New “Systems Alert Monitor” Keeps Station Personnel Informed
For many years, one component of a typical radio station studio was some kind of “alert box”: a device that could let the DJ or board operator know that “something important” was happening. Important things like the station was off the air, or the audio failed, or an EAS message was received, or the request line was ringing, or there was someone at the door after-hours. In the days of “one station, one air studio”, the DJ might be alerted with something as simple as a light bulb or a buzzer in the studio.
Then consolidation took over, and suddenly we had large studio complexes housing multiple radio stations with dozens of studios. Instead of having to watch over one air signal, there were several, with lots of parameters and conditions for personnel to monitor: multiple transmitters, program streams, phone lines, STLs, and so on. Many stations used fixed-message visual alert devices, but even the multiple-message units were less than ideal where equipment and systems were often changed or updated. Either you didn’t have enough messages, or it was difficult to change the message when the equipment or systems being monitored was changed. In today’s world, nothing stays the same for very long!
It was time to retire the old “light bulb alert box”. What is needed for today’s studio complex is a device that (a) can monitor lots of gear simultaneously, (b) provides easy-to-see visual alerts when there’s something that needs attention, (c) can be easily updated as monitoring needs change, and (d) can provide multiple ways of alerting personnel.
With these goals in mind, we created a new way to keep a watchful eye on your station and its hardware. It’s the new Systems Alert Monitor, a video-based device that monitors up to 15 status inputs, and provides an instant visual, audible, and/or email indication if anything goes wrong or needs attention by station personnel. The Systems Alert Monitor (SAM) consists of a Status Interface Unit which generates “alert” text messages that are displayed on a video monitor. Because the system is software-based, the text of the alert messages can be easily changed or reconfigured as necessary.
SAMs Status Interface Unit has 15 “Alert” inputs for monitoring your facilities equipment and systems. The Alert inputs can be wired to virtually anything that provides some kind of status or fault signal. For example, the station air monitor would provide a fault signal if the carrier goes off the air. A silence-sensor would provide a fault signal if the station lost audio or lost a channel. EAS receivers provide an output when an EAS message is received. Or your transmitter remote control system would generate an alarm output if the transmission line has an excessive SWR condition.
There could be other situations that a DJ should know about: the Request Line is ringing, or there’s someone at the back door. All of these situations can be monitored by SAM, which will display text messages on a video monitor that’s easily seen by the DJ or board operator on duty.
All of SAMs Alert inputs should be isolated “dry” GPI contact closures; this is fairly common with professional broadcast gear. But there could be instances where some equipment provides a DC voltage instead of a contact closure. For this reason, SAM includes two Input Isolator circuits that can accept a DC voltage or any connection that isn’t truly isolated. In addition, SAM also includes two Ring Detectors that will sense ringing on a standard POTS phone line. These would be used to trigger a SAM alert when the line rings, e.g., for Listener Lines or for that call from the PD on his hotline.
The beauty of SAM is its ease of setup. It can be customized for each installation by the user, in a matter of a few minutes. By using a standard PC keyboard and mouse (SAM has 4 USB ports), SAMs Alert messages can be programmed for each of the 15 Alert inputs. Here is the Edit Screen where each Alert message is set up: