The Buzz: Install of the Month

Banamex Bank Mexico City
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The Buzz:
Install of the Month

May 1, 2005 12:00 PM, By Trevor Boyer

Banamex Bank Mexico City

Messaging usually works best when there's not much competing with the intended message. As anyone who has spent a few minutes waiting in a line at a bank surely knows, financial institutions provide little in the way of attractive distraction — visual, auditory, or otherwise. Sensing such an opening, Banamex, the Mexican subsidiary of Citibank, has implemented a site-specific audio messaging system designed for 1,100 of its locations. The content will include music, advertising, and other promotional messaging.

For the Banamex project, systems integrator SSL uses a turnkey uplink rack put together by Antex Electronics.

Mexico City-based systems integrator SSL manages the system. The company chose Antex Electronics, based in Gardena, Calif., to supply receivers for each of the 1,100 bank locations and put together the satellite uplink system for SSL's Mexico City facility. William Narchi Karam, director general of SSL, learned about Antex after hearing commercial music playing at a site in which Antex had installed equipment. He asked to see the equipment rack, saw the name Antex on the back of the receiver, and called the company. Antex was able to offer its receivers for a fraction of what SSL had been paying for receivers in similar applications.

The Antex team put together a turnkey uplink rack for SSL's facility. Antex pre-assembled and tested it in the United States before shipping it to Mexico. This rack includes three Antex Media Director 2 (plus a spare unit), eight off-the-rack Dolby AC-3 audio encoders, two Dell server PCs running Antex Media Direct Management Console software, two Antex 8-channel multiplexers, an Antex redundancy controller switch, two Comptek DVB QPSK modulators, a Linksys eight-port network router, and a Checkpoint VPN.

For its part, SSL supplied amplifiers, the upconverter, three music-generation PCs, and a 3.8m uplink dish. Banamex is using a satellite-based system rather than an IT- or telephony-based system because of infrastructure challenges in Mexico — satellite is simply more reliable.

The two Antex multiplexers are redundant. “Should one side fail for any reason, the other side is able to pick up where the other one left off and keep them on the air,” says David Antrim, sales director with Antex Electronics.

The multiplexers take the channels of commercial audio coming from the uplink and put them into a single stream so audio can go to the IF output. Then it's upconverted and amplified, and it goes out to the dish.

The Media Direct software allows SSL to control where audio messaging goes. “The grouping logic of the software addresses any units, groups of units, or all units,” says Antrim.

SSL also keeps track of the advertisements that are run in each Banamex branch location. The bank could call SSL and inform them of a special promotion to be run in any combination of branches, and SSL would handle the changes to the system. The system allows for any or all bank locations to be sent new playlists or messages at any time on short notice.

Banamex is using the audio messaging system not only for promotions directed at customers, but also for training its employees. This allows the company to save on travel costs associated with sending employees to regional training facilities.

Audio distribution at each bank location is as follows: 200W Steren amplifier (model SA6151), 400W Hilma amplifier (ASAJI 2071), Steren speakers (SPK620), two-way Steren speakers (SPK1000BL), and Industrias IVSA transformer (TL10).

SSL broadcasts 16 mono channels to the bank locations: seven music channels, three channels for advertising messages, and six for live broadcast and emergency messages.

Content is all stored at SSL. There's a server running Antex's ad store software, acting as a library of message content. Also, there are three servers for each of the three channels of music — music plays off these servers in a sequence. Each channel is assigned to a specific broadcast channel on the satellite receiver. The ad store software sends messages to the Media Director devices, which insert the ads at the designated time into the designated channel. The Media Director devices in the rack play off their 40GB hard drives.

Antex enabled live broadcast and emergency messaging features specifically for this installation at the request of Karam. The Media Director software can handle an emergency cut-in message with about 10 minutes advance notice. A live broadcast can be scheduled into the playlist, so that, for example, the president of Banamex can address all locations live from a telephone call or a microphone.

Banamex is currently using the SSL/Antex system in 20 branches throughout Mexico City.

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