During a technology refresh, the constraints of the space often dictate your purchasing decisions. While making sure to remain within budget, you must also choose equipment with an eye to the future, purchasing technology that won’t quickly become outdated or lock you out of a changing market. Choosing the right equipment is a delicate balancing act and one that the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania recently had to navigate with the refresh of the technology in it’s Colloquium, a meeting space that features a main presentation room and several smaller conference rooms.
“They’re not teaching spaces, but they’re places where people meet for things like a memorial service,” says Marko Jarymovych, IT technical director at the Wharton School.
The Colloquium featured an old video wall that needed to be replaced and the challenge was to find new technology that could accommodate the versatility of the space. The main presentation room seats two hundred people and is used for anything from a large dinner party to a business presentation.
“We have a wide variety of sources that need to be displayed. Anything from a laptop presenting a spreadsheet to a PowerPoint or a photo reel,” says Jarymovych.
The Colloquium is also located on the eighth floor of the Jon M. Huntsman building and showcases a panoramic view of the city of Philadelphia through large glass windows. The lighting in the space varies according to the time of day. When it came to the A/V presentation system, the school needed something that could handle the variable conditions.
“We wanted to migrate away from something that was a bit more difficult to maintain such as projectors or rear projection systems simply because it’s that much harder to get a consistent image,” says Jarymovych.
Wharton explored different options for its presentation technology including large format displays, but ultimately decided to go with a video wall solution created using NEC 46-inch X463UN LED-backlit LCD displays in a 4×3 configuration that required minimal retrofitting of the Colloquium’s wood paneled wall.
“We wanted front end service and the ability for the displays to act as a single source or potentially individual displays we could tile or provide layouts for,” says Jarymovych. The new products also had to be compatible with Wharton’s Crestron DigitalMedia processor. Video Visions, a Philadelphia based integration company, handled the selection and installation of the equipment.
A lot of thought went into the choosing the right A/V presentation technology, but one of the major deciding factors was the total cost of ownership of the LCD displays over a projection system.
“There’s a lot of wear and tear on lamps so in terms of total cost of ownership calculations we looked at things like the maintenance cost,” says Jarymovych. “Would it be cheaper to have one or two of these displays as spares and then when something goes bad we just replace it versus having to maintain projector lamps?”
Ultimately, Wharton decided it would be more cost-effective to go with the displays. The college also managed to lower its energy consumption simply by choosing an LCD-based product rather than a projector with an incandescent lamp system.
Managing the Displays
Wharton has an existing relationship with Cenero, a Philadelphia-based company that provides audiovisual services. Cenero is contracted to provide service and maintenance for room technology to free up Jarymovych and his staff to help faculty, guest speakers, etc. interface with the technology. Like many colleges, Wharton has a limited number of spaces that are specialized for technology use such as the Colloquium or its telepresence room. These areas are in high demand so it is of great importance that events scheduled in these spaces begin and end on time. Difficulty operating the room technology could severely set back the schedule.
“At any point during that process that depends on technology, we’re managing the risk of that technology failing,” says Jarymovych. He and his staff are responsible for making sure there is a “plan B” if something goes awry. The team’s existing relationship with Cenero provides a certain piece of mind by allowing the tech staff to focus on the issues at hand rather than upkeep and maintenance.
Tips for Succes
Jarymovych suggests schools considering a similar project choose a partner who will continue to be invested in the school, even after installation is complete. Do business with a company or manufacturer who is interested in how you’re using the displays (and any other purchased equipment), what results you’ve had and can be depended upon if anything goes wrong with the product.
“When you’re going to spend one million dollars on these things then you want to know somebody is going to answer the phone and say OK no problem we’ll send somebody out to fix it,” says Jarymovych. “That’s what I worry about more in the end and that’s only going to happen by that type of feedback loop that’s created between the manufacturer, the distributor and ultimately, the end user. I think that’s really key.”