IP audio and control pioneer Barix this month celebrates its 20th anniversary. Over two decades, the Swiss company has grown from a control and automation upstart into a globally recognised Audio over IP innovator primarily serving the professional AV, broadcast and security industries, while supporting a variety of vertical markets within each. Barix has shipped nearly one million devices to serve control, streaming and transport applications for end-users, OEM vendors, service providers and systems integrators. Current CTO Johannes G. Rietschel founded Barix in 2001 to escape the trappings of corporate operations that slowed his product development ideas, which evolved from standard legacy network components to IT-focused control products by the turn of the century. “I had spent too much time traveling to tradeshows doing ‘research’ with little to show beyond expense reports,” he said. “My vision was to build a product that would fit the market and adapt to customer requests from there, instead of overthinking. That’s the premise on which Barix was founded.” Four core product lines Barix’s roots took shape in residential automation, an area the company remains active in through partnerships with Aiphone, Crestron and other companies. Rietschel soon added audio distribution to his vision, introducing products to move voice and music throughout homes. Commercial markets came calling in search of inexpensive ways to move audio and control signals over then-novel IP networks. Barix’s four core product lines were established before long, with proven hardware devices for voice and intercom (Annuncicom), automation and control (Barionet), and music/audio streaming (Instreamer encoders, Exstreamer decoders). Broadcasters adopted Barix Broadcasters approved Barix to transport live program signals between studios and transmitter sites over IP networks The broadcast industry was among the first to take an interest, with radio engineers recognising that Instreamer and Exstreamer products offered a low-cost alternative to expensive microwave STL systems. It wasn’t long before broadcasters adopted Barix to transport live program signals between studios and transmitter sites over IP networks. Around the same time, Barix saw quickly rising interest in its Annuncicom products for IP paging and intercom systems, and its Instreamer and Exstreamer systems for background music (BGM) delivery. Visionary integrators and service providers were soon moving BGM, paging, intercom and even control functions (HVAC, lighting and more) over a common IP architecture using Barix hardware. Global partner network By 2006, Barix had a global partner network, including the highly successful Barix Technology USA division, long managed by the late Andy Stadheim and a worldwide presence in education, government, hospitality, medical, radio broadcast, retail, scientific, transportation and worship environments. Product developers, enthused by positive feedback, soon came to Barix requesting modular solutions to help them build their own products, a mission made easy thanks to Barix’s openly programmable IPAM modules at the core of their own products. Assisting with IP transitions “Many of today’s primary Barix applications were discovered by chance, or developed through early enthusiasts,” said Rietschel. “That’s especially true in broadcast, where many AM and FM radio stations didn’t have the budget for STL systems that ran tens of thousands of dollars." "We also saw strong interest from music service providers and retail operations that urgently needed to transition from expensive satellite systems, and transit companies that were replacing copper with fiber. Barix was in a perfect position to assist these customers with their IP transitions, as our devices offered the combination of price, reliability and performance they needed.” RoHS environmental regulations Rietschel recounts one challenging period in this timeframe when RoHS environmental regulations forced a substantial product redesign. Barix ran low on cashflow, and one shareholder opted out of the further investment. Rietschel worked for months without pay and invested more of his own money to redevelop products and meet regulations. Within months, Barix sold several thousand of the then-new Exstreamer 100 decoder — a product that remains available today. Software & cloud-based products The company’s focus has increasingly shifted to more software-defined and cloud-based architectures While Barix continues to develop new IP audio and control hardware devices, the company’s focus has increasingly shifted to more software-defined and cloud-based architectures. These have led to recent game-changing, enterprise-level BGM streaming solutions like RetailPlayer and SoundScape; cloud-based radio signal distribution solutions like Reflector; and fully networked communications systems like Paging Cloud and Simple Paging. Technology trendsetter Barix was also an early innovator of SIP (Session Initiation Protocol) technology, first adopted by security customers for efficient VoIP connections and now gaining traction in broadcast; and among the first to merge digital signage and BYOD mobile applications with its AudioPoint solution. Meanwhile, the company’s OEM business continues to flourish; Barix is now on its fourth-generation IPAM Series module (IPAM400), and most recently introduced its IP Former solution to help loudspeaker manufacturers transition their legacy products to IP networks. Innovative spirit The unending innovative spirit and sense of creative freedom at Barix has been instrumental in the company’s global growth. The company continues to attract engineering talent from inside and outside its core industries, and recently opened a new innovation centre in Portugal that focuses on research and development for new and existing markets. Current CEO Reto Brader, who has accelerated the company’s transition to more cloud and SaaS solutions, jumped at the opportunity to join Barix after growing familiar with Rietschel’s continuously evolving vision. He finds Barix inescapable even while just going about his daily business. Efficient use of Barix devices “I take the Swiss federal train system to work every morning, and I smile knowing that the platform announcements come from an Annuncicom at a dispatch center hours away,” said Brader. “The same is true when I’m on the New Jersey Transit train system heading into New York City, or the Metro in Rio de Janeiro. When I go skiing at the Titlis resort in the Swiss mountains or drive onto the BMW campus in Munich, Barix solutions deliver the music and open the entrance barrier. I was recently communicating with a university research department using Barix for remote-controllable construction digging. I’m constantly surprised at where and how Barix devices are used, most of which tie back to efficient use of the public internet.” Case study The creativity and innovation at Barix compel the partners and customers to find new ways to use the productsOne of Brader’s favourite stories is from a farmer in a rural northwest area of the United States who uses Barix to play music for 3000 cows on a 30-acre dairy farm. “It’s been running in a very harsh weather environment where the temperatures are very extreme and power issues abound, yet it all keeps running,” he said. “The creativity and innovation at Barix extend to our partners and customers that continue to find unique and compelling ways to use our products.” Products longevity Rietschel adds that the longevity of their installed products correlates with the longevity of Barix. “Our products are reliable and hold up well over years and even decades, and the more recent generations of our products will have even greater longevity through firmware updates,” he said. “While we have never been the biggest company, we remain profitable and have made it through 20 years and challenging business environments without ever laying off employees.” “The loyalty of our customers and our embrace of open standards and creative, programmable IP solutions have been at the foundation of our success to date,” he said, “We can now look forward to the next 20 years and beyond.” Customer-driven innovation For Brader, that means continuing to drive innovation as CEO that embraces customer-driven innovation in broadcast, AV, automation and all of the key vertical markets Barix addresses within these markets. “Just as in the early days, our strategy is to be the first to help businesses turn their IP audio and control visions into reality,” he said. “Our customers can count on Barix’s engineering team as an experienced, affordable and hyper-innovative development partner for years to come.”
IP audio and control innovator Barix is bringing its IP paging and intercom expertise to large broadcast and emergency response networks with RackBox, a universal cloud-based, any-to-all platform for widespread delivery of critical messages. Initially custom-developed for a large national US TV broadcaster, Barix has now productized RackBox to serve a broader set of paging and intercom needs inside and outside the broadcast industry. In addition to TV and radio networks, RackBox is ideal for professional alarm and notification applications over military, emergency response and business networks that serve many locations. RackBox’s single-button user interface enables immediate delivery of important messages to all stations over local and wide-area networks — “push to talk” in its purest form. Transmitter and receiver RackBox systems are infinitely scalable, with each device programmable as a transmitter, receiver, or both. Using independent, ultra-reliable Barix AudioSpread devices, the system replicates the live stream globally to receivers anywhere without depending on multicast or complicated configurations. An optional management portal supports real-time monitoring and central configuration. RackBox’s robust hardware ensures constant availability, assisted by redundant power connections, and the system layout can be set up using dual-network paths while seamlessly integrating with an organisation’s central IT infrastructure. Its limited bandwidth requirements, low latency, and standards compliance make the RackBox system ideal for use on existing IT infrastructure. Remote monitoring and cloud “RackBox represents our latest advances in cloud-based replication and remote monitoring technology to serve a broad variety of universal communication requirements,” said Johannes Rietschel, CTO and Founder, Barix. “As one of the first vendors to innovate paging and intercom solutions for use on IP networks nearly 20 years ago, Barix brings reliable emergency communications over the network to a global scale with RackBox, along with the cost-savings that come from transitioning to IP from satellite for widespread communications.” The transition from satellite-based communications has been especially appealing to broadcasters who have been using similar satellite-based systems for decades. RackBox allows broadcasters to quickly communicate critical information, breaking news, and operational info across its complete network of stations, using available, low-cost IP networks. Critical Communication RackBox provides the same value and benefits for emergency messaging over fire and police networks, and also allows communicating critical messages across enterprise networks. Rietschel cites banking networks that want to quickly communicate important financial and stock market updates as one application of interest within the enterprise business community. The 19-inch 1U RackBox integrates Barix’s IPAM400 IP Audio module at its core, with support for multiple audio formats, interfaces, and IP-based streaming and control. The Linux-based programmable module adopts the latest standards, allowing users to comfortably operate RackBox on standard IP networks as well as the public Internet.
IP audio and control innovator Barix announces the opening of a new research and development centre for next-generation, intelligent audio technologies. Based in Aveiro, Portugal, the Barix Innovation Centre focuses on “what’s next” for the company, including audio analytics, anomaly detection, predictive maintenance, and environmental sound monitoring. Barix Founder and CTO Johannes Rietschel identified Aveiro as the ideal location given its proximity to the University of Aveiro, one of Europe’s famous technical institutions. Barix has been aggressively hiring local engineering talent, including recent university graduates, to fill key engineering and research roles. The close proximity to one of Barix' long-term, strategic production partners, HFA SA, will further accelerate Barix’s ability to quickly build custom solutions at this new facility. Energy-efficient solutions Our new Innovation Centre places Barix in the centre of European digital development, a perfect home for Barix" Barix’s business headquarters will remain in Zurich, and will retain its local engineering talent alongside all sales, marketing, product management and other staff. “Aveiro is known as Portugal’s ‘digital city’ and produces a high rate of digital technology innovations, many of which originate from university students and graduates,” said Rietschel. “Our new Innovation Centre places Barix in the centre of European digital development, a perfect home for Barix, which has brought Audio over IP innovations to broadcast, commercial AV, security, retail and other markets for 20 years.” “This new location does not replace our Zurich operation; rather, it will propel Barix innovation in new directions. And we will use our latest-generation, modular platforms to build very powerful, reliable, compact and energy-efficient solutions that serve a continually evolving set of end user requirements.” Widespread adoption of AI At the recent ISE 2020 Show for AV professionals, Barix offered a preview into its next-generation intelligent Audio over IP solutions. These include environmental audio monitoring, detection and analytics solutions for everything from general concerns (noise measurement) to highly sensitive operations (global, universal emergency intercoms, government facility monitoring). We expect widespread adoption of AI and adaptive learning innovations" “The new age of intelligent, widespread devices that understand and hear their surrounding is only beginning,” said Reto Brader, CEO, Barix. “We expect widespread adoption of AI and adaptive learning innovations in all of our markets, and we are proud to have secured highly qualified talent in Portugal for our next-generation research and development team.” Custom-developed OEM products Among the first manufacturers to bring Audio over IP products to market, Barix enjoys an exceptionally large base of installed products worldwide, including custom-developed OEM products for other companies. In recent years, Barix has accelerated product development for its core markets, including multi-site audio distribution (RetailPlayer, SoundScape), intercom and paging (Paging Cloud, IP Former), and broadcast audio transport (SIP Opus hardware codecs, Reflector uncompressed streaming service). Barix will demonstrate these now-shipping products, along with next-generation prototypes from the new Barix Innovation Centre, at the 2020 NAB Show for broadcasters (April 19-22, Las Vegas Convention Centre, Booth C1139) InfoComm 2020 for AV professionals (June 17-19, Las Vegas Convention Centre, Booth C6150), and ISC West for security professionals (July 2020, Sands Convention Centre, Las Vegas, Booth 19140; rescheduled from March 17-19).
Audio over IP pioneer Barix announced that the company has promoted Reto Brader to CEO, following a highly successful tenure as Vice President of Sales and Marketing. The change in company leadership correlates with the availability of new products that Barix introduced in 2018, including its award-winning RetailPlayer platform for background music distribution. Barix appoints Reto as new CEO The remaining Barix management team, which has worked together effectively for the past several years, will continue in their established roles with full support from Brader. This includes company founder Johannes Rietschel as CTO, Joan Parrilla as VP Engineering, and Mario Almeida as VP Production. Rietschel founded Barix in 2001 upon anticipating the need to move audio and control signals over IP networks. The company has since shipped more than 450,000 Barix and private-labeled OEM hardware devices worldwide and has more recently evolved into SaaS and managed services for business music and advertising distribution for retail, hospitality and other location-based businesses. Enhancing IoT solutions portfolio Barix has invested heavily in the development of its next generation products that follow the latest IoT architecture Barix has invested heavily in the development of its next generation products that follow the latest IoT architecture, and that support the highest internet security standards. With Rietschel behind product development and Brader driving marketing strategy, 2018 also saw the introduction of the IPAM 400, a quad-core Linux-based IP audio module for OEMs and developers; Instreamer ICE, Barix’s first AAC+ encoder with an integrated Icecast server; and AudioPoint 3.0, Barix’s low-latency audio-to-mobile streaming platform. Effective immediately, the Barix board has appointed Brader as CEO to seize the market opportunities afforded through these innovations. Before joining Barix as VP Sales and Marketing, Brader held key business and technical roles at Hewlett Packard and Alcatel. He has a degree in Electronical Engineering and an MBA. Audio and control over IP applications “Reto knows the market and has demonstrated his strength in building and managing the distribution channel and key customer relationships,” said Rietschel. “His many years at the frontline in the worldwide AV and broadcast markets are key assets to Barix.” In recent years, Barix has built up an agile organisation that can support both small businesses and enterprise-level customers for a wide area of audio and control over IP applications. Recent company milestones include ISO 9001 certification for quality management systems, and the introduction of double-sourcing with a new manufacturing partner in Europe. The latter adds redundancy to the company’s global supply chain. “It is now important that the entire company is focused on leveraging first market success of our new products to build on recent successes, and continue to drive global business growth,” says Brader. IP audio and control solutions Barix headquarters in Zurich remains the hub for further product development, marketing and support for its product line Barix headquarters in Zurich remains the hub for further product development, marketing and support for its product line. “A key area of our business is to help customers integrate our modules and solutions into their system,” says Rietschel. “This is very support-intensive, and we are proud to be recognised for excellence in that area,” says Rietschel. While Barix will continue to focus on its core markets, Rietschel and Brader’s leadership positions will play a central role in moving Barix forward into new areas of opportunity for IP audio and control solutions. Departing CEO Ivo Killer will leave Barix following a three-year tenure that laid the business foundation for Barix’s recent success. “We thank Ivo for his years of excellent service and wish him well in his future endeavors,” said Rietschel. “I’m excited about what we have achieved in the last three years, and I look forward to working closely with the new executive team in order to bring all our new and exciting innovations to market, as well as to better serve our global systems integration, end user and OEM customer base.”
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