As the Grey Cup rides the rails across Canada on a 90-day trip before the annual championship match, Cisco Systems Inc. is keeping its all the tour’s visual technology wired — or meshed — together.
The networking equipment company faced a number of challenges in linking the train’s system of HD displays together, used for displaying football-related images.
Since a train is a series of connected cars that can be disconnected at at stops along the way, the company couldn’t use an ordinary wired network, said Vince Mammoliti, technical solutions architect at Cisco Canada. “We’ve actually built a mesh network so the cars are actually meshing with each other.”
But since the train will travel into many different environments, in some cases the mesh network won’t be feasible and Cisco will have to string wires between the cars. And certainly, there’s limited space to run cables through. From the panels down to the floor, everything in the cars “floats,” said Mammoliti — nothing is screwed in. And every inch of available space is used: “Literally, there’s cables going through drain pipes.”
Another added challenge in setting up the network is the fact that Cisco is working on a moving target. “We have to bring everything we need for the 10 weeks, so there’s spares, there’s backups.” Telus Corp. is providing an LTE link for Internet access during the trip, Mammoliti added.
Some of the monitors lining the walls of the cars are touch-screen interactive displays that Cisco has installed together with one of its partners, Jibestream Interactive Media.
Mammoliti said Cisco will control them, uploading predetermined content, while riders will be able to contribute their own content in the form of football trivia for the Hall of Fame software, which allows users to scroll through years of Canadian football statistics and fill in gaps. Since the monitors look very much like LCD TVs, he added, the company had to make sure they displayed their touch-screen capability prominently.
Along the tour, the staff on the train will be taking pictures, which can be dynamically uploaded to the screens, he said.