When considering Bluetooth and WiFi solutions, it is important to note they require the user to bring their own device (in this case a smartphone) to participate in the event, which may be a violation of the ADA.
Wireless audio technologies, such as Bluetooth and WiFi, are evolving but need time to mature. We have yet to uncover current research or expert opinion as to the efficacy of their application as an ALS.
Bluetooth is a short-range wireless technology frequently used to connect smart phones with devices (e.g.,televisions, computers, tablets, and recently, hearing aids and cochlear implants.) The Bluetooth connection is controlled through a person’s smartphone and when coupled with a device specific app, offers options to control and use the device. When considering this type of solution for use with hearing aides or cochlear implants, it operates best in a one-to-one/personal environment. The app is designed for a specific brand and/or model of hearing device and offers specific options for that particular device to adjust for the needs of the user.
To use this connection as an ALS, the smartphone will then need to be connected to the wireless network in the venue where an ALS server is installed. This connection will require an additional app installed on the smartphone to connect to the ALS server. The app required will depend upon the make/model of the WiFi ALS server installed on the network. Different venues may have different servers.
Of its current limitations, the most significant is the intermittent signal and significant battery drain on both the individual’s hearing device and smartphone. While this technology is evolving, it is still generally not suited for long-range transmission in a large venue like an auditorium, classroom, or theater.
After initial review by UVA ITS Security, WiFi is a technology that currently is not a recommended ALS solution within our IT network architecture for a variety of reasons including:
- Privacy concerns related to individuals unknowingly having their audio data transmitted through this service
- Potential physical security consequences to UVA community if an individual is using the audio feed with malicious intent (e.g., determine where certain people are, where many people are, where few people are, etc.)
- Information security concerns related to the proper configuration of the server component that would need to sit on the UVA protected network, connected via Ethernet.
- Each person connecting to this server would need to have UVA credentials or be a "sponsored guest" on the UVA WiFi network to be able to connect and receive audio from the server installed on the UVA network.
- Open WiFi access points are not allowed on our network.
In addition, there is significant administrative overhead to configure and maintain the system assumed by each department that chooses this type of solution. As mentioned earlier, these solutions require the user to bring their own device to participate in the event which may be a violation of the ADA.