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NAB Exhibitor Viewpoint: Cam Eicher, The Telos Alliance

Helping broadcasters transition to IP studios

The spring NAB Show is approaching. Between now and then Radio World will conduct several short Q&As with manufacturers about their plans and offerings, to help you get the most out of the big annual trade show. Cam Eicher is director of Global Radio Sales for the Telos Alliance.

Radio World: How has business been for the company since last year’s NAB Show?
Cam Eicher: Business has been great. At the NAB Show last year, we premiered the G-Force and Perfect Declipper plug-ins for our top-of-the-line Omnia.11 processor. The response has been overwhelmingly positive. We’ve heard our customers call G-Force “The Holy Grail of Loud and Clean.” But they also appreciate it because they are essentially getting a whole new audio processor, for a fraction of the cost of a new box. At NAB last year, we also introduced VX Prime, which is a version of our flagship VX talk show VoIP system, but ideal for smaller facilities, and we’ve had quite a lot of interest from broadcasters who want to make the transition from traditional phone service to IP. People are starting to realize the incredible return on investment of VoIP with systems like VX and VX Prime, which pay for themselves in as little as 18 months thanks to the saved cost of eliminating analog phone lines. We’ve also been hard at work developing cutting-edge new products across all our radio brands, which you’ll see if you come by The Telos Alliance radio booth, N7724.

RW: What are you hearing from your customers about their business outlook this year? In what areas should we expect growth or the most interesting projects?
Eicher: Telos Alliance’s Radio Division spans so many different areas, from audio processing to program delays to broadcast telephony to watermarking solutions to consoles and more. But laced through them all is the common theme of IP as the backbone of the modern studio. IP continues to lead the way into the future and we see this reflected in the opinions of our customers. More and more Telos Alliance users are either embarking on transitioning to IP studios or upgrading more of their facilities to be IP-centric. That’s why we’ve taken such a strong standpoint on education this year. Despite every manufacturer from here to the South Hall touting AES67 and AoIP, there is still a lot of confusion in the industry. We aim to be a resource to help clear up that confusion.

RW: You’ve been active in a number of broadcast equipment markets for years, what’s the biggest problem or challenge facing engineering facility and operations managers right now?
Eicher: The biggest challenge is keeping up with latest technology, standards and products. Think about the hectic daily life of a studio engineer or general manager: The stresses of running a facility can be Herculean. Education is something that is likely relegated to catching up on reading on the plane or attending educational sessions at the show. Adding to the problem is the fact that technologies like AoIP and the standards that surround them are constantly evolving. That’s why we participate in MNA and AIMS, publish eBooks to help educate our customer base, and give papers on the topics. We are giving five different educational sessions at NAB, four of which revolved around AoIP, all from members of the Telos Alliance. It’s also why we come to NAB and dozens of other trade shows, as well as publish our weekly Direct Current newsletter to keep those who can’t come to trade shows in the know.

RW: What new goodies will your company be showing? Why should attendees visit your booth?
Eicher: We can’t spill all of the beans just yet, but rest assured that folks can expect to see new products from all four radio brands, in addition to just-released products like the new and award-winning Axia IP-Tablet. This one-of-a-kind product removes cumbersome and sight-blocking monitors from the studio by moving the monitoring and control of gear to a smaller, conveniently mounted touchscreen. The IP-Tablet puts the most used console functions right at your fingertips.

RW:There’s a new “Watermark” product from 25-Seven, tell us about it and how successful has the 25-Seven Voltair been?
Eicher: 25-Seven TVC-15 is our new watermark analyzer, monitor and controller. It can detect watermark codes from any station in electronically measured markets directly off air, and provides a confidence metric of how robust those codes are. Think of this product as a modulation monitor for watermarking. Data features capture all this information to a file system for later analysis. TVC-15 is a “high-speed” analyzer; it detects tones using a completely different algorithm than Voltair, basically providing status at a very granular level. TVC-15 can also be used as an adaptive enhancement controller for stations that already have a Voltair. In this role, it can be used to push Voltair processing harder when needed, backing off when not. This can help manage the tradeoff between code robustness and code-related artifacts. From what we’ve seen from some early adopters using it to control their Voltair units, it is providing a performance edge.

And speaking of Voltair, the adoption curve for this product was the fastest, steepest thing we have ever seen. Interest in our R&D in this space is as strong as ever. A lot of what we learned about watermarking in the process of creating Voltair is now making its way into our Omnia processing. Simply put, we know some things that our competitors don’t, and those secrets are going into our processing. Voltair was certainly the most successful product ever for 25-Seven, and it ranks in the top tier for the Telos Alliance as a whole. There are well over 900 of them out there, and counting.

RW: What do you anticipate will be the most significant technology trend at the 2017 NAB Show?
Eicher: On the radio side, it will continue to be AES67, AoIP, and VoIP, in addition to louder, cleaner, and better audio processing. There are a lot of folks playing in the AoIP-for-broadcast arena now, a game which we started nearly 14 years ago with the invention of Livewire. Now customers have more choices than ever and it’s therefore more important than ever for them to be informed about how the various protocols work, pay attention to compliance versus compatibility, and choose a format that will serve their needs both now and in the future.

RW: You’ve had Livewire going for several years, how has IP technology affected your company and what’s new on that front for the Telos Alliance and overall for the radio broadcast industry?
Eicher: Indeed, Livewire was the original standard dating back to 2003. IP technology has affected the very core of our business, and is now the backbone upon which we build most of our technology. Moving forward, we will put great emphasis on Livewire+ AES67, our AES67-compliant protocol that meets all aspects of the AES67 standard, including features like SIP support for unicast mode. More and more of our products will be Livewire+ AES67, with the most recent addition being our new Axia Livewire+ AES67 IP audio driver, premiering at NAB. This will be the very first AES67-compliant IP driver on the market. Again, AES67-compliance, not just compatibility, is crucial for our customers and the industry as a whole.

RW: There’s been some considerable rearranging of booths over the last couple of years when it comes to radio industry companies. You’re going to be in the North Hall — how do you like the new hall/floor layout?
Eicher: We love the North Hall and being around all of our radio brethren. TV is a prime attraction for many show-goers, and we also have a presence there with our newly created Telos Alliance TV Solutions Group (SU2321). This group is devoted to creating complete AoIP solutions for the TV industry across brands, including several products that would traditionally be considered “radio” products, most of them from Axia and Telos Systems. We see a tighter integration between TV and radio divisions of the broadcast industry — and the Telos Alliance itself — moving forward.

RW: You’re a show veteran, what’s your favorite thing about the show? Least favorite thing?
Eicher: The best part of the show is networking with our friends and customers, plus the great educational opportunities and the ability to glimpse evolving technology and trends from our peers and dealers. On the flipside, NAB can be exhausting, which is the worst part about the show. That’s why at the Telos Alliance booth we try to create a space that is more relaxing and peaceful where people can recharge, both electronically and physically. Come by, charge your phone and have a coffee on us!

For more NAB Show-related news and features check out our NAB Show News page.