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Jun 9, 2009 1:43 PM, By Dan Daley

Stetson University School of Business Administration students follow the market via an innovative digital signage system

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“We worked closely with their IT people, who had a pretty good idea of which conduits went where, but there was still a lot of trial and error until we saw the snakes coming out the right places,” says Damon Wight, systems integration engineer for LMG, the Orlando-based company that did the installation and integration work on the pro­ject. The conduit pipe was fairly commodious, about 4in., but that advantage was offset by the maze of the building’s Ethernet conduit and the length of some of the home runs up the four-story atrium—the longest of which Wight estimates at about 150ft.

Optimum placement of the displays was achieved by mocking up cardboard cutouts of the same dimensions as the LCD screens, temporarily tacking them up, and then walking around and noting the best angles.

“We did that before issuing the purchase order for the screens,” Ewing says. “That not only saved time and effort, but it was the kind of touch that helped us get the funding approved for this in the first place.”

Putting the real thing in place, though, proved more challenging. It was decided that, for safety reasons, the 130lb. Sharp displays should be bolt-anchored to the structural I-beams within the balconies around the center atrium. First, two Sharp 65in. PN-G655U plasma/LCD wall mounts were installed by drilling through the drywall and then on into the I-beam. Because of a substantial air gap between the two, installers had to use the longest bits they had, and in the process, they burned out more than one. To thread the nuts onto the bolts, they had to punch a hole in the opposing classroom wall, as well as reach down through the ceiling tiles that covered both spaces.

Once the mounts were in place, the screens went up. The highest would be placed at about 25ft. off the ground using a pair of one-man hydraulic lifts, one on either side of the screen.

“We held the screen with one hand and controlled the lift with the other,” Wight says. He says this was probably the single most daunting challenge of the entire project—manipulating both the lifts and the heavy screens until they lined up perfectly with the mounting points. “It was a combination of finesse and muscle,” he says.

Interestingly, there is no audio in this digital signage installation. Ewing says that the concern was that it could be distracting for those working in classrooms near the monitors and that the hard-sided walls of the atrium would require significant acoustical treatment to keep the sound intelligible, thus raising the project’s cost. However, provisions were made for a line-level output at the head end on the second floor, which is where all the equipment is located and where the signal that is distributed to the displays throughout the building originates, for connection to powered loudspeakers.

The displays have become part of the landscape in the business school building, but the dynamic nature of the content never lets them fade into the background. And given the current situation in global stock markets, the students who have a stake in their collective school portfolio are probably checking these screens carefully each day.

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