Thursday, 9 January 2020

Is AV the missing sensory link?

Listen … What can you hear?  The missing piece in the Brand experience puzzle is so often the audio.  It’s easy to see and touch the beautiful interiors our customers will observe and feel, you can assess the level of customer service they will experience and easily smell and taste the cuisine and wine they will order, but so very often, what they hear is just overlooked or added as an afterthought.  To deliver a truly memorable experience, audio has to be weaved seamlessly into this sensory mix to create a coherent, holistic result.

There is a growing body of evidence which supports the fact that audio affects your mood and emotions and as such can change the way in which you react and behave. Our brains receive so many subtle cues from what our ears pick up, that a great deal of our conscious and unconscious moods and behaviour are attributable to what we hear.  Audio is a critical strand in determining how guests will feel when they experience a venue, not just at the time, but for many years to come.  Music is a powerful tool in evoking memories.  When we hear songs from the past they can stir powerful emotions and transport us back in time. Like stepping into a time machine; you can feel everything as if you were actually there.

It’s not just about what is played, but also the way in which we hear it which can affect us emotionally. When we listen to a warm rich sound with depth and clarity, it can envelop you with feelings of opulence and quality, like sinking into a big comfortable chair from which you don’t want to get up. Conversely, a sound that is thin, scratchy and sharp is irritating and something you wish to shut out and move away from as quickly as possible.  So getting the delivery of the soundtrack right in a venue is just as crucial as getting the soundtrack itself right.

As the relationship between music and memory is so powerful, and the quality of the sound we hear affects how we react to it, it’s all the more reason to get the right audio associations for your client’s venue and to deliver these in the right way.  This will help to ensure that wonderful memories are created and will continue to be conjured up in the minds of their guests for years to come.

CGA Integration is a leading AV systems integrator in the Hospitality sector.  We design, specify and install quality sound systems to deliver flexible AV solutions.  At CGA we are keen to empower designers to understand what is possible with AV so that you, in turn, can plan and fully integrate AV into your designs, giving your customers a truly holistic sensory design solution for their guests to experience.

Audio is such a powerful tool, whether you are delivering brand continuity between venues, rejuvenating a spa or creating conference facilities to delight tech savvy millennials, AV is a crucial piece of the sensory jigsaw.

Here at CGA we can work with you in a number of different ways to best fit your project: 

Project Specific - We can attend formal meetings with you, and your client if prefered, to address specific AV challenges presented by a defined project. 
AV possibilities -  Alternatively we can meet with you at your offices to present to you and your team, speaking more generally about the possibilities of AV; including both the latest technological developments and the opportunity for troubleshooting. 

Enabling your team to discuss AV opportunities or difficulties with us, either generically or more specifically for projects that they are working on or tendering for, will help to give them the insights they need to create totally integrated sensory design solutions.

To speak to us about how CGA Integration can best work with you please call us on +44 1344 456500 or email us on info@cga-integration.co.uk to see how you can start to fully unlock the power of AV.

Tuesday, 17 December 2019

Do you hear what I hear?

Now we are fully immersed in the festive season and Christmas Day is fast approaching, I have been pondering; What is the sound of Christmas?

No-one wants it associated with sounds that conjure up feelings of anxiety, fear or disappointment, such as emergency services sirens blaring or bleeps sounding when you are on call.  I’m sure Retailers want it to be cash registers ringing and ‘chip & pin’ machines beeping, local churches might like it to be carols being sung or congregations celebrating the messages of the Christmas story and clearly some radio stations believe it should be back to back Christmas music from the beginning of November.  In contrast, you may prefer the magic of a snowy day where all sound is muffled and quiet, when the world takes on an unnatural eerie silence, except for maybe the crunch of snow underfoot or occasional bird song.

For me there are certain songs and sounds that are intrinsically linked Christmas; Paul Young’s ‘Love of the common people’ always reminds me of a certain Christmas school disco and the intro to the Pretenders ‘2000 miles’ transports me into the festive season within a few bars.  These are very personal prompts associated with my own memories and they will mean little or something very different to someone else.  The truth is that each one of us will have a different idea of what their perfect Christmas would be and as such the sound of Christmas will be different for everyone.  What can be agreed upon is that music and sounds evoke powerful memories and feelings in us all, and audio plays a key role in creating your own magical Christmas experience, whatever that may be.

In fact, as with every celebration large or small, Christmas is a truly multi-sensory event.  All the sensations; sights, smells, sounds and tastes add together with our imagination, memories and emotions to create our own personal Christmas experience, missing any one element out would detract from the feeling as a whole.  The sound and experience of Christmas is a very personal thing and what we all often seek is the warmth and security of familiarity whether through a song, film, place or just being with family or people who know you best and with whom you can relax.

We at CGA wish you all a safe, warm and happy Christmas, whatever that means to you.  We hope that the New Year sound as good, if not better than this year!


CGA Integration … Making hospitality sound great!

Friday, 6 December 2019

Don’t forget your most important resource… your Team!

Motivating your team through their working environment is a key way to help drive your customer’s guest experience. In the hospitality industry, it is always vital that we deliver exceptional customer service to reinforce our Brand values and hopefully ensure repeat business. Obviously the look, ambience and technology infrastructure of a venue is key in delivering this, but it is the staff that work at the venue that are paramount in ensuring that your guests stay is a memorable one, for all the right reasons! Valuing and motivating staff comes in many guises; pay, benefits, empowerment, promotional prospects, but working conditions are also key. Ensuring that care is taken over the environment for your staff areas, as well as those for your guests, will help your staff to feel valued and in turn help them to ‘live your Brand’. Improving Back of House Areas using AV Increasingly CGA Integration is seeing savvy employers investing in their staff areas; using AV technology to enhance ‘Back of House.’ Over the years, CGA has installed sound systems and digital signage in staff areas at venues such as The Dorchester, Park Lane and the staff canteen at Hyatt Regency London - The Churchill. We have also worked with partners to install digital signage back of house in hotels, to ensure that their staff arrive and leave work in a pleasant environment and are kept up to speed with staff news and current affairs. Back of House Sound Systems Installing sound systems throughout staff changing areas and back of house areas will help staff to feel relaxed when starting and leaving work. Some venues use soothing music, while others choose local radio stations with news, to ensure that the staff are up to speed with what is happening locally, benefiting both them and in turn your guests. Back of House Digital Signage Gone are the days of paper bulletins to inform staff of important news and key staff events, email has taken over, but at times where your staff might not have access to their mobile phone or computer, digital signage, (a generic term for information disseminated through electronic screens), can be used in staff areas to keep them up to speed. Venues are using this to inform staff of; important corporate news, key employee information and more crucially staff social events and activities, even to wish employees a Happy Birthday! Many employers are very conscientious in differentiating between corporate and staff information to ensure that members of staff feel their events are social occasions. The way digital signage is presented can help with this differentiation. Help your team to live your Brand Creating a back of house environment that is synonymous with your Brand, one which is inclusive to the longest serving and newest arrival alike, will help your staff in turn better deliver your Brand to your customers, selling and upselling products much more effectively than brochures or websites alone. If you think this is an area that your hotel could benefit from then please do get in touch to discuss how AV can be used to empower your most important resource … your team. I look forward to hearing from you. Chris Gunton Managing Director CGA Integration

CGA Integration … Making hospitality sound great!

Tuesday, 24 September 2019

Delivering truly integrated control

Walls covered in knobs and buttons, we’ve all seen them and not only do they look unsightly but does anyone really know what they all do?!  How with so many controls and variables can you offer any level of consistent guest experience?  When you spend so much time and money on brand experience and getting the look and ambience of a room just right, the last thing you want is for that to be blighted with a visual cacophony of controls which are not aligned to offer a consistent guest experience.

So, how can you get rid of that unsightly wall and keep the control panels to a minimum whilst still maintaining maximum flexibility for your staff and guests? And equally importantly how do you know who to call if the touch panel you have installed doesn’t make all elements of your room respond?

Firstly identify what you want to integrate
Be clear about what ‘elements’ of the room you want to control from your panel, this may include: Lights, Sound, Video, Projection, Air conditioning (A/C), Blinds & curtains, Room combining or Staff calling, but it's by no means an exhaustive list.

Secondly brief suppliers collectively
Once you’ve identified what you want to control from the panel you need to ensure that your suppliers of all of the different elements work together collectively to make it happen.  The best approach is to brief them together to aid discussion and iron out any potential conflicts with proposed solutions; they will all want to have their control visible in the room but this is not necessary.

Finding a master control that has a two-way protocol with other systems will ensure that the touch panel is always showing the status of the subsystem and not just sending commands and hoping for the best!  If you identify some common protocols then one system can offer a touch screen to control all of the other elements.

CGA Integration already offers integrated control systems and we’d be happy to talk to you about what would work best for your requirements. 

Designing a system that is integrated yet discrete
From experience, insist that each system can run stand-alone as well as part of the integrated system.  This has two benefits; not only does it act as a means to identify who you need to call if a specific element isn’t working, but if the master control interface fails you always have a method of control.  To achieve this it will mean putting individual element control panels somewhere out of sight, often in a service cupboard.  But, as a result, if for example the main touch panel will not control the lights but the lights can be operated from the panel in the service cupboard, then you know that you have a control system issue and not a light system failure and you are not plunged into darkness as the lights can still be operated stand-alone.

The result will leave you with individual systems for added control but only one visible control panel on the wall.  This one panel will allow you to set up the whole room, possibly from presets and you will not be left with a wall full of knobs and buttons that staff need three years service to fully understand!

In fact, often these systems offer advanced functionality.  Once you have an integrated control system in place then you may be able to further enhance an area’s function through alternative control screens or wireless iPad control for floor managers, which improves the management of your room set-up without any further unsightly controls.

Further benefits of integrated control systems
As well as controlling all chosen elements of a room from one panel, the additional benefit of integrated control systems is often network and remote support.  When CGA install an integrated control system, the main processor reports to us remotely and tells us how all the different elements of a system are performing.  In turn we can enable email alerts to engineers or the venue to automatically inform them of any errors. It really does work.  In a CGA installation a few years ago the hotel engineering team were amazed when they started getting fault emails about their air conditioners!  As a result they were able to identify the problem and fix it in a timely way with minimal disruption.

In a CGA installed integrated control system, our team here at CGA can also see the status of all the connected systems.  So if something is not working as it should be and you call us out of hours, we can very quickly connect into your system and send commands to different elements in the system to try to fix things remotely.  If this is unsuccessful,  we are able to determine what the issue is before we make a site visit, making the path to a solution much faster for all concerned and managing the carbon footprint of excessive site visits to diagnose the problem.

CGA Integration … Making hospitality sound great!

Wednesday, 26 June 2019

‘Carbon Neutral’ by 2050, what does it mean for AV?

As the Government reveals plans to be ‘net zero’ in the near future, how do we, the Hospitality industry, help our guests and delegates to achieve this?  More specifically for this blog, how does AV play a part in helping to achieve this goal.

Cancel all meetings that require travel
We could argue that all meetings that require travel should be cancelled and we should all collaborate via conference call, Skype and Webex.  That’s possible, but meetings can be more successful with effective human interaction.  Can we therefore use technology to create local hubs and then join them to other local and national hubs with video conferencing? This in turn will still link up our teams whilst eliminating the big travelling piece of the puzzle, which will certainly have an impact when long distance car and especially air travel is removed from the equation.

Why are we not doing this already?
Historically, video conferencing always needed the same technology at every connecting venue.  If your local business centre or hotel technology did not match the venue you were trying to connect with, it was just not feasible to conduct the meeting in this way.

However, with the advent of Skype and hosted services such as Zoom, Jabber & Webex, the ability to connect and make a call is now available at our fingertips.  There is however still an issue to overcome.  If there are six or more people in a room, it is not practical to gather around a single laptop or phone for a meeting in this way, and having multiple devices on the call in one room also makes no sense.

What we need to offer as Hospitality venues, is the ability for teams to come together in comfortable surroundings and then to simply be able to connect to a device which allows a big screen conference, with clear audio and multiple cameras, enabling them to connect with other teams and remote workers in different locations.  This kind of facility allows everyone to feel fully involved and share team spirit without impacting in a detrimental way on the planet.

CGA Integration can deliver AV systems now that allow this to happen.  Delegates own devices running hosted services such as Skype, Jabber and Webex have the ability to connect and share calls on their device with a room of colleagues, via big screens, built-in microphones, cameras and speakers.

Ensuring Energy Efficient AV
So once the technology to enable video conference calling and BYOD (bring your own device) is in place, what can be done to further improve your venues carbon footprint?

AV Racks
Historically, each area in a Hospitality venue had a little AV rack with an amp and a CD player so each area, be it the bar, the restaurant or the lobby, could control its own sound.  Each of these racks not only took up lots of ‘back of house’ space, but as the units ran, they became hot and required fans to cool them.  These fans, in turn became clogged, got hotter and needed to run more to achieve the same cooling power.  All of this resulted in climbing energy consumption and costs.

Now most sound systems are centralised, or if not, they have the opportunity to be so.  Placing the AV hardware in your main IT racks in a sealed environment well away from both customers and staff works on a number of levels.  An out of the way location means less interaction, resulting in more consistent sound quality delivery.  In addition, there will be less airborne dust and probably cooler air which lets your AV hardware run less hard.  This means cooling fans need to run less, and as a result they become less clogged and are cheaper and more energy efficient to run.  To further improve on this efficiency, modern systems also have timers in them so that hardware can be placed into a low energy or ‘sleep’ mode when not in use and woken at the touch of a button or when music is sensed.  If your AV system isn’t quite there yet, making a few changes can help you to maintain or improve your AV standards, saving you both energy and money in the long term.

LED lighting
We all know that if well deployed, moving to LED lighting can save you money.  However, it needs to be done by a professional, otherwise it can create challenges to your electrical installation and actually become more costly.

Start by thinking outside the box.  For example, if you are fitting new exterior lights or even perimeter lights around and inside your events spaces, why not fit them with RGBW heads in?  This will enable you to change the colour of these lights to reflect the corporate colour of any delegates hiring out your events space, or you can add to the atmosphere by flooding a room with colour that lends itself to a particular occasion.  With this planning, you not only gain the extra benefit of a more flexible event space, but the carbon footprint of any events company being employed will be reduced, as additional lighting will not need to be shipped in and out of your venue.

In fact, this approach can be taken one step further and be a strong argument for investing in installed, Eco-friendly AV systems.  By moving to this, you can considerably reduce the carbon footprint of ‘third party’ hire companies driving AV hardware to and from your venue, either for your own use or for use during external hire events.  Having said this, it should be noted that it is unlikely that you will completely eliminate the need for third party AV.  There will always be corporate clients who have to use their own approved events company, and whilst their technology may be older and less flexible than yours, it is an area where events company make their money and so might not be fully avoided!

Projection
This area has also moved forward environmentally with the dawn of laser phosphor light sources.  No longer should you need to call out engineers to change projector lamps every 1,000 - 2,000 hours and energy should not be wasted by projectors which emit enough heat energy to boil water for the after meeting coffees and teas! Laser phosphor light sources, which are now the standard for projection, not only run cooler and quieter, but they have a light source life with 20,000 - 50,000 hours of life (to half brightness).  This hugely reduces the need for an engineer call out to change a lamp which in turn reduces both carbon footprint and disruption to meeting room spaces.

Remote support
Finally, it's worth remembering the advances in remote support.  New AV systems are now fully accessible remotely.  Just like with your IT system, AV engineers should be able to connect and look at most hardware and diagnose the vast majority of problems from their offices, without the need to travel.  So if there is a problem that they need to fix, when they do visit your venue they should have the correct hardware or spare parts with them.  They will not need to make a journey just to investigate the problem you were experiencing and then a further journey to repair it! This reduces the number of callouts required and halves the carbon footprint.

So being smart with your AV can help the move towards being carbon neutral and save you money, so why not make that change today for a better tomorrow.

CGA Integration … Making hospitality sound great!



Saturday, 25 May 2019

Why? What’s the point of fitting sound systems in hospitality venues?

I get very absorbed in speakers; choosing the right speakers, in the right number, placing them in the right location and even making them the right colour.  Speakers are important.
 
But let’s go back a step further and consider; what’s the point of fitting sound systems in hospitality venues?

Long before the written word was widespread, communication was aural as well as oral.  Our prehistoric ancestors used sound and rhythm to communicate and over time this communication evolved into songs and stories.  Although there has been a shift towards written communication, (albeit more recently via email, text and social media), aural communication is still an intrinsic part of our everyday soundscape.  Research has even shown that music is a huge influence on both our mood and our mental state.  Sound is important.

We humans make noise.  Sometimes we want music to disguise the sound of the other humans around us, to help us to feel that our experience is more pleasant or personal to us; reducing the impact or presence of others.  Just look at the number of people wearing headphones as they move around in crowded areas or sit on a busy bus or train.  We often choose sound to relax, and in a Spa environment for example, music can be utilised to replace the everyday noise of life, giving guests a completely contrasting soundscape to create relaxation and escapism.

Conversely if you have no background music at all, eating or functioning in silence or with just ambient human noise around you can feel quite unnatural, especially for the generations who have grown up with continuous music and noise as the backdrop to their lives.  Silence can create a ‘library effect,’ which can make individuals feel ill at ease, scared to make a noise, and as such failing to relax or express themselves.  So fitting a quality flexible sound system can enable you to create the right audio background, helping your guests to feel how you want them to feel in your hospitality spaces. 

Creating the right playlist for your Brand and playing this in the right format through a well designed and installed quality sound system, reinforces a venue’s Brand and its Brand values.  From relaxed to energised to engaged, different hospitality spaces may require a different soundscape; sound and especially music have an important part to play in creating the right environment for restaurants, lobbys, spas, meeting rooms and bars alike.  Like a well crafted marketing campaign, creative interior design or superior customer service, quality sound can work together with the other elements of your venue to help you to stand out for all the right reasons. 

Now more than ever getting sound right is key.  Guests are now exposed to good quality sound in many aspects of their everyday lives; surround sound, THX & Dolby cinemas, great sounding car stereos and certain mobile devices. They will notice if the sound systems in your venue do not come up to the standards they now take for granted.  To create a great sound in your venue you need to consider all aspects of audio; volume, hardware and music quality, what you are playing where and when (as this may vary by time of day), coverage (and ensuring that this is even as guests move throughout a space and between spaces) and balance between sound frequencies (bass & treble). 

Considering our prehistoric ancestors again, audio is a sense that very much wired into our body’s ‘fight or flight’ response.  Get the sound in a venue wrong and your customers will not be able to relax.  They might not be able to tell you that sound is the issue, but they will not stay for long or return very quickly. Get it right and all the elements of your venue will fit together like a well crafted sensory jigsaw, helping your guests to immerse themselves in your hospitality experience and truly relax.

Chris Gunton
Managing Director CGA Integration

CGA Integration … Making hospitality sound great!

Wednesday, 3 April 2019

Size is not everything!

“Wow look at that speaker! We’re not a nightclub!!!”

I have heard this and similar comments time and again when designing a sound
system for a client for the first time.  A regular misconception is that the physical
size of a speaker is directly proportional to the volume or loudness of the sound
system, but that is generally not the case.

It’s true that you will need larger speakers to produce sound for a live concert
than you would need to install in a restaurant, but as sound gets quieter, there
is a minimum speaker size that you will reach, after which you start
compromising on sound quality.

Sound reproduction is all about moving air particles or vibrations.  In a
loudspeaker an electromagnet is attached to a cone which amplifies these
vibrations as it moves forwards and backwards, making sound waves in the
surrounding air and pumping them towards your ears.

So how do we hear music which is made up of lots of different sounds? Without
going too deeply into the science behind this, the frequency of the vibrations
(the number of sound waves that go past a fixed point say every second)
governs the pitch of the sound produced.  To faithfully reproduce all the
different frequencies of sound in a piece of music, good quality speakers use
different sized cones dedicated to high, medium and low frequencies, hence
the need for a minimum sized speaker to accommodate these. Generally in
each speaker cabinet there will be a bass driver (for low frequency sound
waves) and tweeter (for high frequency sound waves) and these will ensure
that sound from all frequencies is covered.

High frequency sound waves generate small movements of a small loudspeaker
surface area (the smaller tweeter cone) and lower frequency sound generate
large movements of a large surface area (the larger bass driver cone).  Basically
the lower the pitch of the sounds you want to replicate, the larger the surface
area of the cone and the larger the cubic volume of the speaker box you will need.

Sound volume (measured in decibels) is actually down to the amplitude of the
sound waves.  The amplitude of a sound wave (or the maximum distance moved),
is a reflection of how much energy it carries, the more energy it has the more air
particles that are moved for longer and the greater the sound we hear.

So, if you want a warm and full sound system throughout all the areas of your
venue, then you will need to have enough surface area of loudspeakers to excite
the air in the space and enough cubic volume of speaker cabinets to enable a
warm and comfortable sound to be generated in all areas.  This will be delivered
through a combination of; the right number of speakers of the right size installed
in the right locations.

Here at CGA Integration we generally use the smallest speaker cabinet required
to deliver a good full range sound in the required space, often in many multiples
to ensure that the distance from the customer to the speakers remains as
constant as possible as they move around the space.  This is explained in
Here you will find lots of articles dealing with speaker solutions including
“design led sound solutions” where we explain how to minimise the visual impact
of speakers whilst still generating superior sound & “speaker location; a sound delivery”
which considers the different types of speakers available and where they can be
installed for maximum audio effect.

To sum everything up, if speakers are too small or too few are used, this can
lead to issues in sound reproduction and quality, which will affect the
ambience of your venue.  Just remember, your AV design is created that way
or a reason, as “you cannot change the laws of physics!”