We break the monitoring process into 5 steps -- collection, transfer, processing, analysis and reporting.
In 1987 we began changing the way IBB collects
and transfers data from within broadcast target areas. We are now
able to automatically process and report on millions of
monitoring observations via the web.
We collect three kinds of information from our remote locations:
- subjective, numerical, SDO ratings of the audibility of live broadcasts
- short (15 - 30 second), digitized, audio samples of reception
- spectrum occupancy or bandscan information
Armed with small portable radios that roughly equal the
sensitivity and selectivity of what a 'typical' listener might
have, contract and professional monitors listen to IBB programs
on a daily basis. This monitoring network collects over
50,000 observations of IBB and others' broadcasts each
week. These observations are used to:
- verify the audibility of IBB programs
- confirm relay station schedule compliance
- validate leasing and placement agreements
- compare IBB program reception with that of other international broadcasters
- identify and suggest 'fixes' for reception problems
The human component of our network, consists of 4
full-time Technical Monitoring Offices (TMOs) and over 40
contract monitors (CMs). They 'rate' reception quality in
real-time through a subjective 'SDO' rating
Human monitors and a subjective rating scale? Not very
scientific, eh? Even though no two humans rate reception exactly
alike and a subjective 1 through 5 rating scale lends itself to a
lot of interpretation, we know of no other way to get this kind
of information. To offset this variability we try to collect
lots of observations and work with our monitors to
carefully rate each reception on the same basis as the last.
Humans may not make the best 'monitoring machines', but they are
excellent when it comes to judgement calls about propagation,
identification of interference sources and advice on how best to
improve reception. No machine or software I'm aware of can do
Shortwave propagation and spectrum occupancy (who is on what
frequency) change in REAL TIME. It doesn't do much good to
collect tons of useful data if you can't get access to it for
days or weeks after it's been collected.
To address this problem we developed the Monitoring Data Entry
System. Using a handheld computer and an internet email account
our monitors can send data to our central repository on a DAILY
basis. The data is then automatically processed into our master database.
OK, now that you've got the data in a timely fashion, you've got
to get it someplace where it can be made sense of -- usually a
database of some kind.
In order to handle the more than 1.3 million observations we
gather each broadcast season we had developed the Frequency
Management Database System [FMDS]. Through a traditional
'query' mechanism one can 'drill down' into monitoring
observations and IBB schedule information to any level of detail
Ouch! This is the toughest part of the whole process. You've
got data flowing in and you're shoving it all into a database.
How do you get people's attention when there's a problem?
OK, once you've got all this cool information to hand and you've
processed it, analyzed it and you're ready to tell someone something
about it, what do you do? Print off a page of numbers and shove
it in their in-box? No indeed!
What if they're not in your office area? What if they're on the
other side of town or the other side of the world?
The answer? The web!