same resources simultaneously.

Accessibility
Calculate the longest distance between your endpoints, and make sure the KVM system can work over CATx or fiber cabling – or a mix of both – to reach all your targets. With digital matrix KVM systems, multiple users should have real-time access to targets.

Reliability
New generation KVM systems will support redundancy options such as multiple power supply units for 24/7 uptime. Be sure to eliminate single points of failure. Make sure the system you select can support routing transmitters and receivers through two separate core KVM switches for full redundancy.

Speed
Many digital KVM switching systems support video-switching speeds of under a half second. Anything longer interrupts an operator’s workflow as he or she switches between resources and may be noticeable to a viewer. Does your KVM solution support custom keyboard shortcuts (also called hotkey shortcuts) that can be set for switching a local display as well as remote displays, such as other user terminals for collaboration or a video wall?

Security
Lastly, KVM switching and extension systems need to be secure. Be sure administrators can assign specific access rights to specific resources. Remote configuration and maintenance of the KVM system enables an admin to securely log onto a system.

When you can mark off all eight of these categories, you’ll have maximized your ROI.

View our webinar about how digital KVM benefits the broadcasting industry.

USB and KVM Go Hand-in-Hand for Plug and Play Functionality

Universal Serial Bus (USB) is a technology that enables users to interact with a specific device for a specific function. USB supports a multitude of devices, ranging from simple devices such as keyboards, and mice, to more complicated devices such as game controllers, digital cameras, printers, network adapters, external storage — the list goes on. Use varies from basic functions, such as typing, all the way to transferring large files to/from external storage devices.

Several different USB modes are available today:

  • USB Low Speed (1.5 Mbit/s)
  • USB Full Speed (12 Mbit/s), also known as USB HID
  • USB High Speed (480 Mbit/s), also known as USB 2.0
  • USB SuperSpeed (5 Gbit/s), also known as USB 3.0
  • USB SuperSpeed+ (10 Gbit/s)

USB is used most commonly for keyboard and mouse input, or alternatively, keyboard and touchscreen input instead of mouse. These devices are classified as Human Interface Devices (HID). USB HID is designed to enable a user to interact with a system by using a USB keyboard and pointing device that use very little bandwidth, typically way less than 12 Mbit/s. On KVM (Keyboard, Video, Mouse) switches you will find that most will have two USB HID ports for a keyboard and mouse, and additional ports for USB High Speed devices to connect other, faster devices like printers or storage.

The USB HID ports found on most KVM switches analyze the incoming data flow from the attached USB keyboard / mouse to look for a sequence of key strokes that prompt the KVM switch to take a particular action (such as bringing up an OSD, switching CPU ports, enabling scanning, etc.). Since this USB HID traffic is being monitored at lower rates, it is nearly impossible to plug a USB High Speed device into the HID port and expect that the high-speed device will function properly. The USB HID ports on a KVM switch only expects to see a USB keyboard and USB mouse — nothing more. Each USB device, including the keyboard / mouse, has properties associated to it that include but are not limited to:

  • Device description
  • Vendor ID
  • Product ID
  • Device class

It is very important in a KVM application that these USB device properties are correctly transferred to the host computer. The proper drivers / software need to be loaded upon USB enumeration. USB enumeration is done between the time of plugging the USB device into the target computer / server, and the time that it is recognized; enumeration time can vary between 1 and 16 seconds depending on the OS and USB device. If the device properties are not properly transferred to the computer / server, then the chances of the device working is slim to none.

On Black Box KVM products, we “trick” the computer / server into thinking a generic USB keyboard and a generic USB mouse are always connected whether or not they are plugged into the KVM console. This feature is called USB emulation. USB emulation will ghost the generic keyboard and mouse on the KVM switch so the user can quickly switch computer ports without having to re-enumerate the USB devices every time they establish a new connection. We also have proprietary firmware in our KVM hardware that can properly negotiate the communication between the console keyboard and mouse and the attached computer or server. USB emulation is geared more towards wired devices instead of wireless devices; however, in some cases wireless keyboards and mice will work when connected to the KVM switch.

You may find some wireless keyboards and mice do not work with KVM switches due to a composite wireless transmitter trying to send both keyboard / mouse packets into a single USB HID port on the KVM switch. It depends on the wireless device manufacturer, how they prepare their USB packets before transmission, and the way they follow the USB specification. One thing to keep in mind is that not all USB HID devices will work on a KVM device as it would on a regular computer because of the way the device negotiates with the switch and the usage of the USB device properties (vendor ID, product ID, device class, etc.). The KVM switch does not have all of the supporting drivers like a regular operating system, so with it being pre-coded into the firmware, you will sometimes see compatibility issues with a very small percentage of USB HID devices in the market.

The next most common usage of USB is related to transferring files to and from a computer / server system from a thumb drive or external storage device. This type of application typically uses USB High Speed at 480 Mbit/s, and on newer systems USB SuperSpeed so that the file(s) can be transferred faster. Black Box offers KVM switches that can support these types of devices; however these USB High Speed ports do not monitor the USB data flow for keyboard hotkeys. If you attempt to control the KVM switch functions using keyboard hotkeys while the device is plugged into the USB High Speed port, it will never work. You have to use the USB HID ports for this.

Additional Resources
White Paper: USB True Emulation for KVM Switches
White Paper: Extending the Benefits of USB
USB Product Selector: Extenders, Hubs, Converters, Cables

KVM extenders for better work environment

What is a KVM extender?
KVM stands for “keyboard, video, and mouse,” and a KVM extender is basically a device that extends these interfaces and enables remote access to a computer over distances from a few feet up to several miles, or even over the Internet. A KVM extender unit consists of a transmitter device, sometimes called “local unit,” and a receiver device, also called “remote unit.” These devices can be connected over either CATx copper or fiber cable, and the newest technology can even extend signals over a standard IP network. You can connect your PC to a transmitter at work and plug in the receiver at your home office and work at your computer, just like you would with a direct connection.

What are the interfaces being used?
The video interface is usually either DVI or HDMI on most modern devices, while older computers might be equipped with VGA only. In the past, keyboard and mouse were always separate interfaces and were using a PS2 6-pin mini-DIN connector. That technology has been almost completely phased out, and now USB is the standard connector. It usually doesn’t matter where you plug in your mouse or keyboard, as long as it is a USB port. Other optional interfaces that can be supported are audio and RS-232.

Why would anyone need a KVM extender?
Computer fans are loud, and computer CPUs have fans for cooling because they generate a lot of heat. Plus, they take up a lot of space. None of these features is ideal in an office environment. By using a KVM extender, CPUs can be backracked in a server room in a temperature-controlled environment. All the user needs is a tiny receiver unit on the desk where the keyboard, video display, and mouse would be connected. An industrial environment has different challenges. The work environment might be dusty or dirty—areas where regular CPUs with fans will not last long. The fans will pull the dirt into the cabinet, clogging it up and causing the computer to overheat. By using a KVM extender, the PC can be relocated to a cleaner environment, and the keyboard, video, and mouse workstation can be connected to a remote KVM unit that is fanless. These are just two examples of how KVM extenders are being used, but the variety of applications for KVM extenders is extensive. Learn more at Black-box.eu/KVM-Extenders or check out our KVM Extender buyers guide.

How to maximize Call-center efficiency

When you or a loved one places an emergency call, it’s routed to your local dispatch center. From here the dispatcher assesses and categorizes your emergency. If necessary, they assign field personnel — EMS or police, for example — to incidents. Dispatchers log all calls and activities, monitor automatic vehicle location (AVL), and geographic information (GIS) with the Computer Aided Dispatch system. This system gets the police officer, fire fighter, or ambulance to your location to prevent situations from escalating and to save lives.

As you can imagine, time is of the essence. In today’s modern computer-aided dispatch center, people and machines work in tandem. Dispatchers often have a minimum of three computer monitors in front of them. Each of these has dedicated tasks and information being displayed. In order for a dispatch operator to operate all three machines he or she may end up with three separate keyboards and mice cluttering their desktops. The multiple keyboard/mouse (K/M) workstations lead to three main pain points.

  1. Confusion as to which keyboard and mouse to use for which system.
  2. Ergonomics of having to swivel or reach in order to access the correct keyboard and mouse.
  3. An interruption in the workflow of having to physically switch to a different keyboard and mouse.

All of these points lead to increased response times, which are precious seconds that could be the difference between life and death. Response times are the leading statistic by which dispatch centers are judged for efficiency and effectiveness.

Popular options that have worked in the past have significant shortcomings.

The first is a software-based solution that allows a dispatch operator to use one keyboard and mouse on multiple machines. In theory, this works well, but here are three main shortcomings to a software-based solution.

  1. Security risk of having to install additional software. Dedicated machines are often configured by a manufacturer that will not support your system if you install any unauthorized software.
  2. Software-based keyboard and mouse switching relies on the network. Spikes in Internet activities can render the keyboard and mouse unresponsive or extremely slow to respond; the operator has to wait until the network activity clears up. Response times are increased, which is unacceptable.
  3. One machine acts as a server while the other machines act as clients. In this setup, if the “server” machine goes down, you lose keyboard and mouse on all other machines.

The second solution is a desktop, hardware-based keyboard, video, and mouse (KVM) switch. This is a better solution because it requires no dependency on the network and is not adversely affected by the health of one machine on the system. However, the pitfall is a stuttered workflow; multiple port, hardware-based KVMs usually require the emergency dispatch operator to physically push a button on the KVM switch or press multiple keys on the keyboard to switch keyboard and mouse focus.

Black Box has introduced a new solution that combines the best of both worlds: the Freedom II. The Freedom is a hardware-based keyboard, video, and mouse switch. However, built into the hardware box is an innovative solution that provides the ability for a dispatch operator to switch between up to four machines simply by moving the mouse across the monitors. When the dispatch operator’s mouse cursor is on screen 1, keyboard and mouse focus is on machine 1. If the dispatch operator wants to access and control other machines he or she simply has to move the mouse across the screen to the second, third, or fourth monitors. This is an intuitive solution with no learning curve, increased operator comfort in ergonomics, and no interruption in workflow. Its deployment ultimately leads to decreased response times. This is an easy-to-implement hardware solution with no software to install and no dependency on networks. Learn more in the video below, or check out our 9-1-1 Call Center Case Study.

Related solutions with advanced Glide-and-Switch technology:

  • Freedom II for switching by mouse between four computer systems
  • ServSwitch TC for switching by mouse between four or eight computer systems

The changing landscape of secure KVM switching certifications

Until recently, the National Information Assurance Partnership (NAIP) used Common Criteria Evaluation & Validation Scheme (CCEVS) to evaluate and approve KVM switches for security. EAL2 and EAL4+ are tests regarding the process of the design, testing, verification, and shipping of security products. This protection profile is an international standardized process for information technology security evaluation, validation, and certification.

NAIP has determined that EAL and CCEVS are no longer adequate security standards for KVM switches that connect to systems with differing security classifications. As a result, they  upgraded the Protection Profile (PP) for peripheral sharing switches to PPS 3.0. Still, the next generation of secure switches are going to need to be TEMPEST-approved for the tightest security measures available.

TEMPEST testing, while classified, is regarded as a process that assesses the port-to-port isolation required for certain KVM switches. A TEMPEST approval means the necessary isolation is achieved and qualified. Additionally, the threat of data leaking by various covert electromagnetic eavesdropping mechanisms has been evaluated and found to be secure.

The TEMPEST designation is often required by military organizations. TEMPEST, as a security standard, pertains to technical security countermeasures, standards, and instrumentation that prevent or minimize the exploitation of vulnerable data communications equipment by technical surveillance or eavesdropping.

A desktop KVM switch at its most basic, is simply a hardware device that enables one workstation consisting of a keyboard, video monitor, and mouse to control more than one CPU. Desktop KVM switches are usually 2- or 4-port switches, and by pushing button or using keystrokes, users can easily access information and applications on completely separate systems.

Secure KVM switches fill a special need in switching for users, such as those in the military, government agencies, or law enforcement, who need to access information stored at different classification levels on physically separate systems. A secure desktop KVM switch is usual a two or four-port switch that provides control and separation of PCs connected to networks of differing security classifications. TEMPEST-approved switches offer the following features:

  • High port-to-port electrical isolation, which facilitates data separation (RED/BLACK). Channel-to-channel –80-dB to 60-dB crosstalk isolation protects against signal snooping, so software tools and applications cannot be used to access any connected computer from another connected computer.
  • Switches are permanently hard wired, preventing access from one CPU to the others or access from one network to others.
  • External tamper-evident seals make it easy to spot attempted tampering.
  • Users can safely switch among as many as four computers operating at different classification levels.
  • Unidirectional flow of keyboard and mouse data means the computer cannot leak data along K/M signaling channels.
  • USB host controller erases entire RAM at each channel switchover. This prevents residual data from remaining in the channel after a channel change and being transferred to another computer.
  • Only keyboard and mouse devices can be enumerated at the keyboard and mouse ports. Any other USB peripheral connected will be inhibited from operating, preventing the upload or download of unauthorized data.

The Secure Desktop KVM Switches with USB from Black Box surpass the security profiles of most other KVM switches because they have received approvals and certifications in the TEMPEST testing standard.

Additional Resources

White Paper: Secure Desktop KVM Switch Update