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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5 Important Considerations When Planning For Structured Cabling

Planning for structured cabling can be one of the biggest challenges when it comes to setting up new building projects or adding wiring to existing structures. Done correctly, structured cabling can provide a building tenant with a cohesive system that offers uninterrupted service. Here are five important considerations when planning for structured cabling.

1. Indoor Vs. Outdoor
Will your cables be placed inside or outside? This decision has a big affect on the layout of your cables and the kind you use. Outdoor cables need to be installed in a specific way if they are to work as effectively as possible. On the other hand, indoor cables need to be installed in a manner that does not interrupt the aesthetic of the building.

Ask yourself this question: Have you considered the importance of using direct burial cables even in PVC in order to prevent major outages and digs in the event that cable is damaged by water, frost or other acts of nature?

 

2. What Kind Of Bandwidth Will You Require?
This is a huge concern for businesses that are going to be transmitting a large amount of data through their networks. If your structured cables cannot support the amount of bandwidth that your organization requires, it can lead to some serious issues and have a negative impact on the bottom line.

Ask yourself this question: You may have the newest and fastest hardware in the data center, but does your cabling support your head end today and into the future?

 

3. Moves, Adds, Changes and Your Furniture Locations
How well will your structured cables handle moves and changes, sometimes referred to as MACs? This is an aspect of planning for structured cabling that is critical to providing scalability and flexibility for the structure. If your structured cables do not support moves, it will be very limiting for the building’s tenants. Consider how likely it is that the cable layout in the building in question will need to be changed.

Where in your building will desks, conference tables, and server racks be located? This information plays a critical role in deciding how you go about planning the layout of your structured cabling. Certain kinds of furniture may support a specific type of cabling, which means you have to be certain that the cabling you install matches the furniture being used in the building. If not, it could lead to an unattractive office space or one that does not work as effectively as it could.

Ask yourself this question: Are you setting up for just what you have today or for what may come in the future?

 

4. Planning MDF and IDF Locations
Many people don’t realize that different cable types are limited as to how far they run. For instance, network cable isn’t supposed to run over 300 feet and if it is run further then signal can be lost to the devices at the edge.

For those less familiar with the term MDF and IDF, think of MDF as the hub for your equipment and IDF as the spokes. By properly planning where your head end system is and then planning for your spokes, you can make sure that cable runs are never too long and any changes down the line are less labor intensive.

Ask yourself this question: Have you planned for flexibility by putting your network closets in the right locations?

 

5. Government Regulations
Some states and cities require a specific kind of cabling system to be used based on the way that municipal power networks are set up. Be sure that you are well aware of any of these regulations before you start designing your structured cabling. If there are any doubts, get in touch with the governing body that oversees cabling regulations in your area and see what they say about rules that are in place about cabling.

Ask yourself this question: Do you know which cables need to be in conduit? How about which cables need to be plenum versus non-plenum?

 

Once you have been able to think about these and other considerations when planning for structured cabling, you can begin to move towards finalizing your design and getting your cabling installed. Be sure to work with a company that you can depend on to help you come up with a strategy for structured cabling and then execute it properly so that your cabling fits your budget as well as your operating needs.

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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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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Every School Needs a Systems Integrator

If you are reading this, chances are you went to school at a time when you were lucky to have an overhead projector in your classroom and really had it made when your teacher rolled in the TV cart to watch a movie. You’ve most likely been out of school for some time and might not realize just how large of a contributor education technology has become in the classroom today as opposed to ten years ago, let alone twenty or thirty. What was either considered a luxury back then or just extremely expensive is now a thing of the past. Schools are now depending on these technologies more than ever and actually use it as a selling point to make their school a more appealing option. If you’d walk into any given classroom in 2016, you might not see as many textbooks as you’d imagine. Instead, you’d see students with Chromebooks or iPads in their hands working on educational software or other educational apps. A school’s technology is sure a lot to keep track of and stay on top of that personnel at the school most likely aren’t capable of handling. This is where a systems integrator comes in.

 

Consultation

 

Whenever you are looking to purchase something, the best thing to do is talk to somebody. Independently researching only goes so far. If you are seriously looking to acquire or upgrade your technology, your best bet is to talk with someone who knows the industry, knows the products and pretty much has their finger on the pulse. You can’t expect your school’s Director of Technology or other IT personnel to know everything. What types of technology are available? What do I really need? What is best for the students? Working with a systems integrator will answer all of your questions. Teachers and faculty of the school know how day-to-day operations go and what areas need improving. A systems integrator can help identify these areas for improvement and suggest what the best solution would be based on their vast knowledge of systems integration.  Having a direct line to that source of knowledge is extremely beneficial.

 

Healthy Business Relationship

 

Consulting and doing business with are two different things, yet a trustworthy and reliable systems integrator has you covered in both aspects. Not only can they steer you in the right direction they also bring the vision both of you come up with together to life. Having a strong relationship with an integrator means you don’t need to go elsewhere. This saves you a lot of time and from the hassle of having to find someone else. Working with a systems integrator is more than just purchasing technology; it should be a partnership and a team effort to ensure not only the best working environment for teachers and faculty, but most importantly the best learning environment for students.  The benefit of finding a reliable, hard working, honest integrator is a luxury if you often make technology purchases and upgrades for your school. Repeat business not only benefits the integrator, but also the client by getting better deals and better pricing given the repeat business over an extended period of time. As in any sort of relationship, both sides need to benefit for the relationship to continue

 

Changing The Culture

 

Having a good systems integrator can single handedly change the culture of how students learn at your school. Sure, the technology itself is the real propeller of instituting change when it comes to learning, but the systems integrator is the means of transportation to get it there. A good systems integrator can be the one to bring in the very best and top-notch systems into the classroom, not only making the teachers jobs way easier, but bringing a new level of collaboration and interactivity among students that they might have no had previously.

 

 Management All In One Place

 

Having your own integrator is not just beneficial to the school and all of its end-users, but also to the technology itself. All aspects of your technology both in AND out of the classroom can all be managed in one place. Your sound system, presentation system, phone system, data network, surveillance, etc. can all converge on the very same I/P network and going through the same systems integrator can make that all possible. Having all of your low-voltage integrated systems run on the same I/P network simplifies not just how it operates, but also adding new technology in the future.

 

 

Having a systems integrator that you can call your own can help your school in several ways. The only real question left is where you find a good systems integrator. For more information on what to look for when picking the right systems integrator, check out one of our recent blogs posts Picking The Right Integrator.

 

Are you looking for a systems integrator? Perhaps Pentegra can be of service.

Call us today at (630) 941-6000 or visit us online at www.pentegrasystems.com!

 

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Picking the Right Integrator

Time flies. We have all heard that expression. You can’t stop the clock. Everyone and everything gets older, including your technology. Well, especially your technology. It seems like every day you look at your once “state-of-the art” presentation system complete with projector, ceiling speaker system and all of the bells and whistles that would and did impress people about 10 years ago. Now? Well you are looking for an upgrade. This goes for all sorts of technology. You want something completely brand new, but most of all you want it designed, engineered and installed by professionals. So, what do you do? You need to pick the right integrator.

Here are 5 things to look for when choosing the right integrator:

Compile a List of Integrators

Picking the right integrator is easy if you have the right options. Finding said options is a little tougher of a task. Give a general contractor or a consultant a call and ask some questions. These are the companies and individuals that work with integrators often and would have a solid knowledge base on the matter and can definitely point you in the right direction. Also, it goes without saying, the internet is your best friend. A simple Google search of local integrators should turn up some results. Pick some accurate keywords when searching online. For example: “CCTV” and “Access Control” when searching for potential security integrators, “sound masking” or “digital signage” if you are trying to find an AV specialist. Some names could be very familiar to you and some you may never have heard of and that’s okay.

Competency

By now you have a short list of a few integrators you’d like to explore working with. You now need to find out if these firms can even do the work and do the work properly. The firm you ultimately choose will need to be certified in the specific field. The target firm not only needs qualified individuals, but industry leaders when it comes to all facets of your potential project such as sales, engineering, project management, etc.) The firms’ websites are a primary destination to find out most of your answers and are a decent indicator of the firms’ abilities. The more information on a company’s website the better your perception of them will most likely be. Give each integrator on your list a call and let them help you find out what it is you really want and really need. There is nothing better than interacting with a potential future integrator early in the planning process. You can feel them out, ask questions, and test their knowledge. Have them help you identify your issues and aid you in finding the perfect solution. That is what an integrator does, identifies a problem and devises a solution. Have multiple conversations or have a representative come out to your site so they really get a good grasp of the situation. This will give you a much needed and accurate perception of the integrator and give you a pretty solid base to select the perfect one for you.

Firm Size

Dig deeper into the firm, more than the basic information. Is this firm the size of a firm that can make your project a reality? What is their annual revenue? You have already spoken to these companies and have a pretty good perception of how qualified their staff is (or not), but do they have a reasonably sized staff to execute such a project as yours? Is this firm too small to be taking on your project? Or is this firm actually too big to be taking on your project? For example: You’re a small business looking for a small telephone system for your office. The one firm you have an eye has contracts with companies that makes $50 Million dollars per year or higher. Will they even take time to work with you? Will they exhibit the same care they show for their high-end clients? These are just some things to think about.

Reputation & References

Being capable of doing something and actually having done something are two different things. You have a good idea that a couple firms can get the job done, but now you want to know their track record. To really get a good idea of what working with a certain firm is like you need to talk directly to some of their clients. Many firms have some of their notable clients listed on their websites that you can get in contact with and some firms will actually give you a client list with the proper information of who to contact, which is a very good and telling sign of how they go about their business. When making any decision, the more information you know the better off you’ll be.

Post Installation Support

When you are doing research about an integrator please do not forget to also look further into their post-installation methodologies. This includes their ability and reliability of servicing and maintaining your system to ensure it operates to its full potential. For more information about what to look for in a great service department, check out our previous blog here.

 

Much like a consumer buying a new car, businesses and organizations do their due diligence when it comes to purchasing new technology for their space. This is not a task that should be rushed. A worthwhile investment such as a new phone system or sound system requires investment from a financial standpoint, but also a time standpoint. Rome was not built in a day. If you follow the steps above and get serious about searching for the perfect integrator, you will find one and hopefully build a lasting business relationship with for several years.

 

Pentegra Systems is a low-voltage integrator specializing in audio, video, data, security and telecom solutions. Are you in the market to upgrade the technology in your business or organization? Visit our website for more information at www.pentegrasystems.com or give us a call at (630) 941-6000.

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Advantages of Leasing Technology

It is 2015 and let’s face it technology has become a necessity in almost every aspect of your life. This is a harsh truth to some people, but so is the fact that if you want the best technology it sure doesn’t come cheap. Is your business in need of network equipment? How about a video wall in your lobby? Chances are you can be looking at a substantial investment. What if you just don’t have that sort of money when you need it most? Leasing technology quickly becomes a pretty appealing option.

SAVING You Money

Let’s say you are the facilities manager at your company and you need to look into buying a video surveillance system to monitor the grounds. To acquire a proper system fitting both your needs and your wants, your system has a price tag of $60,000. Your company definitely needs this system, but just doesn’t have that money to spend right now. By leasing this surveillance system your company can get the exact system you want and need today and pay it off over a specific time frame with a pre-determined monthly cost. Plus, more than likely there will be no down payment to begin with. You can spend that total of $60,000 over the entire lifetime of you using it opposed to dropping that serious amount of money all at once. By leasing this technology, you conserve your capital. By not buying the system upfront, you free up that money you would have spent otherwise. This way, you not only get your video surveillance system, but now have additional money to spend in other areas that also need it.

Keeping You Up-to-Date

In today’s world your brand new cutting edge technology could become outdated by tomorrow. You buy a brand new phone and within months, or weeks now it seems, an even newer phone comes out with much better features that is miles ahead of the one you just purchased. We have all been there. Being stuck with outdated technology is just a common burden that cannot be avoided. Leasing technology gives the buyer the option to update their current equipment when their current lease is up giving them the freedom to periodically have the most up to date products on the market. When your lease agreement comes to an end you simply pick from the current options available and begin a new lease agreement. Plus, since the technology you are leasing will never be outdated, you are also saving yourself the expenses of necessary repairs. If you are stuck with technology that you bought up front, the longer times goes on the more and more that equipment will need to be repaired and maintained, thus saving you even more money.

Other Advantages

When tax time rolls around, the IRS lets you deduct the full cost of all newly purchased assets in the previous year. This does not only mean equipment you purchased upfront, but it also includes equipment you leased. Select lease structures are 100% tax deductible. The entire cost of you leasing your equipment can often be reported as an expense item when its income tax season and could potentially give you a larger tax deduction.  Also, when looking to take out a lease on equipment or technology, most financial services can turn your transaction around in one day’s time. Depending on the size, the much larger transactions are often given high priority. Financial Services not only make the transaction smoother, but also save time and resources making it as hassle-free as possible.  In addition, depending on your type of organization, you can qualify for additional benefits. For example, School Districts have an even greater advantage when leasing due to tax-exempt and flexible payment lease programs that lower the costs of ownership even further down. Schools have tight budgets as it is, they can’t afford to buy equipment upfront in most cases, so in addition to the money leasing will save them additional programs will also save them even more. Faculty, staff, students and parents can definitely appreciate a school with the most up to date technology without the large financial burden of paying for it all at once.

In the grand scheme of things, leasing technology makes the most sense, especially for education and government customers. Municipalities and schools definitely need up-to-date technology and just can’t consistently afford or be as efficient by purchasing that equipment outright when compared to leasing it. Leasing gives you more money to work with now which is crucial in today’s economy. The advantages of leasing become extremely beneficial not just when it comes to affording the equipment, but also using it given you will always be using current technology that will rarely need repairs, let alone replacing.

 

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Misconception of Business Class VoIP

When making any sort of important decision, you need all the facts. Whether it is for your personal life or professional life, your home or your business, a thorough analysis needs to be conducted on the road to your ultimate solution. A common issue for both homes and businesses, for example, is what phone system to choose. In the communication industry, Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) is quite the popular and appealing choice. However there can be quite the misunderstanding when customers assume getting a VoIP Phone System for their business is the same as the one they’d get in their own homes. This is specifically why having all the facts is crucial.  When the average, non-tech savvy consumer hears VoIP, they tend to think of residential phone systems that make calls over the internet and carry the reputation of terrible call quality given the internet cannot be controlled and bandwidth is always an issue. Many businesses are hesitant to go the VoIP route because of this reason. Why would a company choose a phone system if they know terrible call quality is even a remote possibility? More importantly, why would a company choose a phone system that relies solely on the internet? However, they are simply making an assumption without having all the facts.

A business VoIP phone system is actually a premise-based phone system that is Ethernet-based and uses the data pipes of the business. Basically, the VoIP system combines with the business class phone service that the company uses. This system utilizes the data network to make calls within the building only, but uses the standard phone line to communicate anywhere outside the building. Call quality is not an issue since it doesn’t function like a residential VoIP phone. There are several advantages for businesses to use a VoIP telephone system. For instance, changes and modifications to the system can be made much easier and at a quicker rate.  Let’s say an employee needs to move their desk somewhere else in the building. Historically this would require quite the amount of effort to make the move. With a business class VoIP phone system, all of the phones are already programmed. The employee simply just needs to plug it into the network jack at their new desk. This eliminates the unnecessary time and resources it would take to get that employee up and running at their new desk if the company didn’t use a VoIP phone system. A phone system in the office that uses the company’s data line enables the phone system to interact with company computers; accessing contacts, transferring voicemails, managing voicemails and completely integrating with the company’s customer relationship management (CRM) system, just to name a handful of possibilities. This interaction is called Computer Telephone Integration, also known as CTI. Another attractive aspect to business class VoIP systems is that the company would not need to install a second set of cabling since the existing data cables are already in place. Easier connectivity, countless features and crystal clear sound quality make business class VoIP quite the appealing option to businesses.

As you can clearly see, VoIP in the business world is significantly different than a VoIP system in the home. A residential VoIP phone system does have its own advantages and features that are appealing to the consumer, and all of those features are also available with a business class VoIP system without the quality of the call being an issue like it occasionally is with a residential VoIP. The potential and upside of using a VoIP phone system in the business world, such as the systems ShoreTel offers, is quite large considering all of the integration possibilities of the system. Much like any decision maker, if you want to truly make the right choice and the choice that makes the most sense for both your needs and your wants, you should make sure you have all the correct information first and foremost.

 

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Technology Should Come First

When designing an office or school, or any type of building or structure for that matter, there are many factors that contribute to the final design. Every building serves a purpose. It houses people and provides them with a space to fulfill some sort of task whether it is to work or live in. Some of these factors that determine the ultimate design of any type of structure include space available to build, zoning and various regulations, expected number of occupants and placement of utilities. For example, when building a restaurant architects and planners’ first order of business is to designate where the kitchen will be to cook the food for the customers. When designing a typical industrial space, architects and planners need to assign specific areas for office and warehouse space. Areas for conference rooms and huddle rooms are designated when planning out typical office spaces. Decisions like these are most often the first step in the building process. However, more often than not, the occupants in these buildings often face major dilemmas when trying to introduce technology into their newly built space. Technology has become such a critical part of everyday life, it’s unavoidable. When planning out a new building or space, technology should be the first factor to be considered.

In the modern workspace, technology is a must-have and the term “technology” covers so much ground since it has been integrated into almost every aspect of everyday life. Businesses rely on their technology to keep their operations going. Above all else, every workspace needs internet connection capabilities, a data infrastructure, a security system and telecommunication capabilities. In order for these systems to work sufficiently, the planning for these systems is critical. Space must be designated early in the building process to accommodate the necessary technology that comes with these systems. If a data infrastructure is needed, ample space is needed to accommodate the servers, routers and switches that will allow the inter-connectivity of the work place. In addition to this equipment, cabling is also an integral piece of the puzzle. The last thing occupants of a newly built facility want are random wires and cables from their data, security or telecommunication systems running up and down walls or laying on the floor being a visual blemish and/or potential safety hazard.

Some types of structures depend more on technology than others. When talking about arenas, stadiums, lecture halls and theaters as well as houses of worship, the most important component is the sound. Audio is the main attraction to these types of facilities, enhancing the unique atmosphere. Hearing your favorite band close out a festival, listening to the pastor give a sermon at your local church or hearing the referee announce a crucial penalty call with seconds to go in the fourth quarter, all these examples need to be heard by everyone within the facility. When designing a space, the type of equipment and the placing of said equipment can make or break the experience. When designing these structures, architects and planners need to keep in mind of how the sound is going to get from a stage, altar or field to the ears of the audience. In addition to the space and cabling needed for the appropriate equipment, the actual space of these structures must be evaluated based solely on the traveling of the sound. For example, an indoor stadium’s sound system will differ greatly from that of an outdoor stadium. If not planned accordingly, there might be many distraught faces in the crowd who are unaware of what is going on due to the sound system that was installed into a structure not properly designed for the space or the application. Speakers and microphones vary in terms of projection and sound and many facilities need equipment that is appropriate for its designated space. Video screens and projectors compliment the audio system in many of these facilities. The video elements are in many ways just as important as the sound. Depending on your seats for an event, you might actually find yourself watching the video walls or nearby large format displays to catch the action on the field or the performance on the stage. When planning a facility such as these mentioned, the placement of the equipment such as video screens needs to be able to be seen by everyone watching which could definitely affect building plans if not taken into consideration early on.

One of the most significant issues when introducing new technologies into your space is the integration. All of the systems mentioned above have the ability to be integrated together and the potential of all these technologies can be maximized when integrated together. Taking technology into account in the planning process will ensure seamless integration of multiple technologies, deliver the technology that today’s users want and need, reduce overall infrastructure costs and substantially reduce unwanted “surprises” in the end. In today’s world when designing a building or space, the design process needs begin with the technology.

No matter what system you are incorporating into your new space, planning for your technology needs should be a top priority from the beginning. At Pentegra Systems, we work closely with our clients to provide them the right audio, video, data, security and telecommunication 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? Visit us at www.pentegrasystems.com. We are happy to help!

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Technology: Assisted Living

Residents in assisted living facilities around the world have seen quite a bit during their lifetimes. They lived through wars, have seen humans walk on the moon and even may have seen their grandchildren have children of their own. Comparing the lives of these individuals as youths to modern-day is quite the change. Throughout this time technology has been on the upswing and only gets more advanced by every passing day. These men and women never really relied on technology for the majority of their lives, but now they find themselves in a position where technology can not only improve their lives, but extend them.

Web-Based Connection

In today’s world, everything is intertwined by technology and everyone needs some sort of computer knowledge, no matter how old or even how young the person may be. The reality is that many elderly men and women have been retired for quite some time and are now residents in retirement homes and assisted living communities. Within this post-retirement time span, many seniors surprisingly have their own fair share of knowledge when it comes to technology. With the senior citizens who aren’t computer savvy, many retirement communities offer web-based education now to further enhance the experience of all their residents. For example, many Grandmothers and Grandfathers are staying in touch with their Grandchildren using e-mail, Facebook and other internet based methods of communication. The uses of newer technologies, such as tablets are becoming more and more popular in senior living communities. Scheduling is often an issue when trying to visit Grandma or Grandpa in an assisted living facility; this is where video chatting can become very useful. Having this access and connection to family and loved ones actually makes senior living more appealing, giving residents a homier atmosphere knowing their families and loved ones aren’t as far away as they initially believed. These residents are not only more connected to the outside world, but they are also more connected than ever to staff members within these communities which is extremely important.

Monitoring Systems

Many assisted living communities have also begun using monitoring systems that can detect emergencies with the use of real-time sensors. These sensors, placed all around a resident’s living quarters are designed to detect movement and activity, or in some cases lack thereof. These sensors, for example, can detect when a resident enters his or her bathroom and just how much time they are spending inside. The purpose of these sensors is to detect unusual activity to warrant a visit from facility staff. In the event of an accident or emergency, these sensors can prompt a response much quicker. More advanced monitoring systems are also available, for example to track vital signs of residents.

Many assisted living communities give the residents the option to leave during specified hours. These residents can go for walks, go to the store, etc. Given the age of some of these residents, many might get lost, forget where they’re going or forget their way back. In these cases, some of these assisted living communities have GPS enabled watches or other devices that each of their residents wear. These items send a signal out automatically to the assisted living community pinpointing his or her precise location. In the event of a resident going missing, these devices can find them immediately wherever they may be. There is no video surveillance or audio recording involved, thus these monitoring systems are not invading on residents’ privacy. These technologies are incredibly useful and necessary tools to take proper care of those who need it.

Emergency Call Buttons

The most crucial aspect of assisted living communities is life safety. These residents are at a point in their lives where 24/7 assistance might be necessary. Technologies such as call buttons are one of the best ways to stay connected whenever a resident needs assistance or has an emergency. These call buttons can be programmed to be connected to a staff member, caregiver or an emergency response team at the assisted living community. These call buttons reduce response time dramatically. There are many types of emergency call buttons, one being a pendant hanging around the neck of a resident. This pendant allows the resident to have quick 24/7 access to emergency care if and when needed. Also integrated with GPS technology, once the emergency call button on the pendant is pressed it wirelessly sends out a signal to a caregiver or staff member pinpointing their exact location in the case of an emergency. This GPS technology further reduces response time avoiding the responder to have to search through the residence trying to find the resident in need. For example, if the resident is not able to call out or has become unresponsive in the bathroom since pressing the emergency call button, these GPS enabled pendants prevent the responder from looking in other rooms prior to finding the resident and leading them to their exact location. Call buttons have several uses such as assisting with medical emergencies and fires, as well as burglary.

Although these communities are assisted living communities, the men and women who reside within want nothing more than independence, for the most part. No one wants to have to constantly depend on others for help. With the help of technology, these residents can live more independently and comfortably while still maintaining a constant connection with aid extremely close by in the result of an accident or emergency. However, this technology, although extremely useful and helpful, can never replace another human being on the staff. These technologies only reinforce the mission of assisted living communities, for residents to feel at home while getting the care they need.

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Berwyn South School District 100

Berwyn South School District 100

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Berwyn South School District 100’s mission is to provide positive, appropriate learning opportunities for each student. These opportunities foster the development of basic values, good citizenship and a sense of self worth to enable students to be productive citizens in a rapidly changing world. ...

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