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.