It may be the most exciting technology project to hit Denver since the city’s first telephones were installed in 1878.
Oblong���s Mezzanine system was installed in one of three conference rooms at The Commons on Champa, in Denver, CO. Just ask Travis Deatherage, partner/president, Linx Multimedia. The company designed and installed a $300,000 (including in-kind work) technology package for The Commons on Champa, a unique, 20,000-square foot space in a renovated historic downtown Denver building. The Commons is a public campus with a mission to provide the Mile High City’s growing cadre of entrepreneurs and startups with the latest in networking, programming, and educational resources at no cost or at a low cost.
A partnership between the City and County of Denver, Downtown Denver Partnership, and Colorado Technology Association (CTA), as well as a host of community technology partners including LINX Multimedia, COMCAST, Samsung, Sharp, the Denver-based brand experience company, Drumbeat, Four Winds Interactive (digital signage), and Istonish for IT infrastructure maintenance, marks the facility as the largest public-private partnership of its kind in the United States. Linx Multimedia managed all technology integration, structured cabling, AV, digital signage, and IT systems integration.
“The big goal of The Commons is to offer a space where entrepreneurs can start up, grow, and meet and collaborate together in a learning center environment,” Deatherage said. “A key component was to provide access to technology that startups don’t normally have, such as video conferencing and rooms where they can meet with investors or get business counseling.”
Deatherage and his team decided that the most impactful technology package would include Oblong’s Mezzanine system, installed in one of three conference rooms. A combination of video conferencing, wireless presentation, and Wii all rolled into one powerful, interactive, collaborative product, the system, with six monitors (three of which are ceiling mounted) allows for collaboration across the room or across the world. It is one of only two Oblong systems in Colorado.
“We're thrilled to be able to provide Mezzanine collaborative conference room technology to the entrepreneurs and innovators of Denver at The Commons,” said David Schwartz, vice president of sales, Oblong Industries, Inc. “It was great collaborating with Linx Multimedia on the installation of the conference room. There really is no better medium than Mezzanine for dynamic presentations and concurrent visual collaboration. We can't wait to hear about the deals made, insights surfaced, and problems solved because the people there are meeting on Mezzanine.”
Two additional conference rooms feature Sharp 70-inch interactive displays. A community room/coffee lounge features a Sharp interactive 70-inch LED display/digital whiteboard with PC, as well as three 48-inch commercial grade Samsung displays, one with interactive functionality. An audio system for events and background music is located in open areas, as well as the coffee shop and patio. Other areas include a 200-person event space and a reception area with dual, 48-inch mounted portrait displays with a Four Winds player behind each. Another highlight in the facility is a digital art wall installation by technology designer David Niles and presented on a Barco large format LED display.
Deatherage, who previously ran a small AV integration company, Solstice Multimedia, merged that company with the Linx AV division to create Linx Multimedia as a subsidiary. “It allowed us to retain ownership, and I bought into the Linx parent company later on,” he said.
Involvement with The Commons came about when Deatherage’s name came up in a meeting between CTA’s CEO, Eric Mitisek, and David Levin, president of Four Winds Interactive. “I had known Eric for more than ten years,” Deatherage said. “CTA had a concept for The Commons but that was it, and they were still gathering funding. When they asked us for help with design details, we jumped in at the concept stage and offered in-kind services that included 3D renderings.”
Deatherage said his instincts told him this opportunity was one not to be missed. “From talking with Eric and with Kate Barton of the Downtown Denver Partnership, who was also the project manager, I could tell there was real momentum for this, and we wanted to have our name out in the community with it. It just felt right because of the people involved.”
More than a vendor, he added, Linx Multimedia was and is a project partner, working as project manager Barton’s in-kind consultant and “guiding light” to ensure that all vendors worked together from IT to digital signage and infrastructure.
“Some old infrastructure made for a challenging and dynamic construction site,” Deatherage said. “Funding was in flux throughout the project, so we had to be flexible in our design. Like most projects, it was also a challenge to make sure we communicated well with the other trades; we cannot be successful without the work of electricians, framers, and the HVAC team.”
Because there is no main operator to own or manage the system, they had to be built to be reliable, easy to use, and well performing, he said. “We thought about that continuously throughout the process. We have a support contract with The Commons and we have trained Istonish on maintaining it.”
The chance to be associated with a public/private entity was matched only by the experience of involvement with the Oblong system, Deatherage said. “It’s exciting for Denver; I moved here in 1997 from the DC area, and this has become a thriving tech area. We’re pursuing some other work with Oblong, and we want to be the partner for them in the region.”
Karen Mitchell is a freelance writer based in Boulder, CO.