Northamptonshire County Council is the first Council in Britain to have a Virtual Audio Network. The system, CDS-VAN, was from Brähler ICS UK Ltd., based in Cambridge, as was a microphone and voting system, CDS-200. The latter was chosen to improve both the overall management of meetings and the audibility of the proceedings. The Council Chamber is now equipped with 74 councillors’ units. Each of these has removable directional microphones with in-built speakers to enhance audio reproduction. And the chairman’s unit has a priority button, which gives it an override facility.
Mark McGlynn, Brähler’s sales engineer, pointed out, "The system, which was supplied through Willow Communications of Northampton…was favored because it is unobtrusive, user-friendly, and the sound quality is exceptional. What’s more, it is ‘future-proof.’"
Brähler’s CDS-200 includes an integrated digital voting system. To signal a vote, delegates simply press a button for yes/no/abstain. Results are immediately displayed in the operator’s console. Moreover, the company’ chip-card technology ensures that authorised councillors only can vote.
Mark McGlynn added, "There are a number of refinements that compliment the CDS-200 set up at Northampton. It provides public address reinforcement to the public galleries by employing NXT flat panel speakers, and infrared technology to enable the hard-of-hearing to pick up messages better. In addition, portable radio microphones are very handy for presentation purposes. In fact, transmissions from them can be relayed via the in-built speakers, the PA, and the hard-of-hearing facility."
What about the virtual audio network element? It is claimed that Brähler’s CDS-VAN gives full digital sound processing and the ability to record proceedings directly on to the hard-drive. Recordings can either be shared on the network or put on to a CD and the disk can be listened to on any PC with a media player. And because recordings can even be done automatically at preset times, it is not necessary for an operator to attend meetings.
"Since installation and commissioning by Willow Communications, the systems have been tried and tested at several meetings by the Council and other agencies. I’m glad to say that we’ve had very encouraging feedback", concluded McGlynn.