By Chris Coffin
Intercoms and paging solutions provide instant, location-based communication to another individual or distributed group for purposes ranging from informational to security and emergency notification. Internet protocol-based (IP-based) intercom and paging-system technology is proving to be more easily deployed, cost effective, and flexible in use and design than traditional hard-wired systems. Switching to IP modernizes analog intercom and paging systems by capitalizing on the rising IP convergence trend that combines audio, video, and data onto the local area and wide area networks.
Instead of retrofitting into the limited archaic wiring in a building where you're essentially performing a one-for-one replacement of units that are already in place, IP intercoms can be placed anywhere you already have an existing IP network connection. They can instantly become campus or metropolitan communications devices connecting multiple buildings to a central command and control center. They don't require a dedicated exchange or head-end, and the signal does not have to report to a single cabinet within the building. Instead, software is all that's needed to manage the endpoints. The result: a plug-and-play scenario that allows unlimited growth from a single intercom system to an IP network of intercoms across the campus or nation.
Working with IP is simple, too, whether you are using it in new or retrofit applications. Pulling wires for analog intercom installations, especially in older buildings, can be a nightmare. IP solutions can run on wired, wireless, or fiber infrastructure - whatever can transport TCP/IP. There is no need to install new risers between floors for bulky cabling. By utilizing either the existing network installation or installing one to support multiple data types, users can leverage their investment for a better return. Unlike limited wiring in a building, IP has no boundaries and is easily extended beyond a structure's walls. This means its potential application types and the number of deployments it can accommodate are endless.
One of the most cost-effective benefits of IP intercom and paging is that users can manage multiple locations without adding staff. For example, a business located in multiple time zones can have its facilities managed locally during the day, but have the ability to roll into one command and control center at night.
Another consideration is that, with the next generation of Internet protocol version 6 (IPv6) right around the corner, IP is the state-of-the-art platform for intercom technology. It is getting faster and, as the technology develops, the ability to increase the number of addressable endpoints is a necessity. Any fears or concerns about reaching a dead end on the Internet highway are needless. IPv6 proves that the Internet is limitless.
While moving to IP offers many advantages over sticking with dated analog technology, it's important to remember that using IP for point-to-point communication does require network planning. As with adding any other device to an IP network, bandwidth must be taken into consideration. You must also plan for security, as any new endpoint also creates a potential entry point for hackers and others that mean to do your network harm.
Chris Coffin is CEO and cofounder of Lake Forest, IL-based Digital Acoustics (www.digitalacoustics.com).