Author: simonmackay

Why should I prefer a charger or power supply to use IEC-standard AC connections

Standard IEC AC cord connectors

IEC-standard AC cord equipment-side connectors on AC power cords

In the 1970s, the IEC defined a number of standard equipment-side connections as part of connecting appliances and equipment to the general AC power supply used at home and in the office using a detachable AC cord. The common types are the C5/C6 “cloverleaf“ three-pin connection used primarily on laptop chargers, the C7/C8  “figure-8” two-pin type commonly used with portable radios, the larger C13/C14 three-pin connector used on most desktop computers, office equipment or guitar amplifiers and the C15/C16 notched three-pin connector used on a significant number of electric kettles and similar appliances.

These standards have benefited appliance designers, manufacturers and users through the life-cycle of the equipment concerned. It has mad it easier to design something that will work worldwide and simply package the appropriate cord that has a nation’s particular AC plug on one end and the appliance’s IEC-standard equipment-side plug on the other with that appliance.

IEC C7/C8 figure-8 AC socket on a camera battery charger

IEC C7/C8 “figure 8” AC socket on a camera battery charger

This idea has been helped along by equipment designs that use multi-voltage power-supply approaches like switch-mode power supplies or user-switchable input voltages. Here, the equipment manufacturer would be encouraged to make devices that they can sell or the end-user can take anywhere in the world.

For example, a portable radio that receives the standard 540-1600 kHz medium-wave AM band and the 88-108 MHz FM band and equipped with a switchable AC input voltage and IEC-compliant AC power inlet would have world-wide utility value. That is because nearly all countries have their broadcast stations on these bands and the set could be used from AC power anywhere around the world. Even in the days when Europe didn’t have access to all of the standard FM band or countries didn’t open up the FM band for radio broadcasting, these radios still were of useful value in those affected territories.

Then if the user loses the AC cord for that appliance or that cord is damaged, they can cost-effectively replace that cord with a similar one. People who travel or migrate to other countries also benefit because they replace the appliance’s AC cord with one that has the same IEC-standard equipment-side connection on one end and their destination’s AC plug on the other. There is also that likelihood of one coming across a spare AC cord with an IEC-standard equipment-side connection fitting that appliance in their home or workplace and it continues to earn its keep.

IEC C5/C6 cloverleaf socket on laptop power supply

IEC C5/C6 “cloverleaf: AC input socket on a laptop charger

It has opened up ideas for AC cords that suit a particular user’s needs. Firstly, there are longer or shorter cords with these kinds of connection at the equipment side that may end up as the right length for the usage scenario.

Secondly there even have been the C15/C16 notched three-pin AC cords that are coiled like a traditional telephone cord and are offered as a safe approach to keeping kettles and their cords away from the edge of the bench to avoid the risk of accidental hot-water scalding.

Or some AC cords that are sold through computer retailers have two C13/C14 plugs on one end and the national AC plug on the other, typically in order to power a desktop computer and a monitor from the one power outlet. This came in to play as computer hardware designers did away with IEC C13/C14 power outlet sockets on their desktop computers that were typically used to connect display monitors to power.

But the problem I do see is that a lot of USB chargers and similar power supplies are being offered as “wall-wart” devices that plug in to the wall rather than a small power brick with an IEC-compliant equipment-side AC connector. To the same extent, some multiport USB “charging bars” use a captive AC cable with the nation’s AC plug on them for their AC connection rather than an equipment-side IEC-compliant AC socket.

This can be an annoyance in some ways for some people. For example, these “wall-wart” devices, once plugged in to a power outlet including a power board, can take up too much space on the power outlet. Then if a user decides to go overseas, they have to purchase a travel adaptor which can become too large for a single power outlet in a powerboard or double power outlet and the setup can become very unwieldy.

Having USB chargers and similar power supplies use IEC-compliant equipment-side AC connections like what is commonly done with laptop chargers can be a real boon.

Overseas travel

One could purchase an AC cord from a local electronics or computer store, or in some cases, a local supermarket for their device that has the appropriate equipment-side plug on one end and the national AC plug on other end. These cables are often sold for pennies’ worth so it is not a case of worrying about how much these will cost.

For example the C7/C8 “figure-8” cable is sold as a replacement AC cable for portable radios, the C5/C6 “cloverleaf” cable sold as a replacement cable for laptops or the larger C13/C14 three-pin cable sold as a computer, office-equipment or musical-equipment cable. In the first two cases, they are sold this way because of people losing AC cables that belong to portable equipment or such cables ending up damaged or faulty.

Rydges Melbourne

It doesn’t hurt to ask the reception desk or Housekeeping at the hotel you are staying at if they have a spare AC cable for your laptop’s charger.

It doesn’t hurt to ask the place you are staying at whether they have a spare AC cord with the right equipment-side connection type for your device. This may be due to someone leaving behind the AC cord for their equipment or an appliance associated with that cord had failed but the cord is still serviceable.

Here, you are not worrying about if you have the travel adaptor with you or whether you are “tying it up” with a particular appliance. Rather you can use any power outlet within where you are staying to power your equipment using that cord.

This is infact more of value for those of us who are staying in holiday-rental houses or apartments including serviced apartments; or who are staying at relatives’ or friends’ homes. Here, you are able to take your laptop or charger in to the kitchen, living room or other common spaces and plug it in anywhere.

It also comes in to its own where your travels are primarily within geographic areas that use the same AC plug type. Here, you can rationalise down the number of AC plug types you need to cater towards when you pack accessory cables for your electronics.

Migration and long-term travel

Migrants and long-term travellers will also benefit very well because it is easier to move equipment between countries. Here, they reduce the number of travel adaptors they need to buy for all of their equipment. But they buy the AC cords compatible with their destination country’s mains sockets for their equipment when they arrive and settle down.

Migrants may even be able to leave behind their appliance’s AC cord that they used in their country of origin and pick up an AC cord in their destination country if their journey is primarily a one-way affair. That may help with cutting down on accessories that they need to worry about when they pack.

Choice of cables

You may find that the AC cable that came with your equipment may not be right for your needs.

This is more so with a charger you are using for your laptop, tablet or smartphone and it may be found that having a longer mains-voltage AC cable run means you aren’t losing low-voltage DC current at your device. In this case, an electronics store or online retailer may offer a longer AC cable, usually up to 1.8m, with the appropriate equipment side connection.

Similarly, you may find that you can purchase an AC cord of a particular colour or is designed in a particular way. For example, you may find that you want to have the cable blend in with or stand out against the interior design of the room you are using your equipment in. Or, as I have mentioned before, you may find a particular IEC-compliant AC cable that suits your situation like the aforementioned C13/C14 Y-cable that can power a desktop computer and a monitor from the same outlet.

Also be aware that some online sources do offer adaptors that have a C13/C14 power socket on one end and a C5/C6 plug or C7/C8 plug on the other end. This is typically used with a power cord that has a C13/C14 equipment-side connection to power equipment that uses the “cloverleaf” or “figure-8” AC connections, something commonly done with advanced computer setups where some low-profile equipment is being used.

Conclusion

A charger or power supply that uses IEC-standard AC-input connections does allow for increased device and AC-cable utility along with adaptability to different usage scenarios.

Wi-Fi to become strong as a location and range-finding technology

Article – From the horse’s mouth

D-Link DIR-X5460 Wi-Fi 6 router press picture courtesy of D-Link USA

Multi-antenna Wi-Fi 6 and similar routers like this D-Link router could be part of allowing Wi-Fi to work as a location-tracking, range-finding and way-finding technology

Wi-Fi Alliance

Wi-Fi Location™: Performance drivers for Wi-Fi® ranging technologies and its achievable accuracies

My Comments

Qualcomm is driving Wi-Fi further as a location and ranging tool through the use of its own silicon. This is in addition to the Ekahau effort to use Wi-Fi as a real-time location system for business.

But it’s more about making sure that the Wi-Fi network is capable to answer Bluetooth and UWB wireless technologies in this space. This is being facilitated by Wi-Fi devices having multiple antennas and operating on multiple bands, That can exploit different bands’ radio-frequency characteristics like transmission / reception range.

In the business world, this may be about staff or asset tracking, indoor navigation amongst other uses. It may even be about “pointing” a laptop, tablet or smartphone to the closest printer or similar peripheral so you cut down on the amount of time it takes to select that peripheral. Airports, shopping centres and similar places will benefit in the form of enhanced indoor navigation for staff and end-users.

But as far as the Wi-Fi home network is concerned, this could come in to its own in a strong way.

This would be facilitated by the use of most recent-issue value-priced and premium Wi-Fi routers having multiple antennas thanks to newer Wi-Fi iterations like Wi-Fi 5, Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 7 that implement various MIMO techniques; along with the ability to work on multiple wavebands.

Then there is an increased interest in multiple-access-point Wi-Fi networks thanks to Wi-Fi repeaters, distributed Wi-Fi (mesh) networks and access points that use Ethernet or wired “no-new-wires” networking technology like powerline networks as a backhaul. This is often implemented to fill in Wi-Fi dark spots within your home caused by things like highly-dense building materials or metal used as part of building materials or insulation.

NETGEAR Orbi with Wi-Fi 6 press picture courtesy of NETGEAR

Even distributed Wi-Fi setups like this NETGEAR Orbi with WI-Fi 6 system will serve the same purpose

One key use case for the home is the smart-home technology based on “Internet of Things” devices. The classic use cases would be the robot vacuum cleaners that move around your house, keeping the floors clean or the robot lawnmowers that keep your lawn mown down.

In the context of home and automotive security, it could be about geofencing and similar algorithms that limit the operation of smart locks or vehicle locking systems. It could even extend to preemptive control of heating / air-conditioning and lighting so when you are near home, the heating or lights come on.

To some extent, this could extent to healthcare at home including ageing at home. For example, this may be about fall detection or wandering detection for dementia sufferers. Or it could be about proof-of-presence and time/attendance records for paid carers.

The “nearest peripheral” location will come in to its own with the home network if you have multiple network-capable TVs or printers on your premises. Here, it could be about having the default printer being the one that is closest to you even if you take your laptop to the kitchen for example. It could also extend to use of Wi-Fi Aware for “across-the-room” use cases like transferring data between devices or user discovery with social media and online games.

Therefore in a lot of use cases, Wi-Fi will be valued as a location and ranging technology even if the network of concern is a small network that covers a house or small business.

The DTS Play-Fi multiroom audio platform now supports network-based surround sound

 

DTS Play-Fi home theatre setup with TV press image courtesy of XPeri

DTS Play-Fi Home Theater setup based around a Philips TV

Google, Apple and Amazon implemented “home-theatre” setups for their set-top-box and smart-speaker platforms. That is where their smart speakers and set-top devices work together in order to provide improved TV sound from audio or video content sources hosted on these set-top boxes. But these are focused primarily about improved stereo separation for the video content’s sound.

Similarly, Denon, Yamaha and Sonos have used their own network-based multiroom audio platforms to support multichannel sound across multiple Wi-Fi-based speakers that work on their platforms. This even extends to 5.1 surround sound with the IP-based packet-driven home network as the backbone between the speakers.

These setups have answered issues associated with the IP-based packet-driven small network that can affect proper in-sync in-phase multichannel sound delivery such as latency affecting one or more channels. Here, it’s been about using a single audio device, typically one the receives the stereo or multichannel audio stream from the source, working as the “reference sync device” for the multichannel audio setup and making sure all speakers refer to that device for the time sync information.

The DTS Play-Fi network-based multiroom audio platform has been supported by a significant number of “names of respect” within the hi-fi world. But lately a few TV manufacturers have come on board to extend this platform towards TV and video use cases including wireless network-based surround sound.

Initially this use case, driven by Philips, applied towards “extending” TV audio towards other logical rooms within a DTS Play-Fi setup. But it is now extended towards DTS Play-Fi surround-sound setups which use this technology and your home network as a backbone between the TV and the speakers that are part of a multichannel surround-sound setup.

This is based around a TV working as a “master device” or “anchor device” with the sound delivered to DTS Play-Fi speakers that serve the front left and right, surround or bass channels of the surround-sound setup. The TV’s own speakers would serve as the centre dialogue speakers and this cluster of speakers is set up as a logical room when it comes to streaming audio around your home network.

DTS Play-Fi Home Theater setup with soundbar press image courtesy of XPeri

DTS Play-Fi Home Theater surround sound setup – this time the soundbar is the main audio device

This concept is now extended towards a soundbar serving as a “master device” for these setups, due to the desire to have it work with all TVs rather than those equipped for DTS Play-Fi. In a lot of cases, the soundbar is used as a cost-effective and visually-attractive step towards improving one’s TV sound, with these devices appealing to households that maintain the “TV in the corner” arrangement or prefer a separate stereo system for music.

It is in addition to the “home theatre” application being extended to Dolby Atmos / DTS X setups that implement “height” audio channels. Here, a DTS Play-Fi setup with suitable equipment can be set up to encompass upward-firing speakers or speakers installed up high to create that “sound-above-you” effect but using wireless speakers and your home network.

Again this offers the advantage of wireless surround speakers where you only need power outlets near these speakers to have them work. This still comes in to its own with the open-plan living area with the lounge furniture serving as the room divider – there is very little in the way of cabling to deal with and the surround speakers can be relocated at a moment’s notice.

Similarly, the “sound bar” application could come in to its own with AV receivers where the goal is to move towards a full surround setup but without the ugliness associated with speaker cables run to the back of the room. This is something that some of DTS Play-Fi’s member companies like Onkyo and Pioneer who manufacture AV receivers, could aspire towards especially if they are trying to target some of their products towards the “value” market segment.

Here, some users may use a comprehensive AV receiver for their music playback and home-theatre needs, whether with a stereo amplifier and speakers optimised for music playback handling the front speakers or not. As well, a manufacturer could be offering value-priced AV receivers  that have up to four power amplifiers but support surround sound with DTS Play-Fi speakers.

Lets not forget that Philips could be a brand that pushes DTS Play-Fi towards the territory of affordable equipment and speakers being available from many household names. This could lead to speakers that are priced in a manner similar to IKEA’s SYMFONISK did for the Sonos ecosystem. That is to allow you to build out a network-based multiroom audio system or start a surround-sound setup based on the DTS Play-Fi platform for a reasonable price. It also includes creating one of these setups from scratch using affordable speakers then aspiring to use higher-quality premium speakers in the main living areas of the home while the affordable speakers end up in secondary areas like the bedroom.

The DTS Play-Fi approach to network-based surround sound is demonistrating the use of your home network for full surround sound distribution. As well, this is facilitating the use of a heterogenous setup with speakers from different manufacturers this allowing for the existence of innovative hardware that excels or is affordable for most people.

Sony to offer game-grade peripherals under the INZONE brand

Articles

Sony INZONE logo monitor and headsets image courtesy of Sony Electronics

Sony INZONE monitor and headsets

Sony announces INZONE line of monitors and headsets for PC and PS5 gaming | ZDNet

Sony’s new hardware brand will launch with gaming headsets and PS5-optimized monitors | Engadget

From the horse’s mouth

Sony

INZONE Product Page (USA)

INZONE Press Release

My Comments

Sony is creating the INZONE sub-brand that is pitched towards young gamers. This will be primarily used to market monitors, headsets and other peripherals that are optimised for video gaming on consoles or regular computers.

At the moment, there are two 27” monitors that are optimised for gaming on computers or video games consoles like the PlayStation 5 or the XBox X. These are designed on a “horses for courses” basis to suit the kind of video games a particular gamer wants to play. The INZONE M9, which has 4K UHD resolution and 144Hz screen refresh will come in to its own with “massive multiplayer online” and strategy games that excel on visuals but are slow-paced. Then the INZONE M3, which has Full HD resolution and 240Hz screen refresh is optimised for fast-paced games like first-person shooters where it is critical that you can detect the enemies in the game. These screens automatically adapt themselves towards gaming-focused behaviour or movie-focused behaviour depending on what is played through them, allowing them to become entertainment screens for that bedroom or dorm room.

There are two wireless headsets along with a wired headset in the INZONE gaming product range. The H9 and H7 wireless headsets can work with Bluetooth or a dedicated 2.4GHz low-latency wireless link to the host. The H9 is based on Sony’s successful WH1000XM active-noise-cancelling headset platform which allowed Sony to answer Bose with high-quality value-for-money noise-cancelling headsets and kick off the “Headset Wars”. The H3 wired headset connects to the host device via a USB connection or an analogue 3.5mm audio connection. But they all support Tempest 3D AudioTech virtual surround as implemented in the PS5 console thus allowing for spatial sound.

I see the INZONE effort as being very similar to Sony’s XPLOD car-stereo branding. This is the creation of a sub-brand of products that are pitched towards today’s teenagers and young adults who don’t have children and put their money towards leisure pursuits. In the XPLOD case, this was about high-performance car stereo equipment that is installed in those cars that they like to trick out. INZONE would be about marketing a range of gaming-optimised peripheral devices so those young people out there who want to get the most out of video games.

But could I see this as Sony offering more INZONE-branded computer-peripheral hardware pitched towards gamers? An obvious case could be something like speakers or soundbars that have sound qualities that go well for video games. Or I would see something like a range of TVs with screen sizes of between 32” to 40” that have screen refresh rates and image responsiveness desired for “core” video gaming.

Ad-supported video-on-demand–could this be the way to go

Article

Apple TV 4th Generation press picture courtesy of Apple

Could ad-supported video-on-demand be the way to go on our smart TVs and set-top boxes like the Apple TV?

How Australians feel about advertising-supported streaming – AdNews

My Comments

Increasingly we are making use of advertising-supported video-on-demand services when it comes to streaming TV shows.

One form these services come in are “broadcaster video-on-demand” services run by private or public-service TV broadcasters that run advertising. The other form are video-on-demand services that are purely funded by advertising such as YouTube. This will also include the subscription video-on-demand services that are starting to offer ad-supported reduced-price or free-to-use plans in addition to their premium ad-free plans.

The AdNews article had found that Australian TV viewers are accepting ad-supported video-on-demand services. This is due to the user-experience for ad-supported video-on-demand being perceived to be better than the traditional experience associated with advertising-supported linear TV viewing.

This issue may be seen as being different from broadcaster video-on-demand services ran by advertising-funded TV broadcasters. But it may apply to TV broadcasters who offer a premium video-on-demand video service as an adjunct to their broadcast and BVOD offerings, with examples being Stan or Paramount+ ran by the Nine Network and Ten Network respectively.

How will the viewing experience come across for ad-supported services

Netflix official logo - courtesy of Netflix

.. what with Netflix lining up ad-supported low-cost subscription tiers

Here, you have fewer commercials per ad break compared to the traditional TV experience, As well, there is an increased chance of seeing shorter more succinct ads, something that may only have been ran later on in the same ad break as a prior standard-length ad to reinforce that ad’s message.

Some platforms may even allow the user to skip particular ads or may offer some form of interactivity so users can “act on” ads relevant to their needs. An example of this could be to support “telescoping” where you can choose to see a longer-form ad with more details if you are interested in the product or service concerned. Or it could be about being able to use your “companion-screen” device like your smartphone or tablet to act on the offer being advertised such as to book a seat at that movie or play whose trailer you saw.

Add to this the ability for ad-supported video-on-demand platforms to support targeted advertising options. This will be facilitated with the video-on-demand service providers subscribing to one or more adtech platforms or ad marketplaces and having these platforms “fill” at least some of the advertising inventory with campaigns provided by these marketplaces, in addition to the service selling its own advertising inventory directly.

Like with traditional commercial TV, the ad breaks that these advertising-driven video-on-demand services will also be about creating breaks during the viewing experience. This could be a chance to go to the kitchen or bathroom or, where applicable, to put more fuel on the solid-fuel fire. As well, most of us would be looking at our smartphones or tablets during the ad breaks to interact with social media or look for online resources about concepts that are highlighted in the content.

The increased appeal of advertising-driven video-on-demand has come about due to a saturated market for ad-free subscription video-on-demand services. Here, some users are even questioning whether it is worth it to subscribe to multiple subscription-based streaming services at the full price. This is more so if one service’s content appeals to them more than another service.

It will mean that users could sign up to many of these services through ad-supported low-tier plans or benefit from services that adopt a freemium business model where there is a free ad-supported service plan alongside a premium ad-free service plan. This could lead to users subscribing to one or two video-on-demand services that they value the most while watching content on other video-on-demand services that run a ad-based freemium approach.

Impact on video content offered

But there are questions that will come up about the increased acceptance of ad-supported video-on-demand. One of these would be whether this has an impact on the kind of video content offered through these services.

Here, it may be about producers being required to avoid taking risks in order to keep their content “brand safe” so as not to impact advertisers’ reputations. This would necessitate avoiding controversial topics and contexts being part of the content.

Or it could be content producers pandering to the lowest common denominator in order to attract advertisers that offer goods and services that “every man and his dog” wants. This can be more so where an advertising-driven video-on-demand doesn’t create its specific niche market.

Let’s not forget the issue where some service providers will offer a smaller selection of their content to those of us who sign up to the ad-supported service tiers. This may be of concern for those of us who have discerning content tastes, something that has become more prevalent thanks to Netflix and services offering “premium-grade” TV content.

In some cases, you may find that lower-priced ad-supported tiers may offer the content at a basic video and sound quality specification like Full HD or stereo sound. Or there is a limit on the number of devices that can be concurrently used to view different content.

Similarly, there will be questions raised about video-on-demand services who have content directed at children and youth as part of their content lineup. Here, it would be about a requirement to keep the amount of advertising down within this content and maintain a strong control over the goods and services advertised while that content is shown. This is in order for parents and educators to consider these services as being “safe” for children and youth to use.

Conclusion

The increased prevalence of ad-supported video-on-demand services, including subscription-based services offering free or low-cost ad-supported service tiers, will be expected as a way to answer the over-saturated online video marketplace.

Starlink to offer portability for their satellite platform

Article

Starlink satellite launch photo courtesy of SpaceX

Starlink to allow semi-portable use of their satellite terminal

Starlink Internet Will Now Let You Take Your Dishy on the Go (gizmodo.com.au)

My Comments

Starlink is offering the ability to use your Starlink dish terminal and Internet service in a transportable manner around the same continent.

Here, this will be offered as an extra-cost feature to your subscription with costing USD$25 per month. You can enable and disable this feature as required which can come in to its own with those of us who use Starlink when camping or caravanning during the holiday seasons, or when running a temporary remote worksite.

The requirements for Starlink’s portability feature include:

  • The device to be used within the same continent as the registered address of service and to be within Starlink’s coverage footprint
  • To change the registered address of service if you are away from your current service address for more than two months
  • To use the Starlink terminal in a stationary location rather than in a vehicle or craft that is in motion
Pleasure-boats at a marina in Melbourne

.. to come in to its own with caravans and boats and similar scenarios

You will expect best-case performance at the location you are temporarily using Starlink at because this low-earth-orbit satellite system is currently engineered to prioritise uses who have registered their Starlink service at that location.

The fact that the Starlink setup is not fully mobile and requires you to have equipment stationary while in use would come in to its own with certain use cases. For example, a recreational-vehicle or boat user who moves around would set up their Starlink setup when they have set up camp or moored their boat and only while they are at that location. Similarly a temporary mobile office would set up their Starlink terminal when they have arrived at where they want to work at.

There doesn’t seem to be any information about permanently installing a Starlink dish terminal in a vehicle, transportable building or boat. This approach may satisfy those of us who regularly take that vehicle, building or vessel to a particular location but want to reduce the number of tasks required to set oneself up at that location.

Another question that will come up regarding the “same continent” rule is whether islands that are located close to the continent but are politically separate from that continent are considered thus, even though they have Starlink service. This may be of concern where the island or islands are separated from the content by a day or overnight trip in a car ferry or, in the case of UK and France, a short train trip through a tunnel.

There is still the intent to offer a fully-portable service where the Starlink satellite Internet service can be used in a moving vehicle or vessel. This may have to be initially offered as an inland / coastal service relative to a continent which may satisfy most use cases like trains and coaches moving across a country or boats that are “under way” in inland or coastal waters.

I suspect that this will come about when Starlink is offered in more areas as an Internet backbone for general public-transport situations like air travel, cruise ships and long-distance trains.

Deutsche Glasfaser brings full fibre Internet to German rural areas

Article

Flag of Germany

Deutsche Glasfaser brings its own fibre-optic infrastructure to Germany’s regional and rural areas

Deutsche Glasfaser: Das Netz der Zukunft zieht schon bald in eurer Nachbarschaft ein | NETZWELT (German language / Deutsche Sprache)

From the horse’s mouth

Deutsche Glasfaser

Web site (German language / Deutsche Sprache)

My Comments

Deutsche Glasfaser, a German ISP based in Borken (near Dusseldorf), North Rhine Westphalia, is demonstrating an effort towards bringing high-speed Internet to Germany’s regional, rural and suburban areas.

Deutsche Telekom and Vodafone own most of Germany’s infrastructure-level Internet service. This is primarily copper-based technology, either VDSL using traditional telephone cabling or DOCSIS cable-modem technology using coaxial cabling. They offer their own retail services as well as leasing access to this infrastructure to third-party retail operators like 1&1 and Versatel.

A few operators are establishing fibre-to-the-building or fibre-to-the-premises networks and selling retail high-speed Internet service using these networks. This happens in some major cities. But rural and regional areas were just limited to the Deutsche Telekom or Vodafone offerings which weren’t likely to fare well when it comes to bandwidth or service stability. This is very similar to what happens in most countries when it comes to how areas outside major urban areas are treated when it comes to Internet service.

What Deutsche Glasfaser is doing is creating their own FTTP / FTTB infrastructure in these rural, regional and suburban areas, thus cutting out the copper-based technology that can limit bandwidth due to vectoring or error-mitigation measures. There is also a goal to create a nationwide fibre-optic network across Germany in order to establish some form of independence as far as infrastructure is concerned.

The activity that Deutsche Glasfaser and other city-based operators are doing within Germany is similar to what is going on in the UK. That is where many ISPs are setting up their own infrastructure and offering retail Internet service on that infrastructure that is better value for money than what BT Openreach has been offering.

There will be questions arising about whether these services will be required to wholesale their infrastructure-level broadband capacity to competing retail ISPs and at what point. This may be so where the EU or other groups push Germany to facilitate a lively competitive market for high-bandwidth Internet service.

At the moment, Deutsche Glasfaser is active in 1.3 million households in 13 of Germany’s states and slowly building out in more areas.

Service Packages at time of writing

There is complementary connection and installation for your Deutsche Glasfaser service when you take up one of their packages. This includes “shifting” your Internet and telephone service from your extant provider as well as porting your fixed-line number to their service.

€24.99 monthly introductory offer for the first 12 months of service

Price per month Bandwidth Fixed-line telephony
€44.99 300Mb/s download / 150Mb/s upload 2.9c / minute
€49.99 400Mb/s download / 200Mb/s upload Unlimited calls to fixed lines in Germany
€79.99 600Mb/s download / 300Mb/s upload Unlimited calls to fixed lines and mobile telephones in Germany
€89.99 1000Mb/s download / 500Mb/s upload Unlimited calls to fixed lines and mobile telephones in Germany

As far as I know, there doesn’t seem to be any tariff packages or extensions that allow low-cost or unlimited international calling to popular destinations.

They also offer an IPTV service known as DGTV as an extra-cost option. This has 70 high-definition channels, a PVR set-top box and access to video-on-demand services, It costs €15 per month on top of your Deutsche Glasfaser Internet and telephony package.

What I like of the Deutsche Glasfaser effort is that they are bringing up-to-date Internet technology towards rural, regional and suburban Germany through the use of fibre-to-the-premises or fibre-to-the-building technology. It could stir up others to work on similar projects through that country and through Europe.

Queen Elizabeth II uses Zoom to talk to the Australians Of The Year

Article

Queen Elizabeth II tells the 2022 Australians of the Year they’re doing ‘marvelous work’ in Zoom interview – ABC News

‘Cheeky’ Queen jokes as she congratulates Australians of the Year | Queen’s platinum jubilee | The Guardian

Daily Telegraph Video – Click or tap to play on YouTube

 

My Comments

As part of her Platinum Jubilee celebrations, Queen Elizabeth II placed a Zoom videocall to Australia to talk to this year’s Australians Of The Year.

Here, she had called Government House in Australia where the Governor-General was with Shanna Whan, Dylan Alcott, David Hurley, Linda Hurley, Valmai Dempsey and Dr Daniel Nour with Dylan Alcott, the retired wheelchair tennis player who won the Golden Slam, making a cheeky remark to the Queen to liven up the conversation.

But this shows that Queen Elizabeth II is no stranger to new communications technologies that came forth through her reign.

She was the first monarch to broadcast the annual Christmas Message to the Commonwealth by television and, subsequently, the Internet. These messages were broadcast using the ever-evolving and increasingly ubiquitous TV technologies like the 625-line technology that was sharper than the original 405-line technology, colour TV, satellite broadcasting and digital TV.

In 1958, Her Majesty placed the first direct-dial long-distance telephone call in the UK by placing a call from Bristol to the Lord Provost at Edinburgh. She celebrated this technology’s 50th anniversary in 2008 by making a videocall between the same locations using Skype and the Internet.

As well in 2004, she knighted Sir Tim Berners-Lee who is the inventor of the World Wide Web which made the Internet what it is able to do today.

This Zoom call effectively synthesised television, the self-dial long-distance phone call and the World Wide Web together as a single instance that linked the UK to Australia in a visual manner.

It is effectively summing up Her Majesty’s long reign that has been underscored with many different communications technologies coming to fruition through that time.

G’Day! Alexa has been taught Australian slang

Article Australian flag

Alexa partners with The Betoota Advocate (mumbrella.com.au)

Betoota Teaches Alexa Aussie Slang – (smarthouse.com.au)

Alexa Looks To Expand Her Knowledge Of Australia By Teaming Up With The Betoota Advocate – B&T (bandt.com.au)

My Comments

Australia does have its own slang and culture which has been celebrated through Australian films and television like “Crocodile Dundee” or “Neighbours”; or the 1980s Paul Hogan “Throw A Shrimp On The Barbie” ad. There was even a book called “G’Day Teach Yourself Australian” (Amazon link) which conveyed the look of a foreign-language courseware book but taught Australian slang and culture to English-speaking travellers in a humourous way. Even the current popularity of “Bluey” amongst families in other countries is putting Australian culture increasingly on the map.

Amazon Echo press image courtesy of Amazon

Amazon Alexa is now learning Australian slang and culture

But the voice-driven assistants like Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant weren’t taught that kind of information. This made it difficult for Australians to use these assistants in a manner that is comfortable to them.

A previous approach to supporting dialects within a language including regional dialects was the BBC’s effort at a voice assistant. This responded to British English and even supported the various regional accents and dialects used within various parts of the UK. But it has been focused towards access to its own content and currently isn’t able to work with other voice-assistant platforms as a linguistic “module”.

Now Amazon have worked with the Betoota Advocate to “teach” Alexa about Aussie slang and culture. It is not just the slang and colloquial speech that she had to understand but items relating to Australian life and culture. For example, being able to answer which AFL or NRL club won their respective code’s Grand Final or to summon up the latest Triple J Hottest 100 as a playlist.

In the case of the football Grand Finals, there may be an issue about which football code is referred to by default when you ask about the winner of one of these penultimate matches and don’t identify a particular code. This is because of New South Wales and Queensland “thinking of” the NRL rugby-league code while the other States think of the AFL Australian-Rules code.

It could be even something like “How do I pay the rego on the ute” which could lead you to your State government’s motor registration office or, if they support it, instigate the workflow for paying that vehicle registration.

Australians and foreigners can even ask Alexa the meaning of a particular slang term or colloquialism so they can become familiar with the Australian vernacular. This would be required of Alexa anywhere in the world especially if you are talking with Australian expats or finding that a neighbourhood is becoming a “Little Australia”. Or if you are from overseas and show interest in Australian popular culture, you may find this resource useful.

A feature that may have to come forward for this Australian-culture addition to Amazon Alexa is to support translation of Australian idioms to and from languages other than English. This is more so where Australian culture is being exposed in to countries that don’t use English as their primary language or where these countries acquire a significant Australian diaspora. An example of the first situation is the popularity of MasterChef Australia within the Indian subcontinent and the existence of Australians within Asian and European countries.

This addition of Australian slang and culture to Alexa is available to all devices that support the Amazon Alexa voice-driven assistant. This ranges from Amazon-designed equipment like the Amazon Echo smart speakers to third-party devices that implement Amazon Alexa technology.

At least this is an example of how a voice-driven assistant provider can work towards courting countries and diasporas that are being seen as viable. It may have to be about encouraging the use of modular extensions to enable voice-driven assistants to work with multiple languages, dialects and cultures.

Bluetooth LE Audio–how I see this coming about

Bluetooth LE Audio

Sony WH-1000XM4 Bluetooth noise-cancelling headset press image courtesy of Sony

Bluetooth LE Audio and its multicast audio abilities will still have to factor in headphones like the Sony WH-1000XM4 to be considered worthwhile

As covered previously, Bluetooth LE Audio is considered as the next evolution of Bluetooth wireless audio for smartphones, tablets and computers.

It encompasses the LC3 audio codec that is more efficient than the traditional Bluetooth Classic SBC audio codec. This provides for increased power efficiency and battery runtime for portable setups thus leading to the design of very small hearable devices like earbuds or hearing aids, thanks to the ability to use a very small battery. There is also the ability to realise increased sound fidelity for Bluetooth audio links, something as good as at least CD-quality stereo audio.

Add to this reduced latency for Bluetooth-based audio links, which means that this mode of transmission can be seen as relevant for video-game sound or audio sent to multiple endpoint devices.

This codec is not bound to a particular device or chipset manufacturer which means that more devices can be legitimately built with Bluetooth LE Audio support without the need for a particular chipset for example. As well, Android 13 is expected to have this functionality built in to it if your Android phone can be updated to this newer version. I would also expect iOS and other operating systems to have support for Bluetooth LE Audio through an upcoming feature-level update.

Here I am talking about two features being introduced with Bluetooth LE Audio that will increase its market acceptance.

Audio sharing and broadcast audio

A potential killer feature for Bluetooth LE Audio is the ability to broadcast audio content to other devices. This could be in the form of you and a friend listening to the same audio playlist through your own headphones with the ability to have the sound level how you like it as well as hearing it in stereo. Or it could be multiple people hearing a common program source on their devices at their preferred sound levels.

Some of the use cases include providing assisted hearing arrangements in public areas without the need to use an induction-based loop that only works with telecoil-equipped hearing aids or proprietary stereo headsets. Or it could be about the “silent disco” where you can bring your own headsets to participate in the dancing. As well, it is also being seen as a way to, for example, provide audio from a particular TV set installed in a bar or cafe without needing to have a set of speakers associated with the venue’s audio system switched between the background music or the TV audio.

Even at home, it could be about enhanced audio setups for TV viewing where particular viewers could benefit from increased audio volume or access to audio description or dubbed foreign-language soundtracks. This is without impacting on what everyone else wants to benefit from and also facilitates access to stereo or “virtual surround’ sound for the same content.

The preferred Bluetooth LE Audio approach for establishing these setups is to use a control app or physical controller to “point” compatible audio devices to the shared audio content or audio stream. Typically such apps will be required to discover Bluetooth LE Audio broadcast streams and allow users to select their desired audio stream.

Use with legacy Bluetooth devices

This can’t be achieved with the large number of Bluetooth Classic Audio devices that are currently in use. It would be more of concern where there isn’t the possibility of manufacturers providing firmware updates to enable these legacy devices for Bluetooth LE Audio.

An example of this is the “headset wars” taking place between Bose, Sony, B&O and Apple where these manufacturers are outpacing each other with the best-value over-ear noise-cancelling Bluetooth headsets. You may find that the you bought that Bose QuietComfort 35 II or Sony WH-1000XM4 headset but they won’t be compatible with Bluetooth LE Audio unless Bose or Sony offer a firmware update to fully support Bluetooth LE Audio.

Here, you don’t necessarily want to get rid of a set of perfectly good headphones just to benefit from Bluetooth LE Audio and its broadcast features. After I was reading material on the Bluetooth SIG site about this standard, I came across a suggested path for integrating this technology with wired headphones.

This was in the form of a Bluetooth LE Audio controller app or operating-system function which worked as a “sink” device for the audio-sharing / broadcast-audio features and stream what was received to the wired headphones. But this approach would also be about repackaging the incoming selected broadcast audio stream as a Bluetooth Classic (A2DP) audio stream for something like a Bose QuietComfort 35 II or Sony WH-1000XM4 noise-cancelling headset. That is although they reckoned that this approach may not be efficient due to “repackaging” the Bluetooth audio stream but would need to be achieved to allow the use of Bluetooth Classic Audio devices in this context.

This same app may also be required to provide software support for audio sharing especially where the device doesn’t have inherent support for Bluetooth LE Audio. It would be in the form of being a Bluetooth LE Audio source or target for audio-sharing setups.

Bluetooth speakers and car audio

Braven BRV-X outdoor Bluetooth speaker

Bluetooth LE Audio apps may also be required to bring Bluetooth LE Audio broadcasts to Bluetooth speakers like this Braven BRV-X outdoor Bluetooth speaker

The COVID-19 coronavirus plague gave drive-in movies a renaissance in some areas. This was because households could go out and watch the movies from the safety of their cars and reduce the spread of the virus. This had been extended to “drive-in” live entertainment like concerts except a stage for the live entertainment was used rather than a screen for showing films.

Even before, there has been some interest in drive-in movies as a form of “cinema al fresco” in countries that had balmy summers. This was about enjoying watching films in a cinematic experience while in an outdoor setting rather than going in to an air-conditioned cinema to watch films as a community.

But these setups would distribute the sound via FM radio so each household can hear the entertainment’s soundtrack through their car’s car radio or a portable radio tuned to a particular FM frequency. This was able to use the many-decades-old FM technology to deliver the sound in stereo to each vehicle. Bluetooth LE Audio could easily be seen as a logical successor to FM radio for this kind of use case.

As for Bluetooth speakers and Bluetooth audio-receive adaptors, these could be part of the Bluetooth LE Audio broadcast-audio concept. For example, Bluetooth SIG often suggested the TV, whether at home, in a hotel room or in a public place as a key use case for the broadcast-audio feature that Bluetooth LE Audio offers. This is in the form of assisted hearing or access to an alternate soundtrack at home, reduced volume for hotel-room TVs or the ability to hear the soundtrack for a show playing on a bar’s TV via headphones.

Here, a Bluetooth speaker could be about a group of people at a particular table in a bar hearing the call of a sports event shown on one of the TVs in that bar through one of these speakers. Or it could be about someone hearing the audio-described soundtrack for a show that everyone is watching through a small Bluetooth speaker while everyone else hears the standard soundtrack through the main sound system.

Firstly this could mean that there could be an incentive to support Bluetooth LE Audio functionality within newer speaker-equipped Bluetooth audio equipment or Bluetooth audio-receive adaptor devices. As for as legacy equipment is concerned, it may be about the previously-mentioned Bluetooth LE Audio controller app that repackages broadcast audio content delivered via this new standard as the legacy Bluetooth Classic Audio standards.

Announcement priority

A feature that will be wanted for Bluetooth LE Audio’s broadcast-audio feature is some form of “announcement priority” feature. Such a feature would be called for in relationship to emergency messaging but would also be desired for the transport sector.

Here, that would be akin to the traffic-announcement priority feature instigated with ARI and implemented primarily with RDS, where, with a suitably-equipped car radio tuned to a broadcaster supporting this feature, you can turn it down or have something else playing but you don’t miss out on the latest road reports. This is due to out-of-band subcarrier-based signalling that causes the radio to increase the volume to a particular level or pause the other program you were listening to while a traffic report is being broadcast.

If this was implemented in Bluetooth LE Audio, it could be set up to allow a transport-service announcement or building emergency announcement to override whatever you are listening to on your phone, but not override a phone call. Such a facility would have to have some form of “relevance filter” with metadata relating to the platform that you are waiting at or the vehicle you are riding on in a public transport system, or the language the announcement comes in. Like with the car-radio application, there would be a requirement to cancel the currently-playing announcement but be ready to hear the next one for further updates.

Multichannel audio

Another killer use case for Bluetooth LE Audio is to allow a single source device to deliver two or more audio streams relating to the same content as a multichannel audio stream to multiple output devices. This is with the sound in phase and in sync across all of the audio channels.

Here, it would be operated in a manner that doesn’t require vendors to reinvent the wheel when it comes to designing multichannel-audio equipment that exploits Bluetooth LE Audio technology.

The obvious use case is to have standards-based true wireless earbuds and hearing aids without manufacturers reinventing the wheel every time they design these setups. As well, the requirement would be to have the source device effectively stream each channel to each output device so that there is no retransmission involved thus assuring power efficiency for earbuds and hearing aids.

Bluetooth speakers

I would see the multichannel audio feature also benefit Bluetooth speakers. Here, a manufacturer could design their Bluetooth speakers so that if you buy two or more of these speakers, you could set up a pair for proper stereo-sound reproduction with increased separation.

There may even be a requirement to support multiple multichannel speaker clusters. This could be multiple pairs of speakers used to reproduce a stereo soundmix in different areas.

Use of subwoofers to pump up the bass

Some device manufacturers would be taking this further by having speaker setups involving speakers that have different frequency-response characteristics. The classic example is a pair of highly-compact speakers reproducing the stereo sound but not having much bass response while another larger speaker with a larger driver and housing like a subwoofer yields the bass notes. Such setups are desired as a way to have compact speakers yet be able to have that bit of bass “kick”.

This would require support within the standard for passing audio frequencies above or below a certain threshold to particular speakers that can handle particular audio frequency ranges. Most likely it may be facilitated through each speaker taking an audio stream that represents the full frequency range and passing it through low-pass or high-pass filter circuitry or its acoustic design doing the filtering.

Surround sound

Then there is the idea of using Bluetooth LE for multi-channel surround sound applications, typically associated with video content. This may be about a soundbar that represents the front and centre channels of a surround soundmix, a subwoofer representing low-frequency effects and two speakers representing the “surround” channels.

Most likely the source device will decode the Dolby or DTS surround-sound formats and allocate particular channels to particular speakers.

Speakers with own audio inputs or sources

There will be problems with this kind of setup where Bluetooth speakers typically have another audio input beyond the Bluetooth audio stream delivered by a smartphone or other device. This represents at least a stereo line-level analogue input with better setups offering one or more wired digital inputs of some form.

It may also extend to where a Bluetooth LE Audio speaker in a multichannel setup has its own programme source. Such sources can range from a traditional radio or TV broadcast source or packaged content medium like vinyl, CD or Blu-Ray. Or it could be file-based media on something like a USB device or simply receiving online audio or video content via the Internet. I would even encompass devices that are part of a network-based multiroom audio setup or smart speakers that have their own microphone and work with a voice-driven home assistant.

The common use case involving speakers and multichannel sound from a connected source would be a soundbar that is connected to a TV set via HDMI-ARC. This soundbar, expected to reproduce the sound from the connected TV, would typically work alongside a subwoofer that reproduces the bass frequencies, while it reproduces the midrange frequencies for the left, right and centre channels in an audio mix. Some setups may support additional front speakers for increased stereo separation or a set of rear speakers for full-on surround sound. Or it could be about extra speakers required to properly reproduce a Dolby Atmos soundmix.

Here, it will be about wanting to have one speaker that has the input or content source work as a Bluetooth LE Audio source device for these setups. This speaker will then be required to yield a multichannel Bluetooth LE audio stream to the other speakers as if it is a Bluetooth audio-transmitter adaptor. The other speakers would then pick up and reproduce the audio channel that they are assigned to.

This use case involving a Bluetooth speaker of some sort having its own audio input or source and working with a multichannel audio setup would be seen as the exception when it comes to having a Bluetooth source device stream each channel of a multichannel soundmix to different output devices.

In this case, it would be about streaming a stereo or multichannel Bluetooth LE audio stream from the connected or integrated audio source around multiple Bluetooth LE speakers. You would then have to set each speaker to receive the appropriate audio channel, most likely through the manufacturer’s app.

Conclusion

The broadcast audio and audio-sharing abilities of Bluetooth LE Audio will most likely appear in the form of mobile-platform “controller” apps that discover Bluetooth LE Audio broadcast / multicast streams and share them with audio devices associated with the mobile device. Here, there will be a reliance on these apps to “bridge” Bluetooth LE Audio multicast streams to the Bluetooth Classic Audio devices currently in circulation.

Most likely I would see the Bluetooth LE Audio multichannel support manifest in manufacturers who encourage us to buy two or more of a particular speaker product and set them up for stereo sound. As well, it could encourage in the short  term the supply of subwoofers and three-piece speaker kits that implement this technology to give that bit of extra bass kick.