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Intercoms, paging and multifunctional systems – Part 3: regulatory issues

We conclude this short series of articles by examining how regulatory changes may impact upon the migration towards combined, IP-based systems.

Previous articles have looked at the advantages of combined media systems over those dedicated to a single primary function; and at the functionality of these systems. We conclude by examining how regulatory changes may impact upon the migration towards combined, IP-based systems.

As Graeme Harrison, EVP of marketing at Biamp (pictured), observes, “the over-riding need” for separate systems observed in some applications to this point is frequently “driven by regulations and standards”. But there are strong indications that with the advent of IP-based operation, this could also be about to change.

At present, it would sometimes be “difficult or impossible to meet life safety standards with advanced audio functionality as these standards are often over-prescriptive,” he says. “A more modern approach to standards would help the adoption of multi-functional systems while at the same time preserving the vital functionality and reliability of a life safety system.”

Fortunately, there is some belief that such a shift may not be too far away. Kevin Sherwood is field sales director of AV distributor CIE Group – whose portfolio includes audio-over-IP solutions for site-wide, multi-site and worldwide paging distribution over LAN, WAN or web from Atlas Sound and 2N telecommunications – comments: “The case for single systems is only where separation is required for compliancy to VA legislation, but even this is starting to change with manufacturers looking at changing VA legislation to allow the use of IP-based systems. This is a change which is gathering pace with more and more manufacturers looking to IP as the connection solution. Whether we like this change or not, it is definitely here to stay.”

Sherwood’s last remark seems to hit the proverbial nail on the head. As in so many other areas of pro-audio, IP operation is destined to have a profound impact; there is simply no reason to expect intercom and paging to be any different.

What remains to be seen is quite how much regulatory impulses slow this change, or simply muddy the waters in terms of explaining the transition to potential customers and end-users. As with audio networking in general, the challenge will be for manufacturers, distributors and integrators to explain clearly and simply why IP represents a step forward – and how it can be depended upon to deliver such primary functions.