Metrolinx Connects the Largest Video Wall in Canada with Advanced Networking for Greater Efficiency and Security
To support and secure a rapidly expanding network of rail and bus transit services throughout the GTA and outward through the Province of Ontario, regional transportation provider Metrolinx has invested in a technologically advanced command and control hub at its Oakville headquarters. The new facility, featuring the largest video wall in Canada, was designed as the physical hub for the ever more abundant digitized video and data that helps operations teams to ensure commuters’ convenience and safety.
Design Electronics implemented the 115-foot-long video wall and its backbone of networked video connections and data streams for optimal viewing and collaboration in the main transit control operations center. Additional connections were also made to extend the visual communications network beyond the main room to several conference rooms, a training facility and numerous other visual communications.
Video Wall Design
Design for the sizable new video wall opened up a number of possibilities for Metrolinx, which planned to incorporate a significant number of new visual sources into its daily operations, including IP camera feeds, social media streams, weather information and advanced track and traffic monitoring systems data.
The wall itself was comprised of 50-inch Barco video cubes, selected for their industry-leading reliability and robustness in mission-critical applications. Following installation of the cubes in several sections totaling 32 displays across by five tall, Design Electronics helped provide a technical assessment of how the network connections would come together on the back end to realize all of Metrolinx’s operational goals for the system.
The end result is extremely flexible, according to Khalil Williams, General Manager of Design Electronics. “It’s the ultimate BYOD setup,” he describes, explaining that with Barco’s Content Management System (CMS), content from any device can be shown on the video wall, or sent outward from main display’s image to video displays in smaller boardrooms or mobile devices and desktops on the Metrolinx network. Content from the web can also be pulled in via Barco’s TransForm MGS Streaming Node.
“Each Metrolinx business unit has a designated section of the video wall, over which they have control,” explained Scott Daeng, Senior Design Engineer with Design Electronics. “Then a master control was also installed for the entire wall, where essentially any IP source can be brought into the content management system and displayed on the video wall.”
A time crunch in the construction schedule of the project’s second phase produced a challenge, but Design Electronics’ experience with other large-scale operations center projects helped to deliver the system on time and on budget. “We’re very good at minimizing the liability for the client,” said Chantelle Blayney, Senior Project Manager with Design Electronics. “We anticipate the occasional delays in construction and shipments, and we work with our clients to resolve those problems and realities. We always aim to resolve things under the budget.”
For the quick-turn, four-month implementation of the system, Design Electronics developed a project management plan that hit all the milestones and still enabled the technology design to evolve with the new sources that Metrolinx wanted to bring online. With so much of the system dependent on the network, there was a lot riding on the technical backbone element of the project going live. But through a four-phase testing and burn-in process, the transition into full operation was a smooth one.
Service and Support
Design Electronics will continue to provide support to Metrolinx through a Service Level Agreement designed specifically for the mission-critical requirements of the transit control hub. “We provide resolution within two hours,” Williams said, pointing out the vital role the system provides to daily transit operations.
In the particular case of Metrolinx, Design Electronics is well qualified to provide help-desk monitoring. “What we specifically did for this client is we emulated their environment into the design of our service NOC,” Williams explained. “We brought the same Barco CMS system that our client is using on a much smaller scale, in order to create a high level of familiarity with the product across all of the people who work in that department. Whereas typically you might have to escalate to tier two or three to get some immediacy of resolution, our people at a ground level are highly familiar with the systems. They’re using the system on a daily basis to accomplish their own tasks, so they’re able to provide real answers based on experience, not just based on a troubleshooting guide.”
Plans for the transit control hub continue to evolve. As Metrolinx embarks on further service expansion, it also has a roadmap for incorporating new surveillance technologies including body cameras, drones and other new advancements in safety and security.
As these new information streams come online, the Metrolinx transit control hub is ready to utilize those sources for the safety of its commuters. With capabilities allowing up to 1,000 streams of video to be displayed on the video wall, this system is truly “future-proof”.