There are now 7.4 billion people on earth and, surprisingly, 7.8 billion mobile device subscriptions. Globally, the net worth of mobile technology exceeds that of radio, television, the internet, personal computers, and landline telephones combined. A recent international media conference revealed that mission organizations around the world are using cell phones for distribution of audio Bibles, discipleship materials, evangelistic films, and Christian media apps.
SonSet Solutions is learning how to use mobile media for God’s kingdom. Social media can interact with an audience in a two-way conversation. MicroSD memory cards, used in many cell phones, can be loaded with Biblical content, and distributed in restricted countries. Even people living off the cell phone grid can download content onto their mobile device using a solar-powered Wi-Fi media server.
Mobile media is a break from our traditional ministry of supplying technology to partners for the advancement of the gospel. We are leveraging new technology for that same goal. Man has created a wonderful opportunity to communicate with the world in unprecedented ways. We can use that same technology to communicate the wonderful message of love and hope in Jesus.
Until recently, outsourcing the assembly of small quantities of Printed Circuit Boards (PCBs) which use surface mount components was costly. But with the purchase of new Surface-Mount Technology (SMT) equipment, multiple Engineering and Development project test boards can be prototyped in-house, including runs of 50 or even 100.
Though not fabricating the PCBs themselves, a vacuum pen allows placement of tiny SMT components onto the boards where they are held in place using a special paste. The board and components are then placed into a special oven and heated until the paste melts and permanently attaches the components to the PCB.
What used to take six hours now takes 45 minutes, and saves approximately $150 per hour. In addition, the flexibility of prototyping in-house PCBs provides a very practical tool.
Both Equipment Power Protection (EPP) and Water Monitoring have already taken advantage of the new equipment, but any project can benefit, such as the SonSet® radio. Over time, this equipment will more than pay for itself not just in time and funds but in helping to make equipment more efficient in reaching souls for God’s kingdom.
SonSet Solutions provides satellite-based monitoring of clean water systems, but as improvements to the current monitor continue, new applications are being requested. Development is underway to adapt the monitor for an India Mark II style pump, the most widely used hand pump in the developing world. ELWA Ministries also approached us about a seven-fold increase, up to 36, in the number of sensors that can be used simultaneously for their hospital water supply system in Liberia.
Some partners are looking beyond clean water. Renew is interested in monitoring data from their Wifi enabled LightStream™ media distribution system so that they can determine the number of times audio Bibles, Jesus film clips, Christian videos, or other content has been downloaded to devices like mobile cell phones. I-TEC would like to monitor their solar energy systems, used for medical ministry. Our radio partners are also asking about monitoring their transmitters, which are often located on remote mountaintops.
As the need for remote monitoring increases, our team is committed to finding solutions to these challenging problems.
Our monitors will soon be tracking the flow of gospel media (Living Water) as well as clean water (H2O) for those who are spiritually and physically thirsty.
The machine shop is filled with a wide variety of shop equipment. Complex machinery such as a CNC mill and lathe facilitates production of equipment, helping us meet increased demand from partner ministries. Operated and maintained by only a handful of personnel, these machines free up time for other tasks while simultaneously boosting precision, reliability and minimizing production costs.
The machine shop enables production of specialized FM antennas, mechanical parts for in-house low-power shortwave transmitter production, and parts assembly for clean water projects. In addition, it allows us to design, create and test different versions of water pumps to produce the most cost-effective model for our clean water ministry partners. The shop even allows SonSet Solutions to fulfill unique requests such as building a high-power Radio Frequency (RF) switch for shortwave gospel broadcasting in Guam.
Manufacturing Manager Stephen Peacock notes that his greatest joy is seeing FM antennas go out to numerous ministry partners, equipping them with the tools they need to reach their people with the gospel.
Lightning strikes and unstable power can damage and destroy expensive equipment. Though commercial devices are available, their cost and ongoing maintenance makes them prohibitive, and they often lack the ability to shut down fast enough to protect even sensitive medical equipment. Whether it’s a radio station, school, or hospital, ministries need something cost effective, easy to use, and reliable for the most rudimentary conditions.
The Equipment Power Protection (EPP) device, now in the prototype stage, has been designed to fill that need. Begun in 2008, EPP development has combined electrical, mechanical and computer programming from both seasoned engineers and summer interns alike. Housed in a simple weather-proof metal box, the device can be easily mounted on a wall. Its user-friendly front panel enables simple operation and feedback, enabling operation by most anyone. Shutting down within three-hundredths of a second of erratic electrical power, its design ensures that all connected equipment is safeguarded from damage.
Now ready for field-testing in real-world conditions, three units are planned for this next phase to ensure it operates as smoothly and efficiently as its design calls for.
Ministries are using technology to increase their effectiveness all over the world. However, technology needs power and power can be unreliable or non-existent in many developing countries. SonSet Solutions has solved this problem for our solar-powered SonSet® radio receivers, but what if we could also power a remote transmitter site or a mission hospital using energy from the sun?
SonSet Solutions is developing a training unit that will help our engineers learn about these larger-scale solar power systems. This unit will support hands-on experimentation, give practical instruction on the basics of solar energy components, and prepare our staff for making effective decisions in the selection, design and installation of alternative energy sources for our partners. The test station will be about the size of an office desk, and will include not only a solar panel and batteries, but options for testing the power output of the system using devices like a fan or a computer. Coupled with a properly-sized battery bank, a well-designed solar power system provides predictably available, economical, and reliable electrical power, with little variation in voltage, current or frequency. A properly-installed solar power system requires very little maintenance and can last for decades, enabling our partners to focus on other aspects of ministry.
What has thousands of components, is the size of a small kitchen, and weighs approximately four tons? SonSet Solutions’ 100,000-watt radio transmitter called the HC100! HC100 serial #2 was built by our engineers in the early 1990s and served faithfully in Ecuador for many years carrying programs to many parts of the world. In 2009, HCJB Ecuador closed its transmitter site, and three HC100s were returned to our facility for refurbishment. HC100 serial #2 was shipped to our partner Reach Beyond Australia at the end of February 2016 where it joined serial #6 and #8 increasing broadcasts into Southeast Asia.
The primary refurbishing effort over the last couple of years was to upgrade this transmitter to enable digital broadcasting. Last fall, however, Reach Beyond Australia communicated the urgent need for a third transmitter. Digital technology did not progress as quickly as they had hoped, and digital receivers throughout Asia were still scarce. Derek Kickbush, Reach Beyond Australia’s Media Manager, expressed, “We’re not dismissing a move to digital shortwave. It just means it will be later rather than sooner. What is evident is the need for our third transmitter … now!” Serial #2 was added to the broadcast schedule during the last week of June, and now three HC100s are broadcasting in 29 languages into India, Nepal, Myanmar, and Southeast Asia.
Many older radio station partners of SonSet Solutions still use CDs, cassette tapes, LP records and even reel-to-reel tapes for storing musical content and archiving radio programs. Preparing a radio show or an entire programming day using these methods can be cumbersome at best. Computer automation systems are now available, but it can still be a time-consuming process to create an attractive program without key information like song tempo, theme, genre or a sermon series title.
The solution? Audio Guardian! This system will allow stations to move all of their program content to reliable and secure computer storage without the fear of “losing” their audio files in a sea of computer bits. Audio Guardian provides a web-based interface for entering key information about each audio file while it is being imported. Radio automation and/or music rotation systems can then suggest audio files that might be included in a particular show based on selected keywords. The web interface also allows producers to work from any networked computer, freeing up valuable on-air studio computer time. Currently, there are no commercial systems with all of the features of Audio Guardian.
Audio Guardian is scheduled for installation in the fall of 2016 for partner Radio Lumiere which covers two-thirds of the country of Haiti with gospel programming. Using technology to automate program production increases the amount of time dedicated to creating quality Christian programs that touch the heart and soothe the soul.