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ELAN control system at heart of major upgrade for conference venue

Old, failing and irreparable technology has been replaced – and the new control system offers significant additional functionality

The Gorecki Center, an event and conference building at the College of St Benedict in Minnesota, faced a problem familiar to the tech integration industry – the ageing technology that controlled the projectors, speakers and microphones was failing, too old to repair, out of manufacture, and far less capable than modern solutions. 

When the legacy automation system finally did fail, integrator J Becher & Associates, based in Rogers, Minnesota, installed an ELAN control system, giving managers far better control, reliability and new mobile access.

According to Greg Elsner, technology manager at J Becher & Associates, “the existing system may have served them well in the past, but modern technologies have improved in basically every aspect. The old system didn’t have two-way feedback, so there was no way to check the power or volume status of microphones and speakers without manually testing them. Microphones couldn’t be controlled individually. The system used outdated component video switching, required manual adjustments when convertible rooms were combined or separated, and didn’t offer any form of mobile access.”

With the installation of a new ELAN system, these concerns have been eliminated. Two-way feedback tells managers what is turned on and at what volume, individual microphones can be activated as needed, VGA and HDMI video switching provides flexibility, one-touch presets enable favourite room configurations, and the ELAN mobile app offers full control from any connected mobile device. 

“The improvement is like night and day,” Elsner commented. “The level of control is much higher, operation is far simpler and more automated, and the audio and video quality is improved. With better control, plus six new projectors and screens, the total digital experience is unrecognisable from what it was a few months ago. And that goes for both the viewer and the presenter.”

The upgrade had been under consideration for some time, so when the component video switcher began to fail, The Gorecki Center took steps to locate an identical ‘new’ switcher to keep the existing system running. However, the legacy replacement parts were no longer available or supported by the manufacturer of the existing system and a full system upgrade was necessary. 

Because the original system arrangement was replicated in the upgrade, regular presenters at The Gorecki Center were not troubled with having to learn an entirely new system operation, which provided a smooth transition and a major added benefit. The three moveable lecterns each received a microphone and built-in ELAN 7in touchpanel, while a new projection system and a wall-mounted ELAN touchpad was installed in each of the six presentation rooms. This presenter-focused design was trusted and well-liked, so no changes were made. What improved, however, was the ease of use, and the overall system management. 

Audio feedback used to be a problem because mics couldn’t be powered on individually. That’s no longer an issue. Previously, troubleshooting, maintenance and adjustments required someone to visit the room and perform tests. Today, all this can be done more quickly and easily from the mobile app. When the convertible walls are moved to combine rooms, a single button in the app now has the ability to combine the rooms’ digital infrastructure flawlessly. 

“The only complication with this install was the timeframe,” Elsner added. “Because The Gorecki Center is booked pretty much every day, at College of St Benedict they couldn’t afford to shut down for a week while we performed the upgrades. So even though problems started in June, we waited until the Thanksgiving break and then worked long days to finish before everyone returned to the college.”

Another major benefit of the new system is its upgradeability, which will keep it relevant for years to come. The system can be expanded to control more room or systems, additional automation can be programmed, and different levels of control and access can be set for different employees. The entire system is powered and managed through a single central ‘brain’, the ELAN gSC10 system controller.

“J Becher & Associates wants venue owners to see projects like The Gorecki Center because it’s a wake-up call to the fact that old, failing technology can end up costing them revenue, and, as they say, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” Elsner concluded. “However, when those new tricks massively simplify and improve the operation of a multi-room conference venue, it’s clear the benefits are worth the investment.”