On the 29th floor of 900 Third Avenue in Manhattan is Gateway, a co-working and innovation hub. As part of the Swedish-American Chamber of Commerce (SACCNY) — the oldest international chamber of commerce in the U.S. — Gateway’s mission is to help Scandinavian companies gain a strategic foothold and become more successful in the U.S. market. Recently, top communication technology brands Sennheiser, Barco and Q
Gateway opened its doors in January of 2019 as a “launchpad” for Scandinavian businesses, providing members everything they need to help accelerate their success. The Gateway conferencing and technology demonstration center features advanced videoconferencing-oriented solutions from Sennheiser, Barco, QSC and others. It was implemented in 2020 and was completed in March of 2021.
“In my public life, much of my work was supporting small business,” Anna Throne-Holst, SACCNY’s president, said. “So, when I was offered the opportunity with SACCNY, I jumped on it, with the goal of creating a model chamber, offering both services and support to the innovation and start-up sectors, while facilitating important synergies with the longtime, large corporate members. Now, Gateway is a co-working, meeting, and innovation platform mostly geared to Swedish startups and corporates, but open to other companies as well.”
SACCNY boasts a membership that includes large and mid-sized companies in a variety of sectors. It also serves as a knowledge and networking “incubator” for startups looking to make their mark in a dynamic market that craves new ideas and fresh insights. The collaboration among Sennheiser, Barco and QSC came about as Throne-Holst began exploring a technology upgrade.
“I wanted to create a state-of-the-art meeting space,” she said. Her idea came to fruition with the “showcase” room. a 20,000 square foot facility known as “Room with a View.” It provides seating and videoconferencing space for up to 12 people.
A “Room with a View”
Throne-Holst’s idea was a winner all around: for members, it meant access to world-class conferencing technology in a beautiful working environment, right in the heart of Manhattan. For Sennheiser, Barco, QSC and a handful of other companies, it meant an ideal technology showcase to demonstrate the quality, functionality and efficiency of products. To move the project forward, Throne-Holst engaged long-time technology evangelist Greg Harper, technology advisor for several highly regarded companies and financial institutions. Harper embraced the idea and subsequently pitched it to Sennheiser, Barco and QSC.
“For us, it was a no-brainer,” Throne-Holst said. “Greg loved what we were doing up here and we all became friends.”
“Room with a View’” features a Sennheiser TeamConnect Ceiling 2 (TCC2) microphone that incorporates beamforming technology. It enables the microphone to “follow the speaker” in the meeting room. The TCC2 is connected to a QSC Q-SYS Core 110f, which serves as a “room controller” that supports up to 256 channels of networked audio and multiple instances of VoIP.
“The Core 110f is connected to three cameras which use auto-tracking,” said Harper. “So we are getting the data from the Sennheiser TCC2 microphone and using that data to switch the cameras based on who is speaking.”
Barco’s ClickShare Conference enables wireless universal sharing of information from the user’s own device across presentation platforms.
Immersive, Agnostic and User-Friendly Conferencing AV
One of the first things people notice when walking into the Room with a View conference space is the bright 14-foot Barco X 1.2 LED video wall, which is being driven by a Barco E2 Gen 2 to handle all the processing and offers flexible layouts. Barco’s ClickShare technology allows for engaging wireless conferencing in Gateway’s meeting rooms. In Room with a View, ClickShare Conference enables truly agnostic BYOM (Bring Your Own Meeting) capabilities, allowing users easy access to the advanced AV present in the room.
“We have a QSC touch panel, so guests can come in there and say, ‘I want to do a Teams meeting’ or ‘I want to do a Zoom meeting.’ Or they can just bring in their own laptop with preferred VC solution,” said Harper. Since ClickShare is installed and ubiquitous throughout the space, users can connect and present wirelessly, no matter where they are located on the 29th floor. The inbound audio in Room with a View is reproduced through two pairs of QSC speakers; two in the front and two in the rear.
While Room with a View offers breathtaking views of New York City, the bountiful glass and hardwood floors and a hard ceiling presented several acoustic challenges. Thankfully, the Sennheiser TCC2 helped mitigate undesirable sound reflections since the microphone is designed to pick up the subject rather than the room itself.
“We tried several different microphones in there and as soon as we used the TCC2, it just sounded better,” said Harper. “I am very familiar with acoustics and how things sound, and I think this is among the best ceiling microphones out there. Sennheiser has a unique capability of sounding really good while giving me very accurate positioning control, with the ability to create exclusion zones.” By creating “exclusion zones,” users of TCC2 can eliminate sounds coming from HVAC systems or other noise sources.
Sennheiser’s TCC2 microphone, pictured below in the Room with a View, helped mitigate undesirable sound reflections since the microphone is designed to pick up the subject rather than the room itself.
The Board Room
The Board Room is one of Gateway’s larger rooms and provides seating for 18 people. The space is accented with several tables measuring roughly 5 square feet that can be moved around to accommodate different types of meetings. It also features a Barco 16-foot UniSee video wall with multiple LCD panels, delivering a uniform degree of brightness and color throughout, as well as two Sennheiser TCC2s. Once again, everything is connected to a QSC Core 110f processor, which serves as the primary technology interface. Barco’s ClickShare Conference enables wireless universal sharing of information from the user’s own device across presentation platforms.
In the Board Room, the Sennheiser TCC2s are used to drive a 1 Beyond Autotracker system, which has seven built-in cameras and is able to track and switch cameras based on the location of the audio source. “The Sennheiser TCC2 has XYZ data coming out of it that is very accurate, so it can actually detect whether someone is standing or sitting,” said Harper. “Once this data is extrapolated, the system can automatically direct the camera where it needs to go among hundreds of possible locations.”In the Board Room, there are two cameras on the left side of the room facing the right side, two cameras on the right side facing the left side and three cameras at the center pointed at the end tables, the head of the table and a ‘default’ wide shot.
Another smaller space in the facility is the media lab, a retrofitted storage room that has been outfitted with a similar combination of technology: the Sennheiser TCC2, QSC cameras connected to a QSC Core 110f processor and several video screens.
Finally, the Event Room features seating for 60 or 100 people standing. While the Event Room was not able to be used for many months due to the pandemic, Gateway is eager to resume its in-person events and programming.
“During the pandemic, we had to re-think how we do our events,” said Throne-Holst. “And part of what we thought about was, ‘How do we do digital meetings in a way that really functions? This led to a webinar series we called ‘Checking the Pulse’ with corporate metrics, where we touch on an array of different things. The next series we are going to do is on investment tools: IPOs, M&As, and more.”
“Our collaboration with Barco, QSC and the SACCNY really demonstrates the power of combining our respective best-of-breed communications technologies,” said Charlie Jones, Global Business Development manager of Sennheiser. “In this case, our TCC2 ceiling microphone was able to deliver both audio clarity and intelligibility while working within a highly reflective, acoustically challenging environment. Moreover, the seamless interoperability of our TCC2, Barco’s LED Walls and QSC’s processing have resulted in a world-class video conferencing solution for SACCNY and its members.”
“This unique cooperation demonstrates the breadth which Barco can offer in high-end meeting rooms with the best in both collaboration and visualization. We’re excited to offer SACCNY true, engaging meeting experiences with BYOM in an outstanding audio environment and with the best-in-class control & tracking cameras,” said David Fitzgerald, VP Global Alliances at Barco.
Augmenting Live Events with World-class Videoconferencing
Now that Throne-Holst has a robust, state-of-the-art videoconferencing capability in place, she is anxious to augment this capability with in-person events — which before the pandemic, were held approximately two to three times per week.
Greg Harper said that while the technology in Gateway is truly state of the art, it is most effective when it is “invisible.”
“Executives don’t want to have to think about the technology — they want a videoconferencing experience to be as authentic as possible.” Part of the beauty of Gateway is that the videoconferencing technology works with just about any device. “Our setup is truly BYOD. This is extremely powerful, and you don’t get that in many places,” Harper said. “And you are taking advantage of this beautiful Barco LED wall, Sennheiser microphones and QSC speakers. You get the whole package: high-quality audio, stunning visual communication, lots of control, remote capability — what else could you want?”