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Listen Technologies Makes Bold Product Moves

by Kirsten Nelson

Sales meetings are many things, but they're not often convocations of superheroes. Except if you're a rep for Listen Technologies, which hosted its Spring Fest sales meeting last week in Salt Lake City and divided guests into two groups: X-Men and Justice League. The superhero theme was woven throughout the event, and it definitely seemed appropriate, given the manufacturer's plans to move faster than a speeding bullet toward new product partnerships and in-house R&D.

Listen used the event to announce a new partnership with Ampetronic, the U.K.-based manufacturer of audio induction loop systems. Founded 25 years ago, Ampetronic is the largest provider of loops in the world, and is active in 20 countries. Loop solutions are huge in Europe, but they've only just begun to penetrate the U.S. market, where an estimated six million users of hearing aids with T-coils could benefit from their implementation. Loops are cool because the receiver base already exists in the form of the hearing aid itself. All the user has to do is walk into a loop-assisted area and they can experience their own sound reinforcement field.

Already in use at subway stations in New York City and in numerous other applications across the country, loops are likely to appear (invisibly, as they’re embedded into the floor of venues) more frequently in the U.S. thanks to fervent advocacy and the new ADA requirements, noted Ampetronic managing director and owner Julian Pieters.

Adding loop to its arsenal of IR, RF, and wireless conferencing offerings, Listen is now "the complete solution for wireless listening," declared president, CEO, and chairman Russ Gentner, one of Listen's founders, at Spring Fest's opening session. Citing 30 percent growth in 2011, Gentner reported that the first quarter of 2012 looked good for the company, and there is some confidence that growth will continue throughout the year.

A good portion of that boost is coming from conferencing systems, which Listen provides through partnerships with Danish Interpretation Systems and Televic. But Gentner also pointed out that Listen’s core IR products represent the fastest growing part of the manufacturer’s business.

"Harmonious partnerships" have been a big part of Listen's growth since its establishment 13 years ago, Gentner indicated. But now the company is expanding its own product development, following the success of the ListenPoint product it designed and introduced to the market two years ago.

"Eighteen months ago, the Listen executive team made the decision to expand the company," Gentner said. "We are working now on new wireless listening products. For 13 years, we've had two product lines. We have learned so much, it gives us an incredible opportunity to build new solutions. We are a serious product development company now."

This is a good time for Listen to add loop technology and declare itself the provider of complete wireless listening solutions. New ADA compliance regulations dictate that any room with an audio system (even PA speakers on sticks) needs to provide assistive listening options. If the phrase "any room" seems exaggerated, consider this. In 1991, ADA requirements dictated that assistive listening devices needed to be provided for four percent of fixed seating in rooms holding 50 or more people. Now you can strike the "four percent", the "fixed seating", and the "over 50", and you have the new requirements. That really means ANY room.

In order to assist AV consultants and contractors with accommodating these new dictates, Listen has produced its ADA Calculator app. If you don't already have it, get this app. Listen vice president of worldwide sales Cory Schaeffer, who is also one of the founders of the company, and Peter Papageorge, director of sales, North America, shared several stories of AV consultant converts who are positively thrilled with the app’s ability to simplify the conversation about assistive listening requirements in clients’ venues. Papageorge also emphasized that AV integrators’ customers will need to become compliant, or else they face a $50,000 federal fine for a first offense.