Two-way analog radios allow you to receive audio messages from various sources. However, they all require you to be available to hear them. A new product launching on Crowd Supply from Boondock Technologies addresses that gap. The Boondock Echo receives, saves, and transcribes messages when you are not in front of a radio. It can even send you alerts based on keywords.
Boondock Echo connects to an external two-way radio to receive or transmit audio messages. It stores or sends the audio to an internet cloud service for transcription. Using Boondock Echo's web-based interface, you can set up alerts for keywords on the transcribed audio.
There are a couple of ways you might use a device like this. For example, you could monitor emergency service frequencies for keywords like "Fire" or your street's name. Another use might be monitoring an amateur radio net for when someone mentions your call sign.
The physical box's size measures about 120 by 90 by 30 millimeters. A tethered walkie-talkie K-type two-pin cable, a 3.5mm audio jack, and a power switch are on one side. The other side has a MicroSD card slot and a USB port for power and data. The top, or front, face has buttons for actions like Push-to-Talk (PTT) and volume toggle. Three multicolor LEDs indicate the Wi-Fi, audio, and device status.
Setting up the device is straightforward. It needs Wi-Fi credentials to connect to the Boondock Echo cloud service. You can also provide multiple Wi-Fi access point credentials to seamlessly move the device between sites. Audio prompts let you know the Wi-Fi status. Once connected, many configuration options are available, which get programmed over Wi-Fi.
To configure a radio frequency for listening, you must set it manually on the handset. The Boondock Echo can only enable push-to-talk for transmitting a message. (There is a configuration option to disable PTT/TX entirely to prevent accidental transmissions.) This minor limitation also means if you want to monitor multiple frequencies, you need multiple Boondock Echos, each connected to a two-way radio.
Inside Boondock Echo are two boards. The main board has an ESP32-A1S module connected to a smaller Boondock Audio Kit Sidekick board. The external K-type cable and the 3.5mm audio-out interfaces come from this board.
Boondock Technologies provided us with an early unit for a quick review. I had no issues setting up the hardware and software to work with a Baofeng UV-5R+ radio. These radios operate in the 136-174 MHz and 400-480MHz frequency ranges.
As an example application, I monitored unscrambled frequencies used by emergency services in my area. Once Boondock Echo captures a message, it uploads the audio to its cloud service, which uses OpenAI to transcribe it. And, frankly, the results were impressive. Even when I had trouble understanding the messages due to electronic or human interference, OpenAI did not!
Currently, the web application only allows for Email notifications. But Boondock Technologies says they will support other services like IFFT in the future.
Boondock Echo maximizes the use of your two-way radio by listening when you cannot.
Pricing has yet to be finalized, but in addition to the one-time charge for the hardware, there will likely be a subscription associated with the cloud service. The hardware and on-device software are open sourced and available in this GitHub repository.
You can pre-order from the Boondock Crowd Supply page.