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!