Systems Integration

Cutting-Edge Technology At West Chester University Prepares Students For Real World

Posted on: March 27th, 2017

IMS is proud to have provided much of the presentation and collaboration technology inside this high-tech flagship building for West Chester University of PA! Check out some of the cool tech showcased in this piece by CBS 3 KYW-TV!

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — West Chester University is the flagship of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, and now, they have a new building that puts them on par with some of the best colleges in the country.

This is the new Business and Public Management Center. What makes it so special?

Joshua Dandridge, a senior at West Chester University, says, “Coming in here, it’s super conducive to the modern age. A lot of the furniture you can move around, so it’s pretty valuable, and the big thing is definitely the group rooms.”

Brittany Smeltz, a junior, adds, “It really helps the students change their environment and gives them the ability to interact with their classmates, with their professors.”

The dean of the business school, Jeffrey Osgood, says the brand new building is setting students up for the real world.

“Most of the design features of this building mimic what students will find in their workspaces as they go out into accounting firms and they go into management firms,” Osgood said.

Gary Coutu is an associate professor in the Department of Geography and Planning. He says the interactive classrooms allows students to create and show off their work in real time.

“This is the design studio. That used to be a pen and paper studio. Now, its all digital. We do 3-D modeling, we do virtual reality, that’s all part of planning,” Coutu explained.

Coutu finds the VR headsets take his lessons to the next level.

Original article on CBS

Seven Offices: A Day in the Life of an Integration Project Manager

Posted on: March 27th, 2017

This is the second installment of a new series of “Day in the Life” articles featuring IMS team members and how they spend their day on the road supporting our clients.  This is the recent “day in the life” of Daniel Flynn, Integration Project Manager.

Dan-FlynnIt’s 4am on a brisk October morning in Philadelphia. I can see my breath as I blankly stare at the calendar on my phone, silently converting conference calls from Eastern to Pacific time in my head. As I realize that I can join one of my scheduled calls during a layover in Minneapolis, the Economy Parking shuttle arrives at ‘stop H’, my first of many “offices” for the next few days.

Next stop: airport security. After a brief discussion with one of the officers regarding all of the spare cables and connectors in my bag, I reassemble my personal effects and head for the gates. Like a typical Project Manager, I am already thinking about tasks that I can tend to before my first flight.

“I have my mobile wi-fi hotspot. I can update a materials pull for our warehouse tech. I can send a change order request to one of our engineers. I can…smell coffee!”

After I obtain a large cup of dark roast, I set up my second makeshift office for today, Gate D12. I take care of the pull list, send the change order request, and even find a few minutes to review our installation calendar. I respond to an email thread about a few architectural changes that will affect a video wall that IMS is preparing to install, and the boarding process begins. Time to pack up office number two and prepare for take-off.

While standing in the seemingly eternal jetway line, it occurs to me that I might benefit from a few hours without wi-fi or distraction from the many emails that I’ll receive this morning. While the folks around me might be looking forward to a few chapters in their book or simply more sleep, I’m smitten with the idea of creating a project plan without interruption from the waking world that is soon to be 20,000 feet below.

I board the plane, glancing at my ticket and noting my next place of business, seat 14E. When I arrive at the “office” I’m greeted with a few smiles from an elderly couple who are very obviously excited about their trip. When I set up office number three, the husband instinctively asks “What line of work are you in?” “AV, Audio Visual Integration.” I mutter back. “Oh, like TVs?” he says. “Yeah, lots of TVs.” I reply with obvious sarcasm. Little does he, or sometimes our clients, know the detailed process and extensive milestones that we accomplish in order to provide these state-of-the-art systems. I begin to explain that I’ll be working on a project plan for a room that does incredible things. “It’s going to have four projectors and two giant displays and the staff that use the room will be able to collaborate face to face with their counterparts on the other side of the world. All of those incredible things start right here on this plane.” I say this with the type of pride in my voice that you might hear from a union ironworker or steamfitter – someone who is truly proud of their industry and what they do. I think he began to realize I was working on more than just TVs.

We land in Minneapolis and taxi toward the runway. The plane fills with the sound of text and email messages arriving in mass quantities. My phone buzzes in my pocket as I reach for it in anticipation. While I’m standing in line waiting to exit the plane, I remember that I have a conference call in just a few short minutes. I dial in and announce my presence. As the construction team on the other end reviews the two week look-ahead, I am walking toward my next office, Gate B3. When I arrive, I immediately open my laptop and get back to business. I answer a few questions about floor box requirements on the call, and field a few email requests from our installation team. Before I know it, it’s already time to board another plane and set up another mile-high office.

When I finally touch down in California it’s, 12 noon on the dot. I scramble to get through all of the incoming notifications on my phone and dial in to the daily IMS scheduling review call. I’m confused when none of my typically punctual teammates are on the call. Then I remember standing at ‘stop H’ at the airport in Philadelphia. I knew then that I would miss this meeting. I’m three hours too late, having gone through a few time zones since then. I’m just so used to being on that call at noon every day I almost forgot that I’m on the West coast now.

I pick up my rental car and head to the job site. Here I spend the remainder of the day directing technicians on a variety of tasks from the installation of a room scheduling touch panel to changes regarding tabletop AV connections. The technicians were able to complete my punch list while I tested the various aspects of each system. In all, it was a very productive visit that left the client happy and excited to have their new Video Conference hub ready in time for the following week’s high-level meetings.

By the time I check in to my hotel that evening, or office number seven as I liked to call it, I realize that it’s been quite a journey today. I think about the other Project Managers on my team – and where they may have been working. Some on a construction site in New York or at a University near IMS. Others at IMS headquarters collaborating with our in-house commissioning team or reviewing a project with one of our engineers. No matter where they were, it’s certain that they worked in a variety of environments, each with its own challenges and diversities. That’s why today was an excellent example of what being an Integration Project Manager is all about – working with a variety of people from diverse backgrounds in a broad spectrum of environments, managing a busy schedule, helping others complete tasks, and delivering the best results from all of those things to our clients.

Article written by Daniel Flynn, integration project manager for IMS Technology Services

The Challenges of 4K/UHD Video

Posted on: March 27th, 2017

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Staying in front of changes in the professional AV market can be challenging.  The technology is changing every day and the consumer market now drives the professional market.  Some would say the tail is wagging the dog.  This really became the case when HDMI was introduced as a standard for home video and professional AV has never been the same.

I know this to be true because I had a full head of dark hair prior to the introduction of HDMI in the pro market and now I’m holding onto table scraps.

The challenge is what works in the home doesn’t work the same way in a professional environment.  Issues like adoption, security, and reliability become bigger at the enterprise level as opposed to the home.  With 4K or UHD (Ultra High Definition) video becoming the new standard, professional AV is now faced with a new set of challenges.  For example: how do we transmit the signal reliably over long distances and how can we integrate each manufacturers specification with the other?  We have been extending 1080P video over CAT6 shielded cable and that will work for 4K/UHD, but there are many limitations such as distance and color saturation.  In order to push high bandwidth signals over long distances, it may require the use of fiber optic cable but not all products are compatible with fiber optic cable.

Professional AV lacks standards in comparison to the IT industry and each manufacturer has their own spin on the specifications of the 4K/UHD spec.  Some products that are listed as supporting 4K only support UHD.  4K and UHD are often referred to in the same breath, but they’re not exactly the same.

The difference between Ultra HD and 4K

ims-4k-uhd-displayTechnically, “Ultra High Definition” is actually a derivation of the 4K digital cinema standard.  However, while your local multiplex shows images in native 4096 x 2160 4K resolution, the new Ultra HD consumer format has a slightly lower resolution of 3840 x 2160.  Within those specifications, there are varying color saturation specs that are dictated by availability of bandwidth and compression rates.  The 4K/UHD spec has formed the need for an update to HDCP copyright protection protocols. The new HDCP protocol has gone from version 2.0 to 2.2 and the early products that were released supporting 2.0 can’t support HDCP 2.2.  The secondary issue is the color saturation of the video being viewed.  This impacts what bandwidth is needed to support the signal and can cause products to be incompatible with one another.

The biggest question we need to ansswer is what is the 4K content that will be viewed in a corporate setting?  Yes, videos on YouTube, Netflix, Direct TV and others are a given, but the quality is not true UHD.  The signals are compressed and may or may not be able to display full resolution depending on the bandwidth of the connection.

To me, what this all means is that 4K/UHD is still in its infancy and professional AV does not have a complete solution that will support the content for all applications yet.  Pro AV 4K/UHD systems have limitations and this will get worse before it gets better.   It is quite possible that by the time the industry and the manufacturers figure this out, 8K will be the new standard.

In most applications (excluding broadcast), there isn’t a compelling reason today to deploy 4K/UHD systems. The best thing that the professional AV industry can do is prepare for what is to come.  I believe that utilizing fiber optics as much as possible now is the best way to prepare for high bandwidth signal transmission in the future.  To be of the best service, I also believe in the importance of educating clients on 4K/UHD and helping them prepare for the changing landscape in professional video.  All of these concerns are pushing the market towards IP base streaming systems and will move us away from more traditional switching/video processing methods, but that is another topic for another time.

I recently had the luxury of sitting down with Pete Putman, who is an AV subject matter expert and has a wealth of knowledge about how technology impacts our personal and professional lives, when he spoke about the UHD/4K issue and many others with the IMS Technology Services engineering team.  Pete recently returned from the Consumer Electronics Show and released a compelling recap.  Click here to read more about 4K/UHD video and other technologies that are impacting Professional AV.

Article written by Keith Moss,Vice President of Technology Services at IMS Technology Services

Who’s Managing Your Technology and A/V Systems?

Posted on: March 27th, 2017

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Technology has become an integral part in today’s business environment, from small think tank and collaboration rooms to full blown video conference and presentation rooms. Companies depend on this technology to collaborate, train, and drive their business. Companies are also investing much more on technology than in years past to provide their employees and their clients the type of experience they have come to expect and rely upon. The dependence on and the investment in this technology means that it is critical that the systems work consistently and reliably.

But what happens when the technology that we rely on every day fails to perform?

Traditionally, companies turned to their IT departments or facilities staff to help, and in years past, this approach worked fine. However, with this new digital age and BYOD (bring your own device) era, these systems are becoming ever more complex. Gone are the days of a single direct laptop connection to a display and a handheld remote control on the table. It has now been replaced by complex control systems with switching and routing that allows the end user to have the choice of multiple connection options, including both wired and wireless solutions. The need for a professional technology team that is trained and certified by the manufacturers is fast becoming a necessity.

The best way to protect your technology investment is through managed services from a professional integration company that knows your system inside and out, and can provide service, support, and training. There are many options available for managed services ranging from labor-only contracts to all-inclusive labor and equipment coverage, and from meeting support to full-time on-site technical staffing. Let’s take a closer look at some of these options that managed services can provide.

Expedited Response

Companies rely on technology to get business done. When that technology is no longer working, meetings can get disrupted or delayed, and productivity slows down. With a traditional service agreement, on-site response times can be customized for either 48hr, 24hr or even same-day on-site support. This greatly improves the uptime of a system, allowing your business to continue working.

Remote Support

In many cases, a system fails at the software level, and much like a computer, it may need a reboot once in a while. With remote support, a system can be diagnosed, resolved, and tested in a matter of minutes, rather than hours or days. If a system cannot be resolved remotely, technicians can be dispatched, bringing the right parts with them, based on the diagnosis tasks performed prior to their arrival. Remote support not only helps get a system back up and running quickly, it also adds the ability to monitor the system 24/7. Should a device come off line, the issue can often be resolved before the client even knows there was an issue. Another valuable feature of remote support is the pre-meeting testing. A system can be fully tested prior to an important meeting to ensure the system is performing at an optimal level.

On-Site Managed Service

Some clients have numerous conference rooms, meeting spaces, and training rooms all outfitted with technology. They need a dedicated audio/video specialist on-site 40 hours a week to monitor systems, setup meetings, resolve issues immediately, and perform routine checkups of the systems. Some clients have chosen to hire such a person, but it can be difficult to find the right person with the right qualifications. Also, what happens when that person is on vacation or sick? Who takes their place? Over the past several years, companies have been turning to their technology integrators to fill this void. With on-site manage services, a dedicated technician is assigned to a company and essentially becomes like one of their employees. There are several advantages to this approach:

  • Replacement techs will fill in when the primary tech is out sick, on vacation, or in training.
  • Ongoing training is provided to assure the tech is always up to speed on the latest technology.
  • The technician has an entire team to back them up. You are not just getting the knowledge of one technician, but an entire team of experts with different skill sets.

Training

Many managed service agreements also include initial and ongoing training. As employee roles change or new employees are hired, they will need training to learn how to utilize the technology that they will need regularly in the performance of their jobs. Managed service plans frequently include scheduled training sessions that fit into typical training schedules at each company. Training sessions could be held annually, quarterly, monthly or even weekly, depending on the needs of your company.

These are a just a few of the many benefits that Managed Services can provide. Technology is always changing and by partnering with an Integration company that knows your systems inside and out, you can assure that the technology you have will work when you need it, and your users will get the most out of your investment.

Article written by Michael Spitale, Service Manager at IMS Technology Services

Daniel Flynn – Integration Project Manager

Posted on: March 25th, 2017

Dan-FlynnAs an integration project manager for IMS, Daniel Flynn has this to say about his role: “I make things happen. I get a project, work out the details with my teammates, and make it happen!”


1. Describe your career with IMS in three words:

Team, Challenging, Rewarding

2. If Hollywood made a movie about your life, who would you choose to play you?

Seth Rogen…or Hugh Jackman. I guess Seth Rogen is more fitting

3. If you could trade places with any other person for a week – famous or not, living or dead, real or fictional – with whom would it be?

Willy Wonka – why not?!?

4. If you were a super hero, what would your super power be?

Teleportation – you can go anywhere in an instant!

5. What are you most passionate about professionally? What most excites you about your work & the contribution you can make?

Putting a plan together and watching it take shape in the field while working Side by Side with the best team in AV.

6. What are you passionate about personally? What do you really enjoy? What can’t you stop talking about?

Making music – I try to play as much as possible – often times with other members of the IMS team.

7. Where can we find you when you’re not working?

At home, probably playing music.

What Is a Huddle Space?

Posted on: January 30th, 2017

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As corporate real estate firms have been consolidating space to reduce operating costs and improve flexibility, a surge of millennials have entered the workforce.  These employees are accustomed to accessing various types of technology across environments, including home, school, and work. As a result, millennials expect such resources from their employers and working environment, and the design community has begun to creatively accommodate the evolution of the conference room.

The prevalence of laptops, tablets, smartphones, and BYOD (bring your own device) has prompted business owners and designers to allocate less space for large formal conference rooms and more for informal “huddle” spaces intended for impromptu meetings and “hoteling” areas for employees without a permanent work space in the office.

According to a whitepaper by Wainhouse Research:

“It is anticipated that the number of small and medium conference rooms will increase at a much faster pace than large rooms”

This study also found that most small and medium conference rooms have the least amount of supporting presentation and communication technology.  Small and medium huddle rooms often have at least a flat panel display or a projector, but lack true integration.  As a result, such rooms feature difficulty in connecting to presentation systems, lack adequate quality video and audio capabilities, and often do not have dedicated in-room PCs or tools such as webcams.

Such factors limit the productivity that can be achieved in these spaces in terms of how people meet, work and communicate.

What does all this mean?

The technology integration in small huddle spaces is critical. Identifying the common uses for the room and creating technical specifications is the first step to effective huddle room design.  The most effective huddle rooms are designed around the technology needed, rather than adding technology into the room after the fact. Designing huddle spaces in this manner and involving technology integrators early in the design process will help you avoid common pitfalls that  result in added back-end expenses.

Any conversation around investment in collaboration technology should include huddle rooms as a top consideration. Even simple tools such as webcams, USB speakers, and table-based or wireless connectivity methods can vastly improve flexibility and productivity when properly integrated into a room.

Key benefits of huddle rooms

The top benefits of well-designed wireless collaboration huddle rooms include:

  • Enhanced collaboration: participants can simultaneously view multiple screens, including mobile device screens.
  • Ease of BYOD: any device can connect wirelessly in the huddle space.
  • Streamlined appearance: wireless collaboration technology eliminates cord and wire clutter.

Article written by William Kiley, IMS Executive Account Manager

Ready to learn more about huddle rooms?

Complete the form below and an IMS technology expert will contact you to talk about huddle rooms.

What is the Difference Between Web Conferencing and Video Conferencing?

Posted on: January 30th, 2017

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There is much confusion in the industry with the terminology of “web conferencing” and “video conferencing.” They are often interchanged and in reality, they are two different conference solutions.

Is video conferencing or web conferencing better?

Both video and web conferencing utilize a camera-capture image to combine this visual component with the audio component. This is where the similarities end.

Web Conferencing allows a presenter to deliver a presentation over the web to a group of geographically dispersed participants. It is usually software based and operates over your laptop. The presenter is not very “interactive.” Participants usually interact through the use of chat, whiteboards, and desktop sharing. In more passive instances, audience members may simply not interact or sit in a listen-only status. Participants can see what’s on the screen but cannot make changes.

Video Conferencing uses video and audio to connect two or more points across the internet for two-way conferencing over distance. Cameras are used to enable participants in a virtual conference to see the presenter and sometimes, the other participants. It requires the use of webcams or other video equipment connected to a network and uses more bandwidth than web conferencing.

Differences between both are cost and a quality of image rendered: “you get what you pay for.”

Web conferencing frequently has issues with frozen images and pixilation because of low bandwidth, which limits interaction. This makes web conferencing good for speeches, but for meetings, it leaves a lot to be desired.

Video conferencing is used more for meetings but comes with a higher upfront cost.  Video conferencing is loaded with high definition video, crystal clear sound, and a more lifelike interaction to simulate a face-to-face experience between users.

Deciding which solution is right for you depends on the importance of the meeting.  If it is an important meeting, you will likely want the HD image and high audio quality that only video conferencing can provide.  Web conferencing works well for broadcasting a single message or speech.  If reliability, quality, and dialogue interaction is important to you, high-definition video conferencing is the best option.

If you are considering implementing a web or video conferencing solution, please contact IMS Technology Services to learn more about what distinguishes the two and which solution is right for your environment.

Article written by William Kiley, IMS Executive Account Manager

 


 

Is video or web conferencing right for me?

Ready to learn if video or web conferencing is right for your office?  Complete the form below to schedule a conversation with an IMS technology expert.

Mike Herb – Director of Systems Design Engineering

Posted on: January 27th, 2017

ims-mike-herbAs the Director of Systems Design Engineering for IMS, Mike Herb’s responsibility is to assist the sales team with their client’s needs assessment, create a system design for that initiative, and pen a scope of work.


1. Describe your career with IMS in three words:

Challenging and rewarding

2. If Hollywood made a movie about your life, who would you choose to play you?

Jack Nicholson and/or Tommy Lee Jones

3. If you could trade places with any other person for a week – famous or not, living or dead, real or fictional – with whom would it be?

Frank Sinatra

4. If you were a super hero, what would your super power be?

Mind meld

5. What are you most passionate about professionally? What most excites you about your work & the contribution you can make?

The art of the deal

6. What are you passionate about personally? What do you really enjoy? What can’t you stop talking about?

In what order, Food/Music/Family

7. Where can we find you when you’re not working?

What? When is that?

Time Is Not On Our Side

Posted on: July 15th, 2016

“If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?” – John Wooden

In recent months we have noticed a growing trend that is challenging the technology industry, especially our niche of audio visual: truncation of project timelines.  In my conversations around InfoComm and other industry events this year, this does not seem to be limited to just our customers or just our region.  Based on what I have heard from our contemporaries, companies like IMS are all reporting the same problem affecting us in the Northeast Region.  The systems integrators are being brought into projects much later than is ideal and as designs change and the project approval process continues on, the anticipated completion date of the project does not move.  This creates a very large problem for a quality integrator to be able to deliver the functionality for which the clients are looking, at a reasonable price.  I am reminded of a famous triangle used in project management:

triangle

Budget, Scope, and Time are the three correlating aspects of any project.  They each are affected when just one of them is changed.  It makes logical sense: if the scope of the project is growing, then the budget for that project also will grow and the timeline to complete that project will extend.  I find that this is especially the case in the audio visual world.

Unlike other construction trades, such as carpentry and high voltage electric, the audio visual industry is unique.  There are not many trade schools that focus on the technologies we are asked to implement day-in and day-out.  Part of the reason why there are no schools is because there are no regulated STANDARDS across the different manufacturers and similar technologies that they make.  Instead, we are balancing in a world of manufacturer specifications and proprietary languages for programming and configuration.  Learning each of the manufacturers’ specifications and gaining the experience to be able to expertly install the systems that we install is a costly, time-consuming process that falls on the Systems integrator to manage with their skilled technicians.  Without these skills, the systems that are installed may not perform to the scope that is being defined by the client.  This is where a value-add Design-Build systems integrator is providing the professional service to the customer.

Because the skills are unique and hard to obtain, this leaves a limited pool of people that a systems integrator can call upon to install systems.  Most general contractors and end clients don’t realize that.  I’ve heard so many times, “well find people to throw at the job.”  I can do that, but it won’t get the job done and certainly not to any quality our customers are looking for us to provide.  With only so many limited resources to work with, it makes it very difficult for integrators to meet a truncated timeline for a project.  The hours are going to need to be expended to make the system hum right the first time and not be riddled with bugs for the next six months.

The AV industry is attempting to fix the issue that we face for having the right talent – through recruitment techniques, standards development, training programs, etc.  However, this is not an easy problem to solve and it will take time before adoption.  Until that time, when you’re planning your next audio visual project, keep that triangle in mind.  End-users will play a critical role in solving this challenge when developing or managing project budget, scope and timelines by keeping in mind that any change in one will affect the other two.  As a technology partner, we want to help you solve your technology problems correctly the first time, within the budget you have allocated, in a reasonable timeline to complete the work.

By Michael Shinn, Vice President of Customer Relations

Collaboration Showcase Recap

Posted on: April 22nd, 2016

Collaboration-showcase

On Wednesday, April 20th, IMS hosted the first ever Collaboration Showcase at the Corbett Experience Center in Norristown, PA. The event included demonstrations from Mersive, Kramer VIA, WePresent, Barco ClickShare, and OneScreen. It was an exclusive opportunity that many IMS customers shared in and at lunch, 5 lucky people received a door prize of one of the products from each manufacturer!

If you missed this, please join us at our next Showcase. Keep an eye out for the invitation.

 

“I really enjoyed being able to get hands on with multiple solutions in one event.  One of the tougher parts of shopping around for solutions is comparing products based on ‘how they are supposed to work’ as opposed to seeing them in action.  As you know, we already have a wireless solution chosen but I appreciated the learning experience and hope to find the same opportunity when shopping around next.”

– Alex Shirk, The Hankin Group

 

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