Know the drill - Eastman Dental Institute

AVoIP has transformed a renowned dental teaching facility in the UK. Paul Milligan speaks to the integrator involved.

The Eastman Dental Institute (EDI) at University College London is a world renowned academic centre for postgraduate dentistry and offers Master's degrees and other specialist training. As part of the university’s 15-year investment plan, funding was released to move the Institute into two new premises, the Royal Free Hospital and the Rockefeller building, with the latter being the site of new teaching labs, surgeries, meeting rooms and a postgraduate resource centre.

System integrator Reflex has been a long-term technology partner of UCL’s, and after a tender process was chosen to install the AV. The ability to connect devices and bring the floors together was the key component to the eventual success of the project explains Yag Depala, Reflex’s sales and marketing director. “UCL’s AV facilities are all of exceptional quality, but even
by the university’s standards, this project was cutting edge. As an ancient, listed building, the option to knock down walls and create open spaces was not available. The only way to make the use of the Rockefeller building feasible was to use technology as an enabler, to interconnect people and content in real time, between rooms and across floors.”

The project, which extended over four floors, was planned with three target audiences in mind, all of whom had different requirements from the AV systems that were installed. The students’ needs were at the heart of the design, with spaces planned to enhance learning and research, including a large modular clinical teaching space, technical labs and an outpatients’ surgery, as well as a student resource centre with collaborative study pods and relaxation area. Teaching staff needed the ability to effectively educate banks of postgraduates, with individual workstations incorporating camera feeds so that they could teach multiple students from one central point whilst allowing tutors to observe and guide each of them individually. Finally, the professional staff required office space and meeting facilities designed for modern work practices, with collaboration at their core.

The spine of the AV at EDI is Crestron’s NVX AV over IP system, which currently has more than 160 end points (some student positions, others are teacher positions) connected and distributing video and audio throughout the entire building. The advantages of AVoIP are clear says Sam Barter, project manager, Reflex. “The flexibility is the massive plus of this system, you can add and remove as many inputs and endpoints as you need, and it's almost infinitely scalable. We could put another building in next to it and chuck in another 500 devices, and they could all connect straight into this system if we wanted to.”
Flexibility is a key theme here, on the first floor there are two teaching rooms, each designed for 14 students with two teaching positions, the rooms can also be joined together using divisible walls and AV programming.

On the second floor there are eight dentistry rooms which are equipped to exactly replicate a professional dentist’s surgery, complete with a dentist chair and overhead microscope etc.

In fact real dentistry procedures are carried out in these rooms by lecturers wearing special headsets. The video is taken using a GoPro Hero 5, converted for microscope mounting and an overhead PTZ camera. This footage is streamed to students
in other rooms who can copy the procedures using a dummy head with fake teeth. Because the streaming is in real-time and
the rooms are connected, the students can also ask the teachers questions as the procedure happens. On the fourth floor are two classrooms designed for 12 students and one teacher, and another two for 23 students and one teacher. Again, all three rooms can be merged into one big teaching space.

The 70 individual clinical workstations on the fourth floor all feature a workbench and a mannequin to mimic real-life practice. Each is fitted with an overhead dental microscope and Marshall Electronics 4K live camera and HP 24-in full HD monitor. Students can connect their laptops manually or wirelessly to the system and switch between their monitor and the information being shown on the lecturer’s display by using a Crestron push button controller, although this can be overridden by the master control.


The lecturer’s station has a display with a camera, to allow practical demonstrations to the students. A Crestron TSW-1060-B-S touch panel enables them to control what is shown on every monitor in the room. As mentioned above, the flexibility of the Crestron NVX AV over IP system allows lecturers on the fourth floor to speak directly to the dentists who are actively working on patients on the second floor via a Dante audio over IP Beyerdynamic Unite AP4 microphone system.

To handle streaming requiring quality and quantity it was imperative the infrastructure was right from the start says Barter. “As soon as the project came to me, the main thing that I wanted to make sure was that the uplinks between the comms room was able to take the network traffic.” To do this EDI installed 25GB fibre links between floors to make sure there was enough bandwidth to be able to transmit around the building. “Every single transmitter will kick up to 1GB of traffic, if you’ve got three or four teachers broadcasting at the same time that's 3 or 4GB right away, which will saturate a normal Cat5e cable, it needs to be fibre, which is what they’ve got,” adds Barter.

For professional staff, conference equipment has been added to meeting rooms located on the second and third floors, which includes NEC UHD displays, Huddly IQ cameras, and Crestron Smart soundbars. Laptops can connect to the displays via HDMI, DisplayPort and also wirelessly via Crestron Air Media. The camera connection is connected via USB through a Crestron FlipTop table cable cubby allowing BYOD connectivity. The system is controlled using a Crestron MPC3-201-B push button controller mounted to the meeting room table, whilst the Crestron controller gives the ability to switch sources, volume levels, and turn the display on/off. The new spaces not only provide effective meeting facilities but support collaboration both internally and with other institutions.

There were two big challenges in this particular project admits Barter, not unsurprisingly the disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic was one of them: “With Covid hitting right in the peak of our install, it caused quite an impact on the schedule and the builder’s progress, which obviously caused a knock-on effect factor of when we could get in to install our AV kit. There were a couple of visits where we attended the site to find it was nowhere near ready for us. So we had to revisit at a later date to come back in and carry out our install.”

Another major issue was the bespoke nature of the equipment used by dentists which caused difficulty in the physical installation. “The benches themselves are actually pressurised with compressed air for vacuuming and cleaning so there were no places for us to physically install our equipment,” says Barter. “We couldn't screw into the benches because obviously they were pressure tested and being screwed into them would have broken the pressure seal, so it was actually quite difficult for engineers to find places to actually install the equipment on every single desk. It involved lots of lying on our backs underneath desks and screwing underneath tabletops. Routing cables through the students’ furniture was quite difficult because there's such an abundance of dentistry equipment on these desks.”

Testing of the programming was done off- site, again due to Covid-19 restrictions. “Some were off-site and working via a VPN
with remote access. I had a commissioning engineer on-site who was physically looking at screens and pressing buttons and talking into microphones, and the two groups were working together. The programmers off-site would make changes and then upload changes remotely while my commissioning engineer on site would physically go around and test it.”

The client, in the form of Professor Stephen Porter, institute director, is delighted with the end result. “We now have the ability to provide postgraduates within the building with the opportunity to witness live demonstrations of new techniques, and for the supervisors to monitor and advise the students as they undertake procedures in our new skills facility. This not only enhances the educational experience but has allowed us to safely deliver top-notch training in the age of social distancing – something perhaps unique to ourselves within the world of dental education. The feedback from teachers and students has been remarkably positive. Of course, there were some minor initial issues but that was to be expected given the complexity of our requirements. What we now have will power us forward to further our reputation in the delivery of education to dentists, who in turn will be able to enhance the oral health care and lives of many.”


Beyerdynamic Dante AoIP Unite AP4 microphone system
Crestron NVX AV-over-IP system, sound bars, FlipTop table cubby
GoPro Hero 5 camera
HP 24-in full HD monitors
Huddly IQ meeting room cameras
Marshall Electronics 4K cameras
NEC displays

Article Categories

Most Viewed