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The Art of Wi-Fi Install: How an AV Integrator Added Wireles Published:2017-10-18

The Phoenix Art Museum is a 203,000-square-foot museum with multi-level floors and 18,000 works of art from around the world, including American, Western American, European, Latin American, Asian, contemporary, modern, photography, and fashion collections. Opened in 1959, the museum celebrates over 50 years of art enrichment and hosts various festivals, live performances, independent art films, and educational programs.

To meet the coverage requirements with as few WAPs as possible, multiple Pakedge W6 were selected as access points for their high power and high coverage capabilities.

The museum was looking to deploy a full-property wireless network to support two basic needs—providing connectivity for staff, and enhancing the visitor experience by integrating technology into its art exhibits and providing complementary guest Wi-Fi service.

Cox Communications came with its go-to partner, Desert Sound and Security, and presented an integrated team that worked seamlessly with the client. Jim Miller of Desert Sound & Security was tasked with the network design and installation inside the museum while Cox Communications provided the internet services and the necessary construction to bring fiber to the museum doors. Miller’s strategic partnership with Cox Communications and collaboration on past projects was critical to winning this project.

“We needed a high-end Wi-Fi system to cover 170,000-plus square feet of public space at the Phoenix Art Museum,” said Keith Williams, information systems manager of the Phoenix Art Museum. “This is not a project we would turn over to just anyone as there were a number of challenges, including the building layout, coverage requirements, and the additional considerations of working in a ‘clean room’ museum environment around priceless artworks. Desert Sound & Security were true professionals, and they spent the time to fully understand our needs first.”

Each installation project is unique, and this one was no exception. An art museum was far from an ordinary jobsite—moving precious art exhibits around made museum curators nervous. The process requires a strict set of rules and is sometimes not even possible. Extreme care and protective measures are required. The elaborate architecture of the building, along with the building materials (stone, glass, concrete, and metal) added to the complexity. There was limited access to hidden space for installation materials, cable and wiring routing, and hidden network devices. The extensive use of concrete walls prevented the drilling of holes in many places. “You walk into this area,” Miller recounted, “and all there is, is a concrete stairwell that goes from the basement up to the third floor. You’re like, ‘Okay, how do we get coverage and cabling through here?’” Adding to the challenge was that the installation team also had only one day a week to work, as the museum was open to the public for the other six.

Most people may have said such an installation was impossible, but Miller and his team were undeterred. “We always figure out a way,” he said.

Due to the unique museum layout and other installation obstacles, the proper selection and specifications of the wireless access point (WAP) technology was critical to the project success. To meet the coverage requirements with as few WAPs as possible, Miller selected multiple Pakedge W6 access points for their high power and high coverage capabilities. “We had one room that was 10,000 square feet,” he stated. “Yeah it’s open, but it had 60 foot ceilings and one access point was able to cover that area.”

With only one day a week to work, Miller had to work quickly and efficiently. The team used the Pakedge C36 WAP Controller to synchronize 26 access points (all from the Pakedge W6x series) as one. This pushed the same configuration automatically into each individual access point, minimizing room for error. “Ninety-seven percent of everything got updated the first try,” Miller said. “It was simple. It was straightforward, going into it and just… doing it.” Once the network was deployed, the C36 controller ensured seamless wireless network performance, as well as provided museum IT staff with the tools and capability to manage, monitor and maintain the network. Meanwhile, three Pakedge S8Hav managed switches, connected to each other through fiber optic cables, ensured that even the WAPs in the remote parts of the museum were connected

While running cabling was a challenge, Miller’s team found a way. They installed equipment and wires in unexpected areas, such as inside elevator shafts and behind ledges. They used lengthy fiber cables that ran over 450 feet long to connect buildings. They took out existing wires to replace them with new cabling. To protect artwork and ensure a quality network installation, Miller doubled up the size of his team.

The finishing touch was as important part of the work itself. In an art museum, aesthetics matter. Although Miller’s team was ultimately able to find hiding spots and other ways to gracefully blend the WAPs into the museum architecture, Miller was prepared to re-paint some of the equipment white to match the walls. The museum told him the original equipment was fine. Still, this level of attention to detail, developed by experience in the high-end residential AV projects (where aesthetics are crucial), was what differentiated Desert Sound & Security from its competitors.