Perched upon a pier that juts into Sydney Harbour, Hugo’s Manly is a superb destination this spring and summer but what about on the cold, rainy winter days and evenings?
The owners decided that some really big heaters were going to be needed and then turned the problem over to Dave Coxon, managing director of DJW Projects.
“No problem,” Dave told them. “We can sort that out as really they’re just big lights.”
However a quick count of the heaters required plus a little calculation on the power supply revealed a problem: there was not enough power to run the kitchen bar and heaters all at once.
Along with Dr Ed Coxon and Jamie Wells, DJW’s Head of Integration, Dave developed a quirky algorithm to manipulate the supply versus base load problem. Using AMX and a whole bunch of CT’s, DJW Projects set about collecting data from the building regarding its current draw. Each heater was then installed on its own 20 amp lighting dimmer channel. As the buildings draw exceeds supply the heaters drop load across a dump priority system.
“This base calculation is now the basis for DJW’s green energy heating system for commercial spaces,” said Dave Coxon. “This system offers the end user a power bill for their heaters that is representative of how busy they are. How many times have you had your heaters on under your awnings and had no one sitting there? It’s wasting energy. DJW are proud to release Green Heater Control. Utilising motion detection, DJW can turn the heating system on, up or down, depending on whether there are actually people in the space. As well as being installed new, this system can also be retro fitted to an existing system.”
The entire venue is driven from a 7 inch AMX touchscreen sitting on the front counter. The AMX interface is simple and intuitive for the user and can be programmed to control just about anything non-human.
“The staff can control audio in any zone, control the volume of it and the actual music playing software from the interface,” explained Dave Coxon. “The big issue, as mentioned, was the heating drawing too much power but they can easily turn up or down the heating with the interface. However, in the background we have an over ride system where if the venue needs extra power, it automatically drops some of the heaters down in very small percentages so the difference is hardly noticeable. We do that by monitoring the current draw to the various facets of the venues, we look at the main current draw coming into the venue, we look at the current draw of the building and the current draw of the heaters.
"That’s all tied together with some feedback loops which gives us the information to enable us to adjust things as per what is required to keep the main below the maximum current.”
The technical machinery that chugs along out of sight includes Clipsal C-Bus, installed by JES Electrical the electrical contractors for the project, and this controls all of the lighting and the blinds. LSC EKO dimmers run across all of the heaters. Audio components include Lab.gruppen amplifiers, Symetrix processing, and EAW speakers.
Dave Evans, Hugo's owners, stated “I’m not great on a computer and I’m certainly not a tech-head but this is so simple to operate. It controls our heaters, blinds, audio, lighting, alarm system, kitchen exhaust, air conditioning. At the end of the night I press one button and it turns everything off, drops the blinds and sets your alarm. It’s an amazing concept plus it runs the E stream music system. Dave Coxon did a great job programming it.”
Integrating your Venue
As the speed of technology increases to matching the speed of light, the control devices become smarter and no longer bits in your electrical system – big, ugly devices bolted to a wall - but rather complex data streams flowing between any numbers of systems in your venue.
With technology becoming more inter-connectable, many systems can now be integrated to work as one, easy to control system. It’s all about communication between the sound systems, the lighting systems and the entertainment systems together.
Over the last few years it has become evident that we need to change our energy habits for the sake of the planet. Unfortunately this is not going to be a cheap transformation but a costly exercise and, while none of us know exactly what will happen, one thing we can be assured of is that the cost energy will become a major consideration in the long term running costs.
It has been my experience that the Audio Visual industry is full of “smoke and mirrors” when it comes to integration with few hoteliers and even fewer audio visual installers understanding the power and usefulness of complete integration nor, just as importantly, the pitfalls.
If the AV Industry is going to be the driving force bringing high level integration into the Hotel industry then there needs to be a clear line drawn in the sand and these companies need to understand that they are the new generation of audio visual specialist.
Over the years I have met many hoteliers and venues owners who have shown me a back room with perfectly good control systems - such as Dynalite - with a bunch of household dimmers bypassing the system. This is caused by a lack of understanding of the products, the inability of the installer to program the system, and a lack of understanding of the requirements of the client. There is much more to installing a complete control system than picking a brand and saying we want that.
There needs to be a complete understanding by the integrator of the client’s requirements and a clear understanding that the client doesn’t really know what a system is actually capable of. Therefore the integrator needs to know the intricacies of the operation so as to work with the client to ensure they get a fully functioning system. I think it’s fair to say that the original interface and control parameters we build for a venue will not be the same as the final product that is handed over at the end of the job.
To fully understand the capabilities of what can be offered now to the end user you will need a clever and knowledgeable integrator, this person will be responsible for the system design and maintenance of the system upon completion of the job.
The largest pitfall for a venue and the reason that things get bypassed is purely due to poor understanding of the client’s requirements which results in poorly designed interfaces.
As so many intelligent systems can be interconnected a drawback can be the individual installers who install small parts of the system as opposed to the entire system. This can lead to a lot of finger pointing when things need to be adjusted and the integrator needs to be prepared and able to reprogram all the individual parts. In addition, warranty replacement of certain elements within the system now involve not just the replacement of the faulty unit but the reloading of the units personality, where many installers come unstuck is the management of the site files and the management of any software changes that occur over time.
Another problem is who owns the source code. Most integrators go to extraordinary lengths to retain all source code and build an interface that allows the operator very little in the way of adjustment. In my opinion, this is a trick to ensure a huge revenue stream from the venue for every small change.
This practice is very common and stems from the ‘because we can’ attitude, as well as lack of understanding of the concept behind integration and, most importantly, because the venue owner doesn’t know any better. There are a group of highly talented programmers out there but they are usually guys with glasses and plastic pocket protectors who work in rooms without a view taking their direction from smooth talking salesmen in suits who are driven by the bottom line. These are not the guys you want designing the interface for you - you need to get a pocket protector and join the gang in the room without a view.
Remember that the best way to get the ultimate from your venue integration system is to look at the work of your integrator and other interfaces they have provided. They should be able to demonstrate to you past systems that they have installed.
Once you have seen through several of you integrators’ venues and they have demonstrated their systems, its time to make the decision about what you want to control and what you want to make the system do.
What you are paying for is the interface between the venue operator or manager and the venue itself. Every facet of the venue is now under the control of the machine but what can the machine do? It will have two primary tasks: giving the operator the ability to make environmental changes as the night progresses and also automating many stand-alone processes.
Finding the right integrator
There are many different systems in a venue; audio, lighting, vision, alarms, heating and cooling systems. All of these systems are intelligent in their own right and they are all designed to run with their own proprietary controllers or human interfaces. However you are looking at combining all of the smartness of these individual pieces and creating a single venue specific interface.
Many integrators try to utilize as much of the ‘smarts’ in the existing systems pieces as possible and send simple switch commands from the integration platform. This type of integration does not require much effort and a simple interface can be written in a couple of days, however this considerably reduces the capability of the system and is not integration in its true sense.
For a truly integrated system all the individual components need to work as one. In this system the smartness of the individual products needs to be removed from their own logic circuits and replaced with new logic written in the control system. When this level of sophistication is achieved the venue can really begin to benefit from the system with savings in power usage.
Environmental changes can happen automatically and the venue owner or manager does not have to worry about staff adjusting to suit their tastes, while always having the power at his or her fingertips to make little tweeks as the night changes. A well written interface GUI (Graphical User Interface) will remove the need to call in the system professionals to make small level adjustments.
Should you be considering, or have been forced to by regulation, building your next venue with a Green Theme then the integrator should be working closely with the engineer overseeing all electrical works. The integrator’s task in the project is to ensure his control system will talk faultlessly with all its individual components, and to advise on selection of hardware. For example, it is important the correct hardware is installed allowing the ability for the systems to communicate with all electrical systems thus allowing the shutdown of systems when they are not needed or when the venue is closed. Parasitic loads of devices powered up waiting to be used or lights left on while the venue is closed, account for an unnecessarily huge proportion of a venues energy costs.
At his point it should be understood that the integrator is actually a computer programmer
Once you reach this level of integration, the chosen integrator must be capable of understanding each and every control system in the venue and it will benefit you immensely if the integrator has the ability to program each component of every system. This will be of immense benefit as time wears on. In many respects the integrator should be the designer and supplier of all of the ancillary components in the system. This will assist with the warranty of all these products as in a complete system should a piece fail, it will need to be replaced however in most cases the piece that fails will have code and functionality installed in it by the integrator. Having the integrator involved from the design stage and involved in supply means they should be responsible for all warranty repairs to the equipment and this will, over time, reduce your costs and remove the dreaded finger pointing when things go wrong.
This said, there are many positives for complete integration in any venue; we all have 3-4 remotes at home for the TV, video, DVD etc, and so we all know how annoying it is finding the relevant control especially as the video remote is always under the cushion.
Throughout this process we have talked about the requirements and functionality but little about the equipment selection or brand availability. In choosing your platform on which to base your operating system it is important to understand that these devices will be with you for the life of your venue, in fact a majority of the equipment will have a realistic life in excess of ten years. It is important that you look past the supplier / integrator and at the local distributor. It is also important that you will be able to get product support in five - ten years for parts and replacement equipment or even additional gear if you are expanding. In Australia there are two major platforms recognized as the market leaders both of which are backed by a strong distribution network. Each platform has it strengths and weaknesses. They are AMX distributed in Australia by AMX Australia and Crestron distributed by Hills SVL.
To interface with lighting and provide dimming and switching the two most popular would be Dynalite and Clipsal C-Bus. Like AMX and Crestron, both have their strengths and weaknesses and both can run as a stand-alone system. It is my opinion that C-Bus’s main strength is its ease of use and simple Windows interface. But this type of intelligent simplicity comes with a price. Communication speed, while Dynalite makes up for its lack of ‘drag and drop’, it makes up in its response time to commands. In addition Dynalite is made locally in Sydney. If you should be in need of serious grunt LSC Lighting make a range of theatre style 4 kw dimmers that would be nothing short of overkill in most situations.
At the heart of your sound system you will need a fairly serious DSP (digital signal processor). This is a device that must be very reliable as breakdown can cost thousands of dollars so it’s worth the money to stick with one of the major players. In a venue with twenty speakers, if one breaks it’s bad but not debilitating but if it’s the one processor controlling it all it can be costly. If at this point you are freaking out don’t, it’s possible to build redundant systems. Brands with proven track records are Symnet from Production Audio, Media Matrix from Audio Telex and BiAmp from Audio Products.
Warranty is important. As manufacturing gets better and manufactures get more confident of their products many manufactures now offer five or six years warranty on their equipment, careful management on these warranties can save thousands of dollars. Know what the warranties are for each piece of equipment.
I hope I have not scared anyone away from the idea of an integrated venue as it really is the future as well as a step towards a greener future.