Data workshop at Ernst & Young's CFOspace in Germany

Consultants hmpartner helped Ernst & Young bring a concept of digital digitisation to life in an immersive training room that pushes boundaries.

Like most projects, the CFOspace at consulting group Ernst & Young’s (EY) Eschborn office in Germany was born from a client idea and then fully realised by an AV consultant.  In this case it was Hartmann, Mathias and Partner (hmpartner), the consultants had a prior working relationship with EY, but this particular project evolved from an initial phone call from EY to hmpartner just to see what was possible. 

Thomas Euring, partner, hmpartner takes up the story, “We won this job because we had a very detailed discussion about the project very early on.  I understood what they wanted, and we knew how to integrate the project.  We started to discuss technical solutions but also the aspects we would need to get up and running too (programming, maintenance, support).  We discussed all this, even some ideas that would be outside of what we would be expected to do.”

EY CFOspace 2
EY currently has several digital labs around the world, including London, Sydney and New York, but the Eschborn version was going to be a new concept, with a new name, CFOspace.  It was clear to hmpartner from the offset that all of the technology had to be integrated at a very high level because the visitors to the room were all senior executives, the use of the lab had to be intuitive and easy, as it wasn’t technical people who would be using the room, and it had to be stylish and cool in design.   

In those early discussions with EY, what was the client brief for CFOspace? “EY explained to us it needed to build different use cases. For example it wanted to train CFOs for their first 100 days in the job, so they could interact with financial experts or the press.  We learned to explain the possibilities that could be achieved with the room,” says Euring.  “The second step was to receive and collect technical information about the use cases.  We collected the technical needs of the use cases and transformed them into the room.  The software programmers has to understand what the showcases mean,” to do that hmpartner worked with German integrator Realtime Department to transform the use cases into an interactive show.  One use case is CFO onboarding, this addresses the first 100 days of the CFO, who come to EY to get trained on how to cope with the first few months on a new job.  As this is paid-for service, supplied by EY to its clients it has to perform at a high level, and Euring is keen to highlight CFOspace “is a working room, not a presentation room.”

EY CFOspace 3
So how does the room work for a new CFO learning his/her trade? “We create roleplay situations, use interactive tools, they learn how to talk to different stakeholders, how to speak to fund managers, they learn about robotics, apps, big data, and the SAP boardroom of the future,” says Carsten Langerwisch, project manger, hmpartner.   Some of these presentations were created from scratch, and others were amended to be more interactive and immersive.  Langerwisch is keen to credit Realtime Dept with a great job in transforming analogue showcases into digital content using Ventuz 3D software (supplied by Lang).   

After the initial discussions took place, Euring drew a mock-up of the room he thought CFOspace should be. Having seen the final room and the mock-up the two are incredibly close in nature, which is impressive given the precise nature of the client needs.  The room is filled with technology, from three 4x3 videowalls consisting of Panasonic 55-in LCD displays all controlled by Datapath videowall processing, Microsoft touchpads, Crestron DM interfaces, HDBaseT cameras, Biamp Dante DSP and ceiling mics, Fohhn loudspeakers, Kling & Freitag subwoofers, Barco Clickshare, Extron and Kramer processing tools, all inside a 65sq-metre room. 

The room, which holds around 16 people at full capacity, is managed on a 10-in Microsoft touchpad running the Ventuz app (which talks to the Crestron DM). Hmpartner worked with two German integrators on CFOspace, Realtime Dept installed the videowalls and programmed all of the content and commissioning of the Ventuz workstations.  Datavision installed, programmed and commissioned the other AV components in the rooms (Crestron, Extron kit etc) as well as the central AV room (featuring four racks of kit).

So what did EY want the AV technology that hmpartner would design to achieve at CFOspace? “EY wanted to work within the room, to be able to manipulate data on the walls of the rooms, they wanted high resolution because the distance between the viewer and the screens is very short, so it wanted full HD. It was also desired to have video and web (Skype/WebEx) conferencing in the same room.  EY also needed PowerPoint to be possible, and to display content from the server on the screens, and for the content to be manipulated using a touchscreen,” says Euring. 

EY CFOspace 4
The 12 LCD displays have one large overlay, so the overall screen has a huge resolution, on which users can drag four video sources on each side, and the videos can come from local PCs, smartphones/tablets or network servers.  One issue that arose was the conversion needed between the complete videowall – with a resolution of 7,680 x 3,240 pixels – to the source PC – with a resolution of 1920x1080.  The image of the source PC can be placed anywhere on the videowall. With the touch sensor of the large wall the user can move the mouse on the source PC. For this function, there is a conversation of the touch signals from the large pixel space to the small pixel space of a single display. This is done with small piece of software created especially for this project by Realtime Dept, and installed on the source PC.

During the installation a number of challenges had to be overcome, including how to strictly control the heat created by thirty-six 55-in LCD panels in a 65sq-metre room with no windows.  “Another difficult aspect was the integration of AV technology with the IT environment,” says Langerwisch.  “As you can image EY is a very large company with very strict IT firewalls.  We have a connection between the IT servers and the CFOspace.  You can manipulate the data using the touchscreens, which is content coming from the servers, so there is a connection between the two systems, which is a very big problem. We had weekly calls with an international IT team, and visits from a firewall engineer from Poland, a network engineer from Ireland, and a UNIX engineer from Brazil.”

Euring highlights some other issues the consultant (with the help of the two integrators) had to overcome.  “One other difficult aspect was to fit the displays as professionally as we could, so the gap between the screens was as small as possible.  This involved a lot of calls with architects to ensure that all our displays and materials were fitted with only a 1mm gap between screens.  Another difficult aspect was guiding Realtime Dept through the transformation of analogue showcases into digital showcases.”

With a relatively small room, the large videowalls and lighting and audio all play a part in making the CFOspace experience an almost completely immersive experience, was this the plan? “Yes, originally the ceiling was planned as an LED matrix, but we ended up with stripes instead.  At the start of the show with the lights and sound it gives you an immersive feeling straight away.  You have to be careful though because after one hour it would be too much, so you have to scale down the intensity. The first impression is very important, but then it has to have a workshop character as well,” says Euring.  

The Ventuz app controls the lighting, which can provide bright light, ambient light or be integrated into the content on the videowalls.  The audio is Dante controlled, ‘so we have less cables’ says Euring, and the audio can be located to the content on a particular videowall, and even move around the CFOspace if the content moves from one videowall to another.

The project is clearly a success as it has already won an award at Prolight + Sound in Frankfurt this April.  This project was a real first for hmparter says Langerwisch, “There are few cases in which we concentrated so much innovative media technology is such a small space.” Euring adds, “CFOspace clearly shows how worldwide collaboration will change in times of digitisation”.

Kit List

Aten CS17916 KVM switch
Barco ClickShare
Biamp TesiraForte DSP and Devio DCM-1 mics
BrightSign HD223 player
Crestron DM-MD32x32 matrix
Datapath FX-4 display wall controller
Extron MediaPort200 HDMI to USB bridge
Fohhn LX-10 loudspeakers
Kling & Freitag SonaSub subwoofer
Lumens VC-A70H PTZ HD camera
Panasonic TH-55VF1HW 55-in LCD displays
Yamaha XMV-8140-D amplifier

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