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NAB Exhibitor Viewpoint: Tom Hartnett, Comrex

“I’m always looking at anything potentially disruptive”

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. Tom Hartnett is technical director at Comrex.

Radio World: How has business been for the company since last year’s NAB Show?

Tom Hartnett: We introduced a couple of hot new products last year, Access NX and Opal, so we’re seeing those on the uptick, as well as an increased volume on some of our established products.

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?

Hartnett: We’re watching the news about the debt load of the major radio companies finally catching up with them. But so far, it really hasn’t translated to reduced orders. Some of our commodity products like BRIC-Link II are specified as the “standard” go-to box in more applications, and our new stuff is always gaining interest monthly.

RW: You’ve been active in the codecs market for a long time. What’s the biggest problem or challenge facing users in this segment right now?

Hartnett: Surprisingly, the biggest issue is still the imminent death of ISDN. A large segment of customers have been clinging to ISDN and are only now losing it, which causes a big scramble looking for alternatives. We’ve been preaching this for 10 years, and we’ve been building high-end IP codecs since then, so we’re ready to help people make the transition.

[Read: Outlook Yet Unclear on 5G Implications for Radio]

RW: What new goodies will your company be showing? Why should attendees visit your booth?

Hartnett: Four new products this year — an updated rackmount audio codec with AoIP (AES67) support (Access NX Rack), a multiple-codec-channel version of same (Access Multirack), a new free app for drop-in remotes (FieldTap), and a system designed to replace POTS lines in TV stations for IFB (EarShot IFB). Attendees should drop by Booth C2330 to check in on all these, as well as our established Opal audio gateway (a unique new way to bring in guest audio) and Access NX Portable, which is a retooling of the most popular portable IP audio codec on the market.

RW: What do you anticipate will be the most significant technology trend at the 2018 NAB Show?

Hartnett: Virtualization is very hot. I’m not sure the average station is ready to go whole-hog on that, but it’s cool to see the offerings of a “station-on-a-PC.”

RW: Will you be attending any sessions or looking forward to any events?

Hartnett: I’m always looking at anything potentially disruptive. It’s a lot of fun to watch others’ visions of where entertainment is going.

RW: You’re a show veteran, how has the show changed since your first visit?

Hartnett: The change in attendance is very noticeable. My first NAB was 1988, and it was filled with local engineers from around the country. Then later it became exclusive to regional DoEs. Most local tech folks now are from the Southwest USA, within a drive to Vegas. Mostly we deal with executives and consultants now. The show used to draw a lot of Europeans, but they are rare now. The one thing that remains constant is the strong Latin American presence.

RW: This year show organizers have done some serious rearranging of the venue, expanded thematic items like pavilions and put emphasis on events and activities such as Main Stage. Any thoughts on that?

Hartnett: I support all efforts to modernize and update the NAB experience. The attendees have changed so much, and there’s so much to see, events and activities can help sort through the noise.