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[Technology] I recently read somewhere that all credit card sized keypads are basically the same with respect to how well they perform in an audience response system. Is that true?

Absolutely not. Not all keypads use the same audience response technology for RF communications. It’s misleading to lump ‘credit card sized’ pads together into a group and then compare another technology against some of the superficial elements of that hodge-podge group.

Let us say from that outset that all customer needs are not the same. Thus, different tools are needed to serve those differing needs. When customers desire simplicity in use, a certain style of pad is acceptable. When customers desire extended range, a particular type of pad is preferred. When customers desire reduced shipping costs, another style is optimum. And so on.

Here are the facts about the Reply® wireless audience response technology used in Reply Mini, Reply Mini+, and the various OEM keypads that are Infowhyse-built derivatives of these ‘credit card sized’ products.

  • Reply Mini and Mini+ keypads use frequency hopping spread spectrum (FHSS) methods. FHSS is authorized by the FCC and other radio regulatory agencies to operate at a higher output power than competitive fixed frequency keypad systems. And most people already know that when it comes to wireless communications, the greater the power, the greater the range. Not all competitive ‘credit card sized’ keypads use FHSS.
  • Furthermore, Infowhyse owns a patent on a special FHSS method that is optimized for audience response applications in which data from hundreds of units must be collected nearly instantaneously. That feature is found exclusively on Reply® Mini, Mini+, and the related custom products built by Infowhyse.
  • The FHSS methods in Reply® Mini, Mini+, and their custom product variants allow a Infowhyse-built audience response system to still operate effectively when there is RF interference in a room. That’s because patented Reply® technology allows these systems to intelligently move to an unoccupied region of the 2.4 GHz band to transmit and receive data securely. Fixed frequency systems (like those found in some competitive products) can’t automatically do this if an interfering signal is on their channel. When such a disruption occurs, fixed frequency systems must be re-channelized (something that is generally a manual and time consuming process). Additionally, Reply® technology in Infowhyse-built keypads offers a custom designed Wi-Fi avoidance algorithm. This allows system operators to select regions of the 2.4GHz band to avoid when known Wi-Fi access points are present, thereby permitting transmissions in the ‘clear’ regions of the band and improving system performance.
  • Reply® Mini and Mini+ are smaller than most credit card pads, and thus can be worn comfortably if desired. Wearing keypads on lanyards, often with identification badges associated with trade show or convention events, helps to reduce (if not eliminate) the opportunity for misplacing or losing small keypads.
  • The position of antennae on different keypads varies in the keypads built by different manufacturers. The antenna on Reply® Mini and Mini+ is not covered when someone operates the keypad, either when positioned on a desktop or held normally in the hand. The antenna is at the top of the keypad, enclosed and protected by the case. The antenna design is unique, too, and it’s optimized for range and reception characteristics.
  • Coin cell batteries do indeed store and produce less energy than arrays of AA or AAA batteries. However, the important point is whether coin cells can operate the device in which they’re installed for an acceptable time before their scheduled replacement. After all, ALL disposable batteries – coin, AA, AAA, etc. – require replacement at some time due to either operational use or the shelf life of the battery. With regard to operational use, Reply® technology in Mini permits up to 100,000 votes before replacement. That’s because the system powers down between transmissions to conserve battery charge.
  • So in summary, not all keypads are alike. Not all customer needs are alike. We think it really is a matter of choice for the customer to decide if smaller pad is needed to save shipping expense, or to reduce weight around a user’s neck, or to simplify the voting process in a large meeting.

    Because customer needs differ, we’d like to help assess your needs so that we can objectively recommend an appropriate solution for you. We build all sorts of keypads: large and small, wide and thin, long and short. These different pads are operated by a variety of power supplies (disposable or rechargeable, AA or AAA or coin cell), too. We can offer you an objective recommendation because we design and build more than one solution for your use.

    So please contact us if you want to know more about Reply® technology, or Reply® Mini / Mini+, or the many other products we build for audience response applications.

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