As government budgets continue to tighten, there is a growing need for agencies to be able to integrate their AV systems into IT networks, allowing them to save money by effectively using AV for videoconferencing, security, communications, training and education services.
by Dave Kittross
Granicus implemented video streaming and content management for the Tennessee Legislature. However, AV systems no longer only include audio and video systems, they are now integrated into information communications, and as systems have become more complex, integrators have developed a wide range of consulting and design services to help with integration, and—in at least one case—support government transparency.
IMPORTANCE OF RFPs
An AV systems integration project is considered successful if it is on time, on budget, and on scope, said Mark Siegel, president of Advanced Broadcast Solutions (ABS). In order for a government agency to achieve a successful integration, the agency needs to pay attention when developing the request for proposals (RFP) for integration services, he said. The RFP needs to not only be specific in defining the product and technology to be used, an action most agencies do a good job with, but also at outlining workflow expectations and final project outcomes, he added.
The RFP issued by the Tualatin, Calif. Valley Fire and Rescue—and which ABS was the integrator—was for the design, purchase and integration of a complete broadcast quality audio/video system, according to Siegel. ABS helped the fire and rescue agency distribute content from a newly constructed multi-camera studio and control center to more than 20 fire stations throughout the community. ABS was to ensure that training and educational materials were available over an IP network and accessible at individual computer workstations, he said. ABS was also to oversee expansion of the system so those materials can be accessed on mobile platforms, he added.
Another key to a successful systems integration project is “training, training, and training,” or making sure that users are well versed in how the new system works, said Siegel. In addition, training is often overlooked, but can be provided by either the manufacturer of the key technology components or the integration contractor, he said.
A challenge agencies often face is ensuring that technical expertise is available from the start, Siegel said. Therefore, contractors are often needed to offer suggestions to the agency on what is needed to make the new system work, he said.
Innoface Systems Inc. managed integration of audio/video services for the Baltimore County Police. That is an approach shared by the integration firm Innoface Systems, Inc. of Crofton, Md., which is an audio video installation systems company. Innoface specializes in the installation of all audio-visual products such as projectors, projector screens, LCD and LED displays, plasma displays, as well as video surveillance and video teleconferencing, said Michael Mack, an account manager for the company.
Which actions are to be taken to achieve a client agency’s goals are determined following a meeting with the agency’s staff, Mack said. Because specializes in video surveillance systems, Mack used that as an example of how Innoface Systems works with a government client. If an agency wants to upgrade their security systems from analog to IP, “the first thing I would ask is if the cameras required night vision,” he said. “The next thing I would do is survey the area,” he said. Those are part of the information gathering process and once enough data is collected, “Innoface would work to submit a proposal within 48 hours; that’s the way we usually go when dealing with government contracts,” he said.
TRANSPARENCY THE GOAL
While the principal scope of integration work includes equipment procurement, detailed engineering, rack assembly, installation, low voltage cable pulls and terminations, coordination of software design, testing, documentation, training, and warranty of broadcast system, for at least one integrator, helping citizens view government is among the goals of its work.
Granicus, an integrator located in San Francisco, supplies government agencies with the software, hardware, infrastructure and expertise to quickly integrate streaming media, according to Danica Lambert, who oversees account development for Granicus. The company approaches its work as combination of business and idealism, according to Lambert. “Transparency has been our mission since day one, trying to make sure we’re getting the important information out to the citizens so they can see how their government is working,” she said.
Generally, Granicus works “with government agencies to webcast their meetings and events online, and integrator legislative documentation into the audio video recordings to create fully indexed, keyword searchable webcasts,” she said. However, as an integrator that works with all levels of government, Lambert said there are differences in the needs of local government and those of federal agencies.
“On the local level we outfit meeting rooms with our technology, were they can leverage the technology to webcast their public meetings and publish their content online,” she said. While “on the federal level, it’s a bit different, they [federal agencies] look for fully outsourced solutions where we come in with the cameras and the staff. We outfit the room, we capture the video, we teardown, we leave and then we publish and manage their online content,” she said. “Our main goal is to change the way citizens interact with their government.”