Loading

Resources

Resources

Maximizing a school’s technology budget.

The client: Public high school
Major challenge: Keeping equipment and wiring costs to a minimum

A public high school wanted to deploy a high-quality digital signage system that would broadcast useful information to key areas of its campus. Administrators expected internal staff to manage the system, so it had to offer relative ease of use and wouldn't necessitate any calls for outside help. Plus, they wanted a media player system that would give school staff the ability to customize screens to their specific needs in their specific departments.

But, like most educational institutions, the school had a tight budget for the equipment, the wiring, and the installation. Would it be possible to get a flexible, high-performing digital signage system without having to empty its technology account?

The school called on Black Box Network Services. Black Box visited the site to ascertain how such a digital signage system would work on the campus, carrying out a full survey to to determine the physical structure of the building, the provision of power, and existing cable points—information that would enable them to design an economical system appropriate for the school's education and messaging needs. Black Box engineers then set to work on installing the digital signage system.

The solution:
The building required power and a CAT5e cabling infrastructure to be installed at each desired screen location. This included all containment, back boxes, patch panels, and power outlets.

For organizing and playing content in the system, technicians chose BLACK BOX® Media Player 2 units because they support mixing different media—static images, recorded video, and even live video feeds—and they're very easy to use. With the players in place, school staff can manage them from any location in the school. In addition, a single administrator can remotely update and change the content and set access rights for other users.

One Media Player 2 unit was placed in the school's communications room to provide content to all the screens in the main building. Black Box installers placed another in the senior student wing of the building, a player that would enable staff to stream content more suited for those students, as well as terrestrial broadcast and satellite TV.

Technicians networked both players so staff can manage them from anywhere on campus. This school's receptionist, for instance, can update welcome messages for visitors, while cafeteria staff update the daily menu from their end. Various other members of staff can also change individual sections of content.

For the content distribution, technicians installed a BLACK BOX® Video Distribution System comprised of an AC156A-8 Local Unit plus eight AC158A-REM Remote Units. They chose it because of its reliability and proven track record within the signage market. What's more, it made full use of the CAT5e cabling installed earlier by Black Box.

The local distribution unit required just a single power outlet in the communications room. Even better, the remote units placed at the rear of the remote screens drew their power from the local distribution unit, too. This minimized the number of power outlets required at each screen location and also helped with installation costs.

The remote units were small enough to be mounted easily onto the rear panel of each screen and gave users the ability to fine-tune the video signal for a clear picture.

For areas of the school where smaller-sized screens would work best, Black Box chose NEC® LCD panels. These included three 32" LCDs mounted in reception area and in the cafeteria corridor, where their brightly lit displays worked well under the bright lights and their compact size fit the narrow space, and two 40" LCDs mounted in the common room of the senior student wing and the school's foyer area.

For areas where larger screens would be required, technicians chose Panasonic® plasma screens. These included 50" and a 58" plasmas installed into the main hall area, where administrators wanted to reach a larger audience without spending an extraordinary amount of money.

The equipment chosen for the high school gave administrators and staff the high-quality displays they desired, but minimized the costs required for installation which, in turn, reduced the overall cost for this project.

» Back.

Delivering real-time info to gas pumps.

The client: An international petroleum company with thousands of pumps at stations throughout the world
Major challenge: Installing digital signage components that wouldn't be vandalized or damaged by the elements

Price is the main differential in the retail gas business. In this competitive market, gas station operators are looking at new sources of revenue. Advertising provides that, and digital signage at the pumps enables ad content to be delivered to a captive audience: customers pumping gas.

For this setting, the client sought a content delivery system that could be administered off-site, in a central location, eliminating the need for any intervention by the clerk or other station personnel. Maintaining and supervising the digital signage content delivery would be handled at a corporate or regional control terminal instead. What's more, the system would have to be connected using the least-evasive and inexpensive cabling possible, and the remote players themselves would have to be in a dry, secure area, sheltered from the elements and extreme temperatures, as well as protected from vandalism or theft. And, for safety reasons, the client sought a setup that had a minimal number of electrical components in the vicinity of the pumps.

The solution:
A visual display system that communicates over ordinary CAT5 UTP cabling. This hardware-based system converts and distributes video signals for extensions over the CAT5. Because low-density UTP cable could be used, it was possible to extend the digital signage displays up to 360 feet from system's media player, which could be locked in a room out of sight, away from heat and moisture, and away from vandals or thieves.

For the control part, a Web-based access and management application was used. This gave the company the ability to centrally monitor, administer, and update ads and other content in seconds over an IP-based connection. Through this remote link, a content manager could stream advertising content that targets customers right at the pump, as well as use dynamic PoP marketing to promote the gas company's own customer loyalty programs—and create brand loyalty in the process. And because the system operates in real-time, the administrator could change content on the fly. For instance, when the weather turns cold, the displays could show ads for antifreeze and coffee. Content can also be programmed to stream at specific times of the day.

» Back.

Quality in-store advertising without cabling headaches.

The client: A media company looking for improved in-store digital signage
Major challenge: Transmitting video long distances without degradation

The large established media company with a major discount chain as its premier client wanted to improve the quality of content delivered to its in-store advertising displays. The stakes were high. The retail chain expected every one of their 300 stores to have the same signage with advertising reaching an audience of more than 60 million people on a monthly basis. But in addition to the discount stores, the media company also had to satisfy the advertisers themselves. And it didn't help that many of the clients were new to retail advertising, with brands not traditionally promoted in the mass media. So promoting the brands to their liking would require a high-quality delivery system.

The media company's first attempt at setting up the in-store signage met with disappointing results. Content distributed from the player over coax cabling resulted in a shaky video. Plus, distance was an issue. Coax didn't do well at transmitting content from the back area of the store to the PoP displays. It is also particularly expensive when used in longer runs, and difficult to pull and terminate. Certainly not the solution for rapid deployments in a busy retail setting.

The solution:
The media company went with a high-quality CAT5 UTP-based system for distributing advertising content to the in-store signage. This system solution required minimal cabling, used cabling that was much less expensive than coax, and most importantly, transmitted high-quality multimedia over long distances without any image degradation. In addition, the cable was easier to pull and could use standard RJ-45 wallplates and jacks for interconnections within the store.

» Back.

Digital signage wired for the subterranean world.

The client: A digital signage network operator for a public transit provider
Major challenge: Wiring connections for underground locations

A major media company faced the task of having to install a multimedia system that would deliver real-time—and, if necessary, critical emergency override messaging alerts—to up to 1500 LCD screens in a major North American city's subway system. Content would include useful, up-to-the-minute transit information for passengers (including hearing-impaired riders), weather bulletins, news, and sports. The system would also be used to stream entertainment from a local TV station and content from local cultural and arts organizations, as well as paid advertising. The screens would target more than a million passengers per week.

Running the wiring for a digital signage in an underground area poses its own unique set of challenges and can be cost-prohibitive. There are tight corners and a spiderweb of cabling and wiring for telecom and utilities to contend with. Then there's the matter of securing the hardware. In platform areas frequented by the public at all hours of the day, system hardware has to be vandalproof and hidden from view to prevent tampering and theft. Plus, any sensitive electronics have to be weatherized for the cool, damp environment.

The solution:
A hardware-based and network-independent CAT5 UTP-wired system to distribute video signals from master enclosures to slave enclosures in platform areas. Using copper cabling proved to be the ideal alternative to using traditional coax cabling. It's not as bulky, can be pulled more easily through smaller conduit and ducts, and at longer distances, without any worrying about image degradation.

The low-density, easy-to-install copper was just the cost-effective media for distributing the high-bandwidth content—and enables the high-priced digital signage to run problem-free. The signage itself helps make the commuting experience more pleasurable for the public, reducing perceived wait times for trains and keeps them better informed of transit info. For the subway system authority, the signage enhances its image in the minds of public and provides it with additional funding through the ad revenue generated, so much that system has become self-sufficient. What's more, the authority now has a centralized, easy-to-update communications system for public safety messaging.

» Back.

Unobtrusive, long-distance video for a messaging center.

The client: A convention center
Major challenge: Maintaining high-resolution imagery end-to-end

A county-owned convention center in the South wanted to install a state-of-the-art messaging center with a sophisticated display system. In addition to providing visitors with directions, meeting and event schedules, and stock tickers, the messaging center would stream ad content paid for by sponsors and other advertisers—ads that would recoup the cost of the entire digital signage project in a short amount of time.

Part of the project's requirements was the need to centrally store all back-end audio and video equipment in a single, highly accessible communications closet for ease of control and maintenance. (No auxiliary closets or computers could be used near the displays themselves. ) Moreover, the resolution on every display in the center had to match the resolution of the monitor at the video source. Trouble was, the blueprint called for the displays to be more than 1300 feet away from the central closet—a tall order for conventional video-extension products.

The solution:
A daisychain of CAT5 audio/video receivers communicating with transmitters in the central communications closet and linked to 17 large-format LCD and plasma displays in high-traffic areas. Using CAT5 copper cable was not only simpler than using coax cable (no BNC connections to terminate), but it also reduced the need for conduit cross-section. And because the receiver units could be daisychained through their dual RJ-45 ports, the entire system required fewer cabling runs to the closet.

To meet the convention center's stringent requirements for quality end-to-end video, the CAT5 video extension system supports 1600 x 1200 resolution at distances as far as 1500 feet. What's more, transmitter signaling can be equalized and fine-tuned to ensure clear, crisp display imagery.

» Back.

Flight info delivered remotely to custom LCD enclosures.

The client: A West Coast airport
Major challenge: No room in the screen enclosure for extra hardware

As part of the work done for a new information display system, the airport installed more than 175 LCDs to provide travelers with up-to-date information in various airport areas. These included new displays for flight information, gate information, and baggage information.

To replace its older low-resolution, CRT-based displays, the airport chose NEC-Mitsubishi LCD3000 and LCD4000 panels over plasma screens because of their clarity and lack of burn-in, then brought in a specialty metal fabrication company to build custom LCD-panel enclosures. These thin metal frames would enable the screen bezels to be seamlessly integrated into the space without harming the aesthetics of the airport. And to ensure optimum viewing, the enclosures featured anti-reflective, anti-glare optical glass.

So a lot of thought went into how the displays and their enclosures should look. But what should be used to generate the content for the digital signage? The design didn't allow for computers, servers, players, or other equipment to be housed in or near the boxes holding the displays. Besides, the airport wanted to manage content from a central location.

The solution:
The airport went with a CAT5-based extender system to deliver remote VGA signals to the LCD displays. This system of transmitters and receivers, specially designed for high-resolution video as well as serial signal control, enabled the airport to distribute its content using inexpensive, easy-to-handle copper UTP cable. Content can reach displays close to control room as well as LCDs at distances as far as 1500 feet—without any video signal degradation. Pixel cycling on extenders ensures optimal video quality.

Plus, in this setup, no computers are needed to run the individual displays; all computers are centralized in one secure room, which makes it easy to maintain, troubleshoot, and power.

» Back.

Signage for improving call center productivity and morale.

The client: A call center operator with locations across the U.S.
Major challenge: Tight schedule

In order to increase employee productivity, the call center company planned to install an employee communications system in more than 25 locations across the country. The system would include plasma displays showing real-time call center statistics so workers could see how many callers are on hold and how long they've been waiting.

In addition, high-definition Panasonic plasma screens would be used to provide company-related information to visitors and employees throughout its buildings, spotlighting the outstanding performance of workers in an effort to improve morale.

The solution:
Facing a short deadline to get the digital signage system up and running, the company decided to use a series of CAT5 video extenders for a quick deployment in all call centers. These extenders enable the plasma screens to be placed away from the PCs hosting the call center data. Plus, they gave the company an easy way to distribute computer video to lobbies and other areas. Because the system's transmitters and receivers use flexible, inexpensive UTP copper for communications, no bulky runs are required. Installers used both four-port DVI transmitters and serial transmitters on the local side. The serial units not only support video and serial data over the same cable, they also enable system administrators in the control room to turn displays on and off remotely.

» Back.

Custom cable delivered for a super kiosk.

The client: Compaq
Major challenge: Providing built-to-spec cables fast

SPHINX is the name given to interactive multimedia kiosks jointly developed by Compaq®, the world's largest PC company, and GKN Kiosks, a leading international supplier of kiosk housing technology for telecom companies. At its heart, the SPHINX is intended to serve as a public information delivery kiosk, primarily designed to provide detailed product information to shoppers without them having to request assistance from store personnel. Customers access it via a keyboard, trackball, or touch screen that can display everything from videos to Web pages. To pay for on-line services, they just swipe a debit or credit card.

A prototype of the SPHINX was developed by Compaq. It included a large slim-line TFT display, stereo amplifier, speakers, and the card reader. But just one thing stood between SPHINX and its premiere: the right cable to run between the kiosk's central unit and the TFT screen. Specifically, developers had to find and fit a 10-foot-long VGA cable that had a right-angle connector at one end.

After approaching several well-known cable suppliers for the cable, Compaq's technical operations manager soon realized that this wasn't a standard job. “With just days to go until the show, I called the Black Box help line to find out if they could recommend a cable specialist and discovered that I was speaking to them!”

The solution:
The following morning, a Black Box engineer was on-site to spec out the requirements for the kiosk-to-TFT link and set to work building the customized solution for Compaq. “Two days later, our customized cables were delivered—in time for the SPHINX's first public showing the following day,” the technical operations manager recounts. “We were all very impressed by the speed and level of service from Black Box from start to finish,” he says. “Black Box proved that they are not just a catalog, but a one-stop networking solution.”

» Back.

Keeping more than 2000 employees informed and up to date.

The client: An international professional services firm
Major challenge: Providing the flexibility to deliver info in real time

In 2007, a large, international professional services firm focused on taxation advisory relocated to a state-of-the-art, 220,000-square-foot building. In the move to its new headquarters in the heart of a major city’s financial district, the firm looked to improve its day-to-day communications to the 2000-plus employees under one roof.

The firm sought a system to keep staff up to date with timely and accurate information, and that would enable them to adapt that information in real time to better serve its clients. The new system would also be used to disseminate information traditionally provided through papered bulletin boards and printed newsletters—which would be very costly in terms of the paper and time required to produce them for an office this size. Plus, they’re not very environmentally friendly.

The solution:
To accomplish its communications goals and reduce paper expenses and waste, the firm went with a networked digital signage system. For the actual management of signage content, it chose the integrated hardware/software appliance currently sold in the U.S. and elsewhere as the Black Box® iCOMPEL™.

The firm most liked its flexible scaling options and the number of layouts that come preloaded on the appliance. What’s more, the system’s design software supports dividing a screen presentation into different zones, into which different media (flash animation, video, RSS news feeds, etc.) can be streamed and changed on a moment’s notice.

The key to reaching the large number of employees was the location of the screens. The firm decided on strategic visual points in the multifloor building: the reception/lobby area, elevator areas, and in its on-site hospitality suite, training center, and gym. It chose these locations because of their high foot traffic. In all, 29 screens were installed.

Through these displays, the company can now not only keep its employees informed, but also communicate marketing- and PR-related content to visitors and prospective clients.

» Back.

Close

Support

Delivering superior technical support is our highest priority. Depending on the products or services we provide for you, please visit your appropriate support area.



 
Print
Black Box 1-877-877-2269 Black Box Network Services