EDITORS CHOICE 17.04.18

Case Study: MetLife, Japan

MetLife_TGTKioicho_019
Main boardroom at the MetLife office in Tokyo, Japan

Hurrairah bin Sohail delves into the MetLife project in Tokyo, Japan with PTS Consulting which demonstrates the value of an extensive and adaptable global AV standard. Find out how the global standard with local feedback led to the deployment of AV systems.

MetLife is one of the largest global providers of insurance, annuities, and employee benefit programmes, with 90 million customers in over 60 countries. An operation of that size necessitates a global footprint and MetLife has offi ces in Tokyo to serve its Japanese customers.

The company decided to undertake a consolidation initiative to bring its Japanese workforce together and operating from a central space. The project was broken down into three phases. The fi rst phase was the construction of a new head offi ce, Tokyo Garden Terrace. The second and third phase involved consolidating and restacking the existing MetLife offices at Olinas Tower in Kinshicho, Tokyo.

MetLife’s aim was not just to consolidate their offi ces in a central location but to modernise its workspaces across the board; from facilites to IT and AV. The AV side of the project was helmed by Metlife Multimedia overseen globally by a head of multimedia engineering, who is based in the United States of America.

PTS Consulting was brought on to perform IT and AV project management. PTS Consulting Japan’s AV multimedia team is bilingual and expert in AV technology localisation - not only in terms of product selection but also gathering exact requirements of Japanese users matched against global designs.

John Loving from PTS Consulting Japan talks about the role: “MetLife is an international company. But for this initiative, the project team was largely Japanese, the majority of the workforce in the Tokyo offi ce as well as the building construction team and contractors were Japanese. It goes without saying that Japanese communication was essential and part of our role was to provide that layer of communication. The team in the US was not yet engaged with the local team and facilitating the communication was essential.”

PTS Consulting also provided local expertise on culture and working customs as Loving details: “The project was being driven from the US and it was the fi rst time key directives and multimedia initiatives were being implemented in Japan. The benefi ts of these directives need to be explained to the Japanese side and communicating local feedback to the US was essential.”

Schedule and budget management were also a huge part of the role PTS Consulting Japan performed. Loving says: “This was a huge project spanning across two sites. We worked with the project team and AV integrator to value engineer the workspaces and optimise systems. There were a total of 226 rooms including two boardrooms, a three-way divisible training room, a fi ve-way divisible training room and a photo studio.”

Set standards

Like most global corporate deployments, PTS Consulting Japan and the AV contractors were working off a standard. Loving goes into detail: “The standards and designs for the AV system at MetLife were the most comprehensive that I have worked with. The reference schematics were standardised to a degree that even the equipment port assignments were specified. The reason for the thoroughness is that MetLife uses a single program globally.

“The program used in all the rooms and AV systems is modular and allows changes via the admin panel. So for example, if you want to enable videoconferencing in a room that previously did not have the capability, you just have to bring in the videoconferencing system specified by the standard. Plug it in according to the standard and then just enable the relevant program modules for the room via the touch panel and the space has been upgraded. This means all the rooms can be easily changed into different configurations.”

One of the pitfalls of a global standard is that you can end up with rooms and spaces that are ‘over-spec’d’ in terms of AV equipment. Loving says: “When I looked at the designs they were not grossly over-spec’d. What you could save on the equipment cost, you would have to spend on programming for an atypical project.

“If you have a loose standard and overkill, then it might be wasteful. But at MetLife, real thought has been put into making the standard, the equipment, the design and the programming for the AV systems.”

However, the standard was not the be all and end all. Loving explains: “The global standard is not static. When new equipment is brought in the standard is upgraded. It is very forward thinking. We had already taken into account the type of equipment which would be necessary in Japan and made adjustments to the program to accommodate these changes. But no real changes had to be made to the core of program. “During the course of the installation, we also found that there were certain features, interpretation being a notable one, which had to be added to the rooms. This was accommodated and the program was upgraded so that now interpretation is part of the global standard and if any other MetLife office wants to deploy it they just need to add the module and procure the equipment.”

With the design for the AV systems for the MetLife project not an issue, PTS Consulting Japan got to work. Loving says: “Multimedia was behind schedule and getting the team working on the project to understand the reality of AV was the first thing we did. We can move things around to fit the overall schedule of the project but it is also imperative that everyone understands that multimedia also needs time and that some things can’t be rushed.

“We had great support to tackle the project from the US while PTS Consulting Japan worked on the ground. You don’t always get the level of support from the client that we were lucky to get on this project.”

Again, the global standard developed by MetLife helped. Loving says: “The global standard really cut down on project time. Our main question for MetLife Japan was whether there was anything about the standardised rooms that didn’t meet their requirements. The global standard cut down so much of the user confirmation part of the project and a lot of the back and forth that happens when designing AV systems was eliminated”.

The rooms at MetLife are internally referred to as Huddle rooms, Huddle-V, Connect rooms and Convene rooms along with training rooms. These are spaces with varying degrees of presentation and videoconferencing capabilities able to accommodate differing group sizes. In addition, there were special boardrooms for high-level meetings.

Boardrooms

The main boardrooms for the MetLife buildings have comprehensive AV systems to enable communications. They were also a point of slight deviation from the MetLife AV global standard. Loving explains: “We followed the standard for the boardrooms but it was clear from the start that the Japanese boardrooms would require interpretation.”

A Bosch interpretation system with Bosch gooseneck microphones, equipped for interpretation, and Bosch radiators were planned. There are small operations and interpretation rooms as well.

The implementation of the interpretation was not as straightforward and Loving narrates: “The client wanted interpretation which was fine but they also wanted this function to provide selectable languages per person at different locations with interpreters in just one location. At first I assumed they wanted to send as single language from one boardroom to the other but talking with the client revealed that they wanted individual users on both ends to be able to choose the language they wanted to hear, be it Japanese or English or anything else.

“We ended up taking the audio feeds and putting them across three lines into a Bosch system on the far side. It was a pretty complex system to deploy and it works now with the just the press of a button.”

The boardroom also has full videoconferencing capabilities via Cisco codecs and Panasonic cameras. Three Shure ceiling microphones are used for audio pickup when not using the interpretation system, while Crestron speakers provide sound.

Regarding the microphones Loving says: “We were given a preview of the ceiling microphones from Shure and they are used in MetLife’s US offices. One ceiling microphone covers approximately ten people. The Bosch gooseneck microphones also provide great clarity and users can alternate between the two microphone options as they please.”

Two NEC displays can be found at the front of the boardroom along with NEC displays mounted on the side walls as well. Loving explains the orientation: “The typical orientation of boardrooms is such that the most important person is sitting farthest away from the displays and presentation material is hard for them to see. We have two displays at the front of the boardrooms, while the displays at the side are present to provide visual reinforcement.”

The fact that the entire project was undertaken in phases proved to be beneficial as Loving narrates: “For the boardroom at Tokyo Garden Terrace (first phase) we mounted the side-wall videoconferencing cameras below the displays however we found that participants obstructed the video framing. So for the boardroom at Olinas Tower we placed the cameras at the top of the displays. We also changed the colour based on feedback.”

On the operator desk a Soundcraft mixer can be found to handle audio production. A Biamp Tesira DSP serves as the core of the audio deployment. A Bosch operator unit can be found in the interpretation room as well.

Speakers and monitors are provided so that the interpreters can receive audio and video feedback. An Analog Way RK-350 unit provides video previews and picture-in-picture features. Panasonic camera controls are also provided. The interpretation rooms deployed at the MetLife Japan buildings have now been added to the global standard.

Training rooms

MetLife has one five-way divisible training room and one three-way divisible training room. These rooms can be used individually or in tandem as one large space. The rooms have been fitted out with these usage scenarios in mind. Loving says: “Connecting the rooms together is as easy as pushing a button. The rooms cannot connect to another room unless all adjacent rooms in between have been connected as well. The speakers and projectors in the spaces automatically work together and there is an operator mode as well.”

Panasonic EZ 770 WUXGA projectors provide visuals. Regarding the choice of projection for visuals Loving says: “This is a tough space for projectors. The blinds on the windows mean that there is a lot of ambient light and the space is also quite narrow. We also provided floor boxes so that confidence monitors can be brought in and connected when the space is being used as a whole.”

Audio is provided by Crestron ceiling speakers while Shure ULXD microphones are used for audio input. Crestron CP3 processors provide control. A Crestron DM MD32x32 switcher, which is being used to its full capacity, is the core of the video system. It is aided by an Analog Way Saphyr SPX450 and Extron HD-SDI amplifiers. A Biamp Tesira DSP handles audio processing. Audio is provided by Crestron speakers while the input is captured from Shure ceiling and handheld microphones. Yamaha XMV8140 amplifiers are also employed.

Huddle rooms

Huddle rooms and Huddle-V rooms are the most numerous spaces at MetLife. The most common Huddle room is geared for presentation. A typical Huddle room includes a table fitted with a connectivity box with an NEC display.

Users can connect to the display via DisplayPort or VGA and the connectors for these can be found in the connectivity box. Wireless presentation is enabled via Barco ClickShare. The rooms are setup so that content from devices is immediately thrown over to the display as soon as a wired or wireless connection is detected. The most interesting aspect of the rooms is the fact that there is no individual AV rack present in the space. A Chief mount is used for the NEC display and the AV equipment, including a Crestron HD-MD4X2-4K-E HDMI switcher, is located behind the panel.

Loving says: “We definitely required a pantograph mount for the huddle rooms because we would require access to the back of the panel, where the AV equipment is located, for the purpose of servicing and maintenance.”

Crestron CP3 control units are also used for the Huddle rooms. A single CP3 processor is able to manage a total of five huddle rooms.

Huddle-V rooms have similar AV systems with the extra addition of Cisco videoconferencing.

Connect & Convene rooms

Much like the Huddle and Huddle-V rooms, the Connect and Convene room types are largely similar. Loving talks about their purpose: “The Connect and Convene rooms are larger meeting spaces. With either single or dual front displays, otherwise the two systems are the same. One comment that we had was that there weren’t enough training spaces so we adjusted a Convene room to allow modular furniture. These rooms meet the global standard but also meet local requirements.”

Looking back at the project, Loving identifies scope for improvement and says: “One thing that was unclear was how reliant MetLife is on interpretation. We have interpretation in the boardroom and the training rooms but the other rooms don’t have it. User feedback from MetLife Japan with regards to interpretation was not strong and it was deemed as ‘nice to have’ rather than a must have. But now after the project has finished the client is re-assessing interpretation requirement as a core need.

“There are plans for a centralised interpretation system at MetLife in the near future. Initial backend infrastructure is complex and would incur a substantial cost, but the per-room cost impact is minimal allowing large-scale deployment. “All in all, it was a fantastic experience to work with such thorough global standards and receive strong support from both the local and global teams”