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The Experience of Digital Signage

Feb 16, 2011 12:00 PM

Digital Signage, IPTV drive ads and entertainment at Amway center.

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The digital signage system at the Amway Center includes more than 1,000 screens, which sit on a common network that Harris IT Services monitors daily.

The digital signage system at the Amway Center includes more than 1,000 screens, which sit on a common network that Harris IT Services monitors daily.

The glass-and-metal spire that rises 180ft. above the new Amway Center in Orlando, Fla., projects a strong impression to the casual spectator that this facility is more than your run-of-the-mill arena. Passing through the doors provides near-immediate confirmation as fans of the Orlando Magic are struck with enough audio and visual stimuli to impress even the most jaded fan. The Amway Center is more than a home for the Orlando Magic. The 875,000 square-foot center, operated by the city of Orlando and owned by the Central Florida community, is a thoroughly engaging multimedia showcase that sets a new standard in fan experience.

Digital signage is central to that experience. The arena boasts approximately 1,100 screens located throughout the premises. The signage network integrates with an IPTV system to distribute a variety of feeds over a common network infrastructure that meets the challenge of synchronizing video and audio content over multiple subnets. This ultimately enables a managed platform for delivering targeted content to IP-addressable players and screens across the immense network.

Harris worked with Professional Communications Systems (PCS) of Tampa, Fla., on systems integration. Harris integrated the digital signage and IPTV network components, and PCS installed the signs throughout the arena to the city of Orlando and the Orlando Magic’s specifications. Meanwhile, Harris IT Services built a core network infrastructure to distribute both digital signage content and 70 channels of MPEG-2 IPTV programming at 16MBps.

Managed Services

The network is managed from a control room featuring more than 800 broadcast and digital signage devices. Employees at Harris headquarters in Melbourne, Fla.—more than 75 miles from the arena—monitor the network around the clock to ensure no interruptions. Onsite personnel from both the Magic and Harris IT Services generate content and monitor network operations, respectively.

The screens rotate dynamic content based on animations, still graphics, and video. On the fly, displays are triggered to show high-impact replays and highlights, venue messaging, out-of-home advertising, or any combination of three.

The system also enables advertisers to display their brands and messages on every screen at the same time, usually in 40-second increments. This offers what the Magic and city of Orlando call “moments of exclusivity” marketing opportunities. Low-latency delivery enables immediate projection of both general fan content and advertiser information on any or all of the 1,100 screens, as well as a separate Daktronics display system inside the arena.

The combined digital signage and IPTV system also ties to a Micros point-of-sale system that allows instant and dynamic changes to concession-area displays and video menu boards, including price changes. Menu boards are directly connected to cash registers, which gives the Magic and its concessionaire a way to monetize menu boards. Harris InfoCaster software can simultaneously display food offerings to drive point-of-purchase sales while entertaining fans with other content.

Design and Integration

PCS was instrumental in testing the system, providing space in its Orlando-area facility for pre-install staging. This ensured a smooth commissioning process while preventing the theft of screens and other equipment. Once delivered to the arena, PCS ran the cables and hung the signs—mainly 42in. Samsung plasma monitors. PCS also designed custom mounts for the InfoCaster media players co-located with the signs, which were mounted at unusual angles per the Amway Center’s specifications.

Harris IT Services installed a fat pipe with plenty of bandwidth to accommodate traffic generated from multiple systems. The team’s extensive knowledge of Cisco-based IP networks was instrumental in providing video and audio synchronization over five distinct subnets. This includes the Harris digital signage and IPTV out-of-bowl systems as well as the Daktronics in-bowl system.

The Harris Digital Signage solution is based on InfoCaster hardware/software solutions for content creation, network management, and media playout; and Punctuate advanced business software built into the InfoCaster platform. The InfoCaster head-end, housing the electronics for the Creation and Network Management pieces, populate about half of a single rack in the control room.

NetVX encoders populate additional rack space in the control room, which otherwise includes nine equipment racks housing a variety of Cisco and Harris gear. The NetVX encoders are multipurpose units, encoding video and audio for digital signage and IPTV playout operations as either single- or multiprogram transport streams.

In the same racks, Harris Panacea routers, Channel One branding systems, 6800+ terminal gear, and Nexio servers process, distribute, and playout both live and prerecorded material over the IPTV system. Diversified Systems served as the systems integrator for this portion of the project.

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