Managing the infrastructure behind a major entertainment venue involves long hours, huge teams and tremendous effort - according to Parktheater in Eindhoven. With over 100 staff working behind the scenes to support its staff and visitors.
A prime focal point for over 500 classical theatre, ballet, opera, concerts and culture events each year, Eindhoven’s Parktheater has been attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors annually for almost half a century. Following a major refurbishment and expansion in 2007, its facilities, which include restaurants and function rooms, are now among the best in Europe.
Klaas Seelen, ICT Project Manager at Parktheater confirms, “With venues of this scale, each performance is a major logistical feat involving coordination of people, equipment and materials. Behind the scenes, it’s like a construction site with technicians involved in carpentry, rigging, audiovisual, prop design and even pyrotechnics. With heavy machinery - including flying systems, technical bridges, stage lifts and lighting rigs - and people working at heights of up to 25 metres, maintaining safety is crucial.”
An effective communication system is vital to help Parktheatre safeguard and manage front of house activities – particularly to maintain fire prevention and evacuation processes.
“The theatre has to conform to strict NEN-standards which specify requirements for design, implementation, compatibility and quality of evacuation alarms to ensure a quick and orderly evacuation in the event of a fire,” Klaas adds. “Our systems are inspected annually by the local fire brigade to make sure that we comply. If we don’t, they have the authority to instruct actions and ultimately withdraw the theatre’s license.”
In the past, Partktheater used a DECT based system but this was proving expensive and the handsets were unreliable and prone to breakage. Phones simply weren’t up to the demands of our challenging physical environment. Breakages were frequent, with handsets regularly being replaced every three weeks. In addition, all staff had to use the same expensive DECT devices, even those working front of house. What we needed was a system that could balance our requirement for highly effective communications, ruggedized solutions and specific compliance criteria with greater flexibility and better cost control.”
Following an extensive selection process, Parktheater chose a solution from Helder Telecom, one of Sonim’s reseller partners. Helder specified a private GSM system from CapX; and ultra-rugged XP3340 SENTINEL GSM handsets, from Sonim Technologies, to afford the resilience and device longevity required for this demanding environment.
Klaas states, “By combining Sonim and CapX, Helder offered us the best solution in terms of functionality and price. Given their proven track record working with other large communication projects, we were confident they could do the job.”
The CapX in-house GSM system creates a ‘Private Mobile Network’ that is secure and can only be accessed by authorized users in the vicinity of the workplace. It enables mobile phones to become part of a company’s internal voice and data network. Using it, staff can make mobile-to-mobile on-site, or on-net, calls without incurring any costs. While on the premises, they can also make mobile calls to external destinations at the normal landline tariff. It is also ideal for use in areas where traditional network integration and infrastructure costs would otherwise be prohibitive.
Parktheater’s office and support staff can now use ordinary GSM mobile phones at work, while their technical crews, who are responsible for leading evacuations in the event of a fire, use the extra-tough and ultra-reliable Sonim phones.
“When it comes to performance the XP3400 SENTINEL phones are in a different league, from our former DECT devices,” highlights Klaas. “They are designed to withstand the daily knocks that theatre life brings – especially when stage hands are moving props and sets. We are particularly impressed by Sonim phone’s tough Gorilla Glass display, which is both scratch proof and shock resistant, and with its ability to remain fully functioning even when accidently dropped onto concrete floors from considerable heights on stage.”
The CapX solution integrates the fire-alarm system to the private mobile network and to a preset ‘red alert’ alarm button on each Sonim phone. In case of emergency, this button activates the evacuation system, followed by the system indicating the nearest fire extinguisher.
Outlining the main advantages of the new system, Klaas explains, “The theatre environment is large and complex with multiple floors, long corridors and sound absorbing walls. Technicians can be difficult to locate. When a performance is on, we can have as many as 2000 people in the building. We have to be able to manage them safely and, in the event of a fire alarm, be able to perform a coordinated and controlled evacuation. Our new system offers the high quality, rugged and reliable performance we need to achieve all this and more.”
Today, the theatre’s CapX GSM network can receive, locate and monitor fire-alarms and instantly sends interactive messages to the Sonim XP3340s, if the responses are too few, the platform will escalate by enlarging the notification group until enough positive responses (‘accepts’) have been received by the server. All alerts and responses from employees are logged in a database for evaluation and improvement purposes.
The Sonim XP3340 Sentinel phones provide a much more rugged, compact and easy-to-use solution which is far more robust than DECT phones, particularly for technicians involved in heavy physical work such as building up and breaking down sets.
Other key benefits are flexibility and low cost. Parktheater’s previous DECT phones cost twice as much as the new Sonim XP3340 Sentinel solution due to their short lifespan and heavy replacement cycles. In addition, the CapX GSM system also allows Parktheater to use standard GSM phones for less challenging activities to reduce costs further.
Sonim XP3400 Sentinel devices are used in 6 factory locations to maintain operations and keep workers safe.
Hendrix UTD, part of the Business Unit Hendrix and integrated into For Farmers Group, is a modern and ambitious company active in Netherlands, Germany and Belgium. Core activity is the sale of compound feed. Number of employees within the Business Unit Hendrix: about 680. The total turnover of compound feed within the For Farmers Group is 4.6 million tons.
Large dispersed team of onsite engineers, production, handling and maintenance crews
Many lone workers operating in night shifts
Dusty environment, heavy equipment, high drops as well as water and road transportation
Stringent Health & Safety criteria and own Hendrix UTD mandatory safety requirements
Communications vital for team coordination, maintenance scheduling, logistics, security & safety
Traditional system frequencies no longer available, DECT system too expensive and not suited for heavy duty use
Flexible GSM platform which supports ‘multiple devices’ to boost ROI
66% lower cost than alternative DECT system
Total cost of ownership of Sonim handsets 66% less than Hendrix’s old devices
Red alert button complies with internal safety standards
Noise cancellation feature improves onsite voice call quality
Less communications downtime due to phone charging, breakage or repair