Fill in Existing Gaps
Singlewire developed one of the first IP speaker protocols more than a decade ago. Since then, IP speakers have become a valuable addition to any emergency notification system. While we strongly encourage customers to use their existing overhead paging systems with InformaCast (link to previous analog blog post), IP speakers offer several advantages over traditional analog paging systems. They are particularly useful in greenfield deployments and in filling in existing overhead paging system gaps.
Many IP speakers have LED displays, making them a great way to add visual alerting that can be seen at a distance. This visual alerting can include the scrolling of the text of an InformaCast broadcast, as well as integrated LED strobes/flashers that can be used to draw attention to the alert. Both the scroll speed and the number of repetitions can be controlled from InformaCast, and can be configured on an individual message basis.
IP speakers are self-amplified, typically using Power over Ethernet (PoE). This means that no separate amplifier is needed. It also means a separate cable plant is not needed, i.e. IP speakers run over existing Ethernet data cabling.
Scalability and Compatibility
The granularity of paging/alerting is another benefit, broadcasting to one speaker or groups of thousands of speakers, regardless of location. The number of zones is limitless, and because the groups are configured in software, it costs no more to configure 100 zones than it does two zones. Similarly, each InformaCast-compatible speaker’s volume can be individually controlled in software. If a particular area of the office complains that they can’t hear broadcasts, it’s easy to adjust the volume to a more audible level. While most speakers go to 10 and Spinal Tap’s amplifier goes to 11, InformaCast-compatible speakers go to 12. In terms of decibels, Singlewire’s speaker manufacturer partners make speakers that top out between 96 dB to 120 dB and beyond.
IP Speakers generally come in two types: SIP and InformaCast-compatible. InformaCast-compatible speakers automatically register with the InformaCast software, making setup a breeze. SIP speakers can have negative impacts on Cisco Unified Communications Manager architecture and licensing. SIP speakers aren’t controlled in the InformaCast software, so they can’t be individually volume-controlled, don’t accept text scrolling, and don’t prioritize emergency alerts. Perhaps most importantly, InformaCast-compatible speakers are more secure than SIP speakers because InformaCast speakers must register with InformaCast, while SIP speakers simply play a multicast audio stream on a particular IP address and port. For the full InformaCast feature set and for security, InformaCast-compatible IP speakers are recommended.
What to Look For
We are often asked which InformaCast-compatible IP speakers we recommend. We don’t play favorites among the various IP speaker manufacturers. When looking for IP speakers, it’s helpful to look at the functionality needed, as this varies within a speaker manufacturer’s lineup as much as it does between speaker manufacturers. The best place to start is with the use case. If the speakers are for classroom use, then typically you’ll want the speakers to have displays, so they can function as clocks and be used as part of your InformaCast automated school bell system. Similarly, manufacturing and distribution environments like the visual alerting capabilities of display speakers because the audio may not always be heard in areas where there are high levels of ambient noise and where workers are wearing hearing protection. Other factors for consideration may be outdoor use (weatherproof), talkback (intercom) functionality, ability to play background music and/or white noise, color LED displays, and placement (ceiling mount, wall mount, etc).
Singlewire territory managers will assist you with the selection and will work with our reseller partners to provide you with a solution that works for your particular needs.