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Best of Show Up Close: Davicom Cortex 320

Remote station and site monitoring for those on a budget

2019 Future Best of Show

“Best of Show Up Close” is a series about participants in Radio World’s annual Best of Show at NAB Awards program.

Davicom nominated the Cortex 320 remote control. The Cortex is the second member of the Cortex line, introduced last year. It is smaller than the established Cortex 360 and is aimed at facilities with simpler needs and lower budgets.

We asked Davicom President John Ahern for more information.

 Radio World: The Cortex 320 was a feature of your booth at NAB. For those who couldn’t attend, what is the product and what are its targeted uses?

John Ahern: The Cortex 320 is Davicom’s new baby in the Cortex intelligent remote-control family. Although it is built on the same platform as the Cortex 360, the 320 has been optimized for small-budget requirements. So small market and noncommercial stations can take advantage of the core benefits provided by larger, and more costly, remote controls.

RW: The system is described as “versatile and intelligent.” What sets the 320 apart from similar offerings in this product class.

John Ahearn, Davicom

Ahern: One example would be the unit’s 12 versatile inputs that can be used as either metering or status inputs. Coupled with the 320’s four dedicated status inputs, it can be configured for just the right mix of GPIO.

Another example is the unit’s 128 virtual logic gates that can be used to program smart actions, depending on input conditions. Davicom units have always included advanced broadcast-related functions such as an automatic sunrise-sunset flag, direct VSWR indications, hysteresis to reduce false alarms, and advanced math for logarithm and decibel calculations.

One design aspect that sets us apart is our use of standard protocols and interfaces such as MODBUS and SNMP. Users can buy their own, low-cost/less intelligent devices and use the 320 to make everything work together smartly. They can also interface directly with gensets and transmitters without needing to buy extra hardware.

Davicom Cortex 320, Best of Show, National Association of Broadcasters

Another aspect of the Cortex that sets it apart is its design for electromagnetic compatibility. I think that we may be the only manufacturer that operates its own EMC lab with a full-sized TEM cell and 3 m emissions test range. All our products meet and even surpass the requirements of FCC and CE emissions and immunity standards.

And finally, even though the 320 is totally at home in an IP and networking environment, it can still operate on dial-up lines and even over narrow-band serial communications links down to 2400 baud. This ensures the Cortex can be used and accessed at those many sites where IP is not available or reliable.

RW: What does it cost? Is it available now?

Ahern: MSRP for the basic 12 VDC unit with IP connectivity is $2,436. Note that you can consult your favorite dealer to enquire about alternative pricing. Production quantities will be available in September.

[Read: Best of Show Up Close: Wheatstone AirAura X5]

RW: More generally, what do you see as the most important trends or changes happening these days in how broadcasters design and build their remote control and monitoring infrastructure?

Ahern: We’ve been seeing this trend since 2007, when we first introduced an integrated SNMP manager into our Davicom units, but site management by IP is finally here. Even if a remote site doesn’t have outside network access, an on-site LAN can greatly facilitate system setup and operation. Monitoring and control wiring are reduced by orders of magnitude and reconfigurability is greatly increased.

This new paradigm does come with its lot of new challenges however. System monitoring and troubleshooting have changed and now require different tools and methods. Broadcasters aren’t only measuring voltages, RF powers and contacts anymore, they now need to do things like ping transmitters, read IP addresses, automatically restart flaky routers and monitor digital audio data streams.

RW: What else should we know about this product or your company’s offerings these days?

Ahern: These days we are putting lots of effort into adding new, customer-requested functions into the Cortex products. We’re also making sure everything works correctly with the different versions of MODBUS and SNMP used by various manufacturers.

Davicom’s products have evolved from the simple RF monitoring, alarm and control systems they were in the 1990’s to the intelligent site management systems they are today. With advanced networking capabilities, such as the built-in SNMP manager, while still retaining GPIO and RF functionalities, Davicom’s products keep striving to make the broadcaster’s job easier in this rapidly changing world.

The Future Best of Show Awards program honors and helps promote outstanding new products exhibited at industry conventions like the spring NAB Show. Exhibitors pay a fee to enter; not all entries win. Watch for more coverage of participating products soon. To learn about all of the nominees and winners, read the 2019 Best of Show Program Guide.