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New PA system with IP addresses

Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft Zur Forderung Der Angewandten Forschung E.V. : 21 July, 2003  (Company News)
The public-address systems in conference halls, railroad stations and theaters are like enormous spiders' webs: Dozens of microphones and speakers are linked up over miles and miles of cable. To change the configuration of the equipment might, with luck, simply involve replugging a few wires at the mixing console, but in the worst case could mean having to call an electrician.
'In most systems, the various bundles of cables converge on a large distribution cabinet, where they are physically wired together in groups,' explains Philipp Hünerberg of the Competence Center for Advanced Network Technologies and Systems CATS at the Fraunhofer Institute for Open Communication Systems FOKUS in Berlin. An easier solution is provided by the IPcom system, which was presented at this year's Berlin consumer electronics show.

In IPcom, microphones and speakers are treated as elements in a network and are linked semi-permanently by means of the Internet Protocol. The various elements in the network can be connected together in any way required using a mouse and a PC user interface. The audio signals are transmitted as an MP3 data stream over standard Ethernet links. An IPcom network can handle up to 500 simultaneous audio transmissions. Because it uses the Internet Protocol, the system can be easily integrated with existing networks. The Fraunhofer researchers can imagine numerous possible applications for the system: 'IPcom is a practical solution for any place where specific information has to be delivered to a specific location or locations, such as railroad stations, airports or hospitals,' says Hünerberg.

The network-based public-address system can even be used to transmit messages to individual persons, after first determining their locations. Such 'follow-me' applications work in conjunction with a small tag or badge, which can be worn like a name badge by conference participants, for example. The badge is located by infrared detectors which report the wearer's identity code to a central desk. When someone moves from one part of the conference center to another, personalized messages are relayed only to the closest loudspeaker. Other people elsewhere in the building do not hear the announcement, and are not disturbed. Dr. Peter Gober of FOKUS has an even more interesting idea for a future application of such badges: 'They could be incorporated in train tickets, allowing passengers waiting for a specific train to receive targeted announcements at the station.' The IPcom product is being marketed by ivistar AG, a FOKUS spin-off.
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