Winning the lottery?

Icelandic integration firm Exton has just been awarded a huge contract for a national concert centre, so Chris Fitzsimmons caught up with CEO Sverrir Hreidarsson to talk more about it.

It’s perhaps a little unfair to begin by mentioning that I first came across Exton whilst looking for something about a well-known manufacturer of video processing products. However that’s the truth and ever since then InAVate has been looking for an excuse to involve one of our most northerly outposts in the magazine.

The recent announcement that Exton has been awarded the contract to supply sound, communication and lighting systems to the new Icelandic National Concert and Conference Centre has afforded us such an opportunity.

Scheduled to open in Reykjavik’s East Harbour in December 09 the building will house a centre for music, culture and tourism as well as playing host to international conferences.

However, before getting on the to the subject of the NCC, I asked Sverrir Hreidarsson, Exton’s CEO, for a bit of background on the company and himself – has he always been involved in the AV industry?

“I started recording engineering at a young age,” began Hreidarsson, “and from then I moved into radio, before getting into the software business. I was developing scheduling software for radio programmes. For a while after that I was in the marketing business – my immediate roll before joining Exton as CEO was as Director of Marketing for Vodafone in Iceland.”

Exton itself was founded in 1993, and since then has absorbed a number of smaller companies to reach its current size of 35 employees. As Hreidarsson remarked, that’s pretty big for an AV company in Iceland, in many ways it’s huge, considering the population is only about 300,000.

This small size makes the undertaking of such a project as the NCC all the more impressive. I asked Sverrir for an idea of what is being planned.

“Well, the centre will have four halls. The largest of which will seat 1850 – that’s the main concert hall. Then you have the conference hall, and the recital hall, which is smaller still. The fourth hall is simply called the fourth hall, and is intended to be a multipurpose venue.”

The sound reinforcement system proposed by Exton consists of a mixture of Meyer Sound active loudspeakers throughout the building, coupled with Yamaha digital desks with a fibre-based audio distribution system from Optocore.

There will also be a Sennheiser, eight-channel translation and assistive listening system and a Clear-Com Eclipse intercom solution distributed site-wide on the same network. Part of the specification for the communications solution is to ensure the building can be used for international events.

At this point it’s worth noting the value of this project. Whilst Hreidarsson was unwilling to go on record with the value of the tenders he has won, or is involved with current bids on, the total technology budget for the centre is looking like approaching twenty million Euros. Such is the scale of the investment in the NCC, that there has been pressure on the government to delay the project due to the inflationary pressures it is exerting on Iceland’s economy. As I put it to Sverrir – it’s a big boulder dropping into a relatively small lake.

It’s a massive undertaking for a relatively small company, but they remain undaunted.

“We are working with a couple of subcontractors on this. We are using an electrical firm for cable pulls, and we’ve worked closely with ETC on production lighting and the control system design. On the sound side we’ve worked with Informationstechnik who have been helping us with rack building and termination.”

“Everything has been built in Iceland and we’ve actually had to rent more space during this project. We build everything locally and then ship it to the site.” explained Hreidarsson.

The NCC hasn’t caused everything else to grind to a halt either. Approximately six Exton employees are involved full time on the project, and will be for the next year or so. However other business must continue so the broadcast and rental teams remain active.

So far only the Communications, Sound and Lighting tender has been awarded, in one block. Exton has also entered a bid for the A/V system. Sverrir has undisguised glee in his voice as he talks about his hopes for the site.

“I think it [the A/V] will also be quite ambitious. There is extensive IP-network infrastructure in the building. Even the lighting is IP-networked and the interface for the control of the house lights will be AMX.

Essentially we are a company of technology nerds. Of course, we are trying to run a business, but there is always the ambition to work with the latest technologies. We have been very fortunate to be able to do that. This project is like winning the lottery in this regard, both in terms of the technology we can use and the revenue for Exton.”

“And it doesn’t stop at the conference centre. The whole eastern end of the docks is to be developed. There is a plan to build a large hotel complex there for conference attendees, as well as an office complex. To top it all off, the largest stockholder in the project The Landsbankinn, intends to build its brand new headquarters there.

The site will be active for years to come, and we want all the business!”

Article Categories