Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, Powell, OH United States
New audio network management technology helps large zoo campus deliver a great experience by simplifying and unifying disparate AV and IT systems.
Spanning 580 acres, the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium in Powell, Ohio, is more than just a welcoming home for its over 10,000 animal species. The zoo also boasts a water park, golf course, various dining options and hosts countless special events for nearly 2.5 million visitors annually.
Events at the Columbus Zoo range from charity fundraisers supporting its many conservation efforts, to outdoor concerts and holiday light shows for the community. With so many events, the facility is bustling with thousands of visitors each day who expect a quality, memorable and immersive experience.
Out of Control Audio
As the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium expanded over the years, different audio systems by different designers and contractors were deployed in each area to support its variety of background music and the public-address system. 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. Enter the Dante audio network platform, which pulled together the more than 300 speakers, 50 amplifiers, 50 wireless microphones and 20 digital processors that are Dante-enabled and already installed on the zoo’s campus.
Dante is an uncompressed, multi-channel digital media networking technology that allows users to mix devices and makes interoperability easy and reliable. The zoo has trusted Dante for over two years to bring its audio systems together in an IP format across its large network. With Dante as the networking solution, the Columbus Zoo, Zoombezi water park and Safari Golf course deployed hundreds of audio devices from multi-vendor manufacturers including RDL, Bose, Symetrix, Shure, AudioTechnica, Ashly, BSS, Biamp, BTX and Behringer equipment.
Despite the significant gains realized by moving to a Dante audio network, there were still challenges. Gregg Oosterbaan, Vice President of Technology Strategy for the zoo, explained that before deploying Dante Domain Manager, each location on the campus was an isolated network, and there wasn’t a way to route audio between them. For example, if the zoo wanted to switch from holiday music back to its standard music, employees had to physically go to each location and change the music – this could take hours.
But, with Dante Domain Manager, the zoo can organize and categorize its audio streams by room, building and site, allowing it to unify its systems, control the audio streams and manage who has access to the network. The playlist change that used to take hours, now takes a single employee less than five minutes from one central location.
“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,” said Oosterbaan. “And because it’s all IP connected, we can continue to add new systems to our existing Dante system in a clean and simple way.”
Dante Domain Manager is a complete network management platform that 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 easily design, manage and control an enterprise-scaled AV system. By bringing the IT industry’s Network Domain Concept to AV, Dante Domain Manager makes audio networking more secure, scalable and controllable than ever before.
A Benefit to the Community
The benefits that Dante Domain Manager provides dovetail perfectly with the zoo’s approach to community engagement — beginning with a high-quality audio system to enhance the guest experience and leave a lasting impression. The animal sounds are provided naturally, of course, but the zoo provides background music to create an engaging environment.
“We have a strong community that we strive to support,” said Oosterbaan. “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. Dante Domain Manager helps us do that.”
The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium uses Dante Domain Manager’s suite of 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.
The administrator is able to grant credentials to those operating the audio network, ensuring only the correct people are making changes in an allotted location. Regardless of the event, Dante Domain Manager keeps the zoo’s audio network secure and functioning by providing limited access and usability to those given access to the network.
“Security is extremely important in today’s world,” said Oosterbaan. “Regardless of the event or location, with Dante Domain Manager, we can control the streams, control who has access and make all this happen in a clean way.”