Super Simple New Mass-Notification

By Brian Rhodes, Published Apr 01, 2014, 12:00am EDT

Getting the word out in an emergency is critical. For large facilities like schools or hospitals, having alerts heard can be the difference between life and death.

Historically, these systems have been complex and expensive, but one company aims to change that.  Instead of multiple zones, proprietary networking, and multiple devices meaning expensive systems., Barix has released a platform that they claim takes minutes to setup, uses existing LAN, and can even use smartphones as paging stations.

In this note, we break down the features, pricing, differences and competitive positioning of the offering.

Traditional Systems

Facilities that use 'mass notification' or 'paging' systems want to convey a short audio message to as many people as possible at once. Whether or not the message is trying to get the attention of a single person (eg: "Dr. Brown call Dr. Smith"), or a large group of people (eg: "Everyone seek shelter immediately"), a typical system is composed of many pieces, including:

  • Speakers
  • Servers/ Routing Boards
  • Intercom Stations/ Base Stations
  • Cabling

Generally, each of these elements are proprietary and cannot be used by other systems. Furthermore, extensive configuration is required to pull all the pieces together and program it for use.

Overview

At its core, Barix Simple Paging [link no longer available] is a serverless, IP based paging network that uses iPhones, relay gateways, and new or existing Public Address radios connected by an ethernet network. They claim three steps: "Unpack, Connect, Page" with no extensive configuration needed.

The demo video below gives a good overview:

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The main value of Simple Paging is that it is easy to setup, in connecting radios and endpoints to the network, and then using a device's web server to discover other Barix units group them into zones.

Mobile Phone Integration

Using Barix's Simple Paging app, an iPhone user can send voice messages to a paging zone or the entire system via WiFi. This means that notification is possible even where no intercom stations are near. However, messages cannot be pushed from the paging system to smartphones.

Cost

The total cost of a 'Simple Paging' system greatly varies based on the number of endpoints needed, but the basic Anuncicom PS1 runs about $600 on the street. Most Barix endpoints are PoE powered and can associate with many number of other endpoints with no additional hardware.

Application

The lower cost and simplified architecture opens up mass notification to markets that traditionally could not justify it. We believe this will help open this up to the mid market, smaller schools, medical facilities, shopping centers, etc.

Comparison

The 'serverless' architecture of Simple Paging is not new, as Stentofon's Turbine (we covered in this note) also provides a simple design. However, unlike them, Barix's solution works as a smartphone app extension, making broadcast points more flexible. Rather than requiring a responder or user travel to find the nearest PA station, a user can simply use the app on their phone for wherever they stand, perhaps shaving minutes off of the time before a vital message is broadcast.

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