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Eagle-eyed Londoners may have noticed a familiar icon on their horizon has recently become rather brighter and sharper.

Since 2009 the BT Tower has been ringed by a 360 degree curved screen, known officially as the Infoband. The screen is used to display the BT logo and help publicise special events, particularly with BT’s charity partners like Comic Relief and Children in Need.

The brightness and clarity of what can be achieved with LED screen technology has moved on dramatically since 2009, and as such in 2015 BT embarked on the process of completely renovating the Infoband.

The search for the best new tech

Bluman Associates – BT’s partners for the project – wanted to find the technology that could take this London landmark into the next decade and beyond. Brompton Technology's Tessera system was deemed to be to be the perfect fit for panel control and processing.

Bluman Associates, in conjunction with consultant Bob Kronman of Kronman Associates, narrowed down the shortlist of potential LED panel suppliers to two candidates. With the help of Brompton's Asia based FAE and project management resources, these two competitors both developed prototypes using the Brompton R2 panel receiver card.

In the summer of 2016, a shoot-out of test screens was held on the Tower itself to allow all major stakeholders to participate in the final decision. LED screen vendor ESD Lumen from Shenzhen China emerged victorious. Brompton has supplied R2 receiver cards for the 396 active panels which comprise the finished screen, and two Brompton M2 processors (1 main and 1 spare) with DMX input capability.

Adaptive brightness control

Brompton liaised with Bluman Associates to design a front-end layout which would fit the client’s daylight-responsive control brief. A clever, adaptive control design needs a clever, adaptive control system. For this, Brompton turned to its sister company Pharos Architectural Controls, whose award-winning lighting control systems are already running in some of London’s other most notable landmarks; including the London Eye, the National Theatre, and the National History Museum.

Pharos supplied a Pharos Touch Panel Controller, EXT extension box, and four light sensors to work in tandem with the Brompton M2 processors. The TPC receives feeds from the light sensors mounted at the top of the Tower and based on pre-programmed triggers, it then communicates with the Brompton M2 processors using its Artnet interface to appropriately control the output screen brightness.

As night-time falls or cloudy conditions come overhead, the system will very slowly dim the screen to a more suitable brightness level. The system also has redundant sensors and is smart enough to notice and ignore data from one sensor if it has moved too far out of range to be caused by normal atmospheric conditions. It will flag this anomaly via the TPC display (suggesting cleaning or service may be required).

Peace of mind

The Pharos system monitors the "heartbeat" of the active M2 processor. In the unlikely event of the processor failing, the TPC can immediately switch control over to the backup unit in the rack. This is done by means of an IP controlled Power Strip creating an automated back-up system (essential when the tower is unmanned at night).

Brompton Technology provided training both to the installation team for the project, and to the on-site BT staff who will run and maintain the system going forward.

The entire team at Brompton are proud to have been involved with the refurbishment of such an iconic London landmark.

Bob Kronman said, of working with Brompton:

"For a brand like BT who need to show clear, concise brand messages, you really need in depth knowledge of the LED market. We run a full LED database that allows us to quickly and efficiently analyse this information. Pod [Bluman] and I have worked together for a long time and this has been another successful, high-profile project.

Until now the BT logo was never correct in terms of colour. The Brompton backbone provides great control for individual pixels, so colour adjustments and accuracy will be correct, enhancing any messages BT are portraying on the screens."

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