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AV Takes Flight In Busy Terminal

Few airports have rivaled Chicago's O'Hare Airport as a traveler's nightmare. But in a bid to repair that reputation, the city-owned airport, in concert with its largest tenant, United Airlines, has deployed a sophisticated high-definition digital video electronic messaging and display system in the airline's bustling Terminal 1 lobby.

CHALLENGE: Assemble dynamic and essential traveler information from a host of far-flung sources, convey it to displays, and ensure it can be quickly digested.

SOLUTION: Use robust video processing hardware and custom designed content management software to create a flexible and highly capable video distribution network.

IN THE CROWDED SKIES, piloting an aircraft from Point A to Point B is no small feat. The same might be said for the task of moving airline passengers through crowded airport terminals. Today, just getting from the terminal curb to the jetway can be a logistical challenge.

Securing tickets, checking luggage, moving through security, checking the status of flights, finding ground transportation — they're all part and parcel of the modern air travel experience, yet growing more glitch-ridden all the time. Owing to its sheer size and traffic volume, few airports have rivaled Chicago's O'Hare Airport as a traveler's nightmare. Perennially running neck and neck with Atlanta's airport as the nation's busiest airport, O'Hare at times tests the patience of even the most savvy road warrior.

Spanning the 510-foot length of the area above the United Airlines check-in counter in Terminal 1 at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport, a ribbon display consisting of 138 Clarity Margay displays relays vital travel information to travelers.

Spanning the 510-foot length of the area above the United Airlines check-in counter in Terminal 1 at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport, a ribbon display consisting of 138 Clarity Margay displays relays vital travel information to travelers.

But in a bid to repair that reputation, the city-owned airport, in concert with its largest tenant, United Airlines, has deployed a sophisticated high-definition digital video electronic messaging and display system in the airline's bustling Terminal 1 lobby. The goal: in the most user-friendly way possible, give the 30,000 to 70,000 travelers who enter the terminal each day a smorgasbord of information, with an emphasis on what they need to get to their destinations as quickly as possible.

Designed by Chicago-based AV design firm Sako & Associates and installed by Electrosonic Systems Inc., a Minneapolis-based integrator and component manufacturer, the $5 million system processes an array of different types of content from a host of sources and routes it over a secure network in the terminal to some 210 displays in four distinct, functionally specific videowall configurations. The solution was built around video playback, control, display, and distribution gear manufactured by Electrosonic, and relied heavily on customized control software and interface solutions developed by Electrosonic's Media Networks Group.

In addition to a selection of Electrosonic videowall processors, the project utilized products capable of handling the demanding video switching, routing, and distribution needs of the system. The resulting solution includes: 40 Extron MAV88 and MVX88 video routers, 42 Sigma Electronics VEQ2105A and VDA-21 video distribution amplifiers, two Cisco 4500 Series 144-port switchers, and 138 Magenta Research MultiView 450CS/S composite video to Cat5 converter transmitters, paired with corresponding MultiView UTX composite video to Cat5 converter receivers.

More than a year in the making, based on United's vision for an unrivaled traveler-friendly terminal with information delivery at its core, the system tapped both companies' capabilities to fashion a networked video and messaging creation and distribution system on a daunting scale. “Our challenge was how to best utilize digital display technology to help United alleviate the mounting confusion in the terminal lobby and move people through as quickly as possible,” says Sako chairman and project director Bill Sako. “We looked at a lot of technology vendors, but most of the solutions were too narrow. Ultimately we had to come up with a new solution for something of this scale.”

Specializing in the manufacture of video processing gear for large, custom applications and the software needed to create and manage content distribution, Electrosonic emerged as the bidder deemed most capable of bringing a system for so large a project to life, Sako says.

John Zink, Electrosonic's Midwest regional manager, says the company's ESCAN control software and iMediate content management software, combined with specialized processing and scaling components designed to transport large bundles of video and graphics over long distances made the difference. “A lot of different solutions could have been used to attack the challenges that the four display areas posed individually, but no single solution from any other vendor would have worked,” he says.



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