Talking Points with Lance Hutchinson, VP, Alpha Video & Audio
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CastNET, a division of Alpha Video & Audio, Inc., is a national integrator with over 45 years of experience in audiovisual system design, integration and support.
Alpha Video’s CastNET software was developed over the past 20 years to provide important multi-user workflow benefits for digital signage in a variety of markets including gaming, sports and business communications. With Alpha Video’s experience as an audiovisual integrator, CastNET can provide a single source solution for enterprise-class digital signage software in addition to hardware installation and network integration. Along with an award-winning in-house creative agency that designs motion graphics for digital signage, Alpha Video and CastNET offer a complete one-stop-shop for digital signage and IPTV solutions for any casino application.
Casino Journal’s Associate Editor, Joan Mantini spoke with Lance Hutchinson, vice president at Alpha Video & Audio, on CastNET’s involvement in the casino industry and what they have to offer casino operators. Below is what Hutchinson had to say.
How did CastNET get involved in the casino industry?
Hutchinson: We started developing digital signage for employee communications systems in casinos. Digital signage was a perfect application for casinos because many of their employees didn’t have traditional desk jobs, so things like e-mail were not easily accessible by casino employees. That made digital signage a great option in break rooms, lunch rooms, entrances, meeting rooms, and anywhere else that employees could be informed about benefits, daily offers for guests, policy reminders and new procedures.
After introducing digital signage for employee communications, we noted very quickly that casinos were trying to use digital signage in other parts of the casino, but it seemed that every department had found their own solution. An operator could have completely different solutions on the slot floor—for table games, in convention spaces, at reward kiosks, for in-room hotel channels and on marque signs. As we looked at these different applications, we discovered they each required interfaces with back-end systems that provided key data: for example, on the casino floor, you needed to talk to progressive controllers and slot systems; in the convention space you had to talk to the event management software; and for the food outlets and menu boards you might need to talk to a POS system. In each area there was a need to integrate with a specific back-end system to provide relevant and updated data.
CastNET had been built from the ground up with data integration in mind, so we quickly went to work to forge relationships with all the pertinent vendors in these areas to build interfaces so that a single enterprise-class solution could manage it all. As we added more and more interfaces and integrations with other casino vendor systems, we quickly became one of the leading digital signage solutions for the casino market.
What percentage of your overall business is from the casino industry?
Hutchinson: Fifty percent of our business is in the casino industry, 30 percent in sports venues and 20 percent in the remaining markets.
What are some of the services and products from CastNET that casino operators might find most desirable?
Hutchinson: CastNET can provide the digital signage and IPTV software solution, project design, hardware installation, creative content development and custom software integration that are required to deploy a complete casino solution. Our clients can pick and choose which services they want us to provide and which ones they will do themselves.
CastNET is an enterprise-class digital signage solution in that we can interface with the most popular back-end systems and automate displays of key data as part of casino digital marketing efforts. We have more than 100 system interfaces to date and more planned for the future.
CastNET can display floor-wide jackpot celebrations in real-time with attention-getting screen animations along with media, light and sound shows that create an environmental impact when someone wins a jackpot anywhere in the casino. This helps to share the feeling of luck and winning on the property and encourages guests to stay and play.
CastNET displays progressive jackpots that show what progressives are near there “must hit by” threshold to help drive play to those progressives.
CastNET provides control of every screen in a casino environment by using a simple web browser interface on a desktop, laptop or tablet. Screens can be manually controlled or scheduled to switch to a preset state. CastNET controls what digital signage content is displayed on every screen, the TV channels that are on and what music is played. Multiple screens can be controlled and reset with one click.
CastNET offers table game displays using standard iPads and tablets that show game names, min/max amounts, open and closed status and video animations of casino promotions.
CastNET fully integrates TV and digital signage using IPTV distribution that allows both digital signage messaging and live TV channels to be displayed at the same time. The content changes can be manually triggered, scheduled or triggered by other systems and real time events.
When incorporating digital signage into a desired area, what are some of the factors taken into consideration for choosing the right product?
Hutchinson: There are a number of factors to consider when deploying digital signage in a casino. The location and viewing area will drive a number of requirements including the type of content, the screen technology that should be used and if the viewing experience should be interactive using touch screen or BLE technologies. The goals for viewer engagement at each location can be anything from sharing the feeling of luck and winning, reducing perceived wait times, helping guests find their favorite games and encouraging guests to stay and play longer.
What new products or services have you recently introduced?
Hutchinson: We’ve recently started the “Ask CastNET” webinar series that provides free tips and techniques for CastNET users. In addition, we’ve also started to offer online training classes where CastNET clients can gain hands-on experience with our trainers.
What recent technology upgrades have played a significant role CastNET offerings?
Hutchinson: Our IPTV and digital signage integrations offer the highest quality open standard solution in the industry. We can support encryption of content and secure delivery as well as network distribution to any size screen or format.
Lance Hutchinson is vice president for Alpha Video & Audio, the Eden Prairie, Minn.-based provider of CastNET, a digital signage software solution for casinos. He can be reached at www.alphavideo.com.