An AV installation is providing the Lithuanian people with a better insight into the workings of its local government. Anna Mitchell reports on voting, discussion and video streaming solutions that bring legislation to the people.
Lithuania is half way through an EU funded project that will provide its citizens with a greater insight into their government. The Electronic Democracy drive started in 2010 and by 2012 the Lithuanian Government hopes to have completed the project within all 60 self-government institutions.
Audiotonas, a Lithuanian distributor and AV systems design and integration specialist, has so far won about half of projects up for grabs in the Baltic state.
“Audiotonas has won 26 contracts at the moment with a further 22 going to other companies. There are currently 11 contracts in the tender stage,” said Darius Viskaitis, an engineer at Audiotonas and a manager on the project.
Viskaitis believes Audiotonas’ success in scooping so many of the available contracts lies with the company’s experience. “Audiotonas has worked in the conference business since 1994 and it is a very well-known company in the market.
“Our company was very active from the beginning of the e-democracy project. We, and our IT partners, carried out a lot of presentations [to those awarding contracts] and one big seminar in Kaunas.”
Each region was awarded finance from EU structural funds according to the its population. The local governments then embarked on projects to overhaul voting and discussion systems as well as creating web portals to allow the Lithuanian people an insight into the workings of governments and the development of legislation.
The projects that Audiotonas handled included installation of voting and discussion systems for the government officials. A video system with cameras was also implemented and the captured proceedings are then streamed online and archived. The integrator was also tasked with overhauling audio systems and providing an automated control system. The projects also required servers and PCs to handle the web streaming and archiving processes.
Audiotonas used largely the same technology template for each of the installations, varying the size and scale of the deployment according to the individual needs of the region. Across all installations the company implemented a DIS DCS6000 digital congress system to handling voting and discussion. On average each installation required between 20 and 30 units.
In addition portable DC699OP or DM6680P units were used alongside the congress systems. Some installations required the use of flush mount systems and Auditonas opted for the DM/CM6510F or CM/DM6560F models.
Across all installations DIS SW6000 software, which was fully translated into Lithuanian, was implemented. The DC6990P user interface is also in Lithuanian.
A common factor throughout the roll-out was also the implementation of Crestron MP2E media processors. In each region this is used as the central system controller and camera switcher. The MP2E automatically switches cameras and calls presets when microphones are turned on. Furthermore it controls all the AV components in the conference hall. These include projectors, displays, monitors and lighting. Xpanel, a Crestron web based control panel, was programmed for operators to be able to manage the system’s components.
In some of the larger installations Audiotonas implemented DIS SW7000 streaming and archiving software. This is where the online portal came into play as the country’s citizens are able to watch online city council meetings. Using web applications, provided by a third party, those watching the stream over internet can comment and even vote for or against discussed subjects.
Each self-government institution is also using a document management system where all legislation projects are registered. Audiotonas integrated the system with the DIS SW6000 software so all legislation documents are passed automatically to DIS SW6000 when the agenda for a meeting is being prepared. After the meeting all voting results are passed back to the document management system and website as well. Therefore, all citizens can see voting results online and straight after a meeting.
Although the company was able to create a technology template that could be adapted to each installation it still had to largely look at the projects separately. “Having one contract did not give us any better chance of winning the next,” says Viskaitis. “Each contract was a different story.
“We have 60 self-government institutions in our country, each individual self-government institution requested to take part in the e-democracy project. Only some tenders were centralised by districts, with about four to seven self-governments in one tender.
“As each project is completely financed by EU funds, all the tender procedures and project implementation are strictly controlled by the Central Project Management Agency.”
Within the local government institutions the Department of Investment and strategic planning was tasked with the common tender procedures and contract signing. The IT departments also got involved with the technical requirements and provided expertise for the technical part of the tender offer.
Audiotonas has installed about 70 DIS DC6990P and around 250 DM6680P portable conference units with voting across all the projects it has handled. A further 400 DIS CM/DM6510F and CM/DM6560F flush mount conference units with voting were installed across the regions.
Projectors were sourced from NEC with around 18 NP-series units installed. Around ten LCD displays were installed, made up of Samsung, NEC and Sony models. The PTZ cameras selected were Sony EVI-D100P models and Auditonas have so far used around 46 units. Seven Biamp Nexia CS units handle digital audio processing and the integrator supplied 20 MP2E Crestron media processors.
An electrical contractor was not used as Audiotonas has a license to carry out electrical works. Tasker and Kramer cables were used throughout the installations. “We used balanced audio cable, RGBHV/VGA for computer graphics, C-Video for cameras, Cat5 for Ethernet, DIS DCS 6000 system and serial control signals,” explains Viskaitis.
Audiotonas was only able to use existing cabling in some of the projects and with almost all the buildings being fairly old, Viskaitis said cabling did become very complicated.
“The biggest challenge,” he continues, “was to integrate the electronic voting system with the document management system and website. One of the goals of e-democracy was to make the city government activity public for all citizens. So we had to install three different systems; the electronic voting system, the video streaming system and the document management system and website. All of these systems had to be interconnected into one integrated solution and had to be able to exchange data with each other.”
Faced with these specific challenges Audiotonas partnered with an IT company that carried out a great deal of the programming for the integration.
Viskaitis summaries the benefits the system has had on local government procedures: “Administration employees use document management system to register, regulate and sign legal projects. Before a meeting, the agenda is prepared automatically in document management system and is transferred to DIS SW 6000 conference software. During the meeting we use live video streaming, in the larger projects, to allow citizens to watch live video from a website.
“Cameras are controlled automatically. When a delegate turns on their mike, the camera moves to the speaker. Cameras can also be controlled manually from the Crestron X-Panel. Voting results are logged automatically to the websites and document management systems during the meeting. After a meeting video is archived, voting is recorded and the status of legal acts is submitted.
With the system in place city council activities are now published for Lithuanian people to see. It also simplifies government work, such as preparing meetings, agendas, voting result counting, documenting and publishing.
A view into the a selection of the web portals can be found by following the links below:
Trakai city council meetings - http://184.108.40.206/jd710/
Ukmerge city council meetings - http://220.127.116.11/jd710/
Panevezys city council meetings - http://18.104.22.168/jd710/
Biamp Nexia audio processor
Bittner Audio power amplifier
DIS central, chairman, delegate and podium units and software
Martin Audio loudspeakers
Adeo Screen motorised screens
Crestron control processors
HP video streaming server, encoder PC
Kramer cables, VGA/RGBHV matrixes, Cat5 extenders
NEC video projectors and LCD displays
ViewCast encoder board
Samsung LCD displays
Sony PTZ cameras and LCD displays