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Above the Fray

Sep 19, 2011 2:14 PM, By James Careless

UWB for wireless microphone clarity and security.


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Because Fairview Health Services wanted to maintain a flexible space without hard wiring a teleconferencing system in its Heritage Room boardroom, Alpha Video selected Audio-Technica SpectraPulse UWB wireless mic system.

One of the most confidential forms of communication is that between doctor and patient. In addition to secure, that communication must also be clear. As the wireless spectrum grows more crowded, noisy, and potentially insecure, Fairview Health Services in downtown Minneapolis found a unique wireless conferencing solution that also suited their third major concern: preserving the integrity of their historical building.

Fairview Health Services is a network of hospitals and clinics through Minnesota. The company’s headquarters is in an early 20th-century building in downtown Minneapolis, and features an elegant boardroom with a carved stone fireplace and full-length windows. The Heritage Room boardroom needed a new conferencing system; Alpha Video, a systems integrator based in Edina, Minn., set out to bring the boardroom up to 21st-century teleconferencing standards.

“They wanted a very flexible space, where they could move the tables around as needed and yet retain the ability to do teleconferencing with a minimum of setup,” says Brian Mathison, Alpha Video’s integration specialist. “They also wanted the space to be easily upgradable to videoconferencing in the future, which is why we installed a large video matrix switch.”

Because Fairview Health Services wanted to keep its boardroom layout flexible, a wired microphone system was impractical. “The room has many hard surfaces, so installing a hanging ceiling microphone system was out of the question because of the way it would sound,” Mathison says. “I don’t think they wanted it either because of the way it would look.”

Going wireless comes with its own perils. First, growing congestion in the RF spectrum is making it increasingly difficult to provide wireless users with continuous, reliable service that resists interference from outside transmitters. Second, anytime someone transmits over radio waves, they risk unauthorized eavesdropping by outside listeners. Since top Fairview doctors and administrators use the boardroom, maintaining signal security is an absolute must.

It is for these reasons that Alpha Video decided to install Audio-Technica’s SpectraPulse UWB Wireless Microphone System in the boardroom. SpectraPulse gets around the issues of RF congestion by transmitting in the 6-10GHz band. “The transmission signals are precisely timed,” Mathison says. “Because the receiver is synced to the transmitter, it knows the exact transmission structure and timing. This ensures that the audio comes through in a continuous, uninterrupted feed.”

By operating at such a high frequency, the SpectraPulse system reduces its vulnerability to interference from outside fixed-band RF sources. In fact, Audio-Technica claims that by “operating in the sparsely populated 6-10GHz range, SpectraPulse systems are completely out of the range of TV signals and white space devices.”

The system transmits the digital audio using “pulses” that are two nanoseconds long. These pulses are transmitted at the extremely low average power level of 40nW. Since there is no carrier wave and the transmission has such a low power, these short pulses are extremely hard to lock onto. Audio-Technica also offers an optional 128-bit AES encryption package for customers who want top-level protection. This level of encryption has actually won approval from the National Security Agency for transmitting classified information.

But ultimately for Alpha Video, the most fundamental question is functionality. The only way to truly know is to set the system up, which Alpha Video did in the boardroom in October 2010. Specifically, Alpha Video installed 14 Audio-Technica mtu101 boundary microphone/transmitters, small personal microphones with built-in transmitter bases; two aci707 wireless audio control interfaces; one drm141 wireless digital receiver; and two cei007 microphone charging stations.

“The Audio-Technica system works well within the confined space of the boardroom, which is about 40ft. by 25ft.,” Mathison says. “The signals bounce around really well, so the receiver had no problems picking up the microphones’ transmissions. We have been able to walk all around the room with the transmitter units, and had no problems with dropouts.”



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