Field Report: Broadcast Tools Audio Sentinel

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Broadcast Tools Audio Sentinel

I must admit before another word that I am an old timer: I started in broadcasting in 1962 working part-time after school and on weekends at WCCW in Traverse City, MI. I must also admit that I was slow to accept the Internet as anything more than a convenient method to find equipment, parts and an occasional article that piqued my interest.

Several years ago, however, I started to realize that the Internet offered an amazing alternative method of program delivery, remote control and monitoring for broadcast. The one area that kept me from plunging headlong into this realm was reliability. Now, after installing and programming numerous Internet and Web-based products, I have to admit that reliability is no longer an issue. I acknowledge that the level of reliability comes from reading many articles about other engineers' experience and knowing what to demand from the IP provider.

Performance at a glance
Two-channel silence monitor
Integrated stereo switcher
E-mail logs
Audio switching

With that said, I began studying and field-testing products from many manufacturers and vendors relating to IP-based equipment. Right from the start, Broadcast Tools has embraced the IP Network and offered many of its famous "tiny tools" that utilize this method of delivery.

I also learned many years ago to approach a project from a "reverse engineering" strategy; that is, study, analyze and determine what one piece of equipment should provide to fulfill the requirements of a project, then search-out the piece of equipment that fits those requirements. In this fashion, I can eliminate buying several pieces of equipment to respond to a future need that was overlooked in the initial analysis.

This is where the Audio Sentinel came to my attention. I had a client with a microwave system for primary program delivery and an ISDN circuit for emergency audio feeds. Ownership decided it wanted the ability to manually switch the ISDN audio feed to on air along with maintaining the automatic changeover via the STL's squelch relay. Having recently installed a DSL circuit at this location, access to the Internet was available. Then the news from the ISDN provider that their new rates would be three times the previous rate! Plus, we had an ISDN failure several times during the previous three months where the response was measured in days, not hours. To top it all off, this provider had petitioned the FCC to abandon ISDN service all together. The writing, as they say, was on the wall.

Reverse engineering

As I sat and compared my "reverse engineering" chart and the features of the Broadcast Tools Audio Sentinel, the solution became clear. Here is a Web-enabled, two-channel silence monitor with an integrated stereo switcher and the ability to send logging e-mails, along with up to eight e-mail recipients should any alarm situation occur. It has three internal relays that are user-programmable for manual operation and/or automatic sequencing. The Audio Sentinel can be controlled and monitored locally, remotely over any IP network, including private networks, IP-based industrial control networks or, of course, the Internet.

If you have one of the spanking-new hand-held devices that uses a Web browser or is Web-enabled, you can routinely receive reports and alarms as well as manually control the Audio Sentinel from anywhere with Internet access. The Audio Sentinel can even be programmed to send a special sound effect to play on your PC speaker when an alarm is received.

One SPDT relay is dedicated to indicate which stereo audio source is connected to the main stereo output. Two more SPDT relays can be configured to perform numerous user-defined tasks, including action-sequences related to an alarm situation.

-- continued on page 2

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