Q&A With Dan Fulmer, Fultech Solutions
As a member of CEA's TechHome division board, Dan Fulmer is a well-respected residential installer. But his company, Fultech Solutions, recently branched out into commercial work. Here's how.
As the head of Jacksonville, Fla.–based Fultech Solutions, Fulmer is a respected name in the residential AV market. He even sits on the board of the Consumer Electronics Association’s TechHome Division. So what was his company doing recently at the stadium of the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars? Branching out—strategically.
PRO AV: Fultech has been a highly respected residential installer. How did you transition to commercial jobs?
Fulmer: We started the division in January 2008, pretty much at full throttle, thanks to the experienced people I brought in to complete this transition. We didn’t just decide to do commercial with our existing staff. We got a [Small Business Administration] loan, hired experienced commercial sales staff, commercial buyers, and built a new, totally green, Energy Star-rated showroom with all the commercial technology we sell on display. We invested heavily in doing this properly, including getting all necessary certifications and licenses.
PRO AV: How did you get involved with Jacksonville Municipal Stadium?
Fulmer: We became a Scala digital signage dealer some time ago and the Jaguars use that signage system. But they were working with a company from outside the state at the time and wanted someone local and Scala-certified. We met that requirement. Still, we really had to prove we could handle this job, so we had to totally design, program, and run a demo digital signage system for them, showing them exactly what they wanted in the system, before they’d even consider us. We did that, satisfied their other requirements, and moved forward.
PRO AV: What were you contracted to do? What was the scope of the work?
Fulmer: We have been designing and installing 80 or so digital signage TVs around the concession stands in the stadium. The system includes digital signage players, a rack for the players, and 14 ZeeVee encoders to distribute video to the TVs around the stadium.
The end solution includes a good deal of custom programming in order to read RSS feeds, get scores from scoreboards, stats from stat tickers, and give the customer the ability to remotely operate and manage the system.
PRO AV: What technology solutions did you choose for the project and why?
Fulmer: Like I said, we’re a Scala dealer. They bend over backwards to help their dealers and offer a product with many of the feature sets that allow Fultech to offer what other small-scale digital signage dealers may not. We chose ZeeVee’s HD modulators to save time and money for the stadium. They eliminated the need to rewire an entire football stadium, in addition to saving a ton of time and money on cabling and switching devices. We also chose Crestron as our control system because we have been a Crestron dealer for almost 15 years, have certified Crestron programmers and master programmers on staff, and have confidence in the technology’s usability and robustness.
It has been the perfect solution and will serve this system well into the future. With this design, we can use a single digital signage player to send video to multiple TVs at the same time. To get to a specific digital signage channel, you simply change the TV channel to whatever feed you want. This also made managing the system much easier.
PRO AV: What challenges did you encounter during the installation and how did you overcome them?
Fulmer: Most of the challenges were met in the design and planning phase. The installation itself was pretty straightforward. The most technical things we are doing are creating scripts to read various information from various feeds, which makes managing and updating the signage system almost automatic, without much intervention from a human while a game is being played or an event is going on.
In addition, a large requirement was securing the digital signage software program from the outside world and from being abused or manipulated by third parties. This was accomplished by creating Web pages to access and control the system versus having employees log directly into the content manager server where all of the signage is managed.