Columbus Zoo tames ‘wild’ audio network

AT: Dean Lamanna

POWELL, Ohio — With a 580-acre campus, the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium is more than just home to 10,000 animal species. Also featuring a water park, a golf course and various dining options, it welcomes nearly 2.5 million visitors annually.

With the attraction’s expansion over the years, different audio systems by different designers and contractors were deployed to support a variety of background music and public-address systems. This resulted in an inefficient and ineffective system with over 900 unintegrated audio points, very low security, minimal control capabilities and no centralized network management.

With so many devices, cross-points and administrators involved in controlling the audio, the zoo needed a system to manage its hardware in an efficient and secure manner.

The zoo turned to Audinate, a leading provider of audio solutions for the audiovisual (AV) industry — utilizing Dante AV networking technology to unify and enable the more than 300 speakers, 50 amplifiers, 50 wireless microphones and 20 digital processors from multiple vendors already installed throughout the property.

The Dante system operates over a single, standard Internet Protocol (IP) network. Using nothing more than an Ethernet cable, it replaces traditional analogue audio cables by transmitting synchronized audio signals across large distances to multiple locations simultaneously.

Despite the significant gains the zoo realized by moving to a Dante AV network, some challenges remained. Its next step was to deploy Audinate’s Dante Domain Manager network management software, which organizes and categorizes audio streams by room, building and site. This allowed the zoo not only to unify its systems, but to control the audio streams and manage who has access to the network.

“We have a strong community that we strive to support,” said Gregg Oosterbaan, the Columbus Zoo’s vice president of technology strategy. “Whether that’s through public address systems, special events or large corporate outings, keeping our technology and audio systems on the forefront of performance is important.

“The beauty of Dante Domain Manager is that we have a core standard set of systems now that are all controlled and communicate over our existing network infrastructure. And because it’s all IP-connected, we can continue to add new systems to our Dante system in a clean and simple way.”

Dante Domain Manager also brings user authentication, audit capabilities and role-based security to audio networks. It integrates seamlessly into any Dante-enabled product to provide the interoperability, flexibility and scalability to design and manage an enterprise-scaled AV system.

The zoo uses Dante Domain Manager’s suite of information technology (IT)-focused tools to keep its network secure and free of external — and even internal — threats and changes. With its previous, unsecured system, it became too easy for unwanted changes to be made, and accidents occurred. Dante Domain Manager combats these unwanted changes and puts all control in the hands of the network administrator — a key tool for the zoo, which has three employees working with the software.

“Security is extremely important in today’s world,” Oosterbaan said. “Regardless of the event or location, with Dante Domain Manager, we can control the streams and control who has access.”

Josh Rush, senior vice president of marketing and products for Audinate, which is headquartered in Australia and has regional offices in Portland, Ore., as well as in the U.K. and Hong Kong, said the Dante setup delivers “an excellent customer experience — and also the efficiency and peace of mind that the Columbus Zoo’s management requires.” The layering of Dante Domain Manager over the network, he added, provides even higher levels of IT-grade administration, security and system control.

“This is a showcase deployment we’re very proud of,” Rush said. “It demonstrates how a dynamic networked audio system can deliver an immersive, flexible audio experience for the amusement industry.”

This article appears in the September 2018 issue of Amusement Today.

Get all the industry news delivered to your door!