With traditional commercial audio, public address (PA) / paging / tannoy, we accept that the music, radio, voice and audio is made via dedicated cabling. This means that the cabling 'fixes' the individual components of the system (eg. speakers, microphones and system equipment). With IP commercial audio, public address, paging / tannoy, we are freed from dedicated fixed cabling, providing for much more flexible and integrated commercial IP audio solutions. For example, moving an IP speaker or IP microphone within an IP PA, IP Paging / Tannoy environment 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. Commercial audio IP system products are generally higher in cost when compared to traditional commercial audio products (although prices are falling with demand), but this cost can be often be offset against the application capability and potentially much lower installation labour costs.
Audio is audio..... music, radio or voice, audio is simply a collection of audible sound frequencies (generally acepted as a range of between 20Hz to 20kHz for the human ear).
Traditional commercial audio, public address / tannoy systems rely on electrical audio transmission, which is made via dedicated cabling (input source and loudspeaker output). IP commercial audio, public address / tannoy, sees the encoding of audio into 'packets' for transmission within an IP network. As such, IP audio is now free of dedicated cablling, and can be 'streamed' to one or many IP endpoints (providing for new and improved capability/applications and much improved scalability/flexibility). Commercial IP audio products provide for the encoding and de-coding of audio. In this sense, they convert standard electrical audio to / from IP, and are generally termed 'encoders' and 'decoders'. There are a wide range of IP audio encoders and decoders. Centrally, they all provide 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.
We offer Commercial IP PA, IP Tannoy and IP Audio solutions that integrate with traditional audio solution products.
Existing Installations: For existing installations, this capablity enables new function whilst protecting capital investment.
New Installations: For new installations, we can build solution designs that employ capability and products from the best of both traditional and commercial IP audio.
Integrated solution design can offer powerful proposition. Currently, there are higher costs associated with IP PA, IP Tannoy products when compared to traditional commercial audio products. Intergared solution design can enable topology and functional benefit whilst maintaining cost and budget constraints.
Steelite (Stoke on Trent)
In this example, we were asked to provide an integrated solution to work with the existing 'Tannoy' / PA service installation. The customer required an existension of their existing service to a remote warehousing facility which was separated by a canal from the main factory and production site. Without any practical way to consider traditional cabling, we installed an integrated IP audio solution to made use of the customer network which existed between the two sites.
Mondrian Hotel (London)
This 5 star, 15 floor hotel in central London had no effective means of voice announcement capability between staff and with hotel guests. 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.
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.
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.