Jackson, Mich. — I am an “old
timer,” having started in broadcasting in 1962 working part-time after school
and on weekends at WCCW(FM) in Traverse City, Mich.
I was slow to accept the Internet as anything
more than a convenient method to find equipment, parts and an occasional
article that piqued my interest. Several years ago, however, I started to
realize that the Internet offered an amazing alternative method of program
delivery, remote control and monitoring for broadcast.
The one area that kept me from plunging headlong
into this realm was reliability. Now, after installing and programming numerous
Internet and Web-based products, I have to admit that reliability is no longer
an issue. I acknowledge that the level of reliability comes from reading many
articles about other engineers’ experience and knowing what to demand from the
I began studying and field-testing numerous products
from many manufacturers and vendors relating to IP-based equipment.
From the start, Broadcast Tools has embraced the
IP network and offered many of their famous “tiny tools” that utilize that
method of operation.
I also learned many years ago
to approach a project from a “reverse engineering” strategy — that is, study,
analyze and determine what one piece of equipment should provide to fulfill the
requirements of a project, then search out the piece of equipment that fits
those requirements. In this fashion, I can eliminate buying several pieces of
equipment to respond to a future need that was overlooked in the initial
This is where the Broadcast
Tools Audio Sentinel came to my attention.
I had a client with a
microwave system for primary program delivery and an ISDN circuit for emergency
audio feeds. Ownership wanted the ability to switch the ISDN audio feed manually
to “on air” along with maintaining the automatic changeover via the STL’s
squelch relay. Having recently installed a DSL circuit at the location, access
to the Internet was now available.
Then came news from the ISDN provider that their
new rates would be three times the previous. Plus, there had been ISDN failures
several times over three months, with response measured in days, not hours. To
top it all off, this “provider” had petitioned the FCC to abandon ISDN service
As I sat and compared my “reverse engineering”
chart and the features of the Broadcast Tools Audio Sentinel, the solution
became clear. Here is a Web-enabled, two-channel silence monitor with an
integrated stereo switcher and the ability to send logging emails, along with up
to eight email recipients should any alarm situation occur.
It has three internal relays
that are user-programmable for manual operation and/or automatic
sequencing.The Audio Sentinel can be
controlled and monitored locally, remotely over any IP network, including
private networks, IP-based industrial control networks or, of course, the
If you have one of the spanking-new handheld
devices that uses a Web browser or is Web-enabled, you can receive reports and
alarms as well as manually control the Audio Sentinel from anywhere you have
Internet access. The Audio Sentinel also can be programmed to send a special
sound effect to play on your PC speaker when an alarm is received.
One SPDT relay is dedicated to indicating
which stereo audio source is connected to the main stereo output. Two more SPDT
relays can be configured to perform numerous use-defined tasks, including
action-sequences related to an alarm situation.
SNMP capabilities provide for multiple units
to be monitored with any SMNP manager software. SMTP username and passwords are
Audio and relay connections are via the
Broadcast Tools standard Euroblock screw connectors. The Internet NET connector
is the standard RJ-45 port, and power is provided by included 7.5 VDC external
Front-panel indicators show
valid audio present, while the “PWR/Heart Beat” indicator slowly flashes to
indicate processor operation and power. Separate indicators show which input is
selected and there is a manual “select” button for local operation of the Audio
Sentinel that duplicates the rear-panel “remote/ext” connection.
Because the Audio Sentinel comes with both
straight-through and crossover Cat-5 cables, you don’t need to check your goody
box for these cables for programming and normal connection to the Internet.
Connection to your PC and programming are straightforward, with instructions
provided on an included CD. You can obtain the necessary IP address data from
your IT manager for your site.
In my case, the gateway, broadcast
ID, subnet mask and specific IP address data were supplied by the IP provider
prior to the installation. Again, instructions are included for customizing
your Audio Sentinel as much or as little as you require.
Password protection is standard and you can
select the level of access for eight users; three levels include “monitor only,”
“full remote control” or “administration.” The Audio Sentinel also will
generate a show-log to display which input is active, what day and time an
alarm was generated, the relative audio level for each input channel and other
parameters. As noted, you can choose when or if to send show-log reports via email
to up to eight recipients.
The audio switcher is
programmable for level detection, time delay before switching, alarm generation
and automatic or manual operation. In my case, the out-of-state programmer can
access the Audio Sentinel via Internet, enter the assigned security code and
monitor parameters, check the alarm show-log and manually select the alternate
audio source to feed the “on air” processing. This is great for EAS or weather
emergencies, or special programs that can originate from anywhere in the world
by an external, IP-based audio codec.
You can label each audio
source as it will appear on the Web page for the Audio Sentinel, so operators
can identify what they are monitoring. Setting up the email addresses for the
alarm notification and show logs is a one-time event, but you can change data
or add data anytime via the Internet once your Audio Sentinel is installed and
Note that your new IP address data will not take
effect until the Audio Sentinel has been powered down after programming. You
can make changes and enter new data once you have made the final connection to
Users can download the manual from the Broadcast
Tools site and study it along with their own reverse engineering sheet prior to
Now when the STL burps during
heavy fog or loss of power at the primary studio location, the switch-over to
the auxiliary audio source occurs within the prescribed time and generates an
immediate alarm email message to me, the studio and the network headquarters in
another state. If there is a live, remote broadcast anywhere, it can be routed
to the auxiliary source input on the Audio Sentinel and seamlessly switched to
“on air” … all handled over the Internet.
A special announcement during unmanned hours is
no longer a problem. This can be handled by a single operator at the main ops center
located in another state.
I could go on; but download
the manual and check it out for your specific needs.
For information, contact Don Winget at
Broadcast Tools in Washington state at (360) 854-9559 or visit www.broadcasttools.com.