IPE has been in business as a system integrator for 35 years and still is, but for the last 10 years its flagship, proprietary Intelligent Display System (IDS) has been the dominant factor in taking the company forward. And with some equally intelligent siblings from IPE now entering the market it is a good time to celebrate 10 years of IDSuccess.
To date, nearly 200 IDS systems have been supplied worldwide, and that number is growing monthly. IDS systems are currently operating on five continents in more than 27 countries.
What that means is there are now more than 4000 attached IDS devices operating, comprised in total of more than 2500 IDS media players and touchscreens providing control to more than 800 IP-based IDS lamps. It doesn’t stop there though, IDS has an extensive toolkit of plugins for seamless integration with third-party systems, which helps for streamlining multiple elements of a critical workflow. In short, IDS simplifies the complicated.
All of this speaks to unparalleled reliability, and ample evidence of that goes right back to IDS Number One, which was supplied to Technicolor for ITV playout in 2008. It was initially just a request for IPE to “Put some clocks on screens”. Soon after, given that ITV had some voice rooms, they added, “Could you add some tally lights to the clocks, with dedicated screens to display useful information outside each studio or booth?”
At the time, we were not aware of any other commercial software-based tally, cue-lights, and clocks on a dedicated display screen system on the market, with the main function to identify precisely who was using a studio or booth, what for, and, provisionally, for how long.
Since its conception and first installation in 2008, IDS Number One is still performing all of those functions 24/7 to this day. IPE saw a need that few people knew they had and in fairly short order became the first company to provide a network solution that included an in-house designed and built mini-PC on the back of every display screen, enabling it to do everything the user required, and more. In essence, IDS fixed a problem that people didn’t know they had, with a solution they didn’t know was available!
Some products and services evolve out of necessity, usually either to survive or remain relevant. Others evolve as a result of good ideas well implemented. IPE’s IDS is the result of both, and in 2018 is celebrating a decade of successful evolution of what is now the most popular information display system on the planet, and the only one specifically designed for – but no longer limited to - broadcast applications.
And these 10 years of development have taken place in the midst of increasingly profound changes in what can still, almost, be called “broadcasting”. Fortunately, IDS has an in-built ability to migrate, which is crucial to its longevity.
Best to let IPE Managing Director and “modest visionary”, Colin Judge, elaborate.
IPE had been, and still is, a systems integration company. But 10 years ago we began to notice that we were
increasingly building separate systems to take care of myriad display and control requirements and it was consuming a lot of time, and money, for both us and our customers. Back then there seemed to be no way around making many different shapes and sizes of metal boxes, each to house technology for specific information, such as timing or tally.
It was sometimes soul-destroying to complete a major installation, involving hundreds of hours and much more in terms of costs to the customer, multiple suppliers, and ourselves, to install a complex, state-of-the-art (at the time) studio to a detailed specification and find that the first time it was used someone would sit at a station and say, “But where’s my digital clock? There’s an analogue one, but it’s in the wrong place. This won’t do.”
To be told at the end of a major studio refurbishment job that the main concern is the location – or lack of – a digital clock, which was deemed to be, by far, the most important aspect of that particular studio, is not really what you want to hear.
However, we soon realised the operator had a point, and it was a good one. A digital clock located in precisely the right position was a key factor in the operator’s ability to do the job properly, and the ability to change clock style by use of a touchscreen to meet different production requirements also proved to be invaluable.
The ability to scale and customise IDS is one of its USPs and is consistently a key benefit for deployment. At an early stage of development we realised that although studios can be very similar, the staff working in them can be very different. This is evident in a very particular request we had for one particular installation. We were approached by someone who was visually impaired and the standard clock just wasn’t suitable. We therefore configured IDS so that a custom clock for use by those with this particular impairment could be displayed at the touch of a button on an IDS touchscreen. This small tweak enabled someone to use IDS who previously would have had to make do with an inadequate solution.
Of course, making that happen - at the time - required a fairly substantial overhaul. It was maddening, time consuming, and hugely frustrating. And it happened again with another client shortly thereafter. Subtle changes were required that required a lot of necessary, but frustrating, backfilling. The vagaries of what management wanted and what the day-to-day user actually needed didn’t always marry up, which meant considerable, and sometimes costly, changes had to be made after the fact. Ironically, however, these situations ended up delivering considerable value to IPE because, in many ways, those frustrations were the catalyst for what became IDS.
In short, we knew there had to be a better way. We didn’t set out to find it because, at the time, it didn’t exist. Instead, we set out to create it. IDS was and still is very much an innovator and not an imitator.
Our thinking was that, if all the information an operator needed was on a single, convenient and highly legible display screen – which no one was doing until we decided to do it – it could not only provide all the info at a glance, we could eventually take it further and enable an almost limitless number of control operations to take place at the touch of a few, perhaps just one, button. Moreover, regular or even casual users could configure the system to do exactly what they needed without requiring a partial or complete hardware or software overhaul.
So, we set about making that happen, which became the IDS we see currently. Now, 10 years on, we’ve never looked back. IDS has evolved from strength and capability to greater strength and capability, but has never lost the power of its essence.
The ability to customise a studio setup at the touch of a button is something that had, surprisingly until IDS, been largely overlooked, often for subtle requirements such as specific lighting, camera operations, display information (inside and outside the studio) not to mention the ability to share that information throughout a facility – or throughout the globe, which is now increasingly in vogue with the advent of remote/IP production scenarios. IDS is ideally suited to both scenarios and has repeatedly demonstrated the flexibility to grow and evolve to meet new production requirements, especially given the profound changes that have taken place over the last decade, which continue at pace today.
IDS has been now augmented with IPE’s EMU3 intelligent power management units, which can be used as standalone devices but are now being integrated to further augment IDS. You can assign inputs to EMU3 and use it as a way of collecting information from the IDS network, or conversely, use an IDS touchscreen to configure the EMU3 to get the appropriate information back to indicate, for example, if ports are switched on or off, if protection monitoring is engaged, and many other parameters. IPE has already done this for some major global broadcasters, who now regard it as essential.
Being regarded as essential for something that most didn’t know they were missing is powerful testament to the strength, functionality, and flexibility of IDS and EMU3. IDS displays information. EMU3 provides information. They’re a natural pairing.
And both product’s continued development – still based on the core intelligence that made their name - is testament to a longevity that is both revolutionary and, shall we say, evolutionary.
This is self-evident in IPE’s changing client base, from BBC to YouTube; Tate Modern to Houses of Parliament; luxury yachts to space agencies, IDS and EMU3 are blazing a trail in a fast paced and dynamically changing industry.
However, IPE and the products wouldn’t exist without its investment in its team. Behind the scenes IPE has built an enviable reputation in nurturing a strong and determined team who constantly strive to improve and deliver the best to its clients. The emphasis is on “can do”. IPE ensures that at every step, client engagement surpasses expectations and continues after we have left site. IPE has invested a lot of time in teaming up with the very best partners and resellers who share the same principles, which in turn ensures that no matter where in the world a customer is located, they will receive the same degree of IPE professionalism and expertise.
In today’s ever-changing market, where stakeholders are entering with varied skillsets from more diverse sectors such as IT, AV, and Creative, the need to constantly reinvent and evolve has never been stronger. IDS is the final piece of the jigsaw, an enabler that sits between multiple operations and delivers on all counts. It streamlines efficiencies and provides the simplified control demanded by today’s changing technical landscape. The combination of IDS and EMU3 solutions truly keep everyone ahead of the game by simplifying the complicated and putting the user in control.
What role does IABM membership play in IPE’s continuing success? We wouldn’t be without it; since we joined IABM in 2015, we’ve found it to be a consistent source of industry insights that have helped inform our decisions in terms of purchasing trends, business intelligence, and importantly for us as we expand, global and regional analysis that enables us to tailor our offerings for specific local requirements.
The collective experience – and knowledge sharing opportunities – afforded by IABM are invaluable for businesses of any size, but particularly those of us who have grown rapidly from modest beginnings.