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Wireless Conference Solutions: Infrared (IR) versus Radio Frequency (RF)

The fully digital infrared conferencing system can digitally process audio and data transmission.

For either permanent installations or for temporary use in various applications, IR (infrared) vs. RF (radio frequency) is usually a topic to question when deciding on the more appropriate technology. Whether we are talking about push to talk conference systems or simultaneous interpretation both IR and RF are used to transmit audio and data. In some cases it is simple to choose between the two because the client must have an IR system for security purposes. If there is not a preference from the client, generally people feel that RF is a much easier technology to use because it extremely simple to setup. While IR does take a bit more time to setup it offers benefits that may be time well spent.

Most government applications, business organizations and really any group that needs to ensure confidentiality requires an IR system. IR is completely secure based on the characteristics of the technology and its inability to pass through walls or opaque surfaces. This enables only the people present in the room to listen to the conversation.

The walls in the room don’t only act as a sound barrier but also as a reflective surface to further enhance the transmission of the IR signal. The transmission is in Band 4 of the FCC regulated frequency spectrum. This means that the conferencing system will transmit and receive at such a high frequency, no other transmitting device, and florescent light or even sunshine will interfere with the signal. IR is a fairly new technology for conferencing, but with its exceptional security and great sound quality it is definitely a benefit for those who use it.

While IR is secure, RF is simple to setup and with the advancement of 64-bit encryption RF is secured from the amateur eavesdropper. Also, because the radio frequency can pass through walls people outside of the room, or in an adjacent overflow room, are able to listen in. Repeaters can be used to amplify the signal in larger rooms or just one central RF transmitter can be placed anywhere in a smaller room. When using IR, several radiators (transmitters) must be placed throughout the room to ensure the IR light can reach each delegate microphone.

The biggest problem with RF aside from security issues is interferences from other RF signals. Wireless networks, walkie-talkies, cellular phones, radio and other wireless conference components can all cause interference in the radio frequencies transmission. The interference will either pick-up these other signals or cause the signal to become filled with static or noise. IR technology generates such a high frequency that no other technology will interfere with signal offering a perfect signal. The newest RF technologies are operating in 2.4 GHz, which are the same frequency range as wireless network. In large cities, there is 2.4 GHz chaos with all the wireless networks, phones, and WiFi there is no available bandwidth to be used.

The most important thing to remember is to know the audience and their needs. RF used to be the standard way to transmit all wireless audio; the only other option was to go with a wired solution. Now government, military, corporations and world organizations will only allow their confidential information to be transmitted with infrared technology.

About the Author

Andrew Murphy is a product engineer for Conference Rental USA. Conference Rental USA is a wholesale rental provider of wired and wireless push-to-talk microphones, simultaneous interpretation equipment and audience response systems. Conference Rental USA provides service across North America with locations is San Francisco, New York, Washington DC, Las Vegas, Chicago and Toronto. For more information visit: www.conferencerentalusa.com.

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