Power distributor EPB has driven the development of a fiber optics communication infrastructure, known as the Smart Grid, in and around the Chattanooga area. The company needed a showcase for reinforcing its brand and emphasizing its role in steering the region’s future.
Storefront windows at ground level line two sides of EPB’s 10-story downtown headquarters, providing an ideal setting for sharing the passion and innovative products that define the company’s work. Previously, EPB outfitted the windows with static signage and small retail flat-screen panels that delivered this message, but it wanted an installation with greater impact.
“We were looking for something high tech, eye popping and attention grabbing that reflected our brand,” EPB spokesman John Pless said.
EPB decided to install video walls that could display rotating content, 24 hours a day, to represent all that the company stands for. The main goal of the Smart Grid is to create the fastest fiber optic infrastructure in the country and establish Chattanooga, as Pless puts it, as a “gig city” where developers come to create the next big thing.
Though EPB delivers cutting edge technology, it’s also deeply connected to the peaks and rivers that define Chattanooga’s seat at the junction of the Appalachian Mountains and Cumberland Plateau. The new window installation needed to reflect that heritage while looking ahead to the future.
For the first year, the displays also needed to be easily movable. EPB is known for the elaborate Christmas decorations displayed in its windows each holiday season, so it needed to be able to uninstall the video walls during November and December to make way for the beloved tradition.
There were also technological concerns, such as the fact that the video walls would be running 24 hours a day, sometimes with bright sunlight beaming into the windows.
“From a pure performance perspective, we were looking for something that was commercial grade that could handle being in an environment with inconsistent lighting conditions,” said Libby Santin, president of Dynamic Displays & Graphics, which served as the systems integrator on the project. “The displays needed to be bright enough to be seen day or night.”
Dynamic Displays enlisted NEC’s engineering expertise to architect, design and install the project for EPB. NEC created the entire solution based on a needs analysis with EPB and Dynamic. The solution packaged together not only hardware but also software, controllers, signage players, mounts, cables and the installation, which featured six NEC Display video walls: three 3X3 walls featuring 46-inch X463UN displays; two 3X2 walls using 55-inch X551UN displays; and one 3X3 wall with 55-inch X551UN displays.
“We needed something that was the latest and greatest for today that could grow as our technology grows,” Pless said.
The displays’ ultra-narrow bezels (5.7 mm on the X463UN and 5.5 mm for the X551UN) make the seams between the screens almost imperceptible, so the videos appear as a single image across each wall. Viewers can’t even notice the gaps from the road, Santin said.
Direct LED backlighting delivers bright, uniform images that are vivid enough to see under the glare of midday sun and virtually pop through the windows in the dark.
Dynamic Displays primarily creates tradeshow displays and exhibits, but this was the first time they’d tackled a more permanent video wall installation. From the beginning, NEC was very responsive in providing engineering support, which Santin said made it all the easier to select it as the supplier.
“Working with somebody who understands the technology and collaborates as a partner really helped move the project along,” she said.
NEC recommended that Dynamic Displays use partner YCD Multimedia’s software, which allows companies to synchronize video across multiple screens or put content in different parts of a screen, much like a large palette. EPB needed to be able to manage the system itself so the marketing department could work with the IT team to upload and control the content.
“It’s very sophisticated and gives EPB a lot of options for what they can do with the monitors,” Santin said.
The walls feature a mix of content, from footage of EPB services with descriptive text to scenic overhead shots captured by a drone that showcase Chattanooga’s natural beauty (made all the more stunning through the crisp, 1080p HD resolution).
The result is an aesthetically pleasing addition to the EPB headquarters that enhances the brand and fosters community engagement.
Over the long term, Pless said, he expects EPB will use the video walls to visually tell its story by promoting community projects, events and EPB products.
“The video walls are a wonderful addition to our downtown building,” Pless said. “When buses stop along the sides, it’s great to see people watching the screens. People walking down the street are turning their heads, looking in the window, and slowing their pace to see the images.”