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Powersoft DEVA WiFi speakers help convention centre do more (VIDEO)

Powersoft‘s DEVA WiFi loudspeakers have not only provided the solution at a convention centre where laying new cables would have been prohibitively expensive, they also have features that improve the visitor experience and the security of this mixed public/private space.

The Long Beach Convention & Entertainment Center in Southern California abuts the city’s downtown business and shopping district and the Pacific Ocean. So as well as being an event space, it’s also a valued civic space for Long Beach residents.

The convention centre tasked Los Angeles-based design firm TheatreDNA Creative – which had previously upgraded the audio in its 3,700sqm Pacific Ballroom – with designing an audio solution for its Promenade Lobby and Plaza. “Quality audio is really important for creating an atmosphere,” said Michael Ferguson, principal at TheatreDNA Creative. “There are a lot of different types of performances that happen throughout the property, and they wanted to be able to reinforce a performance by starting the experience at the kerb. For example, if it’s a Long Beach Symphony performance, they would like to play a little classical music for people on their way in through the plaza.”

Distributing audio throughout the sprawling complex was not a simple task. “We were looking for a new product that allowed us to transmit the audio via WiFi or other RF,” he continued. “We discovered DEVA and saw how it would enable us to deploy audio throughout the property using only the existing power infrastructure and transmitting the audio signal through WiFi from our existing control location and became interested immediately.”

Wireless transmission was more than a matter of convenience. The 50-year old property of the convention centre was built with concrete up to 35cm thick — which would have made running traditional cable underground almost impossible and unbearably expensive. “I’ve been told that there are airplane runways in California that aren’t that thick,” said Damien Rozendal, assistant project director at 4Wall Entertainment, which integrated TheatreDNA Creative’s design for the space. “The coring expenses that would have been required to bring data cabling out to each of the individual install locations would have been prohibitive, so wireless connectivity was essential. Having each of the speakers connected wirelessly also gives us the flexibility to reposition the units if the initial layout doesn’t match the user’s future needs, or even if a temporary reorientation is desired for a specific event.”

Cost savings aside, Ferguson also had to be satisfied about the new system’s audio quality and reliability. “There’s no other product on the market like DEVA really, but we did conduct a shootout with DEVA against the existing speakers that we had on the property that would need to be wired,” he explained. “And DEVA sounded just as good as the wired speaker did, so we were able to save all of that money on the install costs without any reservation.”

Distributing sound reinforcement tasks across numerous DEVA units located around the plaza allowed Ferguson to achieve high levels of coverage with modest levels of sound pressure, and none of it concentrated in a single location. “One of the problems we have here is that we have condominiums that are literally at the edge of the property, so we needed to be able to distribute the audio rather than crank it from one location,” he explained. “Even at that low level, we were able to get a really good audio signal with great intelligibility. We were even able to tweak some of the EQ settings within the app to work around the ambient sound of the fountain that’s on site and get level that is perfect for people on the property and not loud enough that the neighbors would be disturbed.”

Control of DEVA is administered via the DEVA System Manager web app and via a PC implementing the DEVA Director PDD OS. “The controls provided by both the app and the computer-based controller allow a great deal of flexibility to customize the signal down to individual speakers,” Rozendal said. “We can mute a speaker at a moment’s notice, or bring in live reinforcement through push-to-talk capabilities. It’s just highly customisable for the end-user. A different control system would require rewiring and a total re-engineering to change from one purpose to another, but this is so easy.”

The ability to adjust or mute individual speakers’ playback has numerous applications and advantages for the space. “Selective muting allows the user to strategically utilise the DEVA units in parts of the plaza without stepping on or conflicting with local sound reinforcement from various activities that may be occurring at any given time,” Rozendal explained. “This can be useful for events like trade shows, allowing them to match the needs of concessionaires who may have their own multimedia playback system.”

“Powersoft had great representation here in the United States that were very attentive to our needs,” added Ferguson. “Whenever we had a question, if they weren’t able to answer it on the spot we would always have an answer within 24 hours. Once the system was online, they even helped us configure and tweak it even further and make it sound even better.”

“We want to give both our visitors and the community an experience that they won’t forget, and DEVA helps make that possible,” says Charlie Beirne, general manager of LBPAC (LBC&EC)/SMG. As well as noting the audio quality of DEVA, he said: “We also appreciate the security applications, like the ability to make an announcement if we have a piece of information we want to share with the community.”

The next phase of the DEVA installation entails distributing speakers across the new Rainbow Bridge, an elevated walkway connecting neighboring road Seaside Way to the Terrace Plaza and that doubles as an event space and featuring custom lighting. This phase, scheduled to begin in summer of 2018, will take advantage of some of DEVA’s other capabilities such as its camera and proximity-detection for increased security.

“The ability to interact with patrons remotely is really valuable,” said Ferguson. “Someone can walk up to a speaker and the proximity detector tells a staff member that there is somebody in front of it. They can then turn a light on and talk back to that person through the microphone. There are often a lot of people in a very open space, so that could be something that is really important to the site in the future.”

He concluded: “DEVA allows us to have audio that engages patrons from the moment they step on the property. In some cases that helps welcome them to the property in a way that wasn’t before possible, but it also helps make sure no one is on the property unsafely when it’s closed. None of that was possible before DEVA.”