Years ago, if you installed equipment in health clubs, you probably knew about FM modulation. Essentially, this technology allowed you to take an audio source and turn it into an FM radio channel. This was shortly after dinosaurs roamed the earth, of course, and folks carried around portable FM radios with headsets.
There were drawbacks, including needing to build a broadcast antenna large enough to cover the room, but small enough not to cause Mrs. Jones’ toaster down the street to play your signal. Another drawback was that in larger metropolitan areas, there weren’t a ton of available radio frequencies. In other words, you could only have X number of channels, and the bigger the town, the answer for X got smaller.
Nonetheless, lots of places had this technology, and folks could watch their choice of four or five TV programs and listen to the corresponding channel on their radio.
Technology evolved, and streaming music through a smart phone is much more popular than dealing with an FM signal. But the problem at health clubs still remains: how do you offer clients the ability to listen to a selected program without disturbing others? One choice is to put a headphone jack in every device with a screen. This solution is impractical, prone to service calls due to funky jacks, and difficult for the exercising person to use as they rotate through the different machines at the club.
The Listen Technologies Solution
Enter Listen Technologies, a company that services the Assistive Listening market. They’ve come out with a snappy new product category they call ListenWiFi, and it seems like a great solution for the health club market.
The system operates in either stereo or mono, and supports between 4 and 24 stereo programs, or 8 to 48 mono programs. Each WAP deployed can support up to 100 users, with expansion capabilities up to 1000 available.
To build a system, you’ll need to get an audio interface, which will vary in size based on number of consumer analog RCA inputs you need. Depending on scope of project, one or more USB cables connect to the server. Most folks will connect to the local area network with an input connection, and then connect out to the Ruckus Wireless Access Point (WAP). Need to support more users or have a larger facility to cover? Get an appropriate switch and more of the Ruckus WAP’s and you’re good to go. Note that the system will support a maximum of 10 WAP’s.
The installer will then go in and label each one of the programs that will be broadcast, and without too much extra effort, probably include the channel icon for situations where that makes sense. The server allows the installer to remotely service as needed in the event that the cable or satellite supplier reshuffles the channel lineup.
How ListenWifi Benefits End Users
The end user will need to download the appropriate app for their phone; there’s a link on the Listen Technologies website for that. It’s free for all to use. Once the app is installed, the user will need to go the settings page on their device and select the installer named wireless network. Because you cleverly made a hardwired connection to the LAN, the users will still be able to get cell phone calls, look at Facebook, or whatever other internet related activities they desire. Once the user opens the app, they simply “flick” through the choices to select which is of interest.
Why the Ruckus WAP? For one thing, it’s well made. And by standardizing the WAP, Listen Technologies minimizes tech support time.
Listen Technologies offers several ListenWifi kits with all required items in one box, sized to support 4, 12, or 24 stereo programs. If you’re feeding off a television display, you may need an aftermarket digital to analog convertor; since the ATSC format supports Dolby Digital, you may want to consider the more expensive variety of those converters that decode to two channel sound. Of course, knowing what the source output type is before quoting is always prudent.
Besides health clubs, the ListenWifi system could be deployed anywhere there might be multiple displays showing different content. Suggestions include sports bars, college campuses, airports, and more.