Two guiding principles at Telnyx are “Work Together” and “Leverage the Experience of Others”, the latter being a direct consequence of the former. Our new office construction project is a manifestation of these two principles. We set out to create the best environment suited for productivity, collaboration and innovation, showcasing the core values of our business without losing the space’s aesthetic appeal.
An Optimal Space
Located in heart of Chicago’s vibrant River North neighborhood – also known as the Gallery District - the 5-story brick building houses spacious loft-style offices. The Telnyx space occupies most of the top floor at 6,200 square feet. Two rows of wooden columns span the length of the space with exposed wooden joists across the width of the 17-foot ceiling. Eight north-facing 12-foot windows supply the space with a generous amount of natural light.
Carbonized steel structures cordon off the south side, creating meeting spaces for collaboration. Floor-to-ceiling glass panels fill the front of the hubs, symbolizing Telnyx’s values of transparency and accountability. A fully integrated control system allows each room to control HVAC, lighting and AV equipment all from a 7-inch touch panel. The customized A/V system is matrix switched, which affords each hub the maximum flexibility in choosing its A/V source – be it from within the hub, another hub, a networked device or your cellphone.
Designed to scale with the company, the kitchen will make a professional restaurant chef envious. Apart from the usual appliances – multiple microwaves, ovens, fridges, dishwashers, and ice maker – the kitchen also prominently features a full 4x22 feet quartz counter/bar top.
The open space
Eight desk banks are evenly placed in the open space of the loft. Each bank is comprised of six individual stations, featuring Steelcase’s Airtouch standing desks and leather Gesture chairs. To add to the industrial feel of the loft, submarine lights were installed on each of the seven wooden columns in the main space. The 14 lights are controlled wirelessly from a Raspberry Pi with a custom-made shield. The color of the lights corresponds to specific alerts. The lights are normally green but will turn yellow to indicate a warning state. In the event of an emergency, the lights will turn red as the alarm goes off throughout the building.
The highlight of Telnyx's new office are the 30 55-inch narrow bezel LCD panels that make up the Mission Control video wall. It displays crucial business metrics in addition to network health information. This, again, reflects our company’s principles of transparency and accountability.
The Process Story
The idea of the video wall was conceived during the holidays of 2015. Thwarted by the prohibitive price of the video solutions on the market, we decided to build the server out of commodity hardware – a simple server box with off-the-shelf CPUs and video cards. We built the testbed with regular desktop monitors. AMD’s video card comes with a software that allows grouping monitors together as one screen. Unfortunately, the grouping is limited to six screens per video card, and grouped screens can’t be grouped any further. At the same time, we started sourcing the actual LCD panels from China via Alibaba. After the initial conversation and specification documents, we narrowed down seven suppliers for on-site visits in Shenzhen and Shanghai.
At this point, we haven’t seen any real video walls in action nor successfully modeled what we wanted on a smaller scale. Everything we know, we learned via the conservation and bidding documents submitted by the Chinese suppliers. After the factory visit, we got the landscape of the video wall business.
Two paths to a video wall
- Use LCD panels as dumb monitors and leave the heavy lifting to a video switcher/server that can switch and aggregate multiple input sources. This solution is suitable for traffic or a security control center where multiple IP cameras connect to the server. This is also the more prevalent but expensive solution in the US market.
- Use semi smart panels and let them do distributed video processing. This was the suitable choice for us because we would be serving our dashboard out of one source – a PC – and we had no need for a matrix switcher.
In addition, we learned that all of these manufacturers were mere system integrators - they were not the OEM for any of the components. Samsung made the naked narrow bezel LCD panels. Another company that specializes in making embedded video processors made the& panel driver board. The power supply board was a generic one that is used in most digital signage applications. Having learned this, we were able to gain complete flexibility in specifying the system we needed based on the application we were going to create.
Further negotiations on pricing and logistics pushed the actual delivery of the panels to August of 2016. A few damaged panels in shipping and arrangement for replacement pushed the online date of the fully functional video wall to November 2016 - almost a year after we started the proof of concept.
At Telnyx, we entrust important things to people who are willing to learn - the video wall was an example of that. We may not have had the experience, and the work may not have seemed to be relevant to the business at the time, but we knew that it would pay dividends in the future. Another example of our scrappiness is how we went about designing our new office. The easy way would’ve been to hire a general contractor and set specifications and drawings for the space. The general contractor would’ve taken care of everything from arranging meetings between the architect and Telnyx, permitting, monitoring the subcontractors during the built-out and passing all inspections. For this service, the general contractor would usually charge 20% on the whole budget.
Our team, however, took over every piece of that responsibility. We used two architecture firms for different tasks – conceptual design to one and permitting and field drawings to another. We used an hourly consultant to liaise between subcontractors and our team. Telnyx also bid out every part of the job to multiple subcontractors and employed the same model we used in the video wall procurement process. Through experience, we became knowledgeable of the products and services they rendered, and we were able to have full control over what we wanted and how projects were executed.
In terms of timeline, the design phase happened in the early part of 2016. We were able to obtain permits in late April. Full scale construction started on the 16th of May. We officially moved in on the 29th of July with a full completion slated for December.
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