Mersive Solstice at London Borough of Brent
Brent Council is one of 32 borough councils of London, UK, and serves as the local authority for the Borough of Brent. Located northwest of London’s city center, Brent is the second most culturally diverse borough in the UK, crowned The Mayor’s London Borough of Culture 2020. The borough’s long history of ethnic and cultural diversity and respect for equality is at the heart of its community services and actions. Brent is home to landmarks including Wembley Park, Wembley Stadium, The Ace Café, and the Neasden Temple – one of the largest Hindu temples outside India.
Based in Wembley, Brent Council’s main headquarters at the Brent Civic Centre building hosts a number of office and meeting spaces for use by council staff, as well as board rooms, a conference hall, and other event spaces that can be rented by the general public for meetings, weddings, corporate functions, and other events. Brent Council was seeking updated collaboration technology that could be deployed across the many different types of meeting spaces in their facility for many different purposes and be accessed and easily used by many different people – including council staff, outside visitors, and members of the community.
Brent Council was facing a number of pain points with its current meeting room technology and needed a solution that would remove unnecessary hardware, reduce maintenance call-outs, and provide secure and intuitive collaboration that could be easily used by the staff, visitors, and members of the community. To address their challenges, they worked with David Boyd, Director of Unified Consultancy, who had worked with the Council on previous projects.
One of the biggest challenges for Brent Council was the number of issues they had with cables and other hardware, including frequent maintenance call-outs to service missing or broken HDMI/VGA cables, flat keyboards, and other hardware issues. In addition to hardware costs, the issues were very time-consuming.
“As a council, security was also very important to them,” says Boyd. “Brent Council was looking for a solution that could be used by both internal staff members and in rooms used by members of the community, including public meeting spaces, the library, and event spaces.”
Altogether, Brent Council was looking for a collaboration solution that would:
Unified Consultancy worked with Brent Council FM Operations Manager Luke Lester to find a solution that would fit the Council’s needs, evaluating several different screen-sharing solutions. Having previously deployed Mersive Solstice at London’s Southwark Council, Boyd suggested taking a look at Mersive since the two councils worked closely together. After seeing Solstice in use, Brent Council members were impressed with its range of capabilities and began their own trial at the Brent Civic Centre.
Brent Council began with a small deployment and found that everyone loved it. Solstice addressed their current challenges while ticking all the boxes of what they were looking for in a collaboration technology.
After the small pilot project, they deployed Solstice throughout the Brent Civic Centre, timing the deployment with a council-wide switch from desktop computers to laptops. The new laptops were preconfigured with the Solstice app so council staff could walk into any room and begin sharing.
The full project included 107 Solstice Pods deployed across all Brent Civic Centre meeting rooms, quiet rooms, huddle spaces, and several offices. Solstice was also deployed in commercial spaces and several community spaces, including a local library and all event spaces within The Drum at Wembley, a large conference and events venue area within the Civic Centre that includes a grand hall, conference hall, board rooms, an atrium, winter garden, and bridge, all of which can be rented by the public for meetings, weddings, corporate events, and other celebrations.
Several capabilities set Mersive Solstice apart from other solutions that were evaluated.
Fully wireless solution
The shift away from heavy hardware and cabling to a fully wireless collaboration and presentation solution was the most critical need for Brent Council. After constantly replacing damaged and borrowed cables, Solstice’s wireless content sharing solution eliminated maintenance issues with cables and other room hardware. The Council also did not want to have to deal with dongles or other hardware that could easily go missing.
Intuitive and easy to use
Solstice’s ease of use was also a big factor in implementation and Brent Council was impressed with how intuitive it was to use for both staff and community members. “The screen sharing is very intuitive,” explained Lester, “It’s like an iPad, it doesn’t need an instruction guide. You don’t need an instruction guide with Mersive.” Lester found that even staff members who weren’t very technical had no problems using Solstice.
Agnostic to hardware, device, and platform
“The fact that Solstice is agnostic with operating systems, tools, and platforms is huge,” said Boyd, “they’re not trapped into one vendor.” The ability to share from a variety of devices including laptops, tablets, and smartphones is very important to the Council. Multiple wireless sharing options beyond the Solstice app, including AirPlay, Miracast, and browser-based sharing also help to provide easy connection and content sharing for those who can’t or don’t want to download the Solstice app.
“Brent Council liked that Solstice could be used by visitors without admin rights,” said Boyd. “They have a lot of other organizations coming in, including other government departments, where the users can’t download a new application to their device to connect, so their ability to connect easily to Solstice without the app is a major requirement.”
The security provided through Solstice’s dual network interface cards was very important to Brent Council’s IT Department, allowing secure, internal connection as well as guest access, separated by a firewall so network traffic cannot be bridged in any way. “If members of the community have a consultation around planning or housing, they can come in and share content from their own personal devices onto the council network and there is still security separating the staff from the guest,” Boyd explained.
“As a government body dealing with potentially sensitive information, the strong security and encryption behind Solstice is of huge importance. Having the knowledge that Solstice is penetration tested regularly was also very good.”
– David Boyd, Director of Unified Consultancy
Brent Council has been extremely pleased with their implementation of Solstice. “The Facilities Management team – the AV administrators in particular – they love it,” said Boyd. “They said that previously they’d had dozens of calls, having to go around and replace broken cables, or stolen cables, or keyboards without batteries, and other things like that. Since we installed Solstice, they’ve been able to get rid of all their cables as well as the room keyboard and mouse. Their calls have gone down to pretty much none.”
“The reactive callouts from the team have gone down drastically. The cords don’t disappear. It’s user friendly. And the screen sharing is very intuitive,” said Lester, listing many of their benefits from Solstice.
With the COVID-19 pandemic, Brent Council has also found Solstice’s digital signage integration feature to be very useful for easily spreading corporate messaging and announcements. Simple health and safety messages such as reminding people to go home if they have a high temperature have been easy to share throughout the Civic Centre using digital signage playback when Solstice isn’t being used for collaboration.
In addition to solving current challenges faced with hardware and maintenance issues and costs and providing a secure, easy-to-use collaboration solution for Brent Council staff and residents of the community, Brent Council was impressed by additional capabilities that Solstice provides that they plan to implement in the future, including Solstice Conference.
“Solstice Conference is a great value-add for Brent Council,” remarked Boyd. “With COVID they’ve had to push video conferencing and have looked at other products such as the Teams Rooms and it’s great that they can make use of their existing technology investment with Solstice.”
Having the agnostic meeting support through Solstice Conference is critical to the Council. “Early on, they ruled out the vendor-locked systems because, while they primarily use Teams, they work closely with various other government organizations and partners that use every conferencing system under the sun,” says Boyd. “And, because their users are already familiar with using Solstice, video conferencing through Solstice Conference is a very easy learning curve for the users, rather than deploying a whole new conferencing system and learning it from scratch.”
Brent Council also likes that Solstice’s video conferencing support is a no-touch solution for video conferencing rather than having to use touch panels or cables, as getting rid of unnecessary and maintenance-heavy hardware points was a key priority for the Council
Overall, Brent Council has had tremendous success with Mersive. Solstice provided a flexible solution that could be deployed across all of their meeting spaces – from large meeting rooms and conference/event halls to small huddle spaces and private offices – while also addressing their primary pain points with previous systems, including hardware and maintenance issues, security concerns, and ease-of-use for both internal Council members and external visitors and community members.
In addition to solving challenges, Brent Council has been able to leverage their existing investment with Mersive for additional value-add capabilities such as digital signage integration and future conferencing support needs, both of which have become increasingly important with the growth of remote and hybrid work.