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Have the Cloud Call My Doctor

“Any anesthesiologist to the OR, stat!” In a previous position, I heard these words come through the overhead speakers of a hospital. It sent shivers up my spine, and I briefly let my imagination wander. More often, I heard the speakers play a soft, happy nursery rhyme – the hospital’s tradition to mark a baby’s birth.
To some, overhead paging systems are relics, often replaced by text messages or phone calls. But overhead paging is still alive and well in manufacturing, healthcare, retail, schools, amusement parks, and other areas. Despite our smartphones and space-age technologies, overhead paging through old fashioned horns and speakers is still very efficient.
How to Integrate VoIP?
While you could upgrade an analog paging system to an IP-based system, it isn’t always a necessary step when upgrading your voice system to the cloud. Companies frequently integrate their paging system with cloud-based phone solutions for the same reason that they integrate with premises-based phone solution. It provides convenience of use and reduces the need for duplicated cabling infrastructure.
So how do you integrate a VoIP system with an aging paging system? The same way you might integrate a fax machine or any other analog device. The easiest method is to use an analog telephone adapter (ATA).
ATAs are bridges. In networking, a bridge is a device designed to connect disparate networks of different technology. In this case, we’re connecting a traditional TCP/IP network with an analog voice network to make them talk through a station interface (as opposed to trunking).
Some popular ATA manufacturers include Edgewater, Cisco, Obihai, and Audiocodes. My favorite today is Obihai as it seems to be the most reliable and easy to use. I recommend using the make and model that is certified with your service provider. ATAs provide either station level or trunk level integration. The type is up to you and your particular VoiIP platform.
Thanks to old telecommunications regulations, you can’t simply connect your paging directly to your phone system. Instead, a modulator is required, and PBX manufacturers built their equipment to require these modulators. I typically use a device made by Valcom for this. The Valcom V-9970 works great for single zones and the Valcom V-9940 for multiple zones. There are plenty of other good manufacturers on the market, such as Bogen and Viking. I settled on a standard so that I could establish a streamlined, repeatable process as I roll out VoIP to all of our facilities.
If you’ve postponed upgrading your phone systems to VoIP because you thought that overhead paging would be incompatible, perish the thought. Making the two systems work together is relatively easy and inexpensive.