A Smarter Conference and Events Facility29 March 2017 / by NG Bailey (author) / Ilkley, Belfast
NG Bailey’s IT Services division has completed a £1.2 million infrastructure contract which equips the newly expanded Belfast Waterfront conference and entertainment venue with smart building connectivity, security and safety, enabling a world-class visitor experience.
The eleven-month IP-converged solutions contract was managed by NG Bailey’s wholly-owned IT Services trading arm in Northern Ireland, KNI, working for main contractor McLaughlin & Harvey. KNI has equipped the new 4000m2 extension with high performance wired and wireless communications networks, including a distributed antenna system (DAS) which boosts 3G and 4G network signals inside the property – the first of its kind in Northern Ireland.
These networks form part of a package of works which also included the installation of more than 400km of structured cabling, consisting of 155km Cat 6a copper cabling connected to a 250km blown fibre IP backbone. Specialist AV cabling was also installed to support any type of AV device input, from specialist performance equipment to digital signage.
An optimal user experience for exhibitors, visitors and staff
A primary goal of the property’s owner, Belfast City Council, was to enhance the venue’s user experience by enabling exhibitors, visitors and staff to access fast and reliable wireless and wired networks with ease. At the heart of the project, therefore, was the specification and installation of a high density wireless network capable of simultaneously supporting up to 6,000 devices and enabling superfast download speeds.
Delivering an optimal user experience was also the driver for the design and installation of a DAS solution, enabling direct access for mobile network carriers to provide greater in-building availability of the 3G and 4G services. By installing DAS signal boosters, the property can offset the ‘blocking effect’ that the building’s physical structure has on macro wireless signal coverage, overcoming the common ‘poor mobile signal’ problem that many occupants of large buildings experience.
“The Waterfront Hall was built nearly 20 years ago and has been an important catalyst for Belfast’s transformation and growth,” comments Alan Reilly, ICT Manager, Belfast Waterfront. “We saw an exciting opportunity to both extend and upgrade the venue to create a world-class smart conferencing venue. A fundamental driver of our success has been the creation of a world class communications infrastructure, AV facilities and a highly secure and safe environment.
“KNI’s solutions have far exceeded our expectations; we have been hugely impressed by the quality and speed of the connectivity now at our disposal and the feedback from our customers has been terrific. The security systems have also helped us to set Waterfront apart; our clients are increasingly looking for assurances about security when choosing a conference venue, the solution provides a valuable differentiator and competitive advantage that is helping us win business.”
Through a captive portal, the network supports the venue’s collection and analysis of user profiling data, which can be used to continually improve the venue’s user experience and enhance its targeted digital marketing. Network failover and data replication have also been built into the network, providing a high level of confidence in its resilience and performance continuity.
Smart, integrated security creates a safe environment for all
Safety and security was of particular importance to venue, given its communal nature and the high profiles of those attending and performing at its events; over the years the Belfast Waterfront has welcomed US presidents and a huge array of internationally renowned musicians and comedians. With this in mind, the property has benefited from a host of integrated next-generation electronic security measures including more than 150 Acti IP-CCTV cameras, Milestone Systems video management software, Isonas Power over Ethernet (PoE) access control systems for over 100 doors and a new IP-converged intruder alarm system, from Scantronics. All systems are controlled and coordinated from a central state of the art control room.
Marcel McAlinden, Business Solutions Manager at KNI said: “We are extremely pleased to have been involved in transforming this landmark venue into a world-class conference and entertainment facility. Our teams worked tirelessly to accommodate a time-critical build schedule and integrated cutting edge network technologies with an already complex technical installation. The end result is easily worth it, however, the building’s users now have a truly world class user experience.”
All of the venue’s new IT assets are all supported by a property-wide UPS (Uninterruptable Power Supply) system, which protects the venue against electricity outages, ensuring all systems remain online and operational at all times.
Close collaboration at the design stage enabled KNI to propose a systems architecture that would both exceed the client’s requirements and support a flexible approach to installation, ensuring all IT works could be managed as part of a complex and multifaceted build schedule with a strict completion date.