Executive Q&A: Sound Advice for AoIP

Reto Brader, Barix
(Image credit: Future)

SCN: How long have you been with Barix, and what are your responsibilities?

Reto Brader: I have been with Barix for almost eight years. I joined the company as global sales director was promoted to CEO five years ago.  

SCN: How’s business in North America, and what are some U.S. vertical markets that could be adopting more AoIP solutions?

RB: North America is our largest market. We are strong in broadcast, background music delivery, any interoperability with the SIP voice-over-IP (VoIP) protocol. We are also strong in mass notification through partnerships with Singlewire InformaCast and Intrado Revolution. 

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Barix has also been very strong in the OEM market over the past 25 years. Medium and large companies worldwide, including household-name brands, come to Barix for OEM product designs when they need IP audio and control integrations or products.

Looking forward, we see growth potential in many vertical markets, particularly in the AV industry. Audio is moving to IP, no matter where it is used. This is especially true if the audio requires transport over long distances. Barix was the true original pioneer of wide-area network IP audio distribution. 

Barix Logo

(Image credit: Barix)

SCN: What are some common misconceptions regarding AoIP technology?

RB: The belief that audio-over-IP is just another stream of data and therefore is mainly an IT, computation, and networking task. Audio is unforgiving. The human brain is irritated by the slightest glitch in an audio signal. The TV viewer will notice some picture artifacts yet continue to watch. When audio artifacts surface, most listeners will grow disturbed and cease listening.

Barix has acquired strong expertise over the past 20 years about how to properly handle AoIP. Our customers turn to us because we have the experience and know how to do it cost effectively. Some customers know to come directly to Barix to solve their problems; others turn to us after other suppliers fall short. That happens more often than you might realize. 

SCN: What are the short and long-term goals for your company?

RB: We will continue to be the preferred supplier or development partner for B2B customers in the audio-over-IP space. We want to be recognized as an experienced company that is easy to work with, and offer efficient products that provide reliable, cost-effective solutions for AoIP over standard networks or the public internet. In the short term, we are coming out with solutions that allow to bridge between standard data networks and Dante-based audio. 

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SCN: With so many content options available, why would a company need a background music system like RetailPlayer?

RB: RetailPlayer is not about content. We leave content to the artists, sound mixers, and audio marketers. We answer the questions of how to deliver background music to many locations. Many years ago, this was done via snail mail using disks and later USB sticks. The distribution later moved to satellite.

Audio is unforgiving. When audio artifacts surface, most listeners will grow disturbed and cease listening.

Today, distribution can be achieved using highly available public internet infrastructure. Barix RetailPlayer provides the most flexible and feature-rich platform for music mix providers to distribute their content and advertisements to their clients worldwide. Most importantly, RetailPlayer is as reliable as all other Barix products. We save our customers money by not having to deal with background music player boxes that no longer work as installed somewhere on the other side of the country or planet.  

SCN: Barix has several options for intercom and paging. Are you seeing a steady migration to IP-based systems in schools, or are most content with analog?

RB: The key driver here is the costs saved by using existing infrastructure. In most countries, governments have invested in the IT infrastructure of schools to provide a modern and relevant education service. This infrastructure is now available.

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Implementing a paging, intercom, and school bell system using IP-based technology makes use of this infrastructure. In other words, the cabling costs of an IP-based system is minimal because the network is already there. This is the main reason we are seeing significant growth for IP-based intercom and paging in schools.

SCN: What are some of the advantages of IP-based paging systems?

RB: Next to saving on cabling, a big advantage of IP-based paging systems is how simple it is to expand. If you build a new classroom, you need only plug in another intercom device or Barix IP codec with a speaker and you have extended your system. Analog systems need new cabling and run into physical limitations of the classical audio matrix.

Being on the IP infrastructure is also critical, as it becomes very simple to page from a mobile phone or computer. Barix’s Paging Gateway M400 is a cost-effective way to facilitate this, and the device even supports zone selection. The ability to page from a mobile phone is in high demand, as teachers and administrators need the capability to make clear and immediate announcements and trigger alarms no matter where they are in the event of an emergency. In the most extreme scenarios, it is too dangerous or impossible to make your way to the main office to trigger an announcement. Paging Gateway M400 can also be triggered to play prerecorded messages, which is a must when a calm voice message in such critical situations. 

SCN: Unlike many other companies, Barix encourages customization of its solutions. What’s the advantage to your OEM strategy?

RB: There are many reasons why someone needs a product that is customized to his or her requirements. One reason can be that they have proprietary protocols or control solutions and want a unit that translates into the standard world. One example is to connect existing audio solutions with a VoIP SIP service.

Another reason is ease of use. IP technology is very flexible, and flexibility translates to many options. Companies want solutions that are useable and tailored to their needs.

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Time to market also plays a key role. Using Barix devices and modules means that you purchase 25 years of technology experience instead of having to develop in-house. 

SCN: In the near future, what’s next for AoIP and AVoIP technologies for the Pro AV industry?

RB: Cloud-managed solutions are the trend for the near future. Customers demand to manage all their audio or AV equipment from the cloud. Barix is ahead in this space, having provided managed solutions for many years. We now talk to audio and AV manufacturers about how to integrate existing Barix technology, in particular our IPAM modules, into their amplifiers, DSPs, and other equipment for a quick path to cloud management. 

With cloud-based management comes a new problem that will keep the AV industry occupied in the future: security. With cloud-managed solutions, it is no longer sufficient to lock the door of the technology room to assure that nobody can temper with the audio equipment. Barix has patent-pending technology called SUPICONF to provide cyber-secure configurations for cloud-connected devices. We regularly talk to manufacturers about how to implement this capability in their equipment. 

Mark J. Pescatore
Content Director

Mark J. Pescatore, Ph.D., is the content director of Systems Contractor News. He has been writing about Pro AV industry for more than 25 years. Previously, he spent more than eight years as the editor of Government Video magazine. During his career, he's produced and hosted two podcasts focused on the professional video marketplace, taught more than a dozen college communication courses, co-authored the book Working with HDV, and co-edited two editions of The Guide to Digital Television.