Planning Technology-Enabled Collaboration Rooms

Collaboration is, essentially, a group of people coming together to get the most from their combined analytical and creative energies. Time and again collaboration proves to be one of the most significant ways to solve business challenges.  Today, the meetings themselves can be a challenge given the increase in remote workers and changes necessary for others returning to offices.  The balance of live and remote engagement must be considered even more. Meeting and collaborationroom with projection and flat panel and seating in a large U shape

Often collaboration occurs in teams within individual departments during design reviews, production analysis, and planning, or presentation planning. When collaboration involves two or more departments, the value realized can increase exponentially. Diverse teams can bring very diverse types of content that need to be effectively shared. For example, sharing CAD design concepts between engineering and manufacturing teams can optimize a product for smooth production and after-sale service. Reviewing end-to-end workflows in large spreadsheets or visual diagrams provides insight on the impact one group’s work has on another’s. Cross-functional collaboration such as this not only improves workflow and time and cost savings, it also boosts satisfaction of engaged participants.

Designing Collaborative Spaces for Users’ Workflow

Enabling effective collaboration requires an investment in meeting spaces and technology appropriate to the tasks. Given the shift to remote workforces, more meetings require technology to facilitate discussion.  Most organizations are overwhelmed with digital communications, data, and images. The use of printed handouts or huddling around one computer never was ideal for a collaborative environment, and they are definitely not effective tools now that so many people are working remotely or even separated in meeting spaces. Connecting remote teammates is especially difficult without thoughtfully designed distance collaboration tools, including both hardware and software.

As many people do return to work, there needs to be an effective balance with in-office and remote meetings. Ultimately, the displays and collaboration tools in the room should suit the user content and objectives. The type or number of large-screen displays in a meeting room is only one of many technology decisions to be made. Audio, connectivity, software, and other tools are key to enabling productive sessions and remote connections. A review of sample use cases, workflows, and user profiles could lead to the standardization of room designs based on recurring work, teams, and their data requirements.

Define Success Up Front

Start your planning with the end in mind to guide design. How will you know the investment in collaboration technology was successful? Will you be measuring space utilization rates? Are you trying to increase the number of cross-functional meetings? Do you need to support a growing, globally dispersed workforce? Do you want more engaged users who are building a culture of collaboration?  How to measure success is a topic unto itself, but knowing what success looks like will guide space design and technology choices.

Questions and Considerations in Design:

With so many component options and platforms available, ensuring seamless integration of all equipment is critical. Involve an AV design specialist as early in the process as possible. This is especially important with new construction to ensure the interplay of space, sound, visuals, and structure is considered up front to avoid costly rework later. An experienced designer should be asking questions such as:

  • Are you planning spaces for new construction or renovating an existing space?
    • If existing, does the layout or structure create any limitations for running network cables necessary or added electrical connections?
    • If new construction of multiple spaces, is there an opportunity to standardize room sizes and technology based upon the work being conducted in them?
  • Is user content mostly spreadsheets, documents, and PowerPoint slides, or is it more complex 2D/3D data and photo-realistic rendering?
    • If the content is complex, at what scale should it be viewed to enable effective review and reduce time-to-insight?
  • How many different user applications/software packages must be open at one time?
  • Will users want to share content from their devices? If so, will the sources be a mix of laptops and hand-held devices?
  • What codec (Cisco, Polycom etc) is in place or required for remote participants?
  • Will there need to be a primary presenter and podium in the space?
  • How is the seating arranged as this will affect microphone placements.
  • How many and what types of audio sources will be in the space?
  • Will multi-point remote collaboration be necessary and, if so, between how many locations?
  • What network bandwidth is available for sharing complex data remotely?
  • What interaction capabilities do remote participants expect?
  • What level of security is required?
  • What technical support plan is necessary to ensure systems are maintained and available to expectations?
  • When users experience a problem or have a question, what support structure is in place to minimize meeting delays?
  • How long does the technology need to last?
    • Does your company have a regular refresh cycle or do you need systems to last as long as possible?

Regardless of how long collaboration technology needs to last, understanding workflow and expected use cases is a critical first step.  Effectively designed spaces and appropriate, simplified tools will be highly utilized and generate measurable return.  Establishing metrics to gauge success also needs to be done at the beginning, though measures and benchmarks can be updated as experience increases.  Regular monitoring of use and performance data will provide timely insight into needed system modifications or user training. When the time comes to plan the next set of technology upgrades, justification for investment is much easier with data that proves the payoff.

Read the follow up post Measuring the ROI of Technology-Enabled Meeting Rooms

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Audio visual technician checking cables on the back of a large array of LCD panelsWhether you have complex audio visual systems with multiple screens and projectors, or a more simple set up, you’ve decided to invest in creating functional meeting spaces that meet your needs. Supporting your investment over time is an important consideration. Proactive system maintenance can discover issues before they become serious problems. This reduces IT burden, system downtime, and user frustration because users experience reliable and well-performing audiovisual (AV) systems.

1. Prevent an outage

A small issue that goes unchecked can become a big problem that may shut down your system. With regular maintenance, a professional team performs a full check of your system – even the elements that are not used regularly, to ensure everything is working together as it should. This allows your team to focus on your business without concerns about your AV technology slowing them down.

2. Extend the life of your equipment

When a professional services team monitors all components of your system, issues can be identified and resolved immediately to ensure the maximum life expectancy of the system. This is similar to the regular maintenance recommended for an automobile because it extends the life and performance of the vehicle. An AV system works much the same way and will benefit from regular proactive maintenance.

3. Create a technology road map

Every piece of technology has a scheduled end of life. Regular maintenance will identify the pieces that need to be replaced, before they fail at the wrong time. This allows you to plan and budget for new components well in advance.

4. Get more from your service agreement

Proactive maintenance is a great way to get the most out of your contract because it includes regular checks or often an on-site team member. Regular interaction creates a more engaged process and expands the team member’s knowledge of your systems. The regular checks ensure that the system is always working at peak performance rather than responding reactively to service tickets.

If the agreement includes an on-site team member, this makes support for end-users more accessible and convenient.

5. Maintain your inventory

Part of proactive maintenance includes monitoring an inventory of supplies and spare parts. Ordering can take place when supplies are low – avoiding shortages that may cause system downtime.

 

Through regimented proactive maintenance, Pentegra’s technicians will reduce incidents from the start. As a result, you experience more efficient and effective working sessions. We schedule maintenance activities around your meetings, staying non-obtrusive. Talk to us today about how proactive maintenance can save you time and money.

 

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Corporate meeting and video conference room with four chairs and one LCD display panel on the wall with video camera and microphone

Prioritizing Needs for Audio Visual Collaboration Upon Return to Work

While some organizations are starting a returning to work program, all employees may not be returning at the same time so some remain remote. Even those returning to work may not be returning to prior meeting routines. Regardless of location status, many people have become very familiar with video conferencing platforms over the last few months. It’s likely that this form of collaboration will be required for the foreseeable future. However, not every organization has the same tools available in all locations. How do you keep large teams collaborating locally and remotely upon return to work?

If you are planning to deploy collaboration rooms in the near future, there may be some critical factors to consider before you get back to business as usual. Keeping staff safe is always going to be top priority. A phased approach when coming back to work ensures social distancing measures are followed. In addition, travel may be restricted, making video conferencing even more essential. These new working conditions may come with pressure to implement solutions quickly to maintain high levels of productivity.

Audio

Integrating AV with video conferencing platforms in your meeting rooms can improve collaboration activities. When choosing a solution for a collaborative meeting room, the main focus should be on audio. Having clear, intelligible audio allows teams to communicate most effectively. There are a few options to consider especially if you have budget constraints.

  • Speaker and microphone placement are critical; speaker and microphone coverage areas should be mapped out in advance to ensure everyone will be able to hear local and remote presenters from any location in the room.
  • Implement simple acoustic treatments and reduce noise reflection.
  • Invest in a system with Acoustic Echo Cancelling (AEC) capabilities.
  • Remove any unnecessary, noisy electronics from the room

Sharing Content

Another important factor to consider with collaboration solutions is the ability to share presentations and data effectively. The main sharing enablers are displays and the user interface. The display doesn’t need to be fancy. Almost any monitor or TV will allow teammates to share their content.  But if your data is highly detailed, the size and resolution of the display become factors to consider.

User experience needs to be intuitive enough for any user to boot up and begin a presentation. Most people working from home have been using remote collaboration services. Choose a user experience which operates similar to those products to help meetings get started on-time and reduce calls for support.

Camera

Selecting the right camera is the next technology consideration. Although face-to-face interaction is important, budgets may dictate tough investment choices. In these cases, video cameras can be categorized as “nice to have”. Depending upon the intent, successful meetings can result from sharing verbal and written information, not necessarily seeing each other.

 

Prioritizing your conference room needs can be difficult, especially in a time of uncertainty. Remember, audio should be the main focus. Finding a solution that fits your organization’s specific needs will be key. Getting a head start on planning now will increase your collaborative success upon return to work.

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Pentegra Systems was proud to partner with Mortenson Construction and Meade Electric on the Welsh-Ryan Arena Renovation project at Northwestern University.  The renovation included seating upgrades, wider concourses, new restrooms, new lighting, state-of-the-art audio and video capabilities, lobby expansion and new locker rooms.  Pentegra Systems worked closely with Meade Electric to design and install various sound systems throughout the arena.  Pentegra also contributed to the broadcast system infrastructure and supplied TVs and video walls all over the arena.  Below is a video tour of the new arena produced by the Northwestern University Athletic Department.  The renovations began in 2016 and was completed in time for the 2018 – 2019 basketball season.

 

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Pentegra Systems began the audiovisual infrastructure installation for the new flexible theater at “The Yard at Navy Pier” for Chicago Shakespeare Theater in Spring of 2016. This system included video distribution equipment, a technical intercom and paging sound systems and socket outlet panels. Additionally, Pentegra Systems provided the necessary audiovisual equipment racks, connections and cabling to bring the Shakespeare Theater’s AV infrastructure to life. Take a look at this time-lapse video of The Yard’s construction at Navy Pier courtesy of Bulley & Andrews’ YouTube channel. “The Yard” has officially opened for its first week of shows just this week.

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Below is an article written by Blair Kamin of the Chicago Tribune about the restoration of Oak Park’s historic Unity Temple. Blair gives a great summary of the Unity Temple restoration project and a brief history of the temple itself. Pentegra Systems began an audiovisual, security and data network design build installation at the historic Unity Temple in Oak Park, IL last year. To find out more about the integrated solution Pentegra Systems installed at Unity Temple, head on over to our Unity Temple Success Story page.

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Frank Lloyd Wright was never one to fret about meeting deadlines, sticking to budgets or roofs that leaked. So there is something fitting about the delayed, but altogether triumphant, restoration of Wright’s Unity Temple, the Oak Park landmark that is the finest public building of Wright’s Chicago years and home to one of the most beautiful rooms in America.

Instead of finishing on schedule last fall, the $25 million project is wrapping up just in time for the 150th anniversary of Wright’s birthday, June 8. The building’s Unitarian Universalist congregation will return for services June 11. A formal ribbon-cutting and open house are scheduled for June 17. It’s as though Wright himself had willed the timing to demonstrate afresh his genius at the very moment when public attention will be riveted on his legacy.

For decades, scholars and critics have remarked upon the striking contrast between Unity Temple’s exterior and interior: The former, made of exposed concrete, is monumental, monochromatic and seemingly impenetrable. The latter, a skylit room with multiple seating tiers, is grand yet human-scaled, enlivened by a rich palette of earth-toned colors, and as airy as the concrete cube is heavy.

Yet the restoration breaks down this dichotomy, revealing a strong aesthetic connection between the radically severe exterior and the warm, intimate interior — a new unity, if you will, for Unity Temple. The key step involves the return of robust interior finishes that once wove a thread of nature-inspired continuity between inside and outside. Without them, we now know, Unity Temple was simply not whole.

The practically-minded will be delighted to know that the restoration also delivers creature comforts like air conditioning that will prevent the heavenly interior from turning hellishly hot come summer. The exterior is even said to be leak-free. We’ll have to see about that, given Wright’s infamous track record of leaky flat-roofed buildings that forced their occupants to haul out drip buckets for what they referred to as “one-bucket,” “two-bucket” and “three-bucket” rains.

Success, it’s often said, has many fathers, and so it is with here: A team of consultants led by Chicago’s Harboe Architects has lavished exacting care on every aspect of this project, from the restoration of jewel-like art glass to the recreation of textured plaster walls. This high level of quality was made possible by $10 million lead grant from Chicago’s Alphawood Foundation, $1.75 million from the congregation and the rest from private donors.

Yet there’s a catch, as there always seems to be with Wright, who frequently lived beyond his means: The nonprofit that spearheaded the project, Unity Temple Restoration Foundation, still must raise roughly half the project’s budget. For now, a bridge loan covers those costs. The restoration itself offers the best advertisement for foundations and individuals to make up the balance.

From the first, financial constraints have shaped Unity Temple, which sits amid Oak Park’s thriving downtown at 875 Lake St. After the congregation’s Gothic Revival church burned in 1905, its leaders asked Wright, who was born into a Unitarian family in 1867, to design a new building on a prominent site along Lake Street’s noisy streetcar line. The budget, a mere $45,000, did not allow for expensive materials or elaborate ornament. So Wright, ever the innovator, fashioned his design from inexpensive poured-in-place concrete.

Victorians accustomed to embroidered surfaces must have been shocked by the monolithic abstraction of the completed 1908 building: A high-walled house of worship along Lake Street, joined by a foyer to a social hall and classroom building called Unity House. The passages to, and through, the sanctuary were equally radical. A circuitous route — the classic Wright trope known as the “path of discovery” — led from Lake Street to the entrance on a quiet side street. Inside, more turns took the worshipper from dark, tightly-confined ground-floor spaces that Wright labeled “cloisters” on upward and into the sanctuary’s spectacular explosion of space and light.

It was — and is — an extraordinary gathering place, in which space flows freely, liberated from the convention of the box. Yet there’s a profound sense of order and repose, as if one had come upon a light-dappled glade. The intimacy is palpable, courtesy of tiered balconies which ensure that no seat is more than 45 feet from the pulpit. Sunlight filters down from a grid of skylights, creating an effect that Wright compared to a “happy cloudless day.” Instead of turning its back on the minister to exit, congregation members pass through doors cut into walls on either side of the pulpit. In theory, at least, one enters as an individual and leaves as a member of a community

“Unity Temple is where you will find the first real expression of the idea that the space within the building is the reality of that building,” Wright remarked in 1952, seven years before his death.

But like many Wright buildings, Unity Temple challenged the patience and finances of its occupants. Even after a 1973 renovation covered the failing original exterior with a layer of “shotcrete,” a pneumatically-applied concrete, cracks and chipping persisted. Naturally, the building’s many roofs leaked. Seepage from the building’s internal drains, which were concealed in interior columns, weakened its concrete bones. When a large chunk of the ceiling fell in the middle of the night nine years ago, “it was a wake-up call about the instability of the building,” recalled the Rev. Alan Taylor, Unity Temple’s senior minister.

The restoration team has done meticulous work, beginning with the exterior, where portions of the 1973 shotcrete have been removed and replaced with new swaths of the material. Along with new roofs, restored art glass and enlarged internal drains, the new shotcrete is supposed to create that rarest of conditions in a Wright building — a structure that doesn’t leak like a sieve. “The system is good. It’s been tested,” said Gunny Harboe of Harboe Architects, who worked on the project with colleague Bob Score. (The building’s sagging eaves were fixed in 2002.)

Replacing the shotcrete also presented an aesthetic challenge. Unity Temple’s exterior is not a simple flat gray but a richly-textured aggregate of cement, sand and pebbles that range in color from white to brown to flint. Getting the right blend was like finding the elusive mix for a perfect cocktail. Contractors had to do some spots two or three times before the work was pronounced satisfactory.

The outcome largely avoids the pitfalls of a patchwork, although close inspection reveals slight variations in color. Yet time, weathering and the curing of the shotcrete should eventually blur those distinctions. And it will be no great sin if some of them remain. Unity Temple’s exterior has always had a certain mottled look. One of Wright’s prime tenets was to build “in the nature of materials,” which meant respecting their inherent properties. New in-ground night lighting will showcase the handsomely refurbished exterior and its decorative concrete columns.

The real revelations, though, are inside, where all interior surfaces have been returned to their 1908 appearance. That may not sound dramatic but it’s a major shift when you realize that multiple coats of paint, even modern latex paint, had been slathered onto the original walls. That rendered them flat and textureless, which was not what Wright intended.

Drawing on historic photographs and microscopic paint analysis, the architects and Philadelphia’s Building Conservation Associates re-created three types of textured plaster walls (rough, semi-rough and smooth) and Wright’s earth-toned color palette (pale yellow, green and brown). Contractors applied glazes over the plaster, giving them their color and a luminous sheen appropriate to a sacred space. The outcome is subtle but striking, especially within the sanctuary.

From the skylight to the ground floor, the freshly-remodeled interior walls have a new sense of texture and motion, restoring a lost layer of visual richness. Just as important, the interior now engages in a quiet but unmistakable dialogue with the building’s textured-concrete exterior. Inside and outside are opposites yet part of the same whole, a yin-yang relationship that makes tangible Wright’s elusive gospel of an “organic architecture.”

“No one’s seen it that way in a long time,” Harboe said.

To their credit, the team of designers has addressed a host of practical issues without aesthetic sacrifice.

Shallow trenches were dug in the concrete walls, then covered with plaster, to allow for the rewiring of electrical fixtures. LEDs were installed beneath the sanctuary’s skylights to give worshippers in the top seating tiers improved lighting as they read from prayer books. Mechanical systems were deftly inserted in the four hollow columns that support the building. Geothermal wells — nine of them, descending 500 feet beneath the front lawn — will provide the air conditioning the building has long lacked. New theater lights will improve Unity Temple’s ability to host performances.

A comparable assortment of formal and functional improvements are being made to Unity House, though they were not complete when I toured last week.

What a change has transpired since 2000, when the Landmarks Preservation Council of Illinois (now Landmarks Illinois) placed the deteriorating Unity Temple on its annual list of the state’s most endangered structures! Today, Unity Temple is a landmark renewed, an enduring statement of Wright’s genius and a vivid reminder that his brilliance extended far beyond the Prairie Style houses for which he is best known. There can be no better way to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Wright’s birth than to see and experience this revived masterpiece.

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Please visit www.pentegrasystems.com for all of your audio and video needs or give us a call at (630) 941-6000 for more information.

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In the Spring of 2016, Pentegra Systems began installation of the Audio and Video infrastructure for the new flexible theater at “The Yard at Navy Pier” for Chicago Shakespeare Theater. Pentegra Systems provided video distribution equipment, a technical intercom and paging sound systems and socket outlet panels. Additionally, Pentegra Systems provided the necessary AV equipment racks, connections and cabling to bring the Shakespeare Theater’s AV infrastructure to life. Preparing to open in the Fall of 2017, “The Yard” is indeed taking shape as explained in the article below recently featured in the Chicago Tribune by the Tribune’s Chris Jones.

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The Yard is Taking Shape

Chicago Shakespeare’s new space will offer seating flexibility

AV Infrastructure The Yard at Navy Pier Shakespeare Theater

Criss Henderson, left, executive director of the Chicago Shakespeare Theater, artistic director Barbara Gaines and production director Chris Plevin tour The Yard on Navy Pier. (Phil Velasquez/Chicago Tribune photos) The new indoor theater, under construction in the former Skyline Stage space, is scheduled to open this fall.

AV Infrastructure The Yard at Navy Pier Shakespeare Theater

If you measure a theater by the size, scope and versatility of its physical buildings, then there can be no reasonable doubt that Chicago Shakespeare Theater has just vaulted to the summit of Chicago theater companies.

The game-changer for CST, a long-established company that first took up residence on Navy Pier in 1999, is the impending opening of The Yard, a new, flexible, indoor theater built for about $35 million in the guts of the defunct Skyline Stage, a brutalist, wind-swept, ill-sized outdoor venue that found popular programming increasingly elusive as competition grew, and that no one will miss.

The only thing that worked about Skyline Stage was its white, tentlike roof, which has been retained for The Yard, even though the canvas now will sit atop an indoor theater, not rows of seats exposed on a promontory. That decision served several useful functions: it saved time and money; it dealt with the challenge of building a theater atop a parking garage (Navy Pier was not about to give up its parking revenue); it allowed for some visual continuity; and it forestalled any arguments of the effect of a new exterior on the oft-vociferous residents of Lake Point Tower, who overlook The Yard. CST was able to tell them that what they see from their windows was not going to change — at least until the theater adds to the color of the view by using the roof as a surface for artistic projection.

The first production in The Yard (the Chicago firm of Adrian Smith +Gordon Gill is the architect of record) won’t actually be until the fall, and the programming therein is light for the first season, but some 500 supporters and benefactors of Chicago Shakespeare will get their first look inside the new theater June 9 when they watch Jessie Mueller and Heather Headley, both Broadway stars with strong connections to Chicago, shake the dust off the construction site.

Executive Director Criss Henderson said that $35 million already has been raised (Navy Pier kicked in $15 million), though the theater still has about $7 million to go as part of a $55 million campaign, also designed to ramp up programming. The Yard, Henderson said, will become the new home of the theater’s extensive educational and family programing, and, of course, for a variety of other work. Interestingly, he said he still sees the existing Courtyard Theater as the flagship venue on this growing campus.

For years, arts professionals in Chicago have been bemoaning the lack of a venue with roughly 1,000 seats, a capacity that falls below Broadway in Chicago’s major touring houses downtown (and the 1,525-seat Harris Theater for Music and Dance) but that still is large enough to offer meaningful capacity and box-office returns to a producing agency of national stature. The Yard would be that space — although don’t look for Chicago Shakespeare Theater, a vociferous and competitive producer of international work, to open it up for rent anytime soon.

As a new addition to Chicago’s portfolio of performance spaces built without a traditional fly tower, The Yard will succeed or fail based on the efficacy of its dominant feature — nine independent towers of seating that can be moved into a dozen configurations, depending on the needs of the production.

These multilevel towers — an invention of the British theater design firm Charcoalblue and that can be merged or pulled apart to create proscenium, thrust, alley and arena-style seating — are imposing structures with HVAC hookups, speakers, sprinkler systems and the usual audience padding. They’ll be accessed from three levels, depending, of course, on where you are seated. And each configuration will change the capacity, and thus the level of intimacy, of the theater. The area with the towers is welded onto a renovated version of the old Skyline Stage stage house (which was always indoors, of course, and includes dressing rooms). But you cannot easily discern the joint.

The selling point of the towers is their ease of movement. At a recent hard-hat tour of the new theater (which you will reach down a linear lobby lined, like a Boeing 787, with electrochromic glass), I watched a couple of workers demonstrate how to lift one of them via a portable hydraulic system that sends the edifice scooting with ease across the floor, not unlike a hovercraft. Artistic director Barbara Gaines was watching too. “It’s priceless,” she said, “for an artist to have such flexibility.”

It’s hardly unusual for a theater to build a flexible space — the Owen Theatre at the Goodman and the Upstairs Theatre at Steppenwolf are examples of venues that can be used in a plethora of configurations. But the devil tends to be in the ease (or lack thereof) of transformation, especially in houses that use union labor to shift hefty risers, platforming and seating units. Flexibility typically comes at such a cost that budgets often mean such spaces get stuck in one use for an entire season or more.

At The Yard, CST director of production Chris Plevin explained, the towers that define the perimeter of the artistic space will be more akin to scenic elements (the large structures that you often see used as part of the morphing setting for a big musical or a Shakespearean extravaganza).

Those structures are always built to be no more hefty than needed and must be designed to make fast entrances and exits. Plevin argues that if a similar mindset and vocabulary is assigned to where the audience sits, and if a theater can change its shape and identity in a matter of minutes, then the creative possibilities vastly are increased.

“It will be in the spirit of a found space,” Henderson said, referencing a common performance buzzword that suggests the work is in charge of the space, rather than vice versa.

In some ways then, The Yard will be a pop-up theater for our new gig economy — or, perhaps more accurately, a huge black-box shell in which any number of different kinds of playing spaces will be able to pop up, and then pop back down again, cheaply and quickly.

 

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For more about “The Yard at Navy Pier,” check out this short illustration video showcasing what this exciting project will look like upon completion.

Please visit www.pentegrasystems.com for all of your audio and video needs or give us a call at (630) 941-6000 for more information.

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6 AV Tech Upgrades To Pursue When Moving (Relocating)

When a business moves to a new location, it presents unique opportunities for the company to pursue AV upgrades that otherwise might not have been available. If your business is going to be moving soon, it makes sense to look into upgrading your audiovisual systems so that you can improve the efficiency of your operation once you are settled in your new location.

1. Invest In A Connected Communication System
Whether your organization primarily uses video conferencing or audio chats, it is important that your machines are all connected so that anyone can engage in communications internally or externally when they need to. Some platforms allow users to conduct video or audio conferences with anyone on the company network, which can reduce the amount of time spent on meetings and enhance individual productivity.

2. Utilize The Power Of Unified Communications
Unified communications refers to a company’s use of a single platform for communication across several channels, including audio, video, and instant message chats. When your company is moving you can upgrade your hardware systems to ensure that they are compatible with unified communications platforms that will contribute positively to collaboration within your company.

3. Improve Physical AV Security
It goes without saying that security is a concern for companies. The widespread reporting and speculation about the recent hacking of the Community Health Systems hospital network proves that security is on the mind of many consumers and business professionals. While you take measures to improve your online security, don’t forget to physically secure your AV equipment when you move. This gives your company a well-rounded ability to safeguard your important information and devices.

4. Upgrade Display Technology
Moving is a good opportunity to improve the kinds of monitors and television screens that your organization currently uses in its AV strategy. With a better display you can receive higher resolution video and images, which will help you hold more effective presentations that better convey their intended message.

5. Integrate AV With Office Furniture
In the office furniture industry, integrating technology with furniture is a very popular trend. If you are looking to upgrade your AV during an office move, investing in conference tables, lounge seating, or other types of furniture that are integrated with company networks is a smart decision. This helps your entire office stay plugged into your network more effectively.

6. Obtain More Servers
If you are expanding to a new office, it often allows you to have more room for your company’s operation. More room means more space for additional servers, which allows you to improve your bandwidth and scale up your operation while you get more out of your company’s existing hardware and software.

Moving to a new office location requires attention to detail and the consideration of many different kinds of logistics. Fortunately, moving to a new office also affords companies the opportunity to upgrade their systems. These six AV upgrades will go a long way towards helping you maximize the use that you get out of your company hardware to better accomplish your organizational goals.

At Pentegra Systems, we work closely with our clients to provide them the right audio, video, low voltage and collaboration technologies that support their business goals. Serving customers throughout Chicagoland, Pentegra aspires to be the first company you call for your system integration needs. Ready to learn more, connect with us here. We are happy to help!

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5 Top Audio and Video Technology Trends In The Enterprise

The enterprise has seen a tremendous rise in the use of audiovisual and video technology in recent years. Today, there are some common trends popular with many commercial organizations that want to maximize their use of AV technology to achieve important business goals. The top AV and video technology trends are the ones that are being used the most often and have the most widespread impact on the enterprise.

1. AV Technology To Facilitate Remote Working
Forrester Research projects that by 2016, 43% of the United States workforce will work from home. The development of AV solutions that can make it easier for employees to work from home is an important trend in the enterprise for companies that want to conserve their budgets and improve worker satisfaction.

2. Opening Up Training Opportunities For Employees With AV
The next trend pertains to the way that organizations train their team members. Training has been made much easier since the popularization of audiovisual technology. It is possible for companies to hold seminars and even bring in guest speakers by using audiovisual systems that they have in place at their organization. An added benefit of using AV systems for training is that many platforms allow this training to be recorded so that the company can refer back to it in the future.

3. AV Systems In Huddle Rooms
In the past, companies often focused on establishing a single large conference room where many people came together at once to collaborate. Because of changes to collaboration methods in the enterprise and reluctance to spend money on the equipment needed for elaborate conference areas, huddle rooms have become one of the top AV and video technology trends. These huddle rooms are usually equipped with a central table, a few chairs, and a display that allows for video and audio conferencing. They make the perfect environment for small teams to get together and collaborate, even if some team members are not physically present.

4. Integrating Digital Signage Into AV Systems
Digital signs are commonly used in the healthcare, education, and transportation industries. Increasingly, these signs are being integrated into AV systems so that they can be updated with information in real-time. Digital signs are helpful for assisting people that need to find the right place to go and giving them news about happenings that matter to them.

5. Cloud Solutions For AV
The rise in popularity of cloud computing has eased the on-site burden faced by companies that want a dependable solution for audiovisual systems. Cloud service providers are very desirable for enterprise users of AV systems because they allow these users to scale their AV without having to stress about managing the hardware needed for communication.
These are just a few of the top AV and video technology trends that are impacting the enterprise today. Only time will tell which of these trends will last and which ones will be replaced for newer, more efficient methods of using audiovisual systems.

At Pentegra Systems, we work closely with our clients to provide them the right audio, video, low voltage and collaboration technologies that support their business goals. Serving customers throughout Chicagoland, Pentegra aspires to be the first company you call for your system integration needs. Ready to learn more, connect with us here. We are happy to help!

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Globally Connected Education

GEMS World Academy Chicago

Through the use of technology, the world has become much smaller. Computers, cell phones and internet connection have made possible the communication with someone across the globe. The business world has been cognizant of this for quite some time and duly takes full advantage.

As this technology becomes more readily available, it seems only fitting to begin to educate our population at an early age of this technology and what can ultimately be accomplished through new methods of communication.

GEMS World Academy, an international private education company, has been at the forefront of high-tech education and is expanding its global network to Chicago this fall. GEMS currently educates students from JK-12th grade worldwide on four continents with over 150,000 students. Historically, education has always been built upon standard communication. GEMS World Academy is rewriting the script when it comes to communicating knowledge onto the youth of today. Past and current education has revolved around a lesson instructed by a teacher while students listen and perhaps take notes. GEMS is amplifying the environment in which the students are learning through global communication.

Each classroom within GEMS World Academy Chicago will be fully equipped with large interactive touch screens for video conferencing installed by Pentegra Systems to function as a portal of communication, not just with any other classroom within the facility, but to other GEMS classrooms across the globe. Through this enhancement of technology, students now have the opportunity to expand their knowledge even further, from a few feet away to across oceans without having to leave the classroom.

The world plays host to countless cultures, offering invaluable opportunities to grow and learn. Students who enroll at GEMS World Academy are given the chance to experience these cultures interactively. Whether it be using Skype to learn about desalination plants in Dubai, or writing a limerick in English class and sending it to fellow GEMS students in Singapore, technology opened the door to endless possibilities of learning on a global scale.

For a further look into GEMS World Academy Chicago, click here!

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Community Unit School District 300

Community Unit School District 300

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Founded in 1948, Community Unit School District 300 is located in the Fox River Valley in Chicago’s far northwest suburbs, headquartered in Carpentersville, IL. A constant population growth has expanded D300 by adding more than 20 new schools over the last six decades. Currently, District 300 ...

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