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Clear-Com Dives into the Deep Blue with CellCom at Steinhart Aquarium


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Leading Marine Exhibits Use Digital Wireless Intercom for Underwater Shows

SAN FRANCISCO, CA, June 9, 2010 - Clear-Com® is proud to announce that its CellCom® digital wireless intercom system is helping the prestigious Steinhart Aquarium at the California Academy of Sciences create an epic underwater experience for visitors. The recently rebuilt San Francisco, CA-based institution counts on the CellCom intercom system to enable the diver-presenters of its popular Philippine Coral Reef dive shows to chat with audience members while immersed in up to 25 feet of water.

Aquarium staff members and volunteers of the Philippine Coral Reef dive shows are able to pull off this amazing feat thanks to CellCom’s inherent versatility. Each CellCom base station features six independent audio ports, allowing audio to be routed between the audience members and diver-presenters. During the Philippine Coral Reef dive shows, the diver’s facemask is equipped with two tiny headphones and a microphone, which are connected by a special underwater tube to a CellCom beltpack near the tank. A presenter leading the show for audience members on the other side of the glass from the diver has a microphone hooked in, via the CellCom base station, to the same communications channel as the diver. That way, when audience members ask the diver questions, he or she can hear them through the headphones and respond by using the underwater microphone.

“It’s very impressive that the Steinhart Aquarium can do so much with one CellCom base station,” says Dave Kaufman, Senior Project Manager, BBI Engineering, the systems integrator for the project and a volunteer diver with the Steinhart Aquarium. “It covers two basically independent exhibits, as well as other areas of the facility, and all we needed to do was install antennas in those areas. It’s a different use than what is usually done with a CellCom intercom system, but it’s worked out really well, especially considering it is a two-way communications system.”

The Philippine Coral Reef Dive show diver is fully under water, necessitating the additional element of a dive tender, who monitors the diver’s air levels from the surface of the tank. The dive tender also handles the CellCom beltpack used for the diver’s underwater communications, speaking with them on a channel separate from the audience.

The tender is in place for the diver’s safety, which is of paramount concern for the aquarium. Another safety issue involves the equipment itself. Since much of the aquarium experience involves looking through clear water, most gear cannot have wires or cables.

“Any cables on the surface and underwater need to be minimal both for aesthetic and safety reasons. We aren’t working behind the scenes here—everything is right in front of the guests, so it has to be presentable and safe for our volunteers,” says Dave Chan, Dive Safety Officer and Biologist at California Academy of Sciences’ Steinhart Aquarium. “As it is wireless, the Clear-Com CellCom intercom system fits this requirement, works well with the diving gear and is also simple to learn. Ease of use is important because we have a volunteer pool of about 50 people, and they need to be able to learn to use the system quickly.”

The Steinhart Aquarium anticipates further growth of its volunteer base, to roughly 60 volunteers, adding to the number of users of its CellCom system. In addition to the Philippine Coral Reef dive shows, the Academy also uses CellCom, along with a Clear-Com headset, for its African Penguin feeding shows and the project lab, where scientists perform dissections on scientific specimens for public view.

“We are thrilled that CellCom is playing such an important role in these two breathtaking exhibits at the Steinhart Aquarium,” says Bob Boster, Director of Sales, Americas and Asia Pacific at Clear-Com.  “We truly believe that our customers can be our best source of new and unique uses of our intercom systems, and no one proves this better than the Steinhart Aquarium. We created the palette, and made it flexible enough for our customers to paint the picture.”

Note: CellCom® and FreeSpeak® are different brands representing the same digital wireless intercom system (with minor technical differences). Due to trademark limitations, CellCom and CellCom Integra (formerly CellCom50) are only available in the U.S. and Canada; and FreeSpeak and FreeSpeak Integra (formerly FreeSpeak50) are available in all countries other than the U.S. and Canada.