Racks Move out of the Closet, into the Conference Room

Racks Move out of the Closet, into the Conference Room

The expanded C5 Credenza offering brings the aesthetics of the credenza to a more sophisticated level with High Pressure Laminate (HPL) and veneer finishes and new styles. The credenza line addresses the migration of equipment enclosures into meeting spaces, and now enables the AV integrator to work more closely with commercial interior designers to grow their businesses and expand their customer base. Although this season’s Paris runways may have overlooked the allure of equipment racks and boxes, those of us in the industry understand the impact and importance of design for these products.

Combining research, real-world experience, and customer feedback has resulted in some key advances in Cable Cubby Series/2, said Joe da Silva, director of product marketing at Extron. “With more than a decade’s experience in cable management products, our design engineers had a wealth of knowledge to work from when developing our new Cable Cubby Series/2 cable access enclosures.”

Good design practice means that you’re always looking beyond the aesthetics of the lid and bezel, and instead, considering the entire product experience from assembly and installation through utilization and maintenance, he explained. “We’ve always offered an attractive enclosure, but there was room to improve the assembly and installation process for our integrators.”

To wit, the number of component pieces in the Series/2 enclosures has been greatly reduced, resulting in a substantial reduction in the labor required to assemble and install the enclosures. “We adopted a new patent-pending modular design and integrated a hidden clamp system as part of the enclosure, da Silva said. “Cable and AV connectivity modules can be pre-assembled and installed within the enclosure as a unit. Alternately, the brackets can be mounted within the enclosure, with cables or AV connectivity installed from the top of the enclosure after it’s installed in the furniture.”

Aesthetics are a defining issue with Middle Atlantic’s C5 Credenza series, enclosures that are designed to be located in working environments near point of use. They offer styles that blend seamlessly and imperceptibly into collaboration spaces.The Rack

A discussion of enclosure aesthetics should include the traditional equipment rack as well as technology-focused furniture, which is increasing in popularity for mounting equipment in conference, boardroom, and huddle space environments.

“We see many host enclosures migrating from equipment rooms and closets to locations closer to point of use in today’s collaboration spaces,” said Tim Troast, director of physical infrastructure products at Middle Atlantic. “This is due, in part, to the smaller form factor of many of the components or source units being utilized, and also to the integration of systems with fewer traditional rack mount components.”

More compact enclosures such as credenzas and technology pedestals now house smaller Codec devices, extenders and transmitters, network audio and video switches, and PCs, along with accessory shelves.

“Aesthetics are a defining issue with enclosures located in working environments near point of use,” Troast explained. “These must offer the styles that blend seamlessly and imperceptibly into collaboration spaces. Middle Atlantic has always considered aesthetics a critically important part of product development, whether it be the new C5 Credenzas that feature an expanded range of finishes, styles and colors, or the traditional BGR full-sized standing rack which includes a curved glass door that appeals to installers and end users alike.”

The expanded C5 Credenza offering brings the aesthetics of the credenza to a more sophisticated level with High Pressure Laminate (HPL) and veneer finishes and new styles, he added. “The credenza line addresses the migration of equipment enclosures into meeting spaces, and now enables the AV integrator to work more closely with commercial interior designers to grow their businesses and expand their customer base.”

FSR is designing table and floor boxes, to blend in with a room’s décor while still handling power, data, AV, etc. Capitalizing on this trend of furniture for meeting spaces that more fluidly blends with the environment is Middle Atlantic’s TechPed Series Technology Pedestal, providing localized and discreet equipment mounting. Providing under-table support while housing equipment and cables, it incorporates the company’s integrator-friendly Lever Lock smaller component management system, Troast said.

Boxes, Everywhere Boxes

Table, floor, and ceiling boxes represent another integral aspect of collaboration spaces that require power, data, and AV technology in discreet enclosures at point of use.

Knowing these spaces necessarily must be flexible so they can be easily reconfigured to support multiple meeting types without compromising access to these services, design engineers from Legrand analyzed how these spaces are used and how people collaborate to get work done, stated Michael Cole, product marketing manager for Legrand. “This led to the development of advanced products such as the Evolution Series Floor Box that offers high capacity and multi-functional capability to deliver power, communications, and AV directly into the workspace environment. These floor boxes also have different covers, including carpet, so they can match the existing floor and be invisible in the room.”

Legrand has also developed the InteGreat AV Table Box that extends AV, power, and communication to the work surface point of use. “It’s available with cable retractors that hold up to five feet of Cat-6, HDMI, VGA, and 3.5 mm audio cable, and eliminates loose cable in the working environment,” Cole advised. “Ceiling boxes can also be blended into the ceiling with paint and tiled finishes that make them disappear from view.”

A response to the demand for flexible technology comes in the form of the Evolution Series Flat Screen Wall Box that discretely supports digital displays in conference and meeting rooms, and training. “Legrand developed this new box to meet the growing use of flat screens for multiple purposes, including digital signage,” he said. “This box supports the full range of communications, while also keeping the screen as close as possible to the wall, which is a major customer concern.”

Inner Space

Real estate is at a premium in many buildings, often leaving no space for racks, or else the allotted space is not easily accessible, noted Jan Sandri, president of FSR. “Wall racks are unsightly and collect clutter. That’s why we developed our CORE (Cool Overhead Rack Enclosures) line of ceiling boxes as well as Top Shelf—the coolest wall rack that mounts at the ceiling. As for table and floor boxes, end-users want them to blend in with the décor while still handling power, data, AV, etc.”

And Everyplace

Design has always been a consideration, Da Silva said. “However, with the migration of AV from dedicated conference rooms in the past to almost any space today, we see systems going into a much wider range of furniture types and styles. Our new Cable Cubby 1200 enclosure, for example, features a slim, low profile bezel that requires very little real-estate on the tabletop, making it ideal for use with today’s shallowdepth table and desk surfaces. For huddle rooms and other collaboration spaces, we also developed the dual-sided Cable Cubby 1400, which provides AC power and AC connectivity for several users, from a central location in the middle of the table.”

AV connectivity needs have changed quite a bit as well over the years, impacting devices designed for cable management and infrastructure. “For example, in the analog days, we needed to accommodate VGA and audio cables for each laptop, plus RCA cables for portable video players,” he added. “Today, we can drop in a couple of HDMI and DisplayPort cables, and everyone’s good to go.”

Extron has optimized its new Cable Pass-Through Plate to facilitate cable updates, with an all-new design that can be installed from the top of the enclosure. “Remove four screws, lift the assembly from the enclosure, and flex the plate to install or replace cables. In addition, the transition from laptops to mobile devices also has had a measurable effect on the design of our AC power modules. Our new AC+USB 200 Series power modules better accommodate Applestyle power supplies, and also provide direct USB power for up to two mobile devices.”

Karen Mitchell is a freelance writer living in Boulder, CO.

Design Powered

Both technical requirements and space configuration are what drives design.

“You have to please the architect, the interior designer, and the end-user,” FSR’s Jan Sandri said. “These boxes are part of the infrastructure, so you have to consider today’s requirements while also planning for the next several years.”

There is recognition that a dedicated AV space is a thing of the past. “AV closets have been taken over by IT infrastructure, and architects and interior designers have moved past furniture that easily supports an AV rack,” Extron’s Joe da Silva said. “We’re taking the lead in ‘AV Everywhere’ and developing products that will help change the dynamic to ‘AV Anywhere’.”

In addition to its new Cable Cubby Series/2 enclosures, Extron recently introduced a range of under-table mounting products that simplify the integration of AV electronics that support the on-table connectivity. “Our UTS Under Table Shelf System for half-rack width and smaller products, and new UTM Under Table Mount Kits for 1U and 2U, full rack width products, create self-supporting mounting structures that eliminate the need for rack enclosures or rack rails,” he explained. “Now, AV hardware can be mounted directly behind the Cable Cubby, without affecting legroom or degrading room aesthetics.”

The move to BYOD was a prime consideration in the design of the Cable Cubby Series/2 enclosures as well. “For example, where AC power alone was sufficient for laptop computers and other portable devices, the mobile world runs on USB power almost exclusively,” da Silva said. “Extron led the industry with the introduction of our USB PowerPlate series a couple of years ago, and we’ve taken that technology and integrated it in the new Series/2 AC+USB 200 Series power modules.”

The major trend, he noted, most affecting product design and customers, is the ‘AV Everywhere’ movement. “‘AV Everywhere’ has created many new opportunities for AV system designers and integrators, but with the added challenge of finding places to mount AV hardware in ever more constrained spaces. As a leading AV hardware manufacturer, we take these trends in stride and need to be creative in designing products that can be mounted wherever there’s available space.”

The influence of design consultants has forced FSR to look at its products in different ways, Sandri noted. “Where we may be looking at functionality, they are looking at aesthetics. The result is that the entire project looks more elegant and professional. Clients don’t see all the work that goes into the room to provide the technology they use and enjoy. The client/user expects the desired effect when they push a button. They also know that they want it to look great and be easy to use. The architects, designers and clients make us focus on the ‘look and feel’ as well as the technology. And if we don’t have exactly what they really want, we offer custom services.”