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Motorcycle Intercom and Communications Systems Blog

Motorcycle Intercom and Communication Systems Blog
Communication Systems and Intercom News, Updates and Notes
by H.B.C. and Rick K. for webBikeWorld.com

Welcome to the webBikeWorld.com Motorcycle Communications System Blog with "Quick Looks" at what's new in this ever-evolving and ever-growing market segment.

webBikeWorld has been providing information and reviews of intercoms and motorcycle communication systems of all types for many years.

Modern Bluetooth-based intercom communications systems are now the most common type for easy-to-use personal use. But continued evolution is dependent on hardware, firmware and software updates to extend the life cycle of products and provide enhancements.

This blog is not meant to replace the valued initial and longer term evaluations that webBikeWorld has become known for but to provide updates and news about hardware and firmware releases in the industry.

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UClear Firmware Update News

(January 26, 2015) UClear Firmware Version 2.19 Released: UClear has just released firmware v2.19 for its 100 Plus and 200 series models that includes:

  • Improved Rider-to-Passenger Echo Suppression.
  • Improved High Speed Communication Speech Quality.
  • Elimination of Screech Noise.

NEW: Installer support for Macs. This announcement from UClear also confirmed the launch of the Firmware 2.19 Installer for Macs. Visit the UClear Support Page for model specific updates or the new MAC Firmware Installer page.

Sena Firmware Update News

(January 26, 2015) Sena Firmware Update v2.1 for the SMH5-FM: This latest firmware update for the FM radio version includes the following:

  • Advanced Noise Control On/Off capability.
  • Improved Ultra HD Voice Recording with the Prism and Bluetooth Audio Pack for GoPro.
  • Improved compatibility with Prism, Bluetooth Audio Pack for GoPro and Bluetooth GPS devices.
  • Minor bug fixes in VOX phone, Universal Intercom, voice prompts, SR10 and smartphones.

(January 18, 2015) Sena Prism Firmware v1.0.0.0 Released: The first "official" firmware release for the Prism System is now available for downloading and installation. No other information regarding this update was provided.

(January 18, 2015) Sena Firmware Update v2.1 for the SMH5: This latest firmware for the original SMH5 intercom includes the following updates:

  • Advanced Noise Control On/Off Capability.
  • Improved Ultra HD Voice Recording with the Prism and Bluetooth Audio Pack for GoPro.
  • Improved compatibility with the Prism and Bluetooth Audio Pack for GoPro.
  • Minor bug fixes in VOX phone, Universal Intercom and voice prompts.

(January 6, 2014) Sena Bluetooth Audio Pack Firmware v1.0: 6 The Sena Bluetooth Pack for GoPro (review) is available for the GoPro Hero3 (review) and Hero4, allowing users to add voice to the visuals by providing real-time HD voice capture using compatible Bluetooth system and with compatible Sena Bluetooth intercom systems. Ultra-HD (UHD) quality audio recording is available. Multi-party audio can be captured as well using Sena intercom configurations.

(January 5, 2014) Sena SMH10R (Low Profile) Firmware Update v5.1: The Sena SMH10R (review) low-profile Bluetooth headset remains a favourite and is a great fitting and very functional system on adventure touring and off-road oriented helmets like the Arai XD4 and others.

Sena has just released firmware v5.1 for the SMH10R, which has updated many key features, including performance updates with the Sena 20S (review) communications system and interaction with the Sena Prism action cam (review) and Sena GoPro Backpack (review). The firmware update includes:

  • Advanced Noise Control On/Off capability.
  • Improved intercom connection compatibility with the Sena 20S.
  • Improved Ultra HD Voice Recording with the Sena Prism and Bluetooth Audio Pack for GoPro.
  • Improved compatibility between the SMH10R and the Prism, the Bluetooth Audio Pack for GoPro and Bluetooth GPS devices.
  • Minor bug fixes in VOX phone, Universal Intercom, voice prompts, SR10 and smartphones.

(December 17, 2014): The first formal firmware release for this snow sports oriented system (that we may evaluate soon). The Snowtalk inserts in the ear pocket of most snowmobile helmets over the ears for a comfortable fit and ease of use in making mobile phone calls, listening to and sharing music and communicating with other enthusiasts using the four-way intercom capable of ranges up to 700 metres or 760 yards. "Stay connected, stay in range and stay safe."

(December 14, 2014): Sena keeps pushing out the enhancements and tweaks to its senior Bluetooth helmet intercom communications system and for good reason -- it works and it's very popular. Like many other system updates being released, interoperability enhancements with other Sena products (including the Sena Prism action cam (review)) is a key focus.

The updates to the SMH10 include improved Ultra HD Voice Recording with the Sena Prism and the Sena GoPro Backpack (review) and minor bug fixes in the SMH10 VOX phone, Universal Intercom volume and voice prompts.

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Cardo SmartSet App Updated

Cardo SmartSet App Version 2.0

(December 11, 2014): Since our October 2, 2014 entry identifying the fact that the SmartSet App didn’t provide users the same configuration control as found with a PC and Cardo Community connection, Cardo Systems just released SmartSet v2.0 (Android 4.0+) that adds the new Remote Control option for not just the G9 but also the G9x and Cardo SHO-1 systems.

The ‘Remote Control’ update now provides full control of the G9, G9X and SHO-1 systems via the mobile device and SmartSet App with functionality that was previously only available via the on-line interface. Users will now be able to add/delete speed dial numbers, create/restore/cancel intercom connections, activate/disable VOX voice connections, enable/disable Music Sharing...you get the picture.

While the fully-featured app is only currently available for Android devices for use with the systems listed above, Cardo will be offering the full meal deal app for iOS devices and possibly also extend its use to other scala rider models (Christmas is coming...).

To get all the new capabilities at your fingertips, just update the devices using the Cardo Community web platform and then install or update (as applicable) the latest v2.0 release with Remote Control Option on the mobile device. It is a free update from Google Play.

Cardo Systems Introduces PACKTALK "Dynamic Meshwork Communication"

(December 3, 2014): Cardo Systems -- the first to introduce Bluetooth for motorcycle intercom systems -- has announced PACKTALK, a "Dynamic Meshwork Communication" (DMC) technology that is the third generation of group communication technology for motorcyclists.

From the Cardo Systems press announcement: "This new technology that was engineered by Cardo after more than three years of intensive research and development, offers new and groundbreaking communication to motorcyclist groups. The launch of Cardo‘s new flagship product, the scala rider PACKTALK, is planned for the first quarter of 2015, and will represent the world's first communication system for bikers equipped with DMC technology.

Since the demise of first-generation cable-connected headsets, Bluetooth became the industry standard for communication technology for motorcyclists.

Bluetooth intercom connections between multiple motorcyclists work, however, these are linear-shaped, i.e. the order of participants is defined in advance and the presence of each biker is required to maintain the communication of the whole group. When a single participant goes out of range or leaves his fellow riders, group communication breaks down.

Unlike Bluetooth, DMC technology offered in the scala rider PACKTALK uses a spontaneous, fluid, self-maintaining network. If one participant is disconnected for any reason, the network is maintained intact.

In an ever changing and dynamic environment such as in a group of motorcyclists, DMC technology represents a shift in the paradigm of communication.

Cardo's new scala rider PACKTALK represents the optimal communication synthesis between the two worlds of communication, offering both Bluetooth and DMC technologies in one device. Both operate in parallel and complementarily. With both technologies on board, PACKTALK introduces the 3rd Generation in group communication for bikers!"

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Two Minute Visit With the Sena Smartphone App for iPhone or Android

Sena Smartphone App

(December 3, 2014): The Sena app, like the Cardo Smartset utility (Google Play or iTunes), is available for iPhone and Android platforms. Currently only compatible with the Sena 20S system (review), it provides these users with a fully featured and functional utility with which to configure and manage compatible Sena communications systems.

Key features of the Smartphone App include:

  • Manage, save and test My Group and Group Intercom List features;
  • Basic device settings;
  • Program (pre-set) up to 10 FM radio stations and up to three Speed Dial numbers;
  • Get updates on latest firmware and notices;
  • Reference the scrollable Quick Start Guide.

Compatible with smartphones or tablets running Android 3.0+, the last posted update (13 August 2014) on the Google Play site identifies some enhancements: adding properties in the basic settings, reset button, reorder feature in Pairing List, prompt to save changes in Pairing List and, actions on scanning modified to stop scanning. Some bug fixes were also made to titles and layouts.

The Sena Utility for Apple devices also works only with the Sena 20S. The current version (10 September 2014) is v1.3.1 and it requires iOS 7.0 or later and is compatible with iPhone, iPad and iPod touch, with optimization provided for iPhone 5 (this will surely change with the release of the 6/6+ models and other platform updates).

Sena Prism Action Camera Firmware Update Released

Sena Prism

(December 1, 2014): Sena released a firmware update for the new Prism action camera. This app was updated 30 November 2014. Its enhancements include reducing overall connection time with the Prism camera and some minor bug fixes, including one specific pairing problem.

Sena 20S Firmware v1.3 Released

(November 24, 2014): Sena 20S Firmware v1.3 was released, with revised voice prompting for the Sena Prism action camera. The update includes intercom reliability improvements and minor bug fixes.

Along with the release of firmware v1.3 came the expected Sena 20S v1.3 User Guide (.pdf) available for download in English, French, Spanish, Italian and German.

Cardo Scala Rider G9 and G9 Powerset v2.0 Firmware

Cardo G9

(October 2, 2014): A long-awaited update that (finally) brought Music Sharing, among other new features, to the Cardo Scala Rider G9 and G9 Powerset (review) systems. A point form summary of v2.0 inclusions are:

  • Music Sharing: Rider/Passenger or Rider-to-Rider can listen or share a music stream when paired using Channel "A" with a range limitation of 10 meters (33 ft.). The initiating system can Start/Stop the streaming whereas the receiving system can only Stop the shared audio.
  • Dual Bluetooth phones or GPS device connectivity support.
  • Intercom-to-Phone (Mobile): New 1+8 feature that allows "out of range" communications to continue based on mobile phone information programmed into the system. EG. If an intercom connected party is dropped due to distance or obstructions, a programmed 1+8 mobile phone number can be activated via the menu to divert the intercom call or session to the programmed phone number. If the party answers, communications can be continued.
  • Phone Buddy: Another new 1+8 feature allows hands-free calling to any pre-defined/programmed telephone number (common with Intercom to Mobile).
  • Music Scan: Provides a first, of sorts, in leveraging AVRCP and the Voice Command features to provide a browsing with preview (first few seconds of each track) capability.
  • Roll-ups from previous firmware releases and numerous other tweaks and enhancements.

Don’t forget that the Cardo SmartSet App is available from iTunes or Google Play. It provides an effective configuration option in addition to the on-line Cardo Community application or directly via the device Settings Menu. The App doesn’t provide 1+8 or firmware upgrade functionality however.

Recent Sena Bluetooth Firmware Updates

(October 6, 2014): The latest firmware updates from Sena provides Universal Intercom, Music Sharing, Advanced Noise Control and Speed Dial, along with other tweaks and enhancements. While some of the latest enhancements listed above were included in earlier model-based firmware releases, getting and taking advantage of the latest and (greatest) firmware is always recommended when and where possible.

Universal Intercom: Sena added this capability to the (then) flagship Sena SMH10B intercom (review) model early this year and as assessed by webBikeWorld, this cross-brand capability works and works well; by itself this capability should be more than enough reason to upgrade.

It is important to understand that the originating universal intercom system will have full control (Start/Stop) while the second system may only have limited or no control of the session (brand specific right now). Of course the top-of-the-heap Sena 20S (review) has the Universal Intercom feature since its market release earlier this summer.

And over the last few months Sena has added the Universal Intercom feature to other models: Sena SMH10R (review), the Sena SMH5 (review) and SMH5-FM (review) along with the Sena SPH10 and SPH10-FM and other systems.

Music Sharing: Another evolving industry standard, although Sena’s iteration is still the best -- seamless, superb audio streaming between two headsets with full AVRCP control by both parties.

Noise Control: More than a few evaluations of Sena systems over the years often identified elevated noise levels on the intercom links and it is obvious given recent firmware releases for all models that this issue has been addressed with very positive results.

UClear Firmware 2.15 Released

(October 6, 2014): Available for the the UClear HBC200 (review) and HBC100 Plus (review) series intercoms, this significant update provides Music Sharing for Rider/Passenger, support for the Android Configuration Tool (UClear HUB) identified above, upgraded phone call quality for iPhone users, earbud tone loudness control reduction in noise spikes during calls and intercom sessions and or course, rolled-up tweaks and device support/switching enhancements from earlier releases.

A hint about UClear’s Cross Brand feature had been provided early this year just about the time Sena added their Universal Intercom capability to the SMH10; it seemed that long-expressed hopes were actually being realize, especially with UClear now releasing their version.

Once this feature is configured (see the latest downloadable manual) one HBC and a non-UClear system can communicate via an intercom session although Start/Stop can only be done by the HBC unit (see Universal Intercom note above).

UClear Systems have always provided what is arguably the best standard motorcycle system helmet audio available, although the Sena 20S is providing stiff competition.

And like the Sena systems, Music Share is now available on the HBC200 and 100 Plus systems allowing streaming from "A" to "B" for audio sharing. No AVRCP control by the second unit is provided -- at least that we’ve managed to get working, but streaming quality is outstanding.

Not that audio of any sort is lacking with the UClear systems, but the tweaks made for this firmware release really have enhanced phone call audio, even less noise is now experienced during intercom sessions and for those users who prefer the earbud option the finer-grain audio settings should help.

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