March marks the launch of another new feature in SCN: Product reviews conducted by systems designers and installers. These are the real-world results charted by industry professionals.
What features made this product uniquely suitable for this application?
Keith Kavanaugh: Its ability to display a source from video to UXGA computer resolutions, annotate on top of that source, and save the image and annotation for later reference was quite interesting. Also the fact that the UPX2 is a computer with an embedded Windows XP operating system and embedded Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Internet Explorer and Windows Media Player applications as an Adobe Acrobat reader application meant that this was a fully functioning computer on the client's network that is under the direct control of the presenter from the same controller as the remainder of the remote control system. Also the ability for a presenter to have an image displayed for audience while previewing or setting up an entirely different part of the presentation has been interesting.
David Ebbert: The power of the onboard scalers was another feature we liked. I could take any video format and have a predetermined output, so I don't need external scaling devices to bring up component video, S Video or even VHS composite video. Just plug it in, pick an input, assign it, and it's done. The scalers take care of the rest.
Another plus was the resolution and the annotation capability. If you're looking at an aerial map of an area that's been wiped out by a storm, the resolution is very important.
How would you rate the UPX2's performance in this installation?
KK: The ability of a presenter to annotate anything that is displayed has been a very interesting feature to the users of the facility. Its ability to act as a whiteboard for brainstorming has also been interesting to the users. Because of the nature of this facility, they will use the systems for formal briefings and presentations, but during a real emergency, they could use the UPX2 like a whiteboard that anyone in the room would be able to see. With the ability to save the information generated in a format that is easily distributed, they could take snapshots (bitmap or JPEG images) of the briefings, save them, and then distribute them as e-mail attachments to people not even in the building.
DE: A++. The base operating system that it comes with it is excellent, but then with the features that Keith Kavanaugh added on top of that basic programming, it's untouchable.
There haven't been any problems so far, and again that comes down to Keith's programming. It basically takes five minutes to shut it down and bring it back up again, but when it comes back up it's in a predetermined configuration. It doesn't matter how bad you mess it up, if you shut it down and restart, it comes back up the same way every time.
Were there any challenges during installation, and was Crestron receptive to providing a solution?
KK: This was a brand new product that was in beta testing at the time that we began the project. Since it was a brand new product, there were firmware updates, conversations with Crestron's technical support, and occasional periods of blank stares on my part. Abe Santiago and George Tucker at Crestron took the time every time that I called to work me through whatever issues that I had. Crestron fortunately had developed a demonstration program for the UPX2 that allowed us to set the unit up and begin to play with it to see how it should work before I tried to integrate it into the remainder of the system. The demonstration program also gave us a template to look to see how the system could be programmed. This was a tremendous time-saver.
If you could inflence the next phase of product development, what features on this model would you like to see changed or added?
KK: Since the UPX2 has embedded applications and no hard drive, it would be nice to see a way of loading and running applications other than those currently embedded on the unit. It would also be nice to be able to add additional fonts. For instance if the person designing a PowerPoint presentation is very creative in their selection of fonts and if the UPX2 doesn't support the fonts that they selected, they will not display properly, and they have a last-minute exercise of applying new fonts to the presentation.
DE: If anything, it would be the addition of a limited amount of other programs on it. Maybe best would be the ability to do Shockwave or ActiveX so that users could pull interactive web content in.
Project: Escambia County Public Safety Department's Emergency Operations Center in Pensacola, FL
Consultant: David Ebbert, Chuck Walthall
Walthall & Associates, Pensacola, FL, www.walthall.biz
The Emergency Operations Center for Escambia County is a centralized location for emergency services, including police, fire, EMS, 911 dispatching, public works, traffic operations, and any other agency that has a role during an emergency. It operates during an emergency situation.
There are currently two main areas in the Center that have audio/video systems in them. First is the Emergency Operations Center. There, a presenter's lectern is run by a Crestron UPX2 presentation computer with a DTT-15 15-inch LCD touchscreen monitor. This unit is primarily controlling sources that are displayed on the wall behind the presenter.
There is also a large Training Room in the facility that seats fifty to a hundred. The Crestron UPX2 in this room functions as the remote control panel for the equipment, as a presentation computer and as the video switcher for the room.
Design began in February of 2004, and the first official use of the facility was by Governor Bush on November 30, the last day of hurricane season.