Intercom Systems Offer Flexible, Creative Uses

Walk into any school--be it K-12 classrooms or a college campus--and most likely, there is an intercom system installed there. School intercoms serve a wide range of communication needs--including an 6/04/2008 8:00 AM Eastern

Intercom Systems Offer Flexible, Creative Uses

Jun 4, 2008 12:00 PM, By Linda Seid Frembes

Walk into any school—be it K-12 classrooms or a college campus—and most likely, there is an intercom system installed there. School intercoms serve a wide range of communication needs—including announcements, direct classroom-to-office calls, regional paging, and emergency warnings. And while the presence of such systems has not changed, the technology and infrastructure running them definitely has. Schools are using AV technology and IT architecture to greatly enhance what most of us remember as either a literal school bell ringing or a monotonous beep signaling the start of the school day.

"Traditional school intercom systems are 'clock and bell' systems. They are simply a bell system synchronized with a clock system," says David Parmenter, regional manager and education specialist for Teradon Industries, manufacturer of the Teracom intercom system. "Most traditional intercom systems have microprocessor cards with 8-12 embedded tones that are programmed to ring at a certain time in a certain area. There is no flexibility in the type of tone, other than those set choices."

The computer-based Teracom system takes the traditional intercom system several leaps forward. "Users can customize their tones because the system uses .wav files, which provides much more flexibility," Parmenter says. "Schools can be creative and use the school fight song to start the day, or can use the system for emergency preparedness by prerecording an emergency announcement."

Parmenter recently worked with a school district in Fresno, Calif., which used its Teracom system as part of a drunk-driving awareness campaign. To remind students that someone dies from a drunk driving accident every 15 minutes, the school played the recorded audio of the flat line sound from an EEG machine at 15 minute intervals throughout the day. The school's bell schedule was easily modified for that day using the system's user interface.

Based in Albuquerque, N.M., Teradon Industries was formed in 1992 with the invention of a telephone control system for the education market. The company has seen the market change and applications grow as their technology focus evolved to media management and, eventually, to intercom systems. Today, Teradon sells products such as the Teracom system through a network of dealers and contractors who conduct the installation and programming. In addition to the education market, Teracom systems are also in use in the corporate and travel markets.

Intercom Systems Offer Flexible, Creative Uses

Jun 4, 2008 12:00 PM, By Linda Seid Frembes

Requirements and Features

The Teracom intercom system uses a data infrastructure wiring topology with Cat-5 or Cat-6 cable. "There is no need for a homerun to each speaker back to the head end like in traditional systems. For our system, the speakers can be wired to an IDF closet, thus saving on cabling costs," Parmenter says.

An IDF, or Intermediate Distribution Frame, closet consists of local data networking equipment that services a specific area, like a particular hallway or series of classrooms.

According to Parmenter, Teradon provides the PC that runs Teracom. The complete system is built and tested at the factory. "The contractor simply connects the Teracom to the speaker infrastructure," he says. "And it is a Windows-based system so it utilizes what people already know."

Features include automatic daylight savings time adjustment, the ability to pre-record announcements, remote access and monitoring, and the ability to make calls from a telephone or master handset. System time is also set automatically from the Internet, so there is never a synchronization issue. "If there is a 2-hour weather delay in the morning, the principal can access the system from home via the Internet to change the bell schedule. No need for someone to be onsite to make that change," Parmenter says. "Teradon dealer can also use remote diagnostics to assist schools when there is a problem."

Advanced features include integration with other systems such as flood sensors, fire alarms, or installed camera systems. "If a flood sensor is triggered in a school's boiler room, Teracom can play a tone or recording to notify staff as well as activate a contact closure for the pump," Parmenter says. "Or, if a break-in triggers a motion detector camera, a prerecorded voice can notify the intruder that the police have been called and the system can activate a contact closure that locks the doors or dials the police."

Similar to IT architecture, the system allows three different login levels, ranging from a basic user who manages the bell schedule to administrator and certified administrator who can access more technical settings. The system works with 25V or 70V speaker system, and it requires no extra maintenance except for basic computer maintenance. "Intercom systems bring flexibility and creativity to the schools, as well as create a safe environment for the kids," Parmenter says. "The applications are limitless."

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