A-Line Acoustics News

San Ramon Valley Unified School District Makes Announcement Overhauls

DANVILLE, CA-The San Ramon Valley Unified School District (SRVUSD)
has over 2,800 employees serving more than 25,000 students in 31
elementary, middle, and high schools in Northern California's San
Ramon Valley. Rapid population growth and the need to modernize many
aging schools led to the construction of eight new schools and the
complete modernization of ten more over the past six years. Facing
construction cost inflation, SRVUSD looked for ways to migrate to a
district-wide telephone system and improve its school low-voltage
communications systems without exceeding its already-strained
budgets. Two men - SRVUSD's director of technology, Jon Threshie,
and consultant Ric Johanson of RTEJ Corp. of Alamo, CA - pioneered
a "onewire" solution to the district's communications needs. For
new construction and major modernization projects, they ran the
entire infrastructure on their data network's cable systems -
eliminating the need for separate wires for phone, clocks, data, and
speaker systems - thereby providing significant costs savings, easy
administration, and a modern, easily-expanded platform. The onewire
solution is Berbee Information Network Corporations' InformaCast, a
software system running on a Cisco platform with recently developed
IP loudspeakers from Atlas Sound. So far, Threshie and Johanson
have deployed Berbee systems in seven district schools with five
more waiting.

"About two years ago, we discovered that Berbee was ready to start
putting out addressable speakers that would allow us to build
schoolwide bell, clock, and PA systems effectively," said Threshie.
Berbee, a CDW company, developed and markets InformaCast, its
branded IP-addressable speaker system. "An addressable
speaker system would help us eliminate two or three more
cable systems, which would be a large part of our construction
savings goals."
Atlas Sound manufactures the I8 Series InformaCast compliant IP
loudspeaker, a Power-over-Ethernet (PoE using an 802.3af standard)
product that requires only a RJ-45 connector to connect to existing
data networks. Standard speaker models include indoor, indoor with a
synchronized digital clock, outdoor speakers, and speakers with a
remotely controlled microphone.
InformaCast runs on Cisco Unified CallManager software, the
callprocessing component of the Cisco Unified Communications system.
(Berbee will release a product with the same functionality that will
work with any phone system in the near future.)
"At the first five schools," said Threshie, "we went from zero
installed speakers to approximately 250 IP clock-speakers and another
100 exterior zone speakers. We installed the initial system [late
August 2005] with no experience and had the system up and running in
three days at all five schools." Two Berbee engineers and one of
SRVUSD's Cisco engineers, helped make this happen, while Threshie's
staff handled networking, VLANs, etc. "Installation of the Atlas IP
zone controllers and exterior zone speakers came next, and we were
done by the end of September," continued Threshie. After some
modification to system configurations and working out couple of bugs
with great support from Berbee, all system-level work was complete
by November.
The Atlas IP zone controllers (RJ-45 to network/line out to
amplifier) connect the network to an amplifier- the 9W amplifier on
the control board of the Atlas I8 Series speakers, in a fully-IP
system. The Atlas 1-U rack mount zone controller is actually
a co-design engineered by Johanson working closely with Atlas
Sound's Bruce Marlin. Similarly, Johanson and Threshie made their
design suggestions for the back box of the in-wall IP speakers, which
were quickly implemented. "Atlas has been a fantastic partner," said
Compared to installing a traditional analog paging system in new or
modernized construction (the prior district standard), SRVUSD saved
approximately 15 percent of the cost of the total analog system,
primarily in the areas of conduit, cabling, and installation
In addition to the costs savings, the web interface makes using and
maintaining the system easy; handling changes, district-wide, is
extremely fast and efficient. "Ric or I can access the network on the
web-from on-site or from New York City-and make any changes
we need to through the InformaCast web interface," said
Threshie. "For a non-technician to be able to do this is really a
wonderful thing." Several types of announcements go out through the
InformaCast system, including general announcements and emergency
communications. Carol Loflin, principal at Quail Run Elementary
School, gave an excellent example of the emergency features of the
system at work. "We were having conference week, and the teacher and
parents were here, and someone called 911," she said. "We didn't
know who had called, but the police were here. I was able to do an
all-call through the InformaCast system and find out who dialed
911 in a matter of seconds."

The advantages of an IP addressable speaker system in the K-12
school setting start with economics, and migrate outward from
there. But this technology brings the same benefits to any setting
where any individual on a network has the need to address multiple
other individuals.
Atlas Sound...
Berbee Information Networks