Grand Central Terminal, in addition to being the main branch for Metro North Railroad (MNR), GCT also houses a variety of retail shops, restaurants, and event spaces. The existing train and track information displays were old technology magnetic flip digits and were limited to transit info only; in the event of a crisis, there was no way to display emergency messaging if something out of the ordinary were to occur. In addition, 1000’s of commuters pass though GCT daily and JLL (Jones, Lange, & LaSalle), the retail management company wanted to give the retails shops and restaurants a “presence”; a place where the shops can promote what they sell and where in the terminal they are located. JLL also manages the event space Vanderbilt Hall; they needed a way to advertise events that are scheduled for the space with a system that can be smart enough to “purge” events after the date expires. The system had to be user friendly enabling the user though the touch screen, to navigate to the information he or she were looking for
To add to the challenge, GCT is a historical landmark protected by the Historical Landmark Preservation Committee; any “fixtures” being added to GCT must meet the approval of the committee, which also dictates other guidelines that must be adhered to. The kiosks cannot make any physical contact with the marble walls, and the brass finishes must be a standard non-directional bronze finish that matches the other ornamental metal at GCT.
They wanted a system that could be administrated and updated from several locations; train and transit info would be managed by MNR and the way finding and information screens would be managed by JLL. Additionally, (2) of the screens would need to run a NYC & Company sponsored information site called “On the Go” where commuters and tourists could plan their day in Manhattan and retrieve information about museums, shopping, sporting events, and subway maps covering all of NYC.
The kiosks were to replace free standing Vitrines with printed advertising that was manually changed out – these Vitrines also housed security cameras which would be now located hidden inside the kiosks using a pin hole type lens.
The systems had to be robust and reliable as they would run 24/7, must be easy to maintain both from a point of view of content updating and easy to keep clean and deter any visitors from vandalizing them.
VideoSonic responded to the RFP for this project by recommending the hardware and software that would be housed inside of the Kiosks. Two types of Kiosks were constructed for the project, Kiosk type ”A” which is a 46” portrait screen above a 2nd 46” Portrait screen, configured as a monolith. Kiosk type “B” is a 55” portrait above a 32” landscape LCD screen. Additionally, VideoSonic provided several Window Vitrine versions of the kiosk, consisting of a 55” screen installed landscape in storefront windows.
VideoSonic subcontracted Metalworks in the Bronx to fabricate the freestanding enclosures; the only part purchased off the shelf were the fans and the lock cylinder; every other bracket, hinge, mounting plate, support rails and enclosure were built from scratch. All parts were CNC cut using a laser table and multi-axis milling machine – the units were pre-assembled, tested, and demonstrated to the client before delivery to the site, where we had to coordinate with the building engineer to have floor tiles removed in order the weld the kiosk bases to the structural building steel. One of the challenges of the install is that our work need to be completed before 7am when the terminal get busy with commuter traffic.
The screens used inside the kiosks and Window Vitrines are by Samsung, we selected the PE55 model for the windows as they are super bright 700 nit brightness screen. The Kiosk Screens are also Samsung, ME32, ME46, and ME55 were selected because of their thin profile and ability to install a Samsung CTY-32 (or 46 or 55) Multi-touch Overlay Screen – they are located in the kiosk doors and swing open with the door for servicing.
Track and Transit information are displayed using a NDis7 Micro PC, which is a hardened and very robust PC running win7 and a custom HTML5 web page that displays the information and updates in real time. The other media appliances connected to the screens are Spinetix HPM200 Media Players – these were selected because of their extreme robustness and reliability, it is a 100% solid state device with no moving parts and comes with a lifetime warrantee. Spinetix was also chosen due to its economical licensing; instead of paying an annual fee per player, the license is sold by administrator seat, and is a one-time fee for an unlimited amount of players.
VideoSonic helped GCT with adopting the use of the software by providing several training sessions and also by creating templates that can be easily updatable. The templates allow even a “lay person” to update the content, you do not need to be a graphics artist, you edit the text in the template, add in photos, video, or a hyperlinked asset and publish the updated page. Publishing consists of adding the content to the play list and setting the frequency and duration for the message and its expiration date – the content is published in the correct font, colors, kerning and position of the graphic elements as per the template enabling anyone with a little bit of training to publish content.