Barco opens Canadian subsidiary

Imaging technology company Barco on Wednesday announced the opening of its Canadian subsidiary in Mississauga, Ont. and a number of customer deals, including one with property management firm Cadillac Fairview Corporation Ltd. While the firm’s technology is not normally associated with the IT department, the company said it sees that changing.

Headquartered in Kortrijk, Belgium, Barco first opened in 1934 as a company that assembled radios using American parts — hence the name Barco (Belgian American Radio Corp.). The firm now designs and develops display solutions for the digital signage, broadcast, government, defence and corporate markets, and, according to Luc Kindt, the firm’s senior vice-president and president of global sales and services, it has a presence through subsidiaries or dealers in 90 countries worldwide.

One of its most recent customer sign-ups has been Cadillac Fairview, which owns and operates several malls including the Toronto Eaton Centre. Barco was awarded the contract to supply and install a total of 1,011 sq. feet of outdoor display solutions for the Eaton Centre’s new Media Tower.

Janet Young, director of Kramer Design Associates, the branding, signage and themed environment design company responsible for the Media Tower plans, said the firm went through a worldwide research and evaluation process through the summer of 2003 and selected Barco because it met “quality issues and software interface needs” for Cadillac Fairview.

Young said the media tower will include two 40’x60’ TriVision displays, one set of scrolling signs and a 40’x30’ colour SLite 10 LED display. The SLite display is designed for large outdoor installations and can overlay video and data sources in their native quality without conversion, allowing for sharpness of sources, according to Barco.

Peter Irving, president of the Outdoor Broadcast Network, a Toronto-based media company, said his firm was brought into Cadillac Fairview’s selection committee nine months ago to figure out what kind of design would be optimal for the Eaton Centre’s needs. He said the media tower will provide “fully integrated sign capabilities that will give dominance for one sponsor….All the signage components will come together to form a single brand message. Everything will be in sync — the video, audio and scrolling technologies.”

Robert Wu, Ottawa-based market development manager, traffic and surveillance for Barco Control Rooms, said although display technology has traditionally been an issue that an organization’s audio visual (A/V) experts deal with, its management is increasingly flowing into the realm of the IT department.

“Before, you had a bunch of people who knew A/V speak, what special cables to use,” who were dedicated specifically to working with displays and projectors, he said. “But now the IT infrastructure is so pervasive that companies are able to leverage their investments of IT people and their current technologies in the cost of operation,” Wu said.

For example, the SLite display includes software for remote monitoring capabilities that the IT department would implement and manage. John Youngson, national sales manager, media for Barco Canada, said another Barco LED display, the Solaris LC40 model, comes with an integrated mini PC that slides into the side of the display, and has the potential to provide wireless (802.11b) connectivity for the digital signage.

Barco also makes networked projectors that can be connected to corporate LANs for streaming media applications and virtual or collaborative meetings. According to Wu, if a user wants to utilize the projector for a presentation, he or she could access the presentation material on the network directly from the projector, rather than having to plug in a laptop or bring in a disk or CD of the presentation. The projectors also include a remote management and diagnostics feature that enables management of a large number of projectors from a single console, according to the firm.

Barco is trying to encourage its customers to “build an entire visualization network” through its suite of products, said Wu. As long as they have sufficient A/V knowledge, “now IT managers can own all of the A/V side. It’s their infrastructure, their team and their knowledge of the network that would enable all of this to happen.”

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