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MIT’s new method of radio transmission could one day make wireless VR a reality
| 31. March, 2017

VR is the Buzz word for this year, every technology company clambering to get their headset out on to the market. Much of the market needs to catch-up though, the power of home computing needs to improve and removing the inevitable extra cabling and wires that come with current headsets. Luckily this article is about the future technology of VR headsets, see what we can expect as this technology grows.

If you want to use one of today’s major VR headsets, whether the Oculus Rift, the HTC Vive, or the PS VR, you have to accept the fact that there will be an illusion-shattering cable that tethers you to the small supercomputer that’s powering your virtual world.

But researchers from MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) may have a solution in MoVr, a wireless virtual reality system. Instead of using Wi-Fi or Bluetooth to transmit data, the research team’s MoVR system uses high-frequency millimeter wave radio to stream data from a computer to a headset wirelessly at dramatically faster speeds than traditional technology.

There have been a variety of approaches to solving this problem already. Smartphone-based headsets such as Google’s Daydream View and Samsung’s Gear VR allow for untethered VR by simply offloading the computational work directly to a phone inside the headset. Or the entire idea of VR backpacks, which allow for a more mobile VR experience by building a computer that’s more easily carried. But there are still a lot of limitations to either of these solutions.

THE MOVR PROTOTYPE SIDESTEPS TETHERED VR ISSUES

Latency is the whole reason a wireless solution hasn’t worked so far. VR is especially latency-sensitive, along with the huge bandwidth requirements that VR needs to display the level of high-resolution video required for virtual reality to work. But the MIT team claims that the millimeter wave signals can transmit fast enough to make a wireless VR headset feasible.

The issue with using millimeter wave technology is that the signal needs a direct line of sight, and fares poorly when it encounters any obstacles. MoVR gets around this by working as a programmable mirror that can direct the direction of the signal to the headset even while it’s moving to always make sure the signal is transmitting directly to the headset’s receivers.

For now, the MoVR is simply a prototype, with the team hoping to further shrink down the system to allow for multiple wireless headsets in one room without encountering signal interference. But even as a proof-of-concept, it’s an interesting perspective on how virtual reality could one day work.

Communication: What You May Be Doing Wrong Without Even Realizing
| 27. March, 2017

Communication is the key to any business being successful, but communication comes in lots of different forms, understanding the right and proper way of communicating will see you through in your career very well. This article is a very good overview of what communication can mean to you.

As a professional, you certainly know the importance of effective communication. Being an effective communicator is not only about the message, it’s also about the mode of communication and the opportunities you provide for feedback.

Your inability to get the point across thwarts your efforts at effective communication. You can’t just send out a company-wide email and assume everything is copacetic if no one replies. The truth may be that you were ineffective as a communicator, and people didn’t understand—or even pay attention—to your message.

There are some things you might be doing to undermine your effectiveness as a communicator, and you may not even know you’re doing them. Here are some communication pitfalls you should try to avoid:

Over-Communicating

You’re not an effective communicator if you just repeat the same message over and over. If you want to remind your employees about an important deadline, sending out a single reminder would be appropriate. Sending out multiple reminders, however, is overkill—and possibly even an insult to your employees’ ability to remember information. Redundancy in your messages is not only unnecessary, but it’s also counterproductive and a waste of time—for you and your employees. Whenever you send out communication on an ongoing subject, make sure it offers added information and is not merely a reiteration of the material you already shared.

Relying Too Much on One Channel (Or the Wrong Channel)

Today’s technology makes it possible to communicate in many different ways. While it’s easy to do, you shouldn’t get stuck in one particular communication mode. There are so many digital communication channels that work really well these days. Email is a popular tactic and can work well, but people are inundated with email today and often suffer from “in-box overload.” So, you may want to consider using a combination of tactics for impactful news, such as the announcement of a merger or a high-level addition to the company management.

Consider a web-based meeting when you really want to make an impact. According to “The Evolution of Work—The Changing Nature of the Global Workplace,” a study by ADP Research Institute®, nearly 80 percent of employees regard technology positively for allowing deeper connections across distance and time. It just makes sense to consider other forms of digital communication, such as mobile apps or an internal company website.

Being Indirect

Nobody likes to be the bearer of bad news, but it doesn’t help the situation to be vague or unclear. You should try to deliver important news in person—and the more complicated or easily misunderstood the message is likely to be, the more it makes sense for you to sit down across from the person—or team—to convey the message. A direct, in-person approach adds an important component to your communication: The ability to observe others’ facial expressions and body language, which allows you to ensure your message has been understood.

Ignoring Nonverbal Cues

If you listen only to a person words and ignore their nonverbal cues your direct communication may not be successful. Research conducted by Dr. Albert Mehrabian indicates that 55 percent of our intent is delivered through nonverbal elements, such as facial expressions, gestures, and postures. If employees seem to express agreement with a new policy, non verbal cues such as hunched shoulders, crossed arms, and lack of eye contact may indicate that you still have some work to do in order to get buy-in from your team.

Not Being Open

Secrecy in the workplace often erodes trust in leadership and foments gossip. By being more transparent in your communication, you foster a sense of belonging and trust. Knowledge replaces speculation, and can help reduce gossip and rumors.

Not Listening

Remember—communication is a two-way street. Soliciting feedback is one of the greatest ways for you to know what employees are truly thinking. If you want to improve your communication skills, heed this advice: Speak less, listen more. After you’ve had the opportunity to listen, you can fine-tune your communication skills to be more effective than before.

NFL investigating Giants for using two-way radio during game against Cowboys
| 17. March, 2017

Apparently using a two way radio during an American football game is frowned upon over in the good old US of A, This article is about a game between the Giants and the Cowboys. During a Game the coaching staff and Quarterback are not allowed to communicate if there is 15 seconds or less on the clock, this rule might have been broken with the use of a walkie talkie.

The NFL is investigating the Giants’ potentially rule-breaking use of a two-way radio during the team’s recent 10-7 win over the Dallas Cowboys.

The use of a two-way radio by a coach during a game is strictly against league rules, according to ESPN.

In the fourth quarter of the Cowboys game, Giants head coach Ben McAdoo was spotted using a walkie-talkie to communicate play calls with Eli Manning after his headset malfunctioned.

In the fourth quarter of the game, Giants head coach Ben McAdoo was spotted using a walkie-talkie to communicate play calls with Eli Manning after his headset malfunctioned.

The Cowboys issued a formal complaint to the league over the radio use, but the NFL’s investigation was already underway by the time Dallas contacted them.

The NFL has a rule against coaches using two-way handheld radios because the league cannot control when both parties are communicating.

A coach using a walkie-talkie makes it harder for the NFL to monitor a league rule that states communication from the sideline to the quarterback must end when 15 seconds are left on the play clock.

With headsets, the NFL has the power to shut off communication at will with a “cutoff switch operator,” ESPN reported.

The Giants had no comment when reached Thursday night.

McAdoo used the walkie talkie in question, however, for about four or five plays on the Giants’ fourth-quarter drive that ended in an Eli Manning interception on a pass intended for Victor Cruz.

McAdoo’s normal equipment malfunctioned and as the Giants worked to fix it, the coach was handed the walkie talkie temporarily because its signal was reaching Manning’s helmet.

As the Giants worked to correct McAdoo’s equipment, Odell Beckham Jr. could be seen running to the sideline to bring plays back to the huddle and Manning was heading over to the sideline, as well.

There is no evidence in reviewing the game film that demonstrates McAdoo was on the walkie talkie for longer than the allowed 15 seconds of communication with his quarterback.

There is also, of course, no evidence that the Giants gained any advantage even if he was. The drive ended in a turnover and the Giants’ offense stunk most of the night.

Offering workers hearing protection options
| 15. March, 2017

Much Like Protecting your sight or looking after your health, your hearing should also be protected, this article tackles hearing protection within the workplace and what type of earplugs are best, Enjoy.

OSHA regulations dictate we offer a “variety” of hearing protectors to noise-exposed workers. What is best practice for providing a variety while keeping inventory to a minimum?

Per CFR 1910.95(i)(3), “Employees shall be given the opportunity to select their hearing protectors from a variety of suitable hearing protectors provided by the employer.” But does “variety of suitable hearing protectors” mean two or 10, earplugs or earmuffs, different colors or different sizes?

The wrong approach is to choose a variety based on factors that have no effect on protecting hearing, including the published noise reduction rating. Some safety managers offer several different large foam earplugs that are yellow, green and orange – mistakenly assuming they meet the “variety” requirement and not realizing that a significant portion of their workforce will never achieve an adequate fit with a large foam earplug. In those cases, their supposed “variety” actually limits the number of workers adequately protected.

This bad assumption is often codified into company safety policies that require a minimum NRR: “Approved hearing protectors must have an NRR of at least 32 decibels,” or similar criteria. By definition, that typically means a large foam earplug. Despite the higher NRR based on 10 laboratory test subjects, workers with smaller ear canals will never achieve an adequate fit with those large foam earplugs to stop noise-induced hearing loss.

What are the factors that affect good fit of an earplug?

  • Size: Like a cork in a bottle, an earplug that is too large or too small will never achieve an acoustic seal to protect hearing. Offering a variety of sizes significantly improves the percentage of employees obtaining a good fit.
  • Shape: Ear canal openings may appear round, oval or slit. A foam earplug often fills an oval or slit opening better than pre-molded earplugs.
  • Ease of insertion: Some workers have difficulty rolling or inserting foam earplugs due to lack of mobility. For these workers, an earplug with a stem may be easier to insert.

Based on thousands of fit tests administered to workers in the field, the following four earplug styles provide a selection that would adequately protect nearly every worker:

  • Large foam earplug
  • Smaller foam earplug
  • Large reusable earplug
  • Smaller reusable earplug

The good news is that offering a variety does not necessarily increase cost. Buying 1,000 earplugs of one style or 250 earplugs of four different styles is fairly equivalent in cost. But the bigger variety significantly increases the probability that more workers will be adequately protected.

Many worksites adjust their inventory based on results of their fit-testing of hearing protectors. By reviewing which earplugs repeatedly provide the best fit, these companies identify the gaps or duplications in their offering and can adjust accordingly. Sometimes, this means adding a smaller-size earplug, but many times companies find they can remove some less-effective earplugs from their inventory. It’s not necessary to carry a dozen different earplug styles.

Finally, any offering of hearing protection needs a hands-on training component. How can a workers determine whether their ear canal is large or small, round or oval? It’s impossible to view your own ear canal opening in a mirror. A quick glance by a safety trainer can be of tremendous benefit in helping workers select the right earplug the first time.

Sepura Contributes to Success of World’s First Cross-border TETRA System
| 16. February, 2017

We take it for granted that when we move around the country our mobile phones connect to the nearest mast, or we go abroad and our phones automatically connect to the network, with tetra, this is not as easy, but this article is about a test that Sepura completed connecting two TETRA networks in Norway and Sweden, interesting stuff.

Sepura radios have successfully participated in interoperability trials for the world’s first cross-border TETRA communication system, linking RAKEL and Nødnett, Sweden and Norway’s public safety networks.

More than 350 first responders were involved in the trials, which took place in Meråker, close to the Swedish border, in a crisis response exercise involving public safety users from both countries.

The cross-border system utilises TETRA Inter-System Interface (ISI) functionality to connect networks together, effectively allowing users to roam to another network. This allows first responders to use their radios in both countries – vital for smooth collaboration in emergency situations.

The initiative to strengthen co-operation between national emergency services started in 2013 with the EU-funded Inter-System Interoperability project, designed to improve the ability to respond to natural disasters and security threats. The RAKEL and Nødnett networks are scheduled to be ready for bi-national operational use in early 2017.

Sepura’s STP9000 hand-portable radios and SRG3900 mobile radios were used by both Swedish and Norwegian emergency services during the exercise, although all Sepura radios – including the new flagship SC20 range – meet the technical requirements of the ISI system.

“This is one of the most advanced multinational radio communication projects in Europe,” said Tariq Haque, Product Manager for Sepura.

“After two years’ development, bi-national interoperability has become a reality, bringing cross-border mission critical communications to Sweden and Norway.

“We are extremely pleased to have played a part in this ground-breaking event.”

Source – http://www.tetra-applications.com/33643/news/sepura-contributes-to-success-of-world-s-first-cross-border-tetra-system

The arrival of 5G, cognitive radio and the future of connectivity
| 12. February, 2017

We are very excited about 5G, we have already reported on how the UK emergency services are moving over to a LTE network, and inevitably 5G is the next step for better, faster and more capable communications.  Not planned to be deployed until the next decade, we believe that 5G will allow us to communicate better with our Walkie talkies. The original article can be found here.

With faster and more reliable connections, we look at what the next generation of communications could mean for business

From smart cities to the internet of things (IoT), virtually every aspect of the modern world is becoming closely connected.

The extent to which we rely on our devices and the exchange of information means new systems are needed that not only handle far greater bandwidth, but that are capable of being deployed to cover areas that were previously unreachable.

The potential benefits for business are huge, with faster and more reliable connectivity not only enhancing how firms interact with customers and each other, but also lending itself to greater flexible working among staff.

The arrival of 5G

One development that many industry observers believe could be revolutionary is 5G. Following on from 4G, the fifth-generation mobile network is in its early stages of development and is expected to be rolled out between 2020–25.

Any tech that contributes towards the next phase of mobile connectivity is covered by the term 5G. And although there are still no set standards or specifications, the GSMA – a trade body that represents global mobile operators – has outlined eight key criteria, stipulating minimum requirements for speed, capacity and energy in order for something to be considered 5G.

According to Ofcom, once operational 5G could provide between 10–50 Gbps (gigabit per seconds) in download speeds (as compared to the 5–12 Gbps of 4G), and although most experts expect it to be at the lower end of the range, that would still mean you could download an HD movie in seconds.

But rather than simply being faster than the current 4G, it will also allow more devices to access the web – an essential requirement if the IoT is to take off – meaning it could be transformative for business.

Raj Sivalingam, executive director of telecoms for techUK, the trade association for the tech sector, says: “The potential of the IoT, particularly in the enterprise environment, has been hugely debated but its impact is almost certainly still undervalued.

“Mass deployment across sectors will boost efficiency and safety with pre-emptive fault correction; enable automatic reporting of accidents and allow real-time asset tracking, reducing crime and increasing productivity, to name just a few benefits.”

One potential bottleneck for 5G is spectrum availability – or lack of it. Radio frequencies for both 3G and 4G are already overcrowded. The provision of a new bandwidth will require widespread cooperation between operators, manufacturers and governments.

Infrastructure is also an issue, says Sivalingam. “Making the leap to 5G mobile services and getting more fibre into the fixed telecommunications networks will require substantial amounts of investment.

“We need the government and industry stakeholders to work to shift the UK from good levels of connectivity to great levels so that we continue to attract investors and startups, and to foster innovation from within the UK.”

Cognitive radio

One possible solution is cognitive radio. An adaptive radio and network technology, it can sense and respond to its operating environment and automatically tune itself to the best available frequencies, this makes it more reliable in extreme locations where signals are weak, potentially providing dependable, robust connections that are not hampered by interference or geography.

Finland-based KNL Networks has developed a system using the technology that uses short wave radio to transmit internet access to sites in remote locations ranging from oil rigs to polar research stations. KNL Networks CEO Toni Linden says: “We can provide similar connectivity to those from satellites but with a terrestrial radio system. Our radios receive the whole spectrum all the time, so rather than scanning, real-time broadband receiving is going on. Thus we can see and measure everything that’s going on in the spectrum and we can maintain the network connectivity that way.”

The tech opens up the possibility of providing seamless connectivity anywhere, giving business reliable online access to markets in parts of the world that have otherwise been unreachable. It could also enable media and other companies to broadcast without the need for expensive satellites.

Quantum key distribution

It’s not just data transmission, speeds and connectivity that pose challenges in the future, but the safety of that data too. Cybercrime is ranked alongside terrorism as among the most serious threats to the UK [pdf], and with data now the lifeblood of modern business, securing that data is of paramount concern. One technology that could provide the answer is quantum communications.

Conventional encryption relies on sending a decryption key alongside your secret data. The receiver then uses that key to decode your secret information. But problems arise because hackers can also copy this key and steal your data.

Quantum key distribution (QKD) is different because it encodes this key on light particles called photons, and an underlying principle of quantum mechanics means that a hacker trying to read or copy such a key would automatically alter its state, effectively leaving a hacker fingerprint so the sender and receiver know their information security had been breached.

China recently launched a quantum satellite to further research into this technology, with the hope of developing an uncrackable communications network.

In the UK, the Quantum Communications Hub is part of a national network of four hubs led by the universities of Birmingham, Glasgow, Oxford and York. Director Tim Spiller says: “We are developing quantum communications technologies along a number of different directions, notably short-range free space QKD, where the transmitter could be in future mobile phones, and chip-to-chip QKD through optical fibre, where the chips could be in future computers and other devices.”

With two thirds of British business falling victim to cybercrime in the past year the need for better encryption is clear.

Several companies currently offer commercial quantum key distribution systems include ID Quantique, MagiQ Technologies, QuintessenceLabs, SeQureNet and Toshiba, although its high cost and limited range means mainly banks and governments are its main users, with mainstream adoption still some way off.

Spiller added: “Certainly it would be desirable to improve the size, weight, power and cost points of current technologies and our work in the hub and elsewhere is addressing all these factors.”

Paul Lee, head of technology, media, and telecommunications research at Deloitte, highlighted a number of improvements which he expected to see coming down the line, including improved mobile antennae and base stations, as well as improvements to fixed networks such as G.fast that would enable copper cable to operate at much higher speeds.

“As they get steadily faster, new services emerge to exploit these greater speeds, which then requires the deployment of even faster networks. This tail chasing has been going on for decades and won’t stop in 2017.”

AXUM: THE FUTURE OF WIRELESS AUDIO
| 7. January, 2017

This article is the transcript of an interview with Igal Golva, CEO of Axum earphones, wireless earphones with secure fittings, designed for people doing exercise. A really interesting article about why these earphones are different to others on the market and what their plans are for the future of the company.

Mobile audio has always been a difficult balancing act. The need for great audio on the go has never been more prevalent. With smartphones now a staple for most people’s daily commute, exercise and fitness, the need for an audio solution that can be portable while still sounding good is the holy grail.

Apple, with the iPhone 7 has also forced people’s hands. The headphones they used to use are no longer as easy to pull out and plug in without the use of a dongle. This is where Bluetooth audio options come into play, and where the Axum wireless headphones are planning to make a splash. Currently on Indiegogo, the Axum are aiming to give people great audio, while ensuring they maintain that mobile, ultraportable feel. Currently at 528% funded, the Axum is proving to be a product many people want to get their hands on. We had a chance to talk to Igal Golvan, CEO at Axum, about what the headphones can do for audio and fitness and how they hope to change the way people view Bluetooth audio.

Axum: The Future of Wireless Audio 1

CGMagazine: Could you tell us a little about what Axum does and how these new headphones stand above the competition?

Igal Golvan: First of all, we not only offer four hours playtime (while others offer 1.5-2 hours) you can also get an additional four with the portable charging case. We achieved it by eliminating any unnecessary features. We are aiming to reach fitness junkies like us that need three things: fit, sound and battery life.

Our designers made a unique design that will fit you during the most extreme sport activities. In the last months all we did was test the earphones in every sport activity you can imagine .This included cycling, running, CrossFit , snowboarding and even sky diving .

The issue with True Wireless Earbuds is that all our competitors see this product as the latest technology in the headphones industry and as such they’ve aimed the technology at early adopters. Unlike them we understand the real potential of the product to become the mainstream earbuds of athletes, as the lack of cables is something so comfortable no one can even imagine, only when doing sport activities and listening to Axum earphones will you really understand the definition of freedom!

Axum: The Future of Wireless Audio 2

CGM: Could you go over what M-voiD® sound technology brings to the table?

IG: Sure. M-voiD stands for Multidisciplinary virtually optimized industrial Design. It’s a technology for the realistic simulation of audio systems using CAD data. It is a sophisticated technology that paves the way to reproduce outstanding sound performance to let consumers discover that earphones deliver the emotions and excitement comparable with a concert.

Realistic and predictive simulations by means of a fully coupled multiphysical electrical-mechanical-acoustical simulation model are the heart and driving backbone of M-voiD® technology. The major advantage of M-voiD® is that acoustic problems can be identified and resolved in the virtual domain before any prototype is being built.

Sound characteristics are virtually measurable and assessable and can be optimized on the virtual model. It is not just limited to the graphical reproduction. M-voiD® listens to the virtual sound of the earphone already on the computer by means of a special reproduction technique (called auralization), enabling improved sound. Bottom line, while even the largest companies out there can test 100 or maybe 10,000 prototypes to check and improve the sound quality before releasing the final product, we had the ability to test sound quality from over 10 million prototypes.

Besides that, Konzept-X also helped us with the driver design itself to maximize the results after we’ve changed the internal design.

Axum: The Future of Wireless Audio 3

CGM: With your Indigogo doing so well, do you foresee this will delay the final release?

IG: Exactly the opposite. We planned to wait until the funding period is over to head into mass production, but now that we understand the demand we’ll start doing it ASAP.

CGM: Why the choice to go with Indigogo over an option such as Kickstarter?

IG: We thought about KS, however the Indiegogo team was much more supportive and offered lots of relevant information on how to succeed with crowdfunding . We are product people and don’t understand crowdfunding, so a supportive team was something very important for us.

CGM: Do you plan to offer a retail version of these headphones?

IG: Of course, but first we’ll ship everything to our backers and then we’ll think about retail.

CGM: For the gamer on the go, will these offer anything beyond what is already in the wild?

IG: The perfect fit of Axum earbuds is something like you’ve never experienced before, you can see the bulky design of other brands such as Samsung and Motorola The last thing you want to do is wear those gigantic things all day long.

Axum: The Future of Wireless Audio 4

CGM: How do you think these headphones will do with the fitness crowd beyond just the music listener?

IG: We believe that beside the sound quality, the fit and comfort is something they’ll be addicted to. We noticed the reaction of the people while testing them out in the gym and we guarantee that once you try Axum earbuds you’ll never be able to use wires again!

CGM: Are there any obstacles you will need to overcome to bring these to market?

IG: Yes, there are many obstacles of unawareness from the customers. Many people are not familiar with this concept and think of it as a regular mono Bluetooth ear piece, so we are heading to a long journey of explaining our product and turning it into mainstream.

Axum: The Future of Wireless Audio 5

CGM: How do you feel these headphones will do with a crowded market? What sets Axum apart?

IG: We have full confidence in our product. First of all we know 100% that no matter how good your BT earbuds are, if they are not True Wireless they can’t compete with us. As for other True Wireless companies out there, based on their design they’ve never thought about athletes as their potential customers and it’s a shame as this concept is perfect for fitness and exercising. So we already have a huge advantage on them.

What exactly is a walkie talkie headset
| 24. December, 2016

A Walkie Talkie is a handheld receiver or portable radio. Walkie talkies come in a pair and they communicate quietly with one another using radio waves, on a single shared frequency band.

Almost all of us grew up with walkie talkies. As children, and especially before the age of mobile phones and technology, we all had a pair and played with them in our gardens.

Walkie talkies have made a comeback. Or maybe they never really went out of style but now they’re sophisticated.

Each unit is battery powered and has an antenna for sending and receiving radio wave message. There is a transmitter / receiver and a loudspeaker. The loudspeaker doubles up as a microphone. There is a button that you push to talk, pretty much the same way that an intercom works. Some more sophisticated walkie talkies have separate loudspeakers and microphones; it just depends on what you need the walkie talkie for.

Walkie Talkies with noise cancelling headsets

Technology has changed so much and become so much more sophisticated. In the old days, think of the crackles that came with walkie talkies. It was often very difficult to hear what the other person was saying. But a will reduce or remove any unwanted sounds by using active noise control. Note that this is very different from passive headphones which use technique such as soundproofing. Noise cancelling is not soundproofing.

Our worlds are busy and we become bombarded and overwhelmed by everything around us. We need to listen to some things, but we want to cut out others. Noise Cancelling allows us to do this, while still allowing us to listen to the things we want to listen to at the volume we want them.

Pros of a walkie talkie headset?

Remember when we used to listen to music really loud so we could block out all the other external noise? You don’t need to do this anymore. walkie talkie headsets will block out most excess or excessive sound, or the ones you want blocked out anyway. You can now listen to your music at the volume you want, which does not need to be crazy, and the other external sounds (baby crying, man snoring next to you) will be blocked out anyway. Finally, you can listen to and enjoy music in the way you want to enjoy it, at a natural volume. You can hear the fabulous music, have a rich listening experience, and still not be disturbed by chatter around you.

Noise cancelling headphones are fabulous for when you travel or commute. You may be the kind of person who gets on a plane and train and chats to everyone around you. But you may be more solitary and want to sit down and zone out. You can do this easily with a walkie talkie headset. The beauty is that on a plane you won’t hear the noise of the aircraft or its passengers, but you will still hear the safety announcements.

It’s really easy to work in a noisy environment with noise cancelling headphones. You can focus easily without being disturbed and can make use of any space, productively. You can even go and study your history while at a party or in a restaurant. It is also a good idea to use them at home, while studying for exams or so; they cut out the excess noise and you can focus totally on your work.

Students used to turn up the volume of their earphones in order to cut out the outside world’. But with a walkie talkie headset they are finding it is easier to study when music is at a lower volume and when the outside distractions have been eliminated.

Cons to noise cancelling headphones?

There are always cons to everything. Some parents may say they would prefer no headphones at all. They like their children to be available and to engage more and talk more, but we know this is the way of the world. Everyone uses headphones; parents included/ Use them in moderation of course, but still be sociable and take time out in the day, be headphone free, and engage.

Noise cancelling headphones are not very cheap and are in fact possibly even ten times more expensive than ordinary headphones. However, like anything that costs money, they will last for a long time and are super reliable. They may cost more money but will ultimately give a much better noise-free experience.

Lots of research has gone into the design of these special noise cancelling headphones. Each set consists of inner components that cancel out the disturbing external sounds. Ordinary headphones do not have these components, i.e., you cannot cut out the outside sounds. It is quite obvious then, why noise cancelling headphones are more expensive.

These internal components also use up a lot of power. The power can come from internal replaceable batteries or they can be rechargeable. The walkie talkie headset that carry their own power supply means they are heavier than ordinary headphones. Not all sets carry their own power supply. The ones that are rechargeable are lighter, but they can drain the devices they need to plug into for power.

The quality of sound when using a noise cancelling walkie talkie headset can be compromised. It is unusual though and it is only the most sensitive of ears that would pick this up. There have been very few complaints of a tinny almost mechanical sound, but these complaints are few and far between.

Not all sounds are blocked out by a walkie talkie headset, although we did mention this under pros as well. It is never possible to cancel out all external sounds, but we still need to be able to hear police sirens, pilot announcements or the high pitched screaming of your next door neighbor. All every day external sounds though are muffled and definitely much quieter, and the sounds that you don’t need to hear, are gone.

Ericsson first to deliver 5G NR radio
| 20. December, 2016

We are seeing a new era in communications at the moment, the move from tetra and RF to the mobile network. The uk’s emergency services will be moved over to EE’s ESN system slowly until 2020 using Motorola kit designed particularly for the technology. The natural evolution is 5G, which we won’t see for many years, but Ericsson have taken the baton and are running with it.

  • World’s first commercial 5G New Radio (NR) radio for massive MIMO and Multi-user MIMO coming in 2017
  • New additions to Ericsson Radio System address key requirements of 5G, in today’s networks
  • Pioneering Industrialized Network Rollout Services solution facilitates complete rollout from configuration to verification in a single visit

Ericsson (NASDAQ:ERIC) is commercializing the world’s first 5G NR radio for massive MIMO, with the first deployments coming in 2017. Together with the Ericsson 5G Plug-Ins announced in June and Ericsson’s already commercially available Radio System Baseband 5216, which currently powers Ericsson’s award-winning Radio Test Bed, Ericsson is first to deliver all components of a 5G access network.

Tom Keathley, senior vice president, Wireless Network Architecture and Design, AT&T, says: “As we accelerate toward 5G, it’s beneficial to have a flexible radio platform that can be deployed not only for LTE, but also versions of future 5G NR standards.”

AIR 6468 combines advanced antennas with a large number of steerable ports to enable 5G technologies of beamforming, Massive MIMO and — building on that — Multi-user MIMO, initialized as MU-MIMO. These capabilities improve user experience while enhancing the capacity and coverage of the network and reducing interference. The new radio provides LTE support as well, so it is applicable in today’s networks.

Huang Yuhong, Deputy Head, China Mobile Research Institute (CMRI), says: “Massive-MIMO, also known as 3D MIMO, is an important milestone in China Mobile’s technology roadmap from 4G to 5G. We are very happy that Ericsson’s new radio product is coming to market soon to meet our needs and enable us to integrate 5G technologies into our existing networks.”

A host of new additions to the Ericsson Radio System are also coming that address key 5G requirements, in today’s networks.

Daniel Staub, Head of Joint Mobile Group, Swisscom, says: “On the road to 5G, we will continue to invest in LTE advancements that will become part of our 5G networks. For us, it is key that Ericsson has chosen to focus on advances that will support us in this evolution. These enhancements will further improve the customer experience.”

Additional new Ericsson Radio System gear addresses 5G concepts

  • Three new radios support Gigabit speeds for LTE and provide further flexibility in design: Radio 4407 and Radio 4412 enable 4×4 MIMO in one radio unit for FDD and TDD mode respectively, and Radio 8808 for advanced TDD beamforming applications
  • Addressing both the need for unlicensed spectrum options and the growing emphasis on small cells is the Radio 2205, a micro solution on unlicensed spectrum that is fully integrated in Ericsson Radio System, using the same baseband and network management
  • Two new baseband units support the growing need for densification: the outdoor micro Baseband 6502 and macro Baseband 6303 with Ericsson Rail System mounting for flexible site builds
  • Addressing interference issues in dense builds, Baseband P614 enables new band activation on challenging sites by mitigating Passive Inter Modulation, referred to as PIM mitigation, from static and dynamic sources both inside and outside the antenna system
  • Spectrum optimization is a growing need and Uplink Spectrum Analyzer is an Ericsson-unique software solution to remotely identify external interference without the need for costly measurement equipment and site visits
  • Exclusive to Ericsson is instant power sharing, used in the wideband Radio 2242. This capability allows power to be instantly shared between carriers, standards and bands, optimizing the use of radio resources
  • Cloud RAN will be an important 5G network architecture and Baseband C608 provides high-performance switching in Elastic RAN deployments

Peter Jarich, Vice President, Consumer and Infrastructure Services, Current Analysis, says: “Mobile operators, today, are clearly focused on the race to 5G commercialization, while also continuing to invest in their existing LTE networks. With a new 5G radio and LTE offerings which echo key 5G concepts – small cells, licensed-unlicensed band combinations, Cloud RAN, network densification, spectrum optimization – Ericsson’s new portfolio additions and Ericsson Radio System innovations provide a compelling way forward.”

To support new network builds, Ericsson has created the industry’s first Industrialized Network Rollout Services solution. The Network Deployment Delivery Platform coupled with Ericsson’s pioneering process facilitates the complete configuration, installation, integration, shakedown and handover of a fully verified site, ready in a single site visit.

Arun Bansal, Head of Business Unit Network Products, Ericsson, says: “Ericsson has driven innovation in every generation of mobile technology and now we are set to over-deliver on an aggressive promise. We are introducing the new hardware that 5G Plug-Ins, announced in June, will run on, so that the first operators can start to deploy 5G infrastructure.  And, we are also launching innovations that improve both the performance and efficiency of today’s networks using concepts that will evolve into 5G.”

We found this news story on the Communication news website

DJs Shouldn’t Have to Live With Constant Ringing in Their Ears
| 20. December, 2016

When you think about DJs you don’t worry about their hearing, but this is a real issue in the music world, they seem to be slow in picking up this issue, probably because the industry can be full of bedroom DJs, that don’t consider hearing protection. As the article below says, it interferes with the mixing. This article was originally published on THUMP Canada. 

I’m waiting to get my hearing tested and I’m scared. Most of my work as a music journalist, along with my social life, has revolved around loud music for more than two decades. While I often wear cheap foam earplugs, I haven’t been as consistent as I should have been, and I’m particularly worried about is the damage I’ve done while DJing.

I was never a famous touring DJ, but spent many years playing long shifts on a weekly basis at Toronto bars, sprinkled with occasional club and warehouse party gigs on larger sound systems. I’ve never worn any hearing protection in the booth, as I found earplugs interfered too much with mixing. Gradually I’ve noticed that I’ve been turning up the monitors over the course of a long night, and the ringing in my ears was taking longer and longer to fade away after each gig. A few years ago, I started to realize I was having trouble keeping up with conversations in situations where there was a lot of background noise.

Then one day that familiar ringing never stopped.

Even though hearing loss caused by loud music is a well-known reality, most working artists view it as an issue they’ll deal with when they’re retired, not aware of the fact that it can often impact artists at the height of their careers.

“I would go home after a gig and my ears would be ringing really badly, and then one day I noticed that they never stopped ringing anymore,” says Toronto house DJ and producer Sydney Blu, who’s been playing regularly since 2000. “Not long after that, I noticed that whenever I’m in a nightclub and someone talks to me in my right ear, I have to stop them and put my left ear to their mouth.”

She eventually got herself fitted for custom musician earplugs, but found she could never get used to DJing while wearing them. Instead, Blu just tries to keep her monitors as quiet as possible, and turns them down completely in-between mixes. “Most of the older DJs that I know all have tinnitus. I wish I had thought about it earlier, and realized how bad it could get.”

There is no way to reverse tinnitus currently, and the treatment options for hearing loss are still in their infancy. For busy DJs who are constantly touring and playing festivals around the world, many don’t notice the ringing in their ears getting worse until it’s too late.

“I think it’s rife in the DJ field,” says NYC house music veteran Roger Sanchez. “A lot of people have tinnitus and they haven’t even identified it. They’re just so accustomed to their ears ringing, and they think it’s just because of their gig the night before. But if you’re playing three or four times a week, your exposure is almost constant. Then when they step back, they realize they have tinnitus.”

Sanchez has been performing for 36 years, and started to experience permanent ringing towards the end of the 90s. Like Blu, he got himself fitted for custom earplugs, and feels they’ve saved him from further damage. However, he admits there was a learning curve when it came to mixing while wearing hearing protection.

“In the beginning, I felt like I couldn’t hear things clearly. It was like someone had put their hands over my ears. It took me a while to acclimate, but what I started noticing was that I could turn my monitors up, but it didn’t sound piercing any more. I also had them put bass bins in a lot of booths, which helped compensate.”

Sanchez says that it’s become much more common in recent years for big name DJs to wear custom earplugs while performing. He finally got tested properly in 2010, and found there was a significant dip in upper range of his hearing around the 800hz range, but was relieved that the loss wasn’t worse. The persistent ringing in his ears is still there though.

“Right now I hear the ringing, but I’ve just become accustomed to it. I don’t notice it when I’m walking on the street, or if I’m not paying attention to it, but the second I quiet everything down, the ringing starts. It’s not too loud, thank god. I think using the filters prevented it from getting to that level. I know some people who have it very loud.”

Custom musician earplugs can cost more than $200, but they’re one of the few options for DJs who need to be able to accurately hear the effect of their EQ tweaks and filtering. The cheap disposable earplugs you can buy at the drugstore will protect your ears the same amount, but change the sound so much that few performers use them.

“A cheap foam earplug might bring the sound down by 25db at one frequency, and 10db at another,” explains Adam Rhodes, the US director of hearing protection company ACS Custom. “They muffle the sound, because it’s not a true response. You can’t hear anything, it takes away the enjoyment of the experience, so you just end up taking them out. When you’ve got the right filter though, you’re not sacrificing the quality at all: you’re just turning it down.”

ACS works with many of the biggest names in electronic music, from Tiesto to Zedd to Deadmau5. Rhodes says that there’s much more awareness of the issue now, although too often artists come to them after they’ve already done permanent damage. “Pretty much every week we hear someone say they wish they’d heard about this ten years ago. We hear that often,” he says. “I think it’s all about education. We’re at a festival every weekend in the summers, trying to make it as accessible to them as possible.”

Many touring musicians have switched to in-ear monitors in recent years, which block out external sounds, while amplifying what they need to hear. In the electronic music world however, they are far less common, as they require DJs to completely rethink their approach to mixing.

“In-ear monitors haven’t always worked for DJs,” admits Rhodes. “They like to wear the cans over their ears, so they can take them off, and do a mix with one ear covered. There are some DJs who use them though, like Deadmau5. We have one model now that have ambient microphones built in, so that they can still hear the mix. That’s kind of the next level, but it’s still hard to persuade DJs to use them. They’re so used to wearing headphones and it’s almost part of their outfit when they’re performing.”

One artist who has transitioned to in-ear monitors is Dutch DJ and producer Laidback Luke. He started wearing custom earplugs in the early 2000s, after becoming concerned about tinnitus and a growing lack of sensitivity to loud volume levels. Around 2008, he decided to give in-ear monitors a try and has used them ever since.

“I just wasn’t getting the definition I was looking for in DJ monitors. We tried the in-ear monitoring, and I was so happy with the clarity. Even in big halls with lots of reverb, my monitoring would always stay the same,” he says. “It was a revelation to me. I could keep the volume low, and still hear every little detail in the song. I couldn’t hear the crowd anymore, but that just made me work harder to get applause.” It wasn’t until three years ago that he finally got up the courage to get his hearing tested.

Thankfully, it turns out that his early adoption of ear protection had a huge impact, and the results were completely normal. Even the constant ringing and beeping that panicked him early in his career has subsided.

My own ringing isn’t nearly as bad as it was a year ago, but it sure seems loud in the complete silence of the soundproof booth in the downtown Toronto clinic where my hearing is being assessed. I struggle to hear the tones, but feel optimistic that I’m able to notice some of the very high-pitched signals they’re feeding me. However, I’m also noticing that there are long pauses during where I probably should be hearing something.

“Do you work with heavy machinery?” the doctor asks me as he looks at my results, which makes my heart skip a beat. When I explain that I’m around loud music constantly, he tells me that explains what the chart is telling him, and why the highest frequency range of my hearing is still decent.

“It’s not actually too bad. Your left ear has a dip at 1K, but it’s still within the normal range. Your right ear has a much larger dip though, at 4K. You should really get yourself a pair of custom musician earplugs.”

I leave his office feeling relief that my hearing isn’t worse, but embarrassed that it’s taken me this long to take it seriously. Thankfully, it’s not too late for me to stop things from getting worse.

Benjamin Boles is on Twitter.

LeBlanc: Protect your hearing it is irreplaceable
| 15. December, 2016

This is an excellent story about how hearing protection is sometimes be essential, and when you’re on the shooting range it has to be vital. But it is important to get the right set of headphones that will protect your hearing sufficiently. Lessons can be learnt from this excellent case study.

There is no doubt that we all take our senses of sight, smell, and hearing for granted as long as we are strong and healthy and everything is working well. When we are young we tend to believe that we are indestructible and readily adopt the idea that “it will never happen to me.” Consequently, we can develop some bad habits and be a little loose when it comes to preventative measures for almost anything.

I know because that was my attitude at thirty years old when my eye doctor made a comment in passing that my eyes were perfect, but the chances are I would be needing reading glasses by the time I was 50. I scoffed, but you could almost have set your watch by it because by the time I was in my late 40’s my arms started to get shorter when it came to reading, tying on fishing lures and other things that required scrutiny up close. At 50 I was wearing reading glasses.

Growing up I never bothered too much about wearing ear protection. When I was plinking it was with a .22 rifle that only put out a little noise if you were the shooter so the thought of hearing protections seemed ludicrous. When hunting I do not know if I have ever heard my firearm discharge and beside that unless I was dove hunting I seldom shot too many shots anyway.

The change of heart came when I started shooting on an indoor range, while in the Air Force. I noticed after shooting a few rounds with my .22 caliber, Ruger Single Six that my ears would ring for a while afterward. One night a grizzled old Master Sargent suggested I wear ear protectors or take a chance of damaging my hearing. I took the recommendation to heart and have been wearing them ever since. The result has been that after many years of shooting .22’s, large caliber handguns, rifles and shotguns my hearing is still intact and working well.

Shooting is not the only activity that can cause hearing problem as any loud noise can damage your hearing. The intense vibration caused by loud noises can injure or destroy the hair cells inside the cochlea, so they no longer function to transmit nerve impulses to the brain. If that happens, you will experience hearing changes.

Hearing protection is needed anytime one is exposed to sounds above 80 decibels (dB). Normal human conversation runs about 30 to 35 dB. At its peak level, the sound of a 12-gauge shotgun is about 140 dB. 9mm runs around 159 dB and a .38 special with a six-inch barrel is about 156 dB, a .22 LR pistol with the same length barrel 140, an M-16 is about 154, a .45 ACP pistol is 155, and a .357 Magnum revolver is 164. All of them are around double the safe sound level. Just to be on the safe side I used to wear muff type hearing protectors and usually ear plugs also when on the range.

For range use today there is an array of muff style hearing protectors. The new style that I now use have not only hearing protection, but also hearing enhancement. The controls on each ear can be tuned to match your individual optimum hearing and increase the volume up to eight times normal. So when the range master gives a command or when you are speaking with a companion on the shooting line you can speak in a normal voice and hear them as well or better than without the power muffs. Yet when you shoot the sound activated compression circuit reduces the sound from the shot to a noise reduction rate of 24dB.

This is very important on a shooting range because I have missed range commands in the past from the range master simply because I could not hear them through my hearing protection.

The new muffs I use are from Walker’s but they offer many other styles in their Game Ear series. These are unlike the muff style protectors as the bulk of the unit fits behind your ear with an earpiece that fits inside your ear, the unit weighs less than one fourth of an ounce and can be used with or without glasses. These too can be fine-tuned to your specific hearing, allow you to turn the volume up to magnify sounds from five to seven times and still reduce the sound of the shots to a rating of 29dB.

The ability to custom tune the devise to your hearing as well as adjust the volume up on these models will enable the hunter to more readily pickup games sounds in the woods. Sounds like a squirrel jumping through the trees or when their belly slaps a tree when they jump from one to another. It will help the hunter pick up the minutest sound of a deer brushing by limbs or the whisper of them walking through leaves or disturbing a rock.

So now there is really no acceptable reason not to wear hearing protector and if you get a good set it may even enhance your chances of bagging some more game.

Far offshore windfarms present communications challenges
| 14. December, 2016

This is an interesting article debating the different types of communication that can be used over a long distance, and as they distance moves further and further, the different types of communication drop off or become part of an infrastructure. As engineers battle with this problem, knowledge of how radio frequencies and applications becomes paramount.

As offshore windfarms are built further and further from land, alternatives to conventional VHF communications are going to be required

A cornerstone of any major project is clear communication between all parties. As we move windfarm construction further offshore, maintaining efficient voice and data communications becomes essential. With many projects now being constructed beyond the range of VHF radio and cellular telephone, such as a Gemini or Dudgeon offshore windfarms, crew transfer vessel (CTV) operators and their clients are experiencing challenges achieving practical and affordable offshore communications. My experience on two far offshore projects in the last 15 months has shown that creative thinking can work together with existing equipment such as TETRA radio to reduce the risks and stress that poor communications can generate.

Communication solutions on offshore windfarms depend on the phase that the operation is in, the size of the project and the distance from shore. Many smaller, older windfarms rely on VHF radios to communicate between shore and vessel and shore/vessel and work team on the turbines. However, VHF is limited in range being a line-of-sight system, and the signal has trouble penetrating structures such as wind turbines due to the Faraday cage effect. Conventional cellular telephone coverage is also possible on nearshore sites, with some windfarms installing a cellular mast within the windfarm. Vessels at anchor off the Dutch port of IJmuiden can thank the windfarm industry for good connection when waiting for a pilot if they have contracts with the provider KPN.

When moving further offshore, luxuries such as a cellular mast will not be installed during the construction phase, and it is most likely that VHF radios will not be sufficient. It is common for the developer to install a TETRA radio network – similar to those used by national emergency response services such as police and fire departments.

TETRA, or terrestrial trunked radio as it is properly termed, is a secure network allowing one-to-one, one-to-many and many-to-many communications. This means that the marine controller can speak directly and privately to one party or to the entire offshore spread depending on what is needed. It transmits on a lower frequency than VHF so covers a greater range. This still is not enough to cover the distances experienced on far offshore windfarms. If multiple base stations are used, each base station can then automatically rebroadcast a message thus expanding the network coverage. On a recent construction project, it was found that there were communications blackspots in the area of the sea passage from the base port to the site. This was later eliminated by fitting full base station units rather than just handheld transceivers on the CTVs. The CTVs then became vital links in the communications network and ensured the blackspots were reduced or eliminated altogether.

TETRA has many other advantages, including the ability to penetrate the tower of a wind turbine, and calls are not dropped when moving between base station carriers due to the network configuration. This is especially important if vessel-carried base stations are relaying far offshore. The network is also secure, which ensures that commercially sensitive information cannot be intercepted. With the one-to-one mode, it also means that managers can have detailed conversations on sensitive subjects.

However, anecdotal information received from vessel crews in the field appear to indicate that TETRA, although a good system, is not foolproof. One vessel master reported that, after 15 months on site, they still had blackspots with TETRA and sometimes have to use the cell phone application WhatsApp to request that turbines be started or stopped so that he can land a team.

TETRA does not solve the operational problems experienced by vessel-operating companies who require frequent voice and data communication with the CTVs to ensure a smooth delivery of service. As most sites far offshore are outside of cell phone coverage and clients demand that daily reports are issued on time, creativity is needed. There is a simple solution that could solve all of the communication problems far offshore – installing VSAT satellite communications on each CTV, which allows instant telephone and data transfer.

However, the practicalities of chartering in today’s windfarm industry eliminates this option, as the client will not want to pay for installation and operation, and a vessel owner cannot afford such a luxury. Charterers therefore need to make a decision: either they assume responsibility and the costs for practical workable satellite communications on their vessels or look for practical alternative solutions to deliver what is needed far offshore.

One practical solution to maintain communications between the marine co-ordination centre and vessels is to step back a generation and use medium frequency/high frequency single side band radios, which are common equipment on larger CTVs and is standard on service operation vessels (SOVs) or installation vessels.

When used in conjunction with the digital selective calling (DSC) function of the GMDSS standard, voice communications can be maintained at long distance without operating cost. Unfortunately, current guidance for the marine co-ordination in windfarms as found in the G9 Good practice guideline: The safe management of small service vessels used in the offshore wind industry does not yet consider marine co-ordination and communications in far offshore windfarms.

Another practical solution to improve data communication is to install powerful WiFi antennas on the decks of SOVs and other major offshore assets to allow CTVs to have internet access when they are in close proximity. CTVs can then download passenger manifests and weather reports and upload the daily progress report and synchronise planned maintenance and email systems.

CTVs spend considerable time in close proximity to the SOV during passenger transfer, bunkering or waiting for the next assignment, and it is relatively easy to set up the computers to connect and synchronise without operator input, thus reducing the risk of distraction. SOVs should be designed with space for CTV crews to use as a secure office so that laptops can be left connected to the network. In this way, crews can have two computers and prepare work when on shift, transfer via a data stick and upload when they go off shift.

One of the most effective tools that we have identified is WhatsApp, which seems to require very low signal strength to connect and transfer brief messages. On recent projects, we have found that most vessel/office communication occurs in this medium, including fault finding and incident reporting and investigation. Crews have found it quicker to video a CCTV system playback and send via WhatsApp than download the CCTV video and send it via a file transfer service. As synchronising an electronic planned maintenance system offshore is very time consuming, our superintendents have taken to sending the worklists via WhatsApp to the vessels who then confirm back with text or images when a job is complete. The superintendent then does the PMS administration from their office with the advantage of high speed network connections. Experience with WhatsApp has led me to believe that agile, low data applications will form part of the future of offshore communication.

Far offshore projects have moved from planning and dreaming to reality. However, effective and cost-efficient communication solutions have not moved with them. Like most challenges with far offshore windfarms, there is no single solution, but experience has shown that, with creativity and flexibility, projects can communicate with their teams and operators can manage their vessels.

Better equipment earlier on in the construction phase, such as MF/HF radios in the MCC and on the vessels, TERA base stations on the vessels and open deck WiFi on construction assets will all assist in improving safety and reducing stress while ensuring that unnecessary costs are not incurred.

How Many Walkie-Talkies Can Operate on the Same Channel?
| 4. December, 2016

Theoretically, you can use an unlimited amount of walkie-talkies on the same channel (although in practice you might experience a few problems if you took that suggestion literally). Basically, there isn’t really a set limit. You could use as many as you like provided they are set up correctly. Anybody set to the right channel and in range at the time of transmission would then be able to pick up the signal and respond to it.

Most radios have access to 8 channels. These channels each have 38 separate ‘identification tones’. The user sets his/her channel up with the desired tone and then only other users who know the channel/tone will be able to hear the transmissions. As a result, there are, in any given area, about 304 different combinations, so signal interference is unlikely to affect you.

Please do not interpret this answer as saying that your radio has access to 304 possible channels. It does not. It will likely only have access to 8. Some less reputable manufacturers tend to falsely imply access to 304 channels; this is simply not the case. You will have access to 304 possible tone/channel combinations, that’s all.

To better explain the CTCSS codes and how they work; we’ll include a little information from Amherst.co.uk’s FAQ page.

“CTCSS stands for “Continuous Tone Coded Squelch System”. These codes are also often called “Privacy codes” If a CTCSS tone is selected; a CTCSS sub-audible tone is transmitted along with the regular voice audio by the transmitting radio. The receiving radio, set to the same CTCSS tone, will only receive audio if it contains that sub-tone. Interference from other users on the same frequency is therefore rejected (unless they are also on the same sub-tone). This is a way of allowing groups of users of walkie-talkies on the same channel to avoid hearing messages from other nearby users”.

So, in conclusion, you can probably use as many walkie-talkies as you like on the same channel. As long as the units in question are of the same type (either VHF or UHF) and have the same CTCSS setup, then you simply shouldn’t have a problem. You also shouldn’t suffer from signal interference due to other users (although you may still experience signal loss/interference/degradation from other sources). We have talked about combating signal loss elsewhere, so please see the other questions if you have any problems in this area.

Innovative radio technology keeps New Zealand’s Firefighters safe
| 1. December, 2016

We champion the advancement of communications within the emergency services, not only because it is an important part of their working day, but because they still have a long way to go before it is perfect. This news story comes from New Zealand and focuses on the fire service and is supplied by Motorola themselves.

Firefighters serving with New Zealand Fire Service will benefit from improved safety and communication while working in fire grounds through an innovative two-way radio solution.

The new solution from Motorola Solutions and Spark will enable the service’s 10,000 career and volunteer firefighters to stay connected to their colleagues in the field via reliable and robust voice communication.

Having attended around 73,000 incidents in the past year alone, New Zealand Fire Service needs the best tools for the job. The organisation will receive more than 4,500 new radios designed for use in the most severe fire ground environments.

A major feature of the solution is a cornerstone Motorola Solutions innovation, a remote speaker microphone that will be fully integrated within firefighters’ breathing apparatus. This will be combined with the radio’s convenient push-to-talk button, which enables firefighters to communicate easily and safely in the harshest conditions.

Paul Baxter, Chief Executive & National Commander of the New Zealand Fire Service, said,

“Communication is critical to safety on the incident ground, and much of that communication comes from the use of incident ground control (IGC) radio. That’s why we were so exacting in our requirements for these new radios.”

“The radios will help us to resolve radio interface issues with firefighters’ breathing apparatus while also delivering improved noise cancellation and battery life.”

By using a combination of single and multiband radios operating across both VHF and UHF bands, the solution aligns with the fire service’s vision of leading integrated fire and emergency services for a safer New Zealand.

“This radio solution enables us to move away from using a mix of models and frequencies and toward a nationally consistent standard that will make it easier to work with our emergency service partners,” Baxter said.

Murray Mitchell, Director ICT for the New Zealand Fire Service, said, “We wanted a solution that is safe, easy to use and doesn’t distract firefighters from their work during critical incidents.The design features incorporated in these new radios will help our firefighters work more safely and efficiently.”

Spark will provide in-country support including service management and a customer support desk.

Spark Digital CEO Tim Miles said: “Radios are life-saving tools for our emergency services, and great team communication can be the difference between a managed incident and a disaster. We are very proud to play a part in improving the on-ground experience for our Kiwi Fire Service heroes.”

Motorola Solutions Managing Director for New Zealand and Australia Steve Crutchfield said the solution drew on his company’s experience in providing tailored, mission-critical communications for public safety agencies all over the world.

“Firefighters depend on reliable and robust voice communications in emergency situations so they can concentrate on the job of protecting our communities and potentially saving lives,” Crutchfield said.

The radios are part of a five-year contract, giving New Zealand Fire Service operational and cost certainty throughout the life of the contract.

The contract also provides access provisions for related government agencies wanting to take advantage of the new radio technology.

A review of the Icom IC-7300 direct RF sampling transceiver
| 26. November, 2016

Icom and ham radio go hand-in-hand, one of their main markets is supplying top of the range equipment, this IC-7300 follows on from the wonderful IC-F7200 (which is a favourite in the office) and sits along side the new range of digital IC-F1000 & 2000 radios that are going really well, but have a new connector type, so new icom earpieces are needed. Read the comprehensive review we found from the swling.com website.

In August 2015 at the Tokyo Hamfair, Icom debuted a new type of transceiver in their product line––one featuring a direct RF sampling receiver. Essentially, it was an SDRtabletop transceiver.

At about the same time that the IC-7300 started shipping around the world, Icom pulled their venerable IC-7200 off the market. Yet the IC-7200 was established as a well-loved product, due to its highly sensitive receiver, its relatively robust front end, and its quality audio. Moreover, it was simple to operate, which made superb as a Field Day or radio club rig.

Therefore, even though the IC-7300 promised much more versatility than the IC-7200, for its price point it had a tough act to follow.

So, of course––even more so than with any other radio Icom has introduced in the past few years––I was eager to get my hands on a IC-7300.  I’m very fortunate that my good friend, Dave Anderson (K4SV) was one of the first purchasers of the IC-7300, and that he didn’t mind (after only having the rig perhaps one week!) allowing me to borrow it for a several weeks for evaluation.

Note:  I should state here that since this rig was loaned to me, I evaluated it based on the firmware version it shipped with, and made no modifications to it.

Icom-IC-7300-FrontThis review primarily focuses on the receiver’s performance, functionality and usability.

Introducing the Icom IC-7300

In recent years, the “big three” ham radio manufacturers have been using color displays, and––Icom most especially––touch screens. While I’m no fan of backlit touch screens in mobile applications, I  think touch screen displays make a lot of sense in a base radio. If carefully designed, a touch screen can save an operator from heavily-buried menus and decrease the number of multi-function buttons on the front panel.

The challenge, of course, is making a display with intuitive controls, and one that is large enough, and with sufficient resolution, to be useful to the operator. In the past, I’ve been disappointed by many displays; the most successful have been incorporated in DX/Contest-class (i.e., pricier) transceivers, meanwhile, entry-level and mid-priced transceiver displays often seem half-baked. While the graphics may be crisp, spectrum displays at this price point are often too compressed to be useful, and if not a touch display, force the user to pause operation in order to find the correct knob or button to change settings. In such cases, I find myself wondering why the manufacturer went to the expense of a color display at all––?

Icom-IC-7300-Display

But what about the C-7300 display?  I’m thoroughly pleased to report that Icom did afantasticjob of balancing utility and function in design of the IC-7300’s color touch display and front panel. There are  number of ways you can chose to display and arrange elements on the screen–since I’m an SDR fan, I typically chose a display setting which gave the waterfall the most real estate. Of course, one can chose to give the frequency display priority or a number of other arrangements.

User interface

I can tell that Icom built upon their experience with the IC-7100––their first entry-level touch screen display transceiver.

I was able to get the IC-7300 on the air in very little time. Within five minutes of turning on the IC-7300, I was able to:

  • change the display to feature a spectrum waterfall;
  • change the span of the waterfall display;
  • adjust the TX power output;
  • change the filters selection and the transmit mode;
  • change bands and make direct-frequency entries;
  • adjust notch, passband, and filter width;
  • adjust AF and RF gain;
  • set A/B VFOs and operate split;
  • change AGC settings;
  • turn on Noise Reduction/Noise Blanker, and
  • adjust compression.

Basically, I found that all the essential functions are clearly laid out, accessible, and highly functional.  Impressive.

The IC-7300 ships with a manual–– aptly titled, the “Basic” manual––and a CD with the full and unabridged operations manual.  The Basic Manual covers a great deal a lot more than the manual which accompanied the Icom ID-51a. If you read through the manual, you’ll readily familiarize yourself with most of the IC-7300’s higher function operations, and especially, you’ll be able to adjust the settings to your operation style. The Manual is written in simple language, and includes a lot of diagrams and graphics.

If you’re like me, you will find you’ll also need to reference that unabridged manual, so hang on to the CD, too.

Still, I imagine there’s a large percentage of future IC-7300 owners that will never need to reference the manual––especially if they don’t care about tweaking band edges or similar settings. Yes, believe it or not, it’s that easy to use.

Operation

Icom-IC-7300-Function-Buttons

While I spent a great deal of time listening to CW and SSB in various band conditions and at various times of day, I spent less time on the air transmitting.

With that said, all of my transmitting time was in CW since the IC-7300 mic was accidentally left out when my friend loaned me the rig.

I’m please to report that CW operation is quite pleasant. All of the adjustments––RF Power, Key Speed, and CW Pitch––can be quickly modified using the multi-function knob. While in CW mode, you can also toggle full break-in mode, which is quite smooth, via the function button and touch screen.

SSB functions are similar. While in  SSB mode, the multi-function knob allows you to change the tx power, mic gain, and monitor level. The function button opens an on-screen menu with VOX, compression, TBW, and the monitor toggle.

Here’s a short video I made with my phone while I made a few adjustments to the IC-7300:

Of course, my smartphones’s microphone can’t accurately reproduce the audio from the IC-7300, but you probably get the idea.

The only annoyance I noted––and perhaps I’m more sensitive to this, being primarily a QRPer––is that the 7300’s cooling fan starts up each time you key up. It even comes on when transmit power is at its lowest setting. I find this a little distracting in CW.  Fortunately, however, the 7300’s fan is fairly quiet and operates smoothly.

Receiver performance and reader survey results

Since our radio comparison shoot-outs have been particularly popular (and useful; check out our shoot-out between top portables, and ultra-compact radios, and others), I decided it would make sense to invite our informed readership to evaluate the Icom IC-7300’s performance in a series of blind, informal tests. (For information about these surveys,please read the first survey.)

Below, I’ve matched the labels (Radio A/Radio B) with the radio models.  I’ve also included pie charts which show the results from the survey.

Icom IC-7300 vs. WinRadio Excalibur

Weak Signal CW (40 meter band)

CW

Based on listener comments, those of you who preferred the ‘7300 did so because the CW was more interpretable and stable.

Some of you noted that I didn’t quite have CW at the same pitch on both rigs. I believe this is because the IC-7300’s calibration was ever so slightly off. This has since been addressed.

Weak/Strong SSB QSO (40 meter band)

SSB

This result was almost tied. The Excalibur’s audio––without any adjustments––has a fuller and “bassier” sound. The ‘7300 can be adjusted to have similar characteristics, but the default EQ settings produce very flat audio. Many of you commented that the IC-7300 more faithfully produced audio optimized for SSB.


 

Shortwave Broadcast recordings

The following recordings were made on the 31 meter broadcast band in the evening. Both radios had the same filter width: 9 kHz and 8.2 kHz.

Weak Shortwave AM (Radio Bandeirantes 31 meter band)

Weak-SW-AM

There was a noticeable preference for the WinRadio Excalibur in this particular audio set. Even though the Excalibur’s audio splattered a bit, the content was more interpretable. The IC-7300’s audio sounded flat in comparison––again, something that can be adjusted quite easily in the ‘7300’s audio settings.

Strong Shortwave AM (Radio Romania International, French 31 Meter Band)

Strong-SW-AM

Once again, the Excalibur won favor, but I imagine results would have been closer had I adjusted the ‘7300’s audio EQ.


 

Mediumwave Broadcast recordings

Note that the following mediumwave recordings were made during the morning hours (grayline). The strong station is the closest AM broadcaster to my home; it’s not a blow-torch “Class A” type station, merely the closest local broadcaster.

In the “weak” sample, I tuned to 630 kHz where multiple broadcasters could be heard on frequency, but one was dominant.

Both radios are set to a filter width of 9.0 kHz.

Strong Mediumwave AM (1010 kHz)

Strong-MW-AM

Two out of three listeners preferred the Excalibur in this example.

Weak Mediumwave AM (630 kHz)

Weak-MW-AM

In this particular example, the IC-7300 could not pull the strongest broadcaster out of the pile as well as the WinRadio Excalibur. In fairness, the Excalibur was using AM sync detection, something the IC-7300 lacks.

Icom IC-7300 vs. Elecraft KX3

IMG_20160424_105444629

I also decided to pit the IC-7300 against my well-loved Elecraft KX3.


Audio Clip 1: CW (20 meter band)

Elecraft KX3: Radio A

Elecraft - CW

Based on comments, readers who preferred the IC-7300 felt the CW sounded more pleasant and stable.


Audio Clip 2: Weak Signal CW (20 meter band)

Elecraft - WeakCW

Your comments indicated that the CW seemed to “pop out” of the noise slightly better with the IC-7300.


Audio Clip 3: Weak/Strong SSB

(Sable Island working Asia/Pacific on 20 meter band)

Elecraft SSB

These results were spilt in the middle. Again, I believe this comes down to personal preference in the audio. And again––in both radios––the audio EQ can be adjusted to suit the operator.


Receiver performance summary

I enjoy producing audio clips for readers to compare and comment upon. Each time I’ve done so in the past, I’ve had listeners argue the virtues of a particular audio clip while others have the complete opposite reaction to that same clip. Not all of us prefer our audio served up in the same way. No doubt, there’s a great deal of subjectivity in this sort of test.

I’ve had the IC-7300 on the air every day since I took possession of it. I’ve listened to SSB, CW, and lots of AM/SW broadcasters.

And here’s my summary: the IC-7300 is an excellent receiver. It has a low noise floor, superb sensitivity and excellent selectivity. I even slightly prefer its audio to that of my Elecraft KX3, and I’m a huge fan of the little KX3.

I’ve written before about how difficult it is to compare SDRs; the problem is that there are so many ways to tweak your audio, filters, AGC, noise reduction, etc. that it’s hard to compare apples with apples.

In the audio samples above, the IC-7300 and WinRadio Excalibur were both set to their default audio settings. In SSB and CW, the IC-7300 excels, in my opinion. CW seems to pop out of the noise better and SSB is more pleasant and interpretable. The Excalibur has a better audio profile for AM broadcasters, though. Its default audio simply sounds fuller–more robust.

The audio from the IC-7300 on AM sounded absolutely flat. However, if I tweak the audio of the ‘7300, adding more bass, it instantly sounds more like a dedicated tabletop receiver.

I should also mention that while the IC-7300’s built-in digital recording is a fantastic and effective feature, it doesn’t produce audio true to what’s heard through headphones live. This is especially the case when you add more bass and treble response as in the RRI example above. When the audio EQ is set to a default flat, it’s quite accurate.

To be clear:  for broadcast listening, I’ll still reach for my SDRs (the Excalibur, FDM-S2,TitanSDRand CR-1a).

If, however, I have limited space and/or budget for multiple receivers, I’d be quite happy using the IC-7300 as a broadcast receiver on the HF bands.

Speaking from the Shortwave Radio Listener (SWL) perspective, meanwhile, am I pleased with how the ‘7300 handles the broadcast bands?  Most definitely.

And as a ham radio operator, am I pleased with the IC-7300’s receiver––?  Absolutely.

In short:  the IC-7300 seems to have some of the best all-around receiver qualities of any transceiver I know under $2,000.

Summary

Every radio has its pros and cons. When I begin a review of a radio, I take notes of my initial impressions. Here’s my list for the IC-7300:

Pros

  • Excellent sensitivity and selectivity
  • Excellent, highly-customizable RX and TX audio
  • Color touch screen interface
  • Spectrum display is large enough to be useful
  • Intuitive functions
  • Twin PBT is both intuitive to operate and effective
  • Effective RF gain to compensate for noisy band conditions
  • Built-in RX and TX recording, file transfers via common SD card
  • Front panel knobs and buttons are spaced appropriately and easy to use
  • Quiet cooling fan (see con)
  • Decodes RTTY on screen
  • Built-in ATU
  • Antenna analyzer function (not tested)

Cons

  • Lacks secondary receive antenna jack on rear panel
  • Cooling fan immediately starts up on CW/SSB transmit at any power setting (see pro regarding fan noise)
  • Occasionally you may get lost in deeper customized functions
  • Supplied printed basic owner’s manual, while well-written, doesn’t fully cover the IC-7300s functions and options; you must explore the digital owner’s manual in supplied CD.

Conclusion

In a nutshell: Icom has hit a home run with the IC-7300.  If I didn’t already have an Elecraft KX3 and K2, I would buy the IC-7300 without hesitation.

Though the price point is a little high for an “entry level transceiver,” it’s worth every penny, in my opinion. For $1500 US, you get a fantastic general-coverage transceiver with an intuitive interface, nearly every function you can imagine, and performance that would please even a seasoned DXer.

Though I haven’t done and A/B comparison with the IC-7200, I imagine the IC-7300 would prevail in a test. The IC-7300 would certainly wipe the floor with it’s more economical brother, the IC-718.

Radio clubs, take note:

In my view, the IC-7300 has the makings of an excellent radio club rig in which performance, functionality, as well as ease of use are important. I expect that the IC-7300 will not only cope very well with crowded and crazy Field Day conditions, but it will also give any newcomers to the hobby a little experience with a proper modern transceiver. The fact that you can view signals so easily on the spectrum display means that it will be easier to chase contacts and monitor bands as they open and close. Indeed, what better way to mentor a newly-minted ham in modes, contacts, carriers, QRN, QRM, and so forth, than to simply point these out on the IC-7300’s bright, clear display––?

If your club is considering a transceiver upgrade or purchase, do seriously consider the IC-7300. I think you’ll find this rig is up to the task.

And for home? The Icom IC-7300 may be all of the rig you’ll ever need.

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