Retail evolution at Samsung KX in London
Paul Milligan got an early preview at the 20,000 sq ft Samsung KX in London. As he found out, this is most certainly not a shop, but a whole lot more instead.
You might feel you are walking in to your typical electronics store when you approach the brand new Samsung KX site in London (the official launch date is early September) but this is most definitely not a shop. Many column inches have been filled recently decrying the ‘death of the high street’ so its maybe no surprise a forward-thinking brand such as Samsung is looking at different ways to engage enthusiasts and potential customers. And LDN KX certainly delivers something different in spades.
As you would expect from a technology brand, technology is the beating heart of LDN KX. Tasked with delivering technology that can engage children and adults alike was integrators Snelling Business Systems. After a successful tender process Snelling worked with consultants Hoare Lea Intelligent Buildings throughout the project, which has lasted just over a year, to deliver the AV and IT infrastructure. “It was a collaborative process from the get-go,” says Kevin Madeja, technical director, Snelling. “We worked with Samsung, Hoare Lea, Cheil (marketing and branding agency), and Portview (fit-out). We all had to get together and say ‘this is the vision’, how are we going to get there? And the vision keeps evolving. The building is beautiful but if you don't have ways to get pictures and sound around it you not going to have an experience.”
Technology delivered to create a ‘creative and digital playground’ includes world’s first vertical 10-metre wide vertically curved Samsung LED screen, Europe’s largest HDR10+ over fibre deployment via ZeeVee Zyper4k AVoIP6 and 70km of copper and fibre cabling.
The first thing that hits you when you walk in to the site, in London’s new Coal Drop’s Yard shopping district, is the amount of space and air, huge glass windows fill the 20,000 sq ft space with light. This is a world away from a high street shop or department store, “They are not pushing the revenue per square metre model here,” adds Madeja.
Secondly the staff at KX are there to help you get the most out of your visit, not to sell, in fact no Samsung stock is held on site at all. You can bring your Samsung device in for a repair, in the fully functioning service department (complete with workshop out of the back) or customise your own Samsung phone case, but that’s about it, in terms of a traditional store buying experience. The site is split into different zones, with different activities in each. However, very little in the KX is fixed to the floor, more than 600 cat6e points and 250 fibre points offer Samsung a huge amount of flexibility within the site. All the cabling is fitted neatly under tiled panels in the floor, each one can be popped up if required. This means the site is far more of an events space than a shop. Was offering such a high level of flexibility difficult for the integrator? “The infrastructure was pretty straightforward, it was just a case of do you want 50 fibre points in the floor or do you want 5?” says Madeja. “The challenge for us in designing it all was finding out how Samsung wanted to use this stuff? We were all walking down this learning curve together. There was no model to follow here.”
As you can imagine, the KX offers a great opportunity to promote the vast Samsung portfolio, so you’ll find Samsung or Harman products nearly everywhere, except in cases where Samsung doesn’t provide that particular technology (e.g. ZeeVee 4K encoders).
A living room zone features Samsung’s latest QLED and The Frame displays and home cinema offerings. A Café and flexible working area offer desks and WiFi where visitors are invited to sit and relax (or work). The Digital Cockpit (the only one in the world) offers a concept (connected) car experience, with Harman in-car audio fitted inside which offers the driver different audio to that of the passenger sitting alongside them. DJ Galaxy offers visitors the opportunity to try their hand at two digital DJ booths and the AR Message Tree provides an AR experience, where visitors can use to email a cool picture to themselves (and friends).
One of the standout technologies is a 10x4-metre Samsung LED wall with a gradual vertical curve, with a resolution of 6720x2880 it features a total of 168 IF015H 1.5mm pixel pitch LED modules. Called ScreenMax it’s capable of running 4K movies (with 7.1 audio via JBL cinema speakers) for the 60-seater audience (expandable to 80), it can run store content, and has a graffiti mode (Galaxy Graffiti) in which visitors can use a spray can to digitally spray messages on the wall. Because of its size and the curve, the interactive LED screen proved to be one of the more complex pieces of technology to install. ScreenMax uses a host of BlackTrax tracking cameras to give X and Y positions on the wall, but because of the curvature took 10 days to align correctly. A portable lectern also allows presenters to use the 10m screen, with two 4K PTZ cameras installed in the ceiling to provide live video of the presentation too. With a company at the forefront of promoting 8K to the world, it’s no surprise the content distribution network has to work hard here. Uncompressed 4K 4:4:4 60Hz HDR10+ UHD video is distributed over a dedicated 10Gb OS2 single mode fibre LAN with Cisco XYZ core switches. Why such insistence on uncompressed signals? “Samsung didn’t want anything to interfere with the picture quality,” says Madeja.
Behind ScreenMax lives a 16x8 Yamaha Rio Dante stage box with snake (cable) which Snelling can feed through a little hatch through the wall, so Samsung also has the option to host live bands at the KX. The venue hosts regular workshops, on the day we visited a seminar on using devices when travelling was on, and KX will even host yoga sessions, gaming sessions and film nights.
Four Green Hippo Taiga+ media servers offer production quality 4K UHD playback and pixel mapping. One is left spare in case any live events want to use it exclusively. The three other units each have a purpose, as Madeja explains; “We have three so there's six channels of output at 4K, we’ve also got four channels of ingest as well. So we can take any video source or any input source and run it through the Green Hippos. We have a dedicated media server just for ScreenMax. This allows us to do the scaling and the windowing for that unusual resolution. Another one covers the smaller LED walls.”
Audio systems at the KX combine multiple uses of technology, BSS networked audio, Dante and traditional analogue distribution. BSS is at the core of the audio systems with the use of BSS audio processors and crown amplifiers there is a simple Blu-link RJ45 connection between them to transport audio. The BSS system is also equipped with Dante, which allowed Snelling to use Dante-based microphone receivers to provide flexibility by giving Samsung the opportunity to send audio from either side of store. Each speaker has its own dedicated low impedance amplified channel to provide precise configuration and zoning. There is a total of 6 Crown DriveCore amplifiers with a combined total of 27,000 watts available. The ScreenMax employs the use of double stacked line array column speakers and 18-in subwoofers either side for the main programme audio. Meeting and training rooms are fitted out with Harman AMX Acendo Vibe conferencing systems, and the site also includes footfall sensors and WAP's.
Samsung KX represents a very different type of project for Snelling, but one which it has passed with flying colours. “It's almost like you're doing a production, a live show,” says Madeja. “You have to be very agile, we had to respond to their needs. The challenge here wasn’t making it work together, it was the scale of it all. This is a much more exciting project because we are still involved rather than one where you hand over the keys and say there you go. I love the collaborative process. The success of this project was the polarity of all the teams, sadly it doesn't happen too much.”
AMX Acendo Vibe 5100 conferencing soundbar
BSS BLU-806 processor
Crown DCI 41250, DCI8300N amplifiers
JBL AC16, AC25 loudspeakers, Control 16C ceiling speakers, AC115S, VTX F18S subwoofers
QSC AD-C4T-LP ceiling speakers
Shure O-TQG headset mic
AMX FG5969-49BL touch panel
Extron DTP HDMI 4K 230 transmitter
Green Hippo Taiga+ Hippotizer media servers
Lindy 5m USB 3.0 extension cables
Samsung IF015H LED modules
Sony BRC X1000 PTZ cameras, RM-IP10 remote control panel
ZeeVee SDVoE ZyPer 4K encoders/decoders