Hundreds of organizations, worldwide, depend on technology to reach out to their neighborhoods, cities, and countries with God’s message of hope. SonSet Solutions equips these ministries with tools, information, and support services that will help them be effective. We also engage in ongoing research and development to provide real world solutions for our ministry partners. While our engineers are very important to this process, student interns have also been key contributors.
Because listener expectations have increased, broadcast applications need better and clearer coverage, increased audio quality, improved listenability, supplemental content (text and visual), and better spectrum utilization.
Digital broadcast technology – The greatest advantage of shortwave radio has always been its ability to reach around the world. The disadvantage however, has typically been poor audio quality due to static and fading, often making it difficult for the listener to understand the broadcasts. Digital radio is the answer to that problem – it combines the advantage of long range broadcasting with the clarity of a digital audio signal comparable to a local FM radio station.
Digital Radio Mondiale (DRM), an international digital radio standard, is of particular interest to us because of dramatic quality improvement achieved on medium wave (AM) and shortwave. SonSet Solutions engineers have developed a DRM broadcast exciter and are integrating it with our existing shortwave transmitter designs.
Solar-powered receivers – The original SonSet® Radio, an FM, fixed-tuned, solar-powered radio, began as a research and development project. We have now distributed more than 43,000 of these radios to listeners in more than two dozen countries. Work didn’t stop there. The radio went back into research and development as engineers added the capability to receive medium wave (AM) and shortwave (SW) signals as well. The new MB-1 SonSet radio is the result of this development project. But, we are not finished yet. The radio is back in the lab to add an internal audio player which will allow audio content to reside on the unit itself.
Renewable energy applications
Basic necessities and reliable power are going unmet in underdeveloped communities. There is a great need for economical energy for basic necessities in these communities to light homes, charge phones, run radio stations, and power medical equipment. As a result, we are looking into renewable energy applications to serve these communities, as well as, assist our radio and medical ministry partners around the world.
Small scale renewable generation – Minimal infrastructure water generation, small solar and wind generators, and reliable long life batteries are being researched and tested. These units could provide reliable power sources in areas where electrical services are intermittent, very expensive, or non-existent.
Solar power applications – Currently in development is a Solar Lamp Pole. Using LED lamps, the post offers nighttime lighting but can also charge mobile devices (cell phones, tablets, etc). Currently, two prototypes are being tested by ministry partners in the field. Work continues on the lamp pole to add local wifi hotspot capability for downloading video, audio or printed content to mobile devices such as an audio or digital Bible, a radio program, or a video production.
Solar powered pumps – Another application being worked on will provide solar generated electricity to pumps in remote areas. Many communities do not have clean water sources nearby. A solar powered water pump might allow the community to pull up water from a very deep well, as well as pump that water into a storage tank where it could then be distributed to the entire community. Providing water to a community can affect everything; benefits include improved community health, freeing up time to attend a local church, and the ability to bake bricks for improved housing construction.
Power protection and regulation
Our radio partners need a reliable and economical way to protect their high cost equipment from poor power sources and lightning strikes, in turn reducing down time, and expensive or difficult repairs. Commercially available solutions are either expensive, or don’t protect adequately. SonSet Solutions is striving to find a middle ground to meet this critical ministry need.
Fast disconnect devices, lightning arresters, power regulators, and economical regulation ideas – Currently available protection devices are being researched and tested as well as fast acting disconnect solutions and economical regulation ideas. This research and testing is essential to providing an affordable long-term solution.
Intelligent power protection – We continue to research and develop an intelligent protection device to shield our partners’ studio and transmitter equipment from damaging variations in electrical power. Damage from lightning strikes, power surges, and brownouts usually results in months of lost opportunity for the ministry while the equipment is repaired or replaced. A unique feature of this device is a data logger to gather data from various parts of the world where it will be used. This enables us to tailor the device to specific problems in a particular area.
The most pervasive media device today is the mobile phone/tablet. Used in unreached audiences, they can communicate the gospel and strengthen outreach of existing radio partners. We cannot afford to ignore this communication tool that has surpassed the radio in prevalence. There is a need to identify ways these tools can be used to strengthen our partner ministries and present Christ to their users. Radio stations also need tools for text message management, audio streaming, listener interaction, etc. Research is being done by our engineers and IT staff to identify smart phone apps of interest, compile radio streaming tools, research video format conversion tools, and develop apps to augment radio partner outreach.