Our article in the January / February issue on page 18 entitled ’Corporate AV systems – central design and procurement” referred to a follow-on case study, which illustrates a successful deployment of the principles presented in that article. This article presents that case study, the new Standard Bank office complex in Rosebank, which is a state-of-the-art building incorporating elements of sustainability and green design both in architecture and in the technologies employed. This article includes some of the concepts presented in the original article, to show how they were achieved in the project.
30 Baker Street, as the building is known, has incorporated substantial meeting room, boardroom, videoconferencing venue and public display requirements. Right from the start there were criteria to be met which governed the selection and architecture of all technologies within the building that address the business requirements detailed in the previous article. As mentioned, these benefits included sustainable development (which includes ’green” designs), a uniform experience for all users, a maintenance-friendly design, high availability, and lastly, enterprise-grade technologies which are based on open standards. Another important criterian was that the equipment should not compromise the aesthetics of the building itself.
These technologies were implemented by Dimension Data using backbone products from AMX, NEC, Polycom and Middle Atlantic, and were created as a reference to which other buildings within Standard Bank will be planned and upgraded.
Sustainable development is that which meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. From a business point of view, this was mandatory for all technology aspects of the building.
Power usage measurements take place constantly, so that power optimisation techniques can be planned and implemented on an on-going basis. Measurement of power consumption for all AV equipment in the building is an automated process by means of AMX’s RMS central health state monitoring system (described below).
All display devices in the building are LED backlit LCD screens, giving a substantial reduction in power consumption over plasma screens, or CCFL backlit LCD screens. NEC was the product of choice for most of the screens in the building, including the displays in all the boardrooms, videoconferencing venues and the public displays. The standby power consumption of NEC screens (even the 80′ version) is less than 2W.
All other equipment deployed in 30 Baker Street needed to be power efficient and was preferred over equipment that is not. The AMX DVX range of digital switching / control equipment for the first time ever has a low power state feature (a feature never before available in this type of equipment). When not in use, the digital audio and video electronics in the system is put into a low power state, which interprets into a 70% saving in energy consumption while not in use.
The power consumption of the audio visual systems in the 30 Baker Street building has successfully been reduced as far as possible, and is constantly monitored so that further improvements can be achieved.
An open architecture, integrated approach
AV for an IT world has become a reality with AMX products. Standard Bank needs to be in control of all aspects of the technology in the building and the best way to achieve that is by minimising proprietary protocols and proprietary radio signals. The benefit of this was achieved in a truly unique and effective way.
TCP/IP has made possible the convergence of business technologies. Unified communications is an outstanding example of this. In fact, unified communications now includes AV systems and this was recognised by Standard Bank. Adoption of TCP/IP in AV systems and control systems takes unified communications one step further, achieving secure, managed and available venues. This cannot be achieved through proprietary protocols.
Secondly, business network security can only be achieved by conforming to standards, and all equipment implemented needed to undergo protocol and security scrutiny. Secure, enterprise grade, open architecture systems such as AMX’s control, switching and server technologies were mandatory. This includes any radio frequency (RF) based equipment. Standard Bank’s WiFi-based RF signals are preferred over any proprietary RF signals, to once again create a secure environment. All AMX components that were implemented in Rosebank connect via wired or wireless TCP/IP.
Using Standard Bank’s TCP/IP network, a new AV system architecture was facilitated, and is a first in most parts of the world. For the first time, the various parts that make up the typical control and AV switching system are placed in the building where it makes most sense, instead of all being situated in the presentation venue. So, for example, the user interface is inside the venue, but the control system that is controlling that room is not. Instead, it is situated in a central AV control room and the two connect to each other across the customer’s local area network (LAN). The same applies for other elements in the venues such as the NEC display devices, the Polycom videoconferencing systems, and so on, which are all connected to each other and controlled over the customer’s TCP/IP network. This means that most of the presentation venues in the building do not have unsightly racks.
On the subject of clean spaces, for those venues where the amount of equipment in the venue did require an equipment rack, the Middle Atlantic pull out and swivel racks were used and installed neatly inside furniture units in the presentation venues, achieving a clean, uncluttered environment. Additionally, AMX ENOVA digital switching and control equipment is highly space efficient as opposed to equivalent hardware in legacy systems that occupied huge racks. This resulted in an uncompromised aesthetic environment.
Adoption of open architecture also enables integration between normally unrelated sub-systems. The AMX control system in each venue is connected to the building management system (BMS) and bi-directional lighting and air-conditioning controls are achieved over the customer’s LAN through the BMS. The measured temperature and current set point in the venue is displayed on the AMX touch panel in each venue. The set point temperature for each venue can be adjusted via the AMX touch panel. Occupancy is detected by the BMS and intelligent environment and AV system control can be achieved by occupancy information being updated from the BMS to the AMX controllers. The integration between AMX and the BMS system was achieved using a standards-based protocol method called Modbus over IP, a first for many in South Africa, and was only possible because of the open architecture of the sub-systems specified into the building.
Uniform user experience
Users should be able to go to any presentation venue within the 30 Baker Street building (and later any presentation venue within Standard Bank) and have the same user experience.
This was made possible by Dimension Data’s software that runs on the AMX controllers. The programme on all controllers is identical for each level of venue. When a change is made in the functionality of the program on the controllers, that change is deployed in all venues in the building by uploading that new program over the customer’s LAN to all venues in the building. All the AMX touch panels have been implemented with exactly the same user pages, which means that time could be invested in making this aspect of the design perfect. Once again, if any further improvements are created, those pages can be sent to all AMX touch panels in the building from a central location over the customer’s LAN. This design concept is planned to be deployed to all Standard Bank buildings to be able to achieve this uniform experience for all users.
This single program approach supports the concept of being ’maintenance friendly’. If an AMX controller should be replaced, it is a simple task to load the same program on the new controller, plug it in and switch on to get the room up and running in a very short time. The same applies to the touch panels. Parameterisation of that same program in each venue is achieved through an ’advanced” section in the touch panel pages in the system. It is also possible for the venue to pick up its parameters from fields set up in the AMX RMS server application (elaborated on later in this article). As soon as the new controller connects to the RMS server, it picks up its parameters which have been set up on a per venue basis.
A unique approach that Standard Bank followed is the provision of connectivity for analogue (VGA) and digital (HDMI) signals in all venues with full support for copy protected material. There are few organisations locally that have taken this step properly. This supports a uniform user experience. It is possible to connect any laptop to the presentation system in any venue without complications. Doing this is no simple task for such a broad range of image types ranging from legacy analogue laptops with no digital outputs to modern digital laptops, sometimes with no analogue outputs. AMX’s digital switching equipment with digital scalers on all outputs creates an infrastructure that just works! AMX’s digital media equipment has specifically been designed from the ground up, to correct this common challenge in the modern AV system.
Central health state monitoring, maintenance friendly
The theory is that any system can be made be as complex as you like, as long as you are monitoring its health state. There are probably limits to that theory, but central health state monitoring was mandatory for the systems implemented in 30 Baker Street. The idea is to have the health state monitoring system detect problems within venues when they occur, and not when you next try to use the venue. Along with health state reporting, the system needed to provide dashboard views of the audio visual systems in the building(s), allowing each user that has access to see exactly what he/she would like to see. Help requests from the venues needed to be possible as well as controls into the venue from the server end when assisting users in the venue.
The AMX Resource Management Suite (RMS) Enterprise central health monitoring server, which is situated in a separate data centre of Standard Bank, is an Enterprise Grade server application which monitors the health state of all audio visual equipment in the building. It will eventually be used to monitor the health state of all presentation venues in Standard Bank. The server application is scalable and provides a centralised, user customisable rich web interface for users that need access. It provides all the functionality that the bank required.
The power of the system becomes evident by the ’macro’ capability included in the AMX RMS server environment. As you can programme macros in a room controller to create a sequence of events in a venue (eg. switch the display screen on, dim the lights, close the blinds, select laptop point one), you can achieve the same from the AMX RMS server side. You can define a macro sequence of events that should take place in one or many venues and that sequence of events can be invoked manually from the server end or automatically under schedule. It is possible to create a macro that controls one venue, a floor, a building, all venues in a country or all venues in the world. While this creates huge power, it also creates a requirement for tight security and user access, which is included in RMS and is already implied by the ’Enterprise” grade of the software.
Besides the macro-based power described above, if a user experiences an issue in a venue, the support personnel could bring up a live view of the venue’s touch panel via the RMS server. This enables the support staff to see exactly what the user is doing (or to be able to do things on the touch panel on behalf of the user). If the touch panel is unavailable, there is an alternative, simple interface into the venue from the RMS server side which is based on a “virtual keypad’ giving the support person controls into the venue to get the meeting started.
Standard Bank has followed a central decision has making approach to the specifying and deployment of these systems. As a large user, it becomes essential to create an infrastructure that is functional enough, highly available, secure, easy to support and maintain, supports all signal types and supports sustainable development. Those goals were achieved successfully in this building and are representative of Standard Bank’s professional approach to the adoption of technology for real business reasons.
Dimension Data with support from Peripheral Vision and AMX has successfully implemented one of the largest AV systems implemented in South Africa. This is an excellent example of how a centralised design and procurement approach to AV systems in a large corporate has resulted in what AMX calls ’the perfect meeting room’. AV for IT has become essential because AV is now part of unified communications. Unified communications systems are designed and procured in the same manner as IT systems. So the same should apply for AV systems.
This approach will continue within Standard Bank, to achieve the same business benefits in all presentation venues.