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 Home > Event-related > European SF > FSE-ESF 2004 > Babels @ the ESF > Presentations & Statements

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Nomad Presentation

(Date: 7 September 2004)

This document was handed out at the UK Organising Committee meeting on the 16th May 2004 and a few days after, was circulated on various public email lists related to the ESF 2004.



It is proposed that the UKOC and the Communications Working Group give the go ahead for an evaluation of the feasibility of implementing Nomad fully across the UK 2004 ESF.
Resources will need to be committed to this at an early stage. Discussion and development of this needs an ESF "home" - we propose this should go through the Communications Working Group as there will be obvious synergy and cross over around the provision of other resources such as the Media Centres and access facilities

It is a model, or system for providing the technical infrastructure for simultaneous interpretation. Nomad uses a computer to encode the speakers voice into mp3 (turn it into a digital format) and then stream (send electronically) the audio to the interpretation booths, then to the “audience” and participants.
The software to manage the system has been well tested and works. It is licensed under GPL and available at:
It has been implemented at the Mumbai WSF across a limited number of seminars.
The challenge is scaling it up to provide the infrastructure for all of the simultaneous interpretation needs of the ESF. This would require support from a range of groups. We will be appealing to the Open Source software / alternative + community media organisations, and communications trade unions amongst others. We understand that the organisations working around the European Forum on Communications Rights (EFCR) are interested in supporting the development of Nomad where possible.

There is an email list for those wishing to get involved. To subscribe, send a message to


Costs - should be significantly reduced compared to commercial infrastructure

Broadcast - as well as being distributed to the audience the audio can easily be broadcast across the internet if streaming servers are provided.

Archiving - audio content can be easily archived on the hard drive of a dedicated computer, to create a full audio archive - which can then be published as an online resource.

Development of alternatives - Nomad represents a break from the commercial model and can be seen as a project putting alternatives into concrete action.

Long term positive benefits for the ESF movement: the successful development of this system to be used on such a scale, will provide a lasting contribution to the ESF process, to be used in subsequent ESF events.


Cables and Boxes
In Mumbai delivery of audio to the audience relied on language blocks being sited along cable lines, with audio junction boxes being provided for audience members to plug their standard headphones into directly. In Mumbai the implementation at its biggest allowed for 600 headphones. The audio junction boxes were also hand built by local labour at an obviously very low cost - this is of course not an option for the UK ESF. There is also a Health and Safety issue around running cables across a venue which need to be addressed.
Wifi Boxes
Wifi enabled computers (ie wireless internet connected computers) could be located around the room, with each allowing clusters of the audience to connect their headphones directly into junction audio boxes attached to the wifi enabled computers.
FM or similar
Instead of using cables at all, the distribution of audio could go direct to headsets, as with standard commercial systems. It may be possible to use low powered FM for this transmission, but physical testing needs to be conducted as a priority - both to evaluate the transmitters, receivers, band sensitivity, and test the degree to which audio transmission may ’leak’ from one room to another - a problem which may prevent the fm delivery system being implemented on a large scale in multi room venues.
Other possibilities are being explored.


Please note, these are only working figures for the time being and should not be taken as final. Assuming sessions for plenaries and seminars last for two hours, there would be potentially 8-10 over the course of the ESF. If there were 250-260 sessions in total, that could mean around 30-35 parallel sessions at any one time. We are now assessing the hardware, personnel and logistical requirements to implement the system on such a scale.


Comparing costs with Mumbai is inappropriate due the completely different commercial realities between India and the UK. We are currently analysing the costs from the Paris ESF and will further review these figures to identify where cost savings could be achieved through the use of the Nomad system. The hire, delivery and installation of approx 130-150 booths, assuming four booths per room across all venues, will be a requirement regardless of the system used. There is the possibility that the computers required could be secured through donations and from existing computer recycling organisations.


Aiming for the full 30-35 venues is of course the goal, but it may be that it is only practical for a smaller number of venues. Nomad will need a budget for further development, a full time coordinator asap and a team of people working on the delivery of the system. Each of the venues would need setting up with Nomad and will require technical supervisors to operate the system. Volunteers could be drawn from the free software community, technical trade unions, and university students. The feasibility study would have to estimate the number of people required to create, install and manage the system while in operation.
At the same time investigations into providing the interpretation infrastructure purely from commercial suppliers must be conducted, despite the large budget implications.

We call upon to the UK ESF Organising Committee to engage with us in the development and implementation of this system which will provide a definite, positive contribution to the ESF 2004 and to the ESF movement as a whole.
Further details will be forwarded to the Committee in the following weeks.

Report prepared by NOMAD, Babels-UK and Indymedia Volunteers

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