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 (photo: NG Bailey)
15.03.2016, 23:51

SSE Arena Belfast Transformed into "Intelligent" Stadium

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In just eight weeks, NG Bailey’s IT Services division has completed a transformational IT infrastructure overhaul at the 11,000 capacity SSE Arena, Belfast, bringing the project home on budget and in time for the venue’s sell-out relaunch in autumn 2016. 

The £1.2m contract awarded to NG Bailey by the Odyssey Trust, required the development of a solution architecture together with the installation of 120km of Commscope Systimax CAT-6a structured cabling and a network of HP switches linked to a blown fibre ring enabling 10Gbp/s connectivity to edge devices and connecting numerous communications cabinets around the arena. The physical network infrastructure supports an Aruba high density Wi-Fi solution which targets zones with directional antennas from the gantries above the crowd. In a UK first, the Wi-Fi solution enables visitors to order merchandise, food and drinks directly from their seats via the SSE Arena’s mobile app. 

Also installed is a state of the art IP-CCTV system, comprising over 70 high performance IP cameras from Axis, together with a new payment acceptance terminal and till infrastructure, a new IP telephony solution and an arena-wide network of digital signs to display booking information, crowd control messages and showcase forthcoming events. 

“NG Bailey really delivered for us,” comments Brian Hughes, Head of Facilities, SSE Arena Belfast. “With an opening show scheduled, we had a challenging and immovable completion date which required the team to draw on its experience and expertise with intelligent systems installation. Multiple contractors were working on site which required both a collaborative spirit and a flexible approach in order to get the job done. The end result is excellent. It’s a huge asset for the people of Northern Ireland and thanks to its future-proofed IP-based systems, will remain at the forefront of intelligent stadium design for years to come.” 

“This is the kind of contract that really gets us excited,” comments Lawrence Flavelle, general manager, KNI, the wholly owned trading arm of NG Bailey’s IT Services division that delivered the contract. “Following this installation, the SSE Arena is now a world class intelligent stadium. The Wi-Fi system, for example, transmits a zone by zone high-density signal, enabling the crowd to connect to the network with 50Mbps plus speeds and interact with the shows using social media in real time. During a recent One Direction concert over 3,500 concurrent connections to the Wi-Fi were supported in the arena. The IP-CCTV and access control systems can use facial recognition, which can track the eviction of troublemakers throughout the stadium and into the perimeter grounds beyond. The live update feeds displayed on the digital signage can be dynamically over-ridden to display evacuation instructions in case of emergency. Not only is the arena now more functional and convenient for visitors, it also enhances security and safety, which is paramount to the organisation.” 

All of the arena’s new assets are IP-converged, furnishing network administrators with a new level of systems coordination via a single platform. Many of the systems also support cloud-based remote systems management. 

The tight timescales for project completion required a number of contractors to be active onsite simultaneously. As a result, NG Bailey needed to operate both flexibly and collaboratively in order to manage the inevitable scheduling fluctuations. The combination of NG Bailey’s broader knowledge of electrical and mechanical engineering and its specialist expertise in IT enabled the team to anticipate and resolve installation challenges before they caused programme delays.

 

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