The new FreeSpeak Edge digital wireless intercom system is designed for the 5GHz ISM band.
While manufacturing and other company activities have been limited for most vendors during this pandemic, products made by Clear-Com and its parent company HM Electronics (HME) are readily available. That’s because HME makes headsets and wireless systems used by fast food workers and Clear-Com supports the media industry, both considered “essential businesses” in this challenging time. So, the company’s factory in the Carlsbad area of San Diego, Calif. is operating, albeit at reduced capacity (socially distanced and staggered shifts).
Meanwhile, as the industry continues its shift to remote production and out-of-studio operations, Clear-Com is focusing on mobile digital intercom systems and wireless apps that support the latest protocols like the ST2110 and AES67 audio over IP standards. The company’s latest product offerings include new additions to its FreeSpeak line of modular intercom systems and its Clips Intercom Matrix portfolio.
As Simon Browne, vice president of Product Management, Clear-Com, explains it, “wireless over IP is the new reality in remote production.”
The new FreeSpeak Edge digital wireless intercom system is designed for the 5GHz ISM band. Existing FreeSpeak products work in the 2.4 Mhz spectrum. The higher frequency provides more bandwidth for data, which allows for finer control, additional audio channels, more robustness, lower latency and better audio quality, up to 12kHz. In addition, the 5GHz band can be easily managed with frequency coordination for reduced interference and offers the widest range of RF channels available for exceptional scalability.
“FreeSpeak Edge is the future of advanced wireless communication,” said Bob Boster, President, Clear-Com. “While some manufacturers are trying to improve incrementally on existing solutions, we have leapfrogged right to the edge of what is possible with wireless intercom technology today, in readiness for tomorrow’s increasingly demanding requirements.”
The FreeSpeak Edge beltpack includes asymmetrical concave/convex top buttons for identification at a glance and easy touch operation.
FreeSpeak Edge takes advantage of Clear-Com’s proprietary RF technology, which uses OFDM to provide a robust transport layer that is immune to most forms of interference. The system delivers the clearest 12kHz audio quality with ultra-low latency to accommodate the largest productions that can include over 100 beltpacks and 64 transceivers. It can be combined seamlessly with FreeSpeak II 1.9GHz and 2.4GHz systems, providing three bandwidths across a single unified communications system.
“For a remote production, we see FreeSpeak Edge being used for audio commentary during live sporting events,” said Browne. “The big problem today is having to combine all of the elements you need into available bandwidth. So you have your comms, audio, video, previews and control. Having comms and audio combined is helpful and it’s something we’re seeing a lot more of these days.
“Having commentary audio and intercom in one device is quite helpful. This makes your production easily portable,” he said. “People want to do more than one job at a time.”
The FreeSpeak Edge beltpack includes asymmetrical concave/convex top buttons for identification at a glance and touch operation; eight programmable buttons; rotary controls on both sides; and a master volume control and flashlight on the bottom. It includes a mic and speaker for headset-free or desktop operation. Each transceiver supports 10 beltpacks and includes attenuation and external antennas for custom RF zones as well as wall and mic stand mounting options.
Also new for Clear-Com this year is Eclipse HX, part of the Eclipse Intercom Matrix series. Last year the company introduced an IP audio card (the IPA) for the platform and it has now added SMPTE 2110-30 support. This allows the matrix to fit seamlessly within an all-IP workflow of third-party products.
“This means comms, audio, video and control can all natively run over an IP infrastructure,” Browne said. “Broadcasters are looking for full IP solutions, so this is attractive to them. We’re using that same structure to connect to the transceivers that work with FreeSpeak Edge. We have AES67 networking between the central matrix and the distributed transceivers.”
This provides a low latency audio connection and allows it to be implemented into a variety of time-based IP remote production workflows.
Finally, Clear-Com is now showing a new software update to its HelixNet and CCM (a browser-based Configuration Manager Interface) for the FreeSpeak line that provides better security. This is in keeping with a 2018 mandate called the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) that is intended to strengthen data protection for individuals within European Union countries. Browne said that if you have a device that can work over the Internet, then you are not allowed to sell it with default passwords. Clear-Com is now fully compliant with GDPR rules.
“So, Clear-Com is open for business,” said Browne, adding that, due to the virus, there is no live production going on, so business is slow. “We’ve been involved in the planning of a lot of remote broadcasting solutions in the past few weeks, incorporating systems like the LQ, the AgentIC app and wireless systems. We’re also seeing a lot of activity in adjacent markets like military, aerospace, government and warehousing.”
He said Clear-Com is busy supporting customers that want to do more customized intercom systems, both hard-wired and wireless, because there are many types of IP infrastructures now being implemented in the U.S. and abroad.
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