JetBlue Airways’s new HQ reflect corporate personality.
When JetBlue Airways planned its new corporate headquarters in Long Island City NY, the challenge was to build a technically complex, high-quality system that matched not just the operational needs of JetBlue, but also reflected their corporate culture. “JetBlue has a culture of value,” said Scott Phillips, CEO of Electronic Media Systems of Miami FL, the owner’s rep on the project. “And every aspect of the design reflected that culture. Value Engineering was the catchphrase that drove design.”
Commsult Communications of Jersey City NJ was the consultant on the project, providing engineering, design and programming, as well as providing overall construction administration, while Video Corporation of America (VCA), based in Somerset NJ, and with offices in New York City and Pennsylvania, was the systems integrator chosen to make the conceptual designs a reality.
The project has a number of rooms used for both training and conferencing, and a large, sophisticated conference room. A digital signage component of the project displayed information throughout the building from a variety of sources. But the heart of the new media facilities, and its biggest challenges, were three specialty rooms focused on managing day-to-day operations and emergencies.
Operations: A Central Role
The Systems Operation Center (SOC) is where day-to-day operations of the airline are monitored and managed. The SOC is a large room, roughly 100’x300′. In the center is a raised podium, topped by a table where section managers monitor what is happening in their specific realm of operations. Small pods of desks, 27 desks in all, surround the table, each housing a group of people for a specific operational subgroup.
On the walls are 20 Samsung 46-inch LCD displays. These are fed in-house channels that can include feeds from commercial TV, broadcast and cable news sources, as well as data feeds showing flight information and other operational data from throughout the JetBlue system.
All 20 of these feeds are high-definition RF. Part of the value engineering was to find a way to avoid the large and expensive HDMI routing system and videowall processing. VCA installed an HD RF system built around Blonder Tongue HD modulators. To maintain image quality, data images were translated into 1080p instead of 1080i. This provided a high-quality image of data feeds that could be sent not just to the Systems Operation Center, but also anywhere in the building, at a fraction of the cost of using a router-centric system.
The Exchange consists of four distinct but connected areas that are used for collaboration: the Experience Area, a large Conference Room, a smaller collaboration space and a videoconference/production studio. A unique feature of the Video Exchange is that the four spaces are fully patchable, meaning they can send any source to any destination. We used a combination of analog and digital to address legacy infrastructure, but also allow for current technology.
AVI-SPL integrated Radvision video collaboration solutions for each of these spaces.
The Experience Area, which includes the Desktop and Mobility Pod, On-Demand Video Room and the Conference System Pod, is the main attraction. This is where Avaya personnel not only collaborate with one another virtually, but also demonstrate to guests the value of their Radvision desktop videoconferencing solutions, as well as large displays for interactive sales demos. At the Desktop and Mobility Pod, the Radvision XT240, Scopia Desktop and Scopia Mobile are available for in-person and virtual demos.
Value Without Compromise
Displays were another place that value engineering showed itself. We chose BenQ projectors because they are cost-effective, offer high brightness and high-resolution, and can also be network controlled. And, by converting both video and data images to RF, consumer TV sets could be used instead of higher priced monitors with specialty inputs.
The Emergency Operations Center (EOC) was designed as a command center to monitor and control life-threatening emergencies. At the back of the room are tables for key executive managers, and below them are three longer tables where key personnel connect into the network. On the wall in front of them are two large screens with images projected by BenQ projectors, and there are three Sharp LC-60LE830U 60-inch monitors sharing the wall, one at each end of the projection screens, and one in between them.
Fortunately, incidents and emergencies are few and far between. To make the most of their investments, both the IOC and the EOC do double duty as day-to-day conference and training rooms. Polycom HDX series are in each room, each with two cameras (front and rear). The Polycom system also provides recording for meetings, when needed.
Even the training rooms serve double duty as training rooms and conference rooms. Each training room has a camera to record training exercises. Recording is done digitally, and uses two systems: the Crestron HD Pro, which provides Picture-in-Picture for distribution, and a Leightronix LABvault HD for networked recording and distribution.
Becoming more and more IT-focused, today’s AV solutions provide easier integration, more functionality, and often remote monitoring and maintenance. But client IT departments continue to be concerned about the integrity of their network. This project for JetBlue illustrates the issues well.
JetBlue’s IT department was understandably concerned about network security. One of the first design parameters was that nothing from the AV systems would touch the main network. One result of this parameter is that the rooms largely stand alone from an IT point of view. This means that some of the possibilities of remote control and monitoring or support were lost. The only interconnection between the rooms is the wired RF system used to distribute video and computer images.
Another place this issue shows itself is in videoconferencing. In the end, it was determined that VCA would wire the video and control to Polycom HDX systems, and JetBlue’s IT department would handle all communications and network connections.
In the name of network security, sometimes functionality has to be compromised. For instance, although the Leightronix and other digital recorders could theoretically allow for recorded video to be streamed to the desktop anywhere in the facility, implementing the capability would require that networked video would “touch” the main network. Hard choices have to be made and priorities need to be set early in the process.
At times, this concern for security also meant changing how equipment is controlled. For instance, control panels and other devices often have the ability to be wirelessly- or network-controlled. But to keep those devices off the network or the general WiFi system, VCA had to drop back to legacy wired control, using RS232 and other older protocols.
Avoiding Quality Compromises
Beyond IT, there was also a concern about prosumer gear. As specifications for signals become tighter and tighter, you have to be careful that any prosumer equipment you choose in the name of saving money fully meets spec. Most do, but in at least one case, a slight variation meant having to scrap several TV sets that could not grab the modulated 1080p signals, in favor of Samsung monitors that handled the highly detailed signals.
There are places you don’t compromise to save cost. Network switches is one example.
Between all the command information, data, video and audio on the video networks, you want to make sure the network switches are reliable, no matter what. VCA used Cisco switching throughout, taking advantage of both the quality and their familiarity with Cisco products to make sure that the network infrastructure was rock solid.
Pre-planning is far more important in an IT-based AV system than in a traditional system. Information, such as IP addresses, MAC addresses and network architecture have to be thought out and worked out with the IT department well ahead of time, or there will be significant delays in the project.
There will be compromises in the name of network security. It is the integrator’s or consultant’s job to make sure that every stakeholder understands the consequences of every decision. Constant communication is key.
Network security often means that the AV contractor and the client’s IT department will have to develop clear demark points: physically, and in terms of labor, programming and connectivity.
The end result speaks for itself. JetBlue’s new headquarters and operations center provides them with quality images, a high level of flexibility and network security, bound together with value engineering that knows where to compromise and where not to, keeping true to the value focus of JetBlue’s corporate culture and identity.