HCL Technologies, India

With the corporate landscape changing, HCL Technologies decided to take its technology systems to the next level. ASK Consultants details how it helped the client revamp and upgrade.

Familiarity with a client builds a base for technology professionals to leverage. For the upgrade project at HCL Technologies’ office, an existing relationship between the client and ASK Consultants started the project off. Sangkya Gupta from ASK Consultants details: “HCL is a client of ours, about two years ago we had worked on the Shiv Nadar University project where we were introduced to HCL through the architect and the project management team. Our work for Shiv Nadar University and interaction with the client laid the groundwork for us to be appointed for this corporate deployment as well.”

Gupta goes into details about what was expected for the office upgrade project: “HCL wanted to completely revamp its spaces which included renovation of all the IT networks, security, telephonic systems, audio visual systems and acoustics. Our portfolio of work was to oversee the complete upgrade of these systems. And seeing that this was to serve as the location where the CEO and chairman of HCL Technologies was to work from there was a high level of prestige attached to the project as well.”

ASK Consultants started in 2008 with IT as its prime area of focus at the time. With Gupta’s addition along the journey, the consultancy has since expanded into the world of acoustics and AV, offering holistic technology consultancy services to clients. This meant that ASK Consultants was more than equipped to handle the wide remit of the project.

Gupta returns to the topic of driving factors behind the upgrade: “The changes, upgrades and renovations were required to help the HCL office spaces meet the requirements of the present day. The intent of the client was to get the old systems replaced with new ones. Even the civil structures were renovated to meet modern standards. The acoustics were improved from a fundamental level upwards.”

With the landscape of the corporate world changing, technology systems were reviewed and evaluated on a microscopic level. Gupta says: “The client was very open to hear our recommendations. Of course, there was a drive from the stakeholders and the finance department to repurpose the older equipment. But at the same time, they understood the outcome they wanted, which was a modern working space for HCL Technologies, and that took precedence. In the end we ended up revamping the entire technology setup. For example, the meeting rooms have completely changed considering the disruption caused by Covid-19. Most of the meeting rooms and huddle spaces have been designed to enable collaboration. In the working spaces, there is no fixed seating and hot-desking has been enabled. It really is a complete modernisation of the HCL office.”

Main reception

We start our examination of the technology deployment at HCL Technologies with the main reception. A Barco 1.9mm LED videowall with Barco processing at the backend is the main feature of the space.

Gupta elaborates: “The videowall serves multiple purposes, it is not just there for marketing. Since this is to be the CEO’s office the space is expected to be visited by VIP and important clients. The videowall in the main reception starts off their visitor experience in a spectacular fashion. Additionally, it serves as a way for HR messages to be communicated effectively to HCL Technologies employees.”

The choice of LED tile is explained by Gupta: “When it came to LED, we proposed Samsung, Christie, and Barco. We sat with the client and ran through the pros and cons of each of the options with the client. On HCL Technologies’ side, the main thing was to find a solution that met their requirements but would also be flexible and scalable. After the technical evaluation of the products, the client decided that Barco was the perfect fit for their requirements.”

The main reception also has another feature and Gupta details: “The digital kiosk in the reception is there to make sure that clients and visitors don’t just sit idle. The digital kiosk is interactive, and the guest can tap on the screen and explore the content as they want. The interactivity adds a layer of engagement and autonomy for the guest.”

Meeting spaces

With videoconferencing becoming crucial, meeting spaces have taken on increased importance. Gupta talks about the core principles that drove the design and deployment of meeting spaces for this project: “HCL Technologies cannot restrict themselves to just Microsoft Teams. HCL not only has a wide range of employees that use their own VC platforms, but they are also in the business of providing technology services to their clients. So, they must be open to all platforms. On top of that, we grasped the culture of HCL early as well and they do not want to be wedded to a single way of working, they want to remain agile, and they want deviations so that meant we had to come up with a solution that met all those requirements.”

ASK Consultants went down the soft codec route when it came to videoconferencing paired with wired and wireless connectivity offerings. Gupta details: “For all the boardrooms and meeting spaces we have provided wireless presentation. You can connect wirelessly with your device and present your content whether you are on mobile or laptop or any other device. HDMI connectivity is also present as a backup and there are cable cubbies present for users to plug in to.”

To enhance collaboration, larger meeting rooms have been equipped with interactive displays while the premium boardrooms have been provided with Microsoft Surface Hub units. On the audio side, JBL ceiling speakers provide sound and they are paired with Crown amplifiers and BSS Blu DSPs. Sennheiser microphones and ceiling tile microphones are employed when required.

On the selection of microphones Gupta says: “We are inclined to use Sennheiser microphones because of their quality. I would say we use Sennheiser for most of our projects and personally the quality has always been excellent. They also have flexibility and internal connectivity with built-in transmitters and that allows you a lot of freedom in deployment. The coverage, AEC and control of reverberation is really good to boot.”

Extron HDBaseT products are used for video switching and for control. Gupta says: “AV over IP has matured, but it still has a significant cost to it. You need scale for it to be feasible. For example, if we had 200 meeting rooms to get going, we would have definitely gone down the route of AV over IP. But we didn’t have 200 meeting rooms so the scale that makes AV over IP a good option wasn’t there. Secondly, during the course of the project we were extremely mindful to not overshoot the client’s budget. Rather than compromising on the premium and mission critical components of the project, such as the LED videowall in the main reception, we decided to price engineer on the side of video switching. It isn’t like HDBaseT is an inferior solution. Conventional video switching such as HDBaseT is extremely robust and completely fit our needs.”

Auditoriums

Last, we examine the auditoriums which are technology-dense spaces. Barco 10,000 lumens brightness projectors with 117-in screens serve as displays in the auditorium. Due to the size and to ensure legibility of text, repeater displays are used.

Gupta says: “The auditorium hall has been fitted with a projection system. Our initial plan was to have an LED videowall, but the height of the auditorium was low and did not permit that. The projection system allowed us to have the display size that we wanted, and it is a great solution. There is also a digital podium and microphones and a complete control system as well.”

The digital podium Gupta references is an interesting addition. She provides further details: “The digital podium has everything built into it. It has a display, microphones, and a DSP to provide control. The digital podium is portable so all you need to do is bring it out and plug it into a floor plate, and when it is not in use it can be stored away. It can even be taken out of the auditorium and used at a different location.”

EASE modelling was used to map out the best placement of speakers. Ceiling speakers are used for the auditoriums, and these are augmented with column array speakers when required. Gupta elaborates: “We’ve been working on many auditoriums, and we’ve been using column array speakers that are steerable and they are really good in application with good impact. Especially if the auditorium is wide or deep, column speakers give a good acoustic experience. So, on a technical level they made sense. Secondly, they are good when it comes to aesthetics. They are sleek and that allowed us to hide them in the auditorium without compromising on quality.”

As the HCL Technologies project was implemented during the pandemic, battling disruption was the main challenge faced. Gupta narrates: “During the design phase of the project, it was the second wave of Covid-19 and I myself was down with Covid. This really impacted the timelines. I had to continue work and meetings with client remotely. I recall, there was a particular meeting for reviewing some structural details onsite that I was unable to attend. My team conducted the visit and they had to make sure that we got it right on the first try since repeated visits were not always feasible due to the restrictions and regulations at that time. I must thank CBRE, the project management company, and Aeon, the architect and ID, for their help and support. Everyone pulled together with the same intent to deliver the best project within the timeline.”

With the project complete, Gupta concludes: “The feedback from HCL Technologies is positive. They are particularly happy with the sound and acoustics in the auditorium, so much so that they engaged us to fit out more auditoriums in the building and they want us to be there for their upcoming projects.”

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