Facility Guidelines Institute Recognizes Importance of Acoustics to Patient Well-being

According to recent research, a poor acoustic environment can negatively affect a patient’s health and recovery.  The Facility Guidelines Institute (FGI) Guidelines for Design and Construction is a document that architects, consultants, and engineers refer to when designing outpatient facilities and hospitals.  The main goal of the FGI is to keep the patients comfortable and to promote healing.  Although the obvious focus is on sanitation, ventilation, size of facilities, equipment etc., the FGI doesn’t neglect often overlooked areas such as acoustics.  While medical facilities comply with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) standards on speech privacy, FGI adds over 14 additional guidelines on various acoustical issues including site exterior noise, existing exterior noise, facility noise emissions, exterior noise classification, and room noise levels. Acoustics are actually incredibly important to the well-being of a patient. The FGI has recognized this and it is the reason for such detail within the guidelines.

The FGI is an independent, not-for-profit organization dedicated to developing guidance for the planning, design, and construction of hospitals, outpatient facilities, and residential health, care, and support facilities. They oversee the FGI Guidelines for Design and Construction revision process and publication, fund research, and offer resources that support the development of safe, effective health and residential care built environments. FGI partners with numerous other organizations to help develop the Guidelines and other practical, evidence-informed publications.

If you want to learn more about the effects of a poor acoustic environment on patients, check out our previous blog post “Hospitals and Acoustics” (http://ta-inc.com/hospitals-and-acoustics/)

According to recent research, a poor acoustic environment can negatively affect a patient’s health and recovery.  The Facility Guidelines Institute (FGI) Guidelines for Design and Construction is a document that architects, consultants, and engineers refer to when designing outpatient facilities and hospitals.  The main goal of the FGI is to keep the patients comfortable and… Read more »

Hospitals and Acoustics

When it comes to the acoustical concerns in hospitals speech privacy is often at the top of the list. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), requires that patient information cannot be disclosed without consent. This includes verbal consultations with doctors.  It is important that a hospital room be designed to maximize the privacy of patients. However Speech Privacy shouldn’t be the only concern when it comes to acoustics.  Noises and distractions can also affect the well being and recovery time of patients. Let’s say a patient has just had major surgery and is resting comfortably in their hospital room.  As they are about to drift off to sleep the HVAC system comes on with a whirring bang and the air blowing thorough the ducts vibrates loudly.  The noise and vibration disturbs the patient and the patient cannot relax and fall back asleep. The constant noise can also interrupt a resting patient and disturb their sleep. Rest is incredibly important for a patient’s recovery and disruption of sleep often leads patients to a longer recovery or can exacerbate patient’s aliments further.  For example, sudden noises can set off the “startle reflexes” and lead to increased blood pressure and higher respiratory rates.  Disturbances such as beepers, alarms, machines, rolling carts, HVAC , and even machine vibrations can cause stress and prolong the healing process. Poor environmental acoustics not only affect patients but hospital staff as well. Having to work in a poor acoustical environment can lead to irritation, fatigue, distraction, and even tension headaches.

Often materials used during hospital construction are chosen for ease of cleanliness. While these materials are valuable in keeping the hospital clean and germ free, they can negatively  impact  the acoustical environment they often reflect sound.  An acoustic consultant takes this into consideration and can make recommendations on the type of materials to use in walls and ceilings to help reduce noise and vibrations. They can also asses speech privacy and intelligibility through acoustic testing and make sure that it meets HIPAA standards.

Hospitals are a place where the sick go to heal. Highly trained nurses and doctors spend tireless hours helping their patients recover, a quiet and private space to essential to their recovery.

When it comes to the acoustical concerns in hospitals speech privacy is often at the top of the list. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), requires that patient information cannot be disclosed without consent. This includes verbal consultations with doctors.  It is important that a hospital room be designed to maximize the privacy of… Read more »

Thorburn Associates Welcomes Senior Associate Jackie Daniels

Jackie

Lisa Thorburn, president of Thorburn Associates states “We are excited to have Jackie join our team!  She brings a wealth of experience and knowledge of security systems to TA. Her insights to the market requirements related to these systems are just one of her strengths.

Jackie comes to Thorburn Associates with more than 34 years of in-depth education, sales and management experience, helping companies choose the best solutions for securing and managing their physical assets.  Her experience gained in community college instruction led to her first position with ADP Dealer Services Division where she was instrumental in designing and implementing the curriculum and classes held for automotive dealership personnel as well as the ADP sales force.  In 1983, she became a partner in a company, Auto Trak, Inc.  In 1988, Jackie and three partners formed another company Key Trak, Inc., the first electronic key control software and hardware product in the world.  Primarily designed for the automotive market, Jackie took on the responsibility to show Multi-Family operators that they needed to secure apartment keys and protect themselves from lawsuits arising from misuse of keys.  The move into other markets such as the hotel, casino and government facilities soon followed.  The Key Trak name is now synonymous with all key control systems, much as Kleenex is with tissues.

Steve Thorburn, principal of Thorburn Associates adds:” Jackie will be instrumental in helping clients during the planning stages of a project, to make sure they are one step ahead of their competition in offering solutions that their competitors do not have knowledge of and has the ability to recommend solutions that are necessary in today’s fast paced society.”

***

About Thorburn Associates

Thorburn Associates Inc. (TA) is a multi-disciplinary design and engineering firm specializing in acoustical consulting, technology engineering (audiovisual, data/telecom, security) and lighting design for the commercial, corporate, leisure, public, residential, and retail industries. TA has established and maintains a standard of excellence in order to consistently deliver premier quality design while maintaining client interest and professional standards.

Headquartered in Castro Valley, CA, with regional offices in the Los Angeles, Orlando, Charlotte, and Raleigh-Durham area, TA has worked on over 2600 projects since being established in 1992. Thorburn Associates has been recognized as one of the leading firms in the design industry. TA projects have received multiple awards, from the International Communications Industry Association (ICIA-InfoComm), the American Institute of Architects (AIA) and the Themed Entertainment Association (TEA).

 

Lisa Thorburn, president of Thorburn Associates states “We are excited to have Jackie join our team!  She brings a wealth of experience and knowledge of security systems to TA. Her insights to the market requirements related to these systems are just one of her strengths. Jackie comes to Thorburn Associates with more than 34 years… Read more »

The Exceptional Communication Experience – It’s More Than Just Technology!

“We help design the full experience” stated Steve Thorburn in a Lessons Learned project wrap-up meeting. The project was for an Investment firm and was a hybrid of project delivery methods: design/build for rooms the owner felt could be cloned and design/bid/build for special spaces. “It is more than the gear in the rack; it has to be about the participant’s full experience – sight lines, ergonomics, lighting, acoustics, and ease-of-use. This is TA’s value – to help the AEC team navigate through the path of issues to give the owner/user what they most commonly want in an exceptional space that is easy to use.”

Every interaction with others is a form of presentation. It may be a simple one-to-one spontaneous water cooler discussion or a fully choreographed event. While we may use the term “presentation experience” this often represents just a one way discussion… and while it may be semantics, it has to be about “communication” not just presentation.

In order to talk about presentations and the way we envision they should be, we should talk about the experience. Presentations must go beyond one directional information flow and PowerPoint. Presentations should be an experience. That is why we talk about the “Exceptional Communication Experience”.

The Exceptional Communication Experience is that sweet spot where three basic categories of presentations come together: the technology, the place, and the people.

TechnologyPeoplePlace

When all three come together you will find that you have a dynamic and knowledgeable presenter using great materials given in an optimal environment enhanced by the most applicable technical tools available. This all forms one cohesive experience for the observer/participant that fully draws them in and commits them to content and causes them to invest as many senses, emotions, thoughts as possible.

The Exceptional Communication Experience is so much more than attending or hosting a meeting where information is forced at the audience in a “death by PowerPoint” fashion. When you have successfully achieved The Exceptional Communication Experience, everyone involved is better for it. In the Exceptional Communication Experience presenters become mentors, the audience becomes collaborators and everyone has added value to the message. This is all accomplished because the best tools and technology are available, the environment is optimal and the presenter and materials are appropriate. When it happens, it is a beautiful thing.

If you want more information on the Exceptional Communication Experience, send an email to

LearnMore@TA-Inc.com

and request a copy of our White Paper – we’re happy to send it to you!

“We help design the full experience” stated Steve Thorburn in a Lessons Learned project wrap-up meeting. The project was for an Investment firm and was a hybrid of project delivery methods: design/build for rooms the owner felt could be cloned and design/bid/build for special spaces. “It is more than the gear in the rack; it… Read more »

Thorburn Associates welcomes principal consultant Maxwell C. Kopsho, CTS-D, CTS-I, CCNA, PMP

MaxKopsho-cropped

Max comes to Thorburn Associates with 28 years of in-depth experience with IT infrastructure, AV systems, computers, computer networks, network security, telecom, videoconferencing and collaborative systems. He has held product development and strategic leadership positions in some of the top manufacturers in the audiovisual and unified communications industries.

His vast experience allows him to blend conferencing and presentation technology with networked AV systems. This allows networked and today’s mobile devices (BYOD) to deliver truly unified communications solutions building complete collaborative environments that enhance all aspects of communication for business.

Before joining TA, Max was partner/owner of one of the industry’s top consulting firms for sales and technical training and LEAN Six Sigma process improvement. He holds advanced certifications in project management, networking, routing and switching, network security, technical training, operations excellence, QA/QC and audiovisual design and installation. In 2010 he was awarded InfoComm’s Educator of the Year honor.

 “Max will be a great addition to the Thorburn Associates leadership team – we’re glad to have him on board!” stated Lisa Thorburn, President of Thorburn Associates.

His experience includes the development and execution of comprehensive global training programs for industry associations, channel partners, and technology manufacturers. His experience in Unified Communications includes videoconference and collaborative environment design for global enterprises, development, training and implementation. Max served in the U.S. Army for 10 years where he gained his initial experience in computer/electronics technology and worked with complex computer networks, advanced radar systems and specialized electronics and thermal and night vision imaging devices.

 Steve Thorburn, Principal of TA adds “I have always admired Max’s dedication to the industry and his knowledge of networks and communication systems. I’m looking forward to expanding our Unified Communication design and IT infrastructure consulting services to our clients.”

In addition to assuming his principal role, Max will be responsible for driving Thorburn Associates’ Unified Communications and Collaboration Division (UCC). Max will be instrumental in the anticipated “exponential growth” of TA’s UCC Division by using his own experience and expertise and engaging the rest of the Thorburn team to solve the toughest of customer AV/IT and communications problems with technical prowess and keen insight into their strategic business needs.

 “I am extremely excited to join Steve and Lisa and their team. They have established an incredible reputation for integrity, passion, technical innovation and quality.” Max Kopsho stated, “Having known them for 17 years, the opportunity to work for Thorburn Associates and to contribute to their growth and innovation is such an honor. I hope to make them proud.”

 

Max comes to Thorburn Associates with 28 years of in-depth experience with IT infrastructure, AV systems, computers, computer networks, network security, telecom, videoconferencing and collaborative systems. He has held product development and strategic leadership positions in some of the top manufacturers in the audiovisual and unified communications industries. His vast experience allows him to blend… Read more »

Complimentary Webinar – Urban Acoustics

July 15, 2015

12:00pm – 1pm Central

COMPLIMENTARY WEBINAR….REGISTER NOW

Education Credit: 1 AIA/CES LU (HSW) or PDH credit

FBPE-approved provider

As with any issue of building performance, the acoustics of a mixed-use wood-frame structure can be designed to meet or far exceed minimal requirements. It is the responsibility of the design team to determine acoustical expectations for the project and meet them within the available budget. Through the use of case studies, this fast-paced, interactive session will explore how multi-story wood systems can be used to meet acoustical privacy goals. Discussion will focus on the detailing and construction of units, and how consideration of the construction process can help keep acoustical costs down. With the objective of providing implementable solutions, the session will include construction details and photos showing what has and hasn’t worked in actual buildings.

Speaker: Steve Thorburn, Principal, Thorburn Associates Inc.

Steve enjoys helping others understand the principals of acoustics and audiovisual technology. His dual degrees in electrical engineering and technical theatre give him a balanced left brain/right brain approach to project solutions. In addition to experience on more than 2,800 projects, he is an author and teacher, a past INFOCOMM Educator of the Year, and recipient of two International Communications Industries Association Facility Design Awards.

Presented by WoodWorks in conjunction with Thorburn Associates.

 

July 15, 2015 12:00pm – 1pm Central COMPLIMENTARY WEBINAR….REGISTER NOW Education Credit: 1 AIA/CES LU (HSW) or PDH credit FBPE-approved provider As with any issue of building performance, the acoustics of a mixed-use wood-frame structure can be designed to meet or far exceed minimal requirements. It is the responsibility of the design team to determine… Read more »

Eyes Wide Open

By: Steve Thorburn

When I called home this weekend for my weekly chat with Mom, she began telling me about her broken freezer. She said she went to get some tater tots, and noticed everything in the freezer section of the refrigerator had begun to thaw. Any other year, or any other time of the year, this might have been a devastating problem. However, since Michigan (and most other parts of the country) is experiencing colder-than-normal weather, she was able to put her freezer stash in the garage and let it refreeze.

Where she lives in Michigan, calling to get service on a relatively new refrigerator freezer is still a challenge. While Mom is part of the silent generation, she is not afraid to reach out on a telephone to get help. Unfortunately, all she got was an automated device. A device that doesn’t let her provide any information about the situation other than press one for this and press two for that; all she could do was schedule a time for a service technician to drive at least 50 miles from the point where he was dispatched to come out and see if the problem could be fixed.

In this case, the service technician was to call at the start of the designated time window to confirm the appointment. When he called, he said he would be there in 60 minutes, as he was just wrapping up his current call. This was the first time she talked to a human about the problem and she questioned the service tech, “Will you have the right part?”

Long story short, he did not have the right part. He had to order the circuit board, and he was told it would take four days to get to the shop. So he scheduled his return appointment for the following Wednesday, six days later, hoping the part really would come in on Monday.

What strikes me as ironic about this drama as I listened to it was the lost week of time. There was over a week of waiting that, from where I sit, did not need to be in the process. I’ve learned that I will never have to pay for a delivery charge from Proflowers for my mother since they just cannot get the flowers there on the scheduled day—remember I did say central Michigan (a.k.a. the true middle of nowhere). However, Amazon Prime orders always make it within their two-to-three day delivery window; so why did it take the technician four days to get a part from his main warehouse regardless of where it was located? They should have been able to pick the part that day and ship it out overnight, assuming there are at least daily deliveries between the main warehouses in his dispatch office.

Even better, if they had gotten the make, model, and maybe even a serial number from my mother when she called the first time and actually spoke with a human at the end of the push-button survey, they might have been able to know that the freezer just quit working, and they could have had that circuit board pre-ordered on the van. I say this because when I got the make and model from my mother and searched the internet, there were a number of ongoing discussion threads regarding a failure in the manufacturing process for a particular control board for this model of refrigerator freezer.

So without all the information, this young service tech could not go into this call with his eyes wide open. Even though he was “very polite,” he gets to return and spend some more quality time with Mom. I understand this is a $300 warranty call and that he’ll have between four and six hours of on-site and travel time, plus at least 150 miles on his van; this company is lucky they’ve only invested maybe $200 in his time and direct expenses, leaving $100 for the part return, shipping and handling, and front office support. Yes, “service” is part of the cost of doing business and the $300 warranty call is not intended to be the way to cover these costs, but if we can step back and think about the process, with just a few questions, they might have been able to avoid a second trip out.

Now that things are getting busy again in our businesses, we have to think about the true cost of a call, project, visit, etc., and how can we better utilize our precious human resources that, in many cases, seem harder and harder to get. Having our team go into situations with their eyes wide open, asking as many questions as possible will allow us, as an industry, to provide better—and if I dare say—less costly customer service in the future.

Social Media Services

Customer service in the public eye—it’s a concept that has grown immensely since the rise in social media. When Twitter launched in 2006, its role in the business world was still unknown. But as the service took off, it became another public platform for customers to complain, praise, or question a company, and in turn offered the business a chance to respond.

The benefit of answering a customer’s question or complaint on a social media platform lies in the immediacy: as soon as a company catches wind of a new comment, it has the opportunity to respond directly to that customer, giving them immediate, individual attention, to help solve their problem. It also gives you a chance to get to know your customers on a higher level, so you can cater to their interests as you develop future products.

“We, as integrators, business owners, and the like, use Twitter, Facebook, etc. to keep up with what our customers are saying. We get glimpses into what their interests are, what they are talking about, and can use that information to figure out how our products can play into that world. And it gives us, as members of the AV industry, a great way to keep in touch and continue to discuss news, trends, and other daily happenings.”—Kelleigh Welch

This article was originally published at System Contractor News.

By: Steve Thorburn When I called home this weekend for my weekly chat with Mom, she began telling me about her broken freezer. She said she went to get some tater tots, and noticed everything in the freezer section of the refrigerator had begun to thaw. Any other year, or any other time of the… Read more »

What Will Your Learning Space Look Like in 2018?

By: Steve Thorburn

What our learning spaces will look like — and how they will function — in 2018.

The building blocks for the future of learning space design are already around us. Exploring five key areas will highlight the challenges our industry must overcome to make that future a reality. But first, one must understand the overarching educational trend that is driving the process: the collaborative classroom.

The pedagogical push into collaborative learning seems new to some, but in practice it has been around for a very long time — it is just being rebranded and marketed. This teaching style is an expanded application of what has been used in engineering, design, and business schools for years. In short, the class is a collaborative self-guided process, which is typically based on a short lecture at the start of the session or the review of a homework assignment. After the initial discussion, the class is run like any other laboratory class. Instead of the instructor lecturing for 80% of the time and interacting with the students the other 20% of the time, student teams spend 80% of the time in group learning while the instructor moves between the teams, providing personal guidance and responding to questions. This “flip” in the process required a “flip” in design. This collaborative environment can be a great source of revenue for the AV industry, but also presents design and management challenges.

COLLABORATIVE CLASSROOMS

Ideally, the collaborative classroom centers around six to nine students grouped at a table in sets of three. At their table is a group display where they can share what they are working on with the rest of the table. Next comes the challenge of the instructor location. While the objective is to free the instructor from a fixed presentation location, there still should be a node to connect their technology into the room system. Two locations that seem to work well are the stage right front of the room, and the center of the room. The center of the room seems the most logical location, but many instructors still prefer to be near the front. While a front of room focus is clearly not important when students are working in groups, it is still important for the 20% lecture. Having students twist their bodies to turn to see the instructor resembles a game of twister in the classroom. Our experience shows that U-shaped tables all facing a central point are a very functional solution for collaborative group work seating that aligns with a unidirectional view to the front or center of the room.

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Design for dynamic, versatile learning spaces that are equipped for self-guided learning, group work-shopping, and constructive idea-exchange.

 

What about the technology? This is where it can get real expensive…really quickly. Our studies have shown that a projection system is not always the best solution for this type of room. Projecting images for six to eight tables of students plus a main room display can be very costly. We feel that the displayed image should be a flat panel display no larger than 50 inches and no smaller than 40 inches. The display should be mounted at the end of the table but down low so students can see it but also view the instructor when they are in the front. The room display should still be a projected image, but it can be smaller and off the “center line” of the room, because the same information for critical viewing would be at the student tables. We still keep the primary image up in the front to support the 20% lecture component. To make sure that everybody is seeing the same thing, the resolution of the projected image should match that of the displays at the student tables.

BRING YOUR OWN DEVICES (BYOD)

In four short years, sales of iPads and other tablet devices sales have outpaced laptops, with some researchers showing that mobile devices will exceed all computer sales next year. All the portability, flexibility and accessibility they offer is good if you are on the public network at Starbucks or with your wireless provider, however, as soon as you step foot on the campus or the office, BYOD becomes a network access and security issue. Five years ago when students came to school they might have had one computer to register on the network. Now it is a computer, a tablet, a smart phone, a wireless printer, and more. All of these require security controls and all require bandwidth.

 

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An illustration of the AMX SchoolView solution

In our experience, some IT staff are more forward-thinking than others in planning for the challenges the onslaught of mobile devices brings. BYOD is a trend that does not appear to be slowing down, and as students and instructors come to rely on their own devices, they will demand that they work effectively in the classroom as well. Once network access and security issues are resolved, the main challenge in BYOD leads into the next area of development: sharing content wirelessly.

WIRELESS VIDEO

To share information from a mobile device in a classroom, we still need to connect the device to the display. Currently, connecting devices to a display wirelessly is still a challenge as there are at least five competing factions for this wireless “standard.”

1) WHDI (Wireless Home Digital Interface) — a consumer electronic specification for wireless HDTV connectivity throughout the home.
2) Intel’s WIDI — Wi-Fi Direct
3) Wi-Fi Alliance Wi-Fi CERTIFIED Miracast
4) Apple AirPlay
5) DLNA (Digital Living Network Alliance)

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A main concern for technology managers is how to support a collaborative environment while still meeting specific learning objectives.

There are many more options with their own entire feature set. Once a standard is uniformly adopted, the limitations of using a tablet as the primary teaching resource will disappear.

THE LECTURE CAPTURE STUDIO TO SUPPORT THE VIRTUAL CLASSROOM OF THE FUTURE

President Obama seeks five million more graduates from community colleges by 2020. For this to happen, Obama stated that he intends to invest a total of $12 billion over the next 10 years. Known as the American Graduation Initiative, the plan puts aside $9 billion to devise new grants for schools to develop new programs and to expand job training/counseling. His hope is that these programs will boost learning for college students and lead to higher completion rates for the schools. The plan also puts aside $2.5 billion to renovate facilities at college campuses.

 

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The “flip” in the pedagocial process requires a “flip” in learning space design. This collaborative environment can be a great source of revenue for the audiovisual industry, but also presents some design and management challenges

One way to quickly accomplish this is to utilize a virtual college. This form is a challenge to the bricks and mortar educational institutional. In the future, you will be able to select the courses that meet your educational goals and shop for your credits from any combination of colleges you would like. The term Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) has been coined to help discuss this. Most MOOC are free, but right now the completion rate is very low. What is missing is the overall agency that approves the content, credits, and cubby-hole that it fits into. Once we have that, there would be no limit to the number of students that could take a class, the cost per credit hour would be leveled from provider to provider, providing a way to get an education while reducing student debt. For the AV Industry, this will require technical spaces, new and simple lecture capture rooms for the subject matter experts to present from and, naturally, the connectivity to broadcast the content.

AUDIO VIDEO BRIDGING (AVB)

Just as I dream about wireless video that works, I also dream about a much simpler installation and commissioning process, one that lets us test the cables with a simple meter, and allows the designer to quickly download the routing, setting and any presets in just a few minutes. That requires an open standard not a manufacturer’s standard. AVB is just that. Shortly, we will be sending our video signals over our computer networks, the switches will know when to mix, split and distribute the signal based on that initial programming.

Dante is a form of AVB that has been adopted by much of the pro audio industry. The Dante team states they function on a sub set of the AVB standard and are AVB compatible when AVB finally comes around. Officially AVB, is a suite of open standards IEEE 802.1 series designed specifically for the time synchronized delivery of audio and video media through networks developed with the support of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE).

To really understand the benefit — and importance — of AVB we need to look at what happens with current Ethernet networks and AV media. On current IT networks, there is no concept of “time;” there is nothing in the network infrastructure itself that synchronizes when information is needed. For computer data this is fine, the packets can show up when they want to. The computer will store the data and present it once it is all there. For audio and video communication, pauses are important — did the person lose their train of thought or was it the delivery system? With multiple sources and destinations for AV media, it is critical that there is some type of common time clock to which all of the media is synced. For AVB to work, new switches that open up the path between the nodes are required. Extreme Networks is one of the first manufacturers stepping up and building an AVB network switch from the ground up.

These are the building blocks for the classroom of the future, already available, but still needing development. Within these challenges lie opportunity, and it is up to our industry to help turn hopes for the future into reality.

An earlier version of this article ran in a 2014 AV Technology edition. 

 

This article was originally published at System Contractor News.

By: Steve Thorburn What our learning spaces will look like — and how they will function — in 2018. The building blocks for the future of learning space design are already around us. Exploring five key areas will highlight the challenges our industry must overcome to make that future a reality. But first, one must… Read more »

Wireless Audio Systems

“I just want to stream the audio from my laptop or device to the audio system in the conference room,” was a request during an initial design meeting.  This is another great example of technology in the home now pushing us at work.

For a number of years different products have been on the market to let you stream audio wirelessly within your home.  Sonos was the first major player in the market. They create their own Local Area Network to send music from the base station to loudspeakers located throughout the house.  Another example of this is through Apple TV. Other competing companies like Roku have similar systems that allow you to stream your iTunes through their systems.

The same Bluetooth signal you use with your wireless smart phone earpiece also has a spot in the home audio system.  Bluetooth is a wireless technology that uses UHF radio waves to transmit data over short distances and is used mostly in hands free phone applications. It was originally conceived as a data transfer method to replace RS232 cables.

Bluetooth loudspeakers now exist that are designed to work with your phone or Bluetooth enabled computers, however, there are no commercial or even whole-house audio distribution systems that use Bluetooth as its transmission standard.  One of the best uses in the home audio market for the use of Bluetooth is wirelessly connecting your subwoofer and surround loudspeakers.  The main drawback to Bluetooth is its limited range.

Presently there is no easy “plug and play” (or should we just say “play”) system for the commercial / business environment.  Yes, you can go home and connect your computer or PDA to your stereo or video system, but you had to load something somewhere, place items on your internal network.  Your neighbor cannot just walk in and start using their device on your home system. This is part of the the challenge we find in the business world, while collaboration spaces and media rich rooms like classrooms, could use something like this, it still takes logging in and passing the key around to show your computer images.

Twice now we have tried to integrate Apple TV into conference rooms.  Both times it was a failure – not from a connection point of view, but from an IT security point of view.  The general drawback is the difficulty of managing the device on the company’s network.  Apple TV does not play well with commercial networks and it really is a home device not meant for commercial applications.

As with all things AV, we see wireless connectivity being wanted and needed.  It is just a matter of when. You can make it work now, some of the time, for some of the people, but not all of the time for all of the people.

“I just want to stream the audio from my laptop or device to the audio system in the conference room,” was a request during an initial design meeting.  This is another great example of technology in the home now pushing us at work. For a number of years different products have been on the market… Read more »

Using Cell Phones to Make Noise Measurements

Twice in the last month, we have heard “I just used my cell phone to make noise measurements so you do not need to make measurements.” Mobile phone sound meter applications have added a new twist to our consulting services.  As for using our smart phones as sound level meters…  The standard phone, as delivered from Apple, Motorola, Samsung, etc. is an awful sound level meter that should not be used for anything other than fun!  Of the over 120 and growing sound meter applications currently available, none of them make up for the inexpensive microphone that is part of the phone.  The microphone elements we use cost hundreds of dollars, much more than the most expensive smart phone available.  The meter that this very expensive microphone element attaches to is even more costly.

When the iPhone first came out, one of our colleagues was doing a demonstration to a city council. The demonstration was a recorded simulation of a noise event.  Prior to the meeting he carefully adjusted the demonstration level in the council chambers, in order to show the most accurate information.  At the time of the testimony, our colleague reproduced the calibration level and showed the council members that it was 60dBA – the goal for the calibration level. Then two different council members that had just gotten their iPhone for the holidays said, no I read it at 64dBA here and the other said no it is only 57dBA here.  How do you argue with Apple?  They clearly would not make a product that was not accurate.

In April 2014, the Journal of the Acoustical Society of America published an evaluation of smart phone sound measurement applications.  In this article, authors Kardous and Shaw tested a number of different systems and apps.  Their research confirmed this disparate range of readings reported when the devices are side-by-side in the same sound field.

A few weeks ago we tried a similar test… we used our sound masking system to create a uniform sound field as defined by our “true test meters”.  We used three of our “test meters” to triple check the levels and all were within a few tenths of a decibel, as we would expect. Unfortunately, our smart phones had a 10 decibel range between the lowest and the highest and none of them matched what our “true test meters” reported.

Is there a use for the smart phone sound meter app?  Sure, it gives you an idea of the relative level.  How loud is the office relative to the kitchen at home, or how loud is my car with the windows rolled up at a stop light.  Beyond that, be very careful of what you read on the web about acoustics, and what someone claims (and how they claim it) when it comes to a noise level measured by their smart phone.

Twice in the last month, we have heard “I just used my cell phone to make noise measurements so you do not need to make measurements.” Mobile phone sound meter applications have added a new twist to our consulting services.  As for using our smart phones as sound level meters…  The standard phone, as delivered… Read more »