University Digital Signage Installs with Rise Display, Part 1

Bennett Liles talks with Ryan Cahoy, managing director at Rise Display, a digital signage firm in Shawnee, Kan. 10/25/2011 8:32 AM Eastern

University Digital Signage Installs with Rise Display, Part 1

Oct 25, 2011 12:32 PM, with Bennett Liles

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Part 1

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On today's university campuses business schools are creating a real-world environment for their students, the financial leaders of tomorrow. Part of that atmosphere is accomplished with flatscreens, stock tickers, and interactive displays. Ryan Cahoy from digital signage firm Rise Display is going to tell us how this was set up at Southern Methodist University, coming up next on the SVC Podcast.
Alright, Ryan. Thanks for being with me on the SVC Podcast from Rise Display in Shawnee, Kan. and we're gonna talk about a couple of projects here, the digital signage project at Southern Methodist University out in Dallas and the one in Part 2 at Valdosta State University in Georgia. But before we get into those, tell me a little about Rise Display.

Well, at Rise Display we provide video walls, LED tickers, world clocks, LCD displays—primarily to universities and financial institutions across the US and Canada. While the displays are the most visible point of what we do, the most important aspects of our business are providing the services behind all that—so helping our clients design the systems, the software, the content, coordinating all the logistics—the end result, providing them that complete working display solution. [Timestamp: 1:37]

Right, and that's a challenging enough job with the always-changing video technology, new features, and sometimes rather fickle tastes of the clients. On the installation at Southern Methodist University, what exactly were they looking for on this project? Well SMU's business school was looking to create a state-of-the-art trading room. They wanted to create that Wall Street atmosphere for their students and they wanted to create a space that had all the latest technology—live data so they could surround their students with the all activity of the financial markets. [Timestamp: 2:05]

Certainly immerses the students in the environment. That's a fairly high-profile place, a lot going on there. What was the installation time frame on this? Any sort of challenge on the time you had to do it?

As with any project, there's always several months back and forth with the design and figuring out the layout of the room and where should a glass viewing wall go, how should the desks face, where should we position the video walls, but after all the details were nailed down and they had placed all the orders, we probably had about three months to get everything up and running. Their ultimate goal was to have an unveiling of the room in September and I would like to say with all the great planning we were successful in helping them hit that date. [Timestamp: 2:45]

Of course, you never know how the setup for something like this is going to go depending on how many people are involved in the sort of chain of command on the project. I looked at some of the pictures on this and it looks like some of the displays were mounted flush into the wall. Did you get into this as part of a new construction project or was it a retrofit?

It was a retrofit. So, they had an existing building but they were doing a lot of renovations, so our biggest challenge with any training lab is the layout of the room. Since it was an existing space it was working with them to figure out how to recess those displays into the wall so it's got a finished look—it's not like we just stuck a display on the wall as an afterthought. And one of the things that we did that was neat, since we were in that design phase as they were renovating it, was we could wrap the ticker around the room and it took 136ft. of ticker but working with them to determine the proper angles, how to get it wrap best so that, again, you've got that perfect finished look as the space was designed. [Timestamp: 3:4]

The recessed displays look great. It looks like you can run your hand right over those and hardly tell when you're on monitor and when you're touching the wall. Those were what, NEC P462 monitors?

We actually used a couple of different types of monitors. We did use the NEC P462s for the interactive market wall. This was the one that was interactive touch enabled and we used the P462s because they were easier to touch integrate and they worked well in an interactive video wall format. For the other two video walls that are in there, we actually used the new X-551 UNs from NEC. Those are the ones with the ultra-narrow bezels—they have a 5mm bezel between screens and we did that to provide the best possible picture and clarity. There's not a projector in this room so it's all tied back to a matrix switcher so if a professor wants to throw up a spread sheet or power point presentation they can put it up across those video walls so it was important to SMU to have the thinnest bezels possible for those. [Timestamp: 4:38]

And of course, they're going to get to the point where they want to show more and more things and introduce more late technology features. What kind of sources can they display on these and how do they do the switching between those sources?

Well there's multiple HDMI inputs on the back end, so they've got a 8x8 matrix router, they've got a couple of TV tuners, they have a couple of what we call rise engines to feed out the market data and the content, and then they have open inputs to feed content from an instructor podium. So whether it's a workstation they have there where they could pull up something like say a Bloomberg terminal, or plug in a notebook to give a presentation—that's primarily focused for the non-interactive video walls in the finance lab as well as they've got a 46in. screen that's out in the hallway so at any point they could route any of those signals from data to a presentation to whatever it may be out in the hallway as well. The key is that the instructors can easily direct to any of those inputs to any of the displays they just have a simple small touch screen at the teaching podium and pick your input and the destination display or displays. [Timestamp: 5:41]

University Digital Signage Installs with Rise Display, Part 1

Oct 25, 2011 12:32 PM, with Bennett Liles

That's an interesting mix of a digital signage application and sort of a classroom environment. You're using what, an RT-Com HS-88M matrix switcher with that?

Correct, they picked that because it was economically priced. It did give them what they needed in terms of eight HDMI inputs as well as outputs so it was a good fit for this application. [Timestamp: 6:01]

OK, so you're going all HDMI with this and HDMI can be in itself a bit of a challenge and if everything isn't pretty much perfect with EDID and HDCP issues, but if you do everything that the signal wants you to do, everything can look spectacular and this is a brand-new one and they should be fairly well satisfied with it.

Yeah it's only been in a few weeks, but thus far the key was everything's digital and everything's running at full 1080p and 1820x1080 so that's the main reason we went HDMI. A state-of-the-art room using the latest and greatest technology. There's always some hiccups and challenges when you're working in all that but happy to say we worked through it pretty quickly with them. [Timestamp: 6:44]

Now where's the switcher located? Is it out there where somebody can operate it directly or is it back in a secure room somewhere so it can be controlled remotely with a separate control system?

Yeah, there's a rack that, if you want to call it the head end where all the equipment—the tuners and the engines and control equipment—is stored securely, but everything from the touchscreen side of things is out there for the professors to operate right from the podium. So we tried to put the complexity secured in the back room and make it as simple and straight forward as possible via that touchpanel in the front podium there. [Timestamp: 7:17]

I noticed you've also got what appear to be 15in. analog clocks there for sort of a retro look. It's a very interesting mix between all the digital displays and the analog clocks. Was that sort of the idea they were going for on the look of it?

Absolutely, the nice thing with the analog clocks is they provided that traditional component to contrast all the technology in the room. We certainly could have used digital LED clocks but with all the video walls and the stock ticker wrapping the room it was nice to have that touch of the old world or the traditional in the analog clock. [Timestamp: 7:51]

It does give a very interesting contrast between all of the squared corners of the rectangular digital displays and the round lines of the analog wall clocks. You also put in a 136ft. stock ticker that wraps completely around the room. How did you assemble that and fix it to the wall and power all of that?

I think of the ticker kind of like train tracks—we ship it in 6-8ft.-long sections so that it's easy to transport, easy to install, but then they snap together as you hang them on the wall. So in terms of the connectivity: on the far right-hand side is where you apply power and signal and then that's carried down the ticker by interconnecting cables as you snap it together. There's only the one network connection on the far right hand side and from a power standpoint there's a power outlet about every 25ft. for providing power to the ticker itself. [Timestamp: 8:42]

Well, in that room you're totally surrounded by all the latest financial news and stock prices. Of course in the beginning you had to work with the client in the creative design for this. I'm not sure how far creative design goes as far as a ticker but you've got to decide where and how big and all that. We're they really into having it wrap all the way around the room?

Absolutely, the key to them was: make it a showpiece, surround the students with live data. So we wrapped the ticker around. As part of the design working with them and talking about the creative design aspect of it there's not a lot of content, you really just plug in market data and it constantly flows and it's constantly feeding the latest and greatest, but from an architectural design standpoint it was one of the fun components of the room because we got to really work with them and figure out how can we use technology to create an energetic atmosphere. [Timestamp: 9:35]

And of course there is a software application involved in this. Tell me about the software side of the project.

We used the Open Source Platform from our sister company Rise Vision. It's built off of the Google app engine so it allows us to take the Open Source documentation and then create custom gadgets to create our clients' needs. So for SMU we utilized gadgets that we created to take live market data and headline news from Thomson Reuters and then format it for the professors to easily reference the current market activities as they're in a class. The beauty of this system is there's no servers to manage, there's no complexity—it all resides in the clouds. So we really just have to deal with the media player or the engine that's connected in each one of those video walls or those displays they go out across their internet or their network, grab all that live data and the instructions of what those displays are supposed to be playing. [Timestamp: 10:25]

OK, a brand-new installation at the Cox School of Business at Southern Methodist University by Rise Display and Ryan thanks so much for taking the time to tell us about this one.

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