The Private Conversation Heard ‘Round the World!

Recently, Don and I had a meeting at a hospital to specify a video presentation system for one of their educational centers. As we wrapped up and were leaving, Don asked “you want to hear something”? “Sure”, I replied. Thinking he was going to have me listen to a kick-butt audio system we had installed, Don instead brought me to a waiting room at urgent care. No background music, just a TV playing very softly for about a dozen patients and family. “I don’t get it”, I said. “Listen again”, he said. I mentally tuned out the TV and the rest of the light background noise…then it hit me like a freight train. I turned to look toward the reception desk, about 25 feet away. An elderly man was speaking with a young woman behind the counter; she asking him pointed questions about his condition, he providing intimate details at length.

I could hear everything they were discussing… very clearly! As, I’m sure, were the rest of the folks in the waiting room.

“Holy crap”, I blurted. “Exactly”, said Don, smirking.

On the drive back to the office, Don told me this wasn’t an isolated instance. He’d experienced hearing private conversations at other hospitals and medical offices, financial institutions, conference rooms, schools, and law offices*. When bringing it up to personnel at these various facilities, some didn’t know the problem existed until it was pointed out to them…then they went into scramble mode to find a solution. Most knew they had a problem but either didn’t know how to fix it or tried solutions that just didn’t work (FYI, if you believe that absorbing via insulation above the ceiling tiles or blocking via solid partitions around a space alone will create the right acoustic environment, guess again ). The best solution, and the one we’ve had the greatest success with, is “covering” the sound using Sound Masking. Sound masking systems can be executed a few different ways but normally include emitters (think in-ceiling speakers) that generate a soft noise which obscures speech. Our “weapon of choice” is from a local company, Cambridge Sound Masking. Unlike most competitors, they emit into the workspace rather than into the plenum for much better, more even coverage. The sound they produce (think soft HVAC duct noise) isn’t generic “pink” noise, instead it is sound researched then tuned to human speech and hearing frequencies for better masking. The emitters are tiny and innocuous, and can be part of a paging and music playback system. Oh, and the package can be a much lower-cost option than other types of acoustic treatments.

If you’re unsure if you or your clients may need a sound masking solution, here are a few questions you might want to ask yourself:

  • Can private conversations in examination rooms, conference rooms, or management offices be overheard in hallways, waiting areas, or open workspace?
  • Can private conversations be overheard from adjacent rooms?
  • Is sensitive patient or client information being discussed near a waiting area, lobby, or other public space?

Better still, let’s talk! We can review your office or facility and even schedule a demonstration of a system in action. Be prepared to be amazed!

And now, back to proposing a sound masking system for that hospital…

*There are numerous laws and regulations in place that encourage or mandate confidentiality and privacy, such as HIPPA (mandates that all employers “take reasonable safeguards to protect the privacy of protected health information”), GLBA (the financial equivalent of HIPPA, the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act requires financial institutions to protect their client’s non-public financial information), and FERPA (mandates that colleges and universities take all reasonable efforts to safeguard student information including how the information is collected and disseminated).


Audio Concepts + Commercial Technology

Yes, the rumors true; I’m back with Audio Concepts. After a brief stint helping a commercial outfit put together their showroom, it was time again to look for the next challenge. I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do or where, but I did reach out to AC to at least see what was up. Boy, I’m glad I did. Don Houde and the team were gung-ho to have me back and I was thrilled with the opportunity they offered. No, I’m not being arrogant, I’ll explain why this was great for both of us in a bit.

During the interview, Chris Saad voiced two company needs. The first was that he would appreciate help with our blog. Now, I make no bones about it, I’m not a writer, or certainly not a good one. I’ve joked with friends that if I were, I’d be relaxing poolside at my Hollywood Hills home, counting my millions. Or, more likely, I’d be a starving LA screenwriter working as a clerical and trying to sell the first “big one”. Kind of like my sister Fay, who’s feverishly pursued film-making for the past two decades (shameless self-promotion; Fay has completed a terrific short documentary on Cuba, has major interest by financiers to make her feature project, and our little production company, 21/31 Productions, could actually become a contender soon). Anyway, I volunteered to try my hand at blogging. So, periodically, you’ll see my musings on trending technologies, posts on cool projects, and rants about our industry. Given my “passionate” nature, I’m sure I’ll say something that may infuriate some, including my employers. But I welcome the discourse that will follow.

The second and more important item was the need to expand AC’s commercial capabilities. I’ve known for years that commercial work is an Audio Concepts staple but what I didn’t know exactly was the extent; nearly 50% of our business! Houses of worship, board rooms, hospitals, schools, conference rooms, private offices, universities, government buildings, gymnasiums, military bases, auditoriums. Audio reinforcement, networks, videoconferencing, lighting control, video walls, wireless microphones, digital signage, PA systems, sound masking, video streaming, audio mixing, motorized shades, surveillance systems. Audio Concepts has performed just about every type of commercial install, hence the title of this blog entry, AUDIO CONCEPTS = COMMERCIAL TECHNOLOGY. Our experience is deep and our chops strong but for FOUR DECADES, Don Houde has been the primary driver of our sales and design efforts…actually he’s been the only driver of those efforts. Until now. Given my recent experiences, my history in technology and working with the A&D community, and my obsession in learning something new every day (I hate stagnation), Don and Chris tapped me to help take AC’s booming commercial business even further.

Hope that now clarifies why this is mutually beneficial for the both of us, and why I’m glad to be back.

So… who has a commercial project in need of technology that I can blog about?