Audio over IP (AoIP) can be music, intercom, paging, alarms, or any other audio communications that is done using Internet Protocol, similar to VoIP. Audio over IP can be used in commercial and residential applications. Some examples of this are live sound at concerts, sports broadcasting announcers, or background music at a shopping mall. AoIP can be used to distribute customized audio to several locations, the most common would be franchise retail locations, such as “Hot Topic Radio,” or “BJ’s Radio.” It is completely up to the person or team who decides what music to select whether there will be interstitials or ads, or whether it will be a continuous stream of music. AoIP is scalable, flexible, and reliable.
One feature of Audio over IP is that it uses the same infrastructure already in place for the internet and for VoIP. There is no need for satellite/microwave feeds. Over short distances or long, AoIP allows for high quality, customized messages, and those messages can be as short as a train announcement or as long as an all-day playlist. It is also very reliable, and is fault tolerant. If the main server goes down, or the signal is lost, audio can be distributed using a USB stick.
Another great feature of Audio over IP is that the same AoIP infrastructure can serve many purposes. The same PA system that pipes in relaxing spa music can also be used as an intercom, an emergency alarm, and a surveillance camera. Audio over IP is scalable and flexible, much like VoIP. Every zone, such as each separate room, can set the volume level individually, so that customers and workers can be comfortable and ready to shop, work, etc.
There are three ways that AoIP is distributed: Live streaming, which delivers audio in real time (e.g. Pandora), and allows for immediate changes to the sound; periodic file download, in which audio is stored locally at each location, and is updated on a regular basis (e.g. shopping malls with monthly changes to their playlist); and offline, where the audio is manually updated at each site. When Audio over IP is sent over a LAN cable, it is called Audio over Ethernet, or “AoC.” Audio over IP is often distributed over private backbone networks.
Much like VoIP, AoIP uses different audio codecs to transmit and receive audio using the best sound quality per byte. AoIP uses both VoIP codecs, like G.722, and common music codecs, like MP2, MP3, and AAC. AoIP hardware is designed to have QoS to make sure that AoIP has higher priority than other data. When Audio over IP is used over an intercom, it is important to know, when you install the device, whether the intercom is full-duplex or half-duplex. Audio over IP can be high enough quality for radio stations to use at their remote locations for music, interviews, and news.
One potential disadvantage to audio over IP is that it is not compatible with analog audio systems. Many intercoms and burglar alarms today work on analog technology. If an organization chooses to upgrade to newer technology, they must replace their existing wires, they will not be able to simply add on to the infrastructure they already have.
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