With a traditional commercial audio public address (PA) / paging / tannoy application, the audio inputs (eg. microphones & music source) and audio outputs (speakers) is made by through 'fixed' dedicated cabling infrastructures. With IP commercial audio, public address, paging / tannoy applications we are freed from the same incumbent fixed cabling. Streaming audio via IP network infrastructures (LAN, WAN and internet/VPN) enables new and improved commercial audio design solutions. For example, moving an IP speaker or IP microphone could be as simple as unplug, move and re-plug into the new location. Deployment and installation flexibility to any network point, including wireless (WIFI), multi-site, national, even international offers a powerful proposition for building flexible, scalable PA, Paging and Tannoy system solutions.
Audio is audio..... a click of a finger, music, radio or voice. Our sense and perception of sound and audio is a result of a collection of fluctuating vibrations (waves), mostly through the air that resonate within the receptor of the ear to produce different sound frequencies (generally accepted as a range of between 20Hz to 20kHz for the human ear). Traditional commercial audio, public address / tannoy systems rely on the conversion of sound waves to amplified electrical audio transmission, which is then propagated via dedicated cabling (eg. a microphone > amplifier > loudspeaker).
Audio over IP commercial audio (AoIP), public address / tannoy, sees the encoding of audio into IP 'packets' for transmission within an IP network. IP audio is now free of dedicated cablling, and can be 'streamed' via the network (LAN, WAN and Internet) to one or many IP endpoints. This provides for new and improved audio design capability/applications and much improved audio capability and deployment flexibility. Commercial IP audio products provide the 'encoding' and 'de-coding' of audio. In this sense, they convert standard electrical audio to / from IP audio, and are generally termed 'encoders' and 'decoders' for these functions. There are a wide range of IP audio encoders and decoders. Centrally, they all provide an IP audio encoding/decoding function, but provide for optional integrated amplifiers, input's, outputs and control against the different IP commercial audio, PA / tannoy applications.
To protect customer investment of existing site installations, and to draw upon the strong heritage and capability of traditional audio we are able to offer integrated commercial audio design solutions based on both traditional and IP audio technologies.
Existing Installations: For existing installations, this capability enables new capabilities and function whilst protecting capital investment.
New Installations: For new installations, we can build design solutions that employ the best of both traditional and commercial IP audio. Wide product and device avaiability as well as large audio 'power' delivery.... sees traditional audio remaining hugely capable and dependable. However, IP audio can provide improved deployment scalability, system and device management and also additional functional capability (eg. flexible audio zones, network audio/messaging/volume levels controls). Combining both technologies in this way can create a powerful proposition for integrated commercial audio design solutions.
(Multi-site Ceramics Factory)
Outline: In this example, our customer had an existing traditionally amplified and cabled site wide PA / Tannoy system. Expansion of production and warehousing to a local new site across the canal / river - the customer asked us to provide an integrated IP audio solution to expand audio service to the new site (functioning with the existing PA / Tannoy system). No cable route or ducting existed between the sites.
Solution: The customer had installed a high speed radio / WiFI link between the two sites. Our solution was to install an IP Audio 'en-coder' unit to the audio output of existing audio equipment at the main site. This integration and conversion to IP audio allowed us to stream audio across the customer network to the new site. An IP Audio 'de-coder' was then installed to convert the audio back to traditional audio for onward mix / amplification to local site speakers. An IP Audio 'de-coder' was installed at the main site. IP Microphones were then installed to stream audio to both site IP Audio 'de-coder' units, creating improved system input capabilities.
(Central London Hotel)
Outline: Situated on London's south bank, this prestigious 5 star, 15 floor hotel in central London had no effective means of voice announcement capability between staff and with hotel guests. To minimise disruption during installation works, our brief was to design and install an IP audio broadcast solution (IP Paging/Tannoy) to be used throughout the entire hotel - front of house and back of house.
Solution: IP audio was chosen to mitigate impact and disruption to hotel guests and to the structure/fabric of the building. Large existing availability of powered network switch ports provided the basis for a relatively simple roll-out of IP Microphones and IP decoder amplifier / speakers. In addition, the customer required numerous pre-recorded message announcements for use during major event or emergency situations. Working with the customer we created a series of audio message files which we installed onto an IP audio message player. Customer / user access for trigger and playback of these messages was made possible through standard secure browser interface (IE, Chrome and even smart phone browsers).
Connected to an IP network, with an IP address, the various IP PA and IP Tannoy system components are mostly configured by software. This can be done locally or (with security enabled login) or remotely from elsewhere on the network - this could be in the same building, site, or indeed anywhere access to the network can be gained. Some of the more important system components are also capable of providing various logging events, and system management status. Device and zonal mapping, including software driven audio files and levels are examples of the sort of capabilities that an IP PA system can provide.
Transporting voice / music & sounds via an IP network can provide increased topology and infrastructure flexibilities and benefits as discussed above. Providing centralised control of the PA / Tannoy / Background Music (BGM) and IP Intercom system further extends benefit and indeed allows additional capabilities to truly see IP Audio as an application eg. browser based configuration and management, software generated announcements, music and sounds & scheduled eventing (eg. shift, break, class times).Traditional 'Tannoy', Public Address (PA) and background music and radio systems (BGM) generally rely on centralised amplification equipment connected to a cable topology that is dedicated and 'fixed' for the audio application function. This topology is typical of the vast majority of existing installed PA / Tannoy & Paging systems that we see today. Product and technology advances of multimedia IP networks, provide for viable and often compelling reasons to consider alternative topology solutions.
Internet Protocol (IP). Most of us will have an awareness, or perhaps a further understanding, that a large majority of data 'networks' and indeed the Internet, are 'IP' based. TCP/IP is widely recognised as the principal partnership of information transfer on networks (ie between computers, servers and the internet).
'IP is KING!' The IP element of data networking has emerged as a clear leader of the 'Network Layer' (OSI) model. TCP (Transmission Control Protocol) is not generally used for the transport of real time media (sound, voice and video). This is because there is little point in controlling / re-sending / discarding such information - once it's said, it's said.... again, little point in re-sending..... the conversation would be a bit strange if we did. Instead, we use simple, lighter weight transport protocols such as UDP (User Datagram Protocol) over IP or UDP/IP. We do however, see TCP and other transport control protocols used where bandwidth is small and conservation a priority. We see this in such cases as, PA/Tannoy in remote areas of a big site, VPN or low rate DLS remote locations / branch offices. In these instances, as long as we control the delay and can accept near or non-real time audio reproduction, then a transmission control protocol may be used.
The following diagram shows the Open System Interconnection (OSI) framework definition for typical 'data' (TCP/IP) and a typical voice, music and sound application (UDP/IP):
Note: As mentioned above and IP Public Address (IP PA) and IP 'Tannoy' applications can be considered 'time tolerant' - hence the overlap and possible use and selection of TCP over UDP.