BY DEBORAH L. O’MARA
The Next Big Opportunity
IP AUDIO BRINGS INSTALLATION AND USER BENEFITS
Integrated systems solutions
aren’t reserved solely for surveillance, intrusion
detection and fire-signaling technology. Audio is
the bright star on the horizon, especially as it begins to be leveraged more fully on the network.
When audio is transmitted digitally, contractors
don’t have to worry about the common analog
challenges of interference from other electrical
equipment, crosstalk between cables or signal
degradation over long cable runs.
Sound adds another dimension to an integrated security specification. It enables
customers to leverage the network for better
control, data and analysis, to deliver targeted
mass notification, communication—emergency
and nonemergency—to customers in vertical
markets. Audio intercoms often incorporate
surveillance and access control, bringing sight
and security to traditional voice.
In his annual Audio Networking Global
Survey conducted with systems integrators,
Roland Hemming, principal audio consultant
and projects and “products mastermind” at RH
Consulting, Kent, England, pointed to the emergence of edge devices and strong adoption of
audio networking over the past three years. According to Hemming, the number of integrators
using audio networking in at least 50 percent of
their projects has grown from under 20 percent
in 2014 to nearly 70 percent in 2016.
In retail applications, audio over internet protocol (IP) is big business. SoundScape by Barix,
for example, is a software-as-a-service to distribute audio advertising, message-on-hold content
and music to many customers and locations. The
software is professionally hosted on the cloud,
and the background music provider logs into the
portal to schedule content for each client and location. A simple IP-to-audio decoder is connected
to the internet on location and registered with
the portal. All the provider has to do is assign
the device to a client, and the system loads the
required content for scheduled playback.
According to Reto Brader, vice president of
sales and marketing at Zurich-based Barix, the
market needs solutions that merge new, IP-based
and old, analog systems. Barix products enable
interfacing by using analog inputs and converting
them to IP-based audio signals.
“Integrating old and new is not just about
moving audio signals onto IP,” Brader said. “In-
tegrating means having one user experience for
the combined system. We see a lot of activity in
enabling the bridging between existing analog
audio systems with new IP-based solutions.”
Being able to use the same cabling for data,
control, audio and video is an inherent benefit
of IP audio systems. Also, switching, duplicating
and routing of audio signals is much less expen-
sive and more flexible with IP-based solutions.
“Sending a signal from the principal’s office
to all classrooms, from an infrastructure point
of view, does not require any additional cabling
and switching than what is already available and
installed,” Brader said. “Wide-area distribution
of audio over IP using the internet is a fraction
of the cost compared to satellite or dedicated
digital telecom links.”
For example, he said “phone systems have
gone IP in almost all companies as well as in
many residential installations. VoIP telephone
systems can be bought from many vendors.
Thanks to the fact that these solutions are
based on IP and other standards such as the
session initiation protocol, now public address
and paging systems can be married with tele-
phone systems. Suddenly, I can call from any
phone to make a page or announcement, and
even use my cell phone. Alternatively, a door
station can be converted into a ‘telephone’
that, when someone presses the button, calls
a phone number. The door station call can even
be forwarded over the internet to an office or
other networked location.”
Time is money
According to Josh Rush, vice president of mar-
keting for Audinate, Portland, Ore., one benefit
of IP audio is the dramatic reduction in cabling
and labor costs.
“What once took weeks now takes hours,”
Legacy installations will be a big category
Rush said. “Also, there’s the ability to route and
reroute audio streams with software, rather
than running new cables. Finally, high-quality,
multichannel audio can be delivered over long
distances with near-zero latency and no signal
While audio over IP has been more widely
used in installations such as stadiums, conven-
tion centers and universities, there is now strong
adoption in smaller specifications such as K– 12
schools, houses of worship and residential.
for contractors with edge devices helping to net-
work much of the existing hardware in place,
“True IP audio can run on the network with
common, off-the-shelf equipment,” he said.
“This is a huge benefit for both the installer and
customer, as they can route audio over existing
cabling and switches from their data network; or
if one doesn’t exist, they can buy off-the-shelf,
Being able to leverage the current cabling
infrastructure is a sound strategy for contractors.
ECs will be able to achieve installation and cost
savings for customers who want the power of
the network but may not have the budget for a
total rip and replace.
O’MARA is a journalist with more than two decades experience writing about
security, life safety and systems integration, and she is the managing director of
DLO Communications in Chicago. She can be reached at dlocommunications@
gmail.com or 773.414.3573.