Mobile Digital Signage Network Enhances Customer Experience at Thoroughbred Auctions
Horse racing has been popular since ancient Greek and Roman times when perilous chariot races were a spectator sport among nobility. In the U.S., organized horse racing didn’t start until 1860, but by 1900, 314 tracks were operating. By then, the American Jockey Club was formed, the Pimlico race course was built, and the first thoroughbred auction company, Fasig-Tipton Company Inc., had opened its doors for business.
Established in 1898, Fasig-Tipton continues to dominate the thoroughbred auction industry today, which is largely due to its razor-sharp focus on horsemanship and innovative business practices. In 2009, the company had another industry first when it deployed the first mobile digital signage network designed for thoroughbred horse auctions.
Fasig-Tipton’s goal was to improve the buyer experience at its auctions by delivering exciting real-time content throughout the facility and making horse-specific content available on demand. At high-profile sales in locations such as Florida, New York and Maryland, this content can directly impact sales.
The company has 13 auctions each year, two of which include live horse workouts, or “sprints.” Fasig-Tipton previously used banks of TVs running pre-recorded horse performances, but they wanted to upgrade to the latest technology to broadcast the event in real time and in high definition throughout the facility.
“The horses are performing for potential buyers, and it is imperative that they look their best. Our conversion to digital signage and the quality of the presentation has impressed our clientele and intimidated the competition.”
- Max Hodge, Director of Client Services, Fasig-Tipton
A Triple-Crown Solution
Fasig-Tipton had some very specific demands for its digital signage network. It wanted a completely mobile SD/HD TV network that could travel to at least 12 auctions per year in various cities throughout the United States. The patrons at each auction site had to be able to easily select one of the 26 available channels, enabling them to watch or access the information they desired.
Some of the content had to be streamable from an off-site server (or mobile control center) so it could be changed from any location via Web browser. In addition, the system needed to be built so that it could be set up very quickly at each auction site with minimal reconfiguration.
Fasig-Tipton selected Hammond Communications Group to design and implement the mobile digital signage network. Hammond is a full-service multimedia communications company specializing in digital signage applications.
First, Hammond created a bank of 15 displays that each showed a different set of horse workouts or race performances — some live and some previously recorded looped videos. They added more displays to the sales pavilion, dining and bar areas to show real-time updates, as well as racing, workout and marketing videos. Hammond also deployed multiple touchscreen interactive kiosks that buyers could use to select and review any horse’s workout videos and updates. The system also makes available real-time results and updates, and it has the capability to show multiple channels of satellite content and off-the-air content.
It was a complex challenge, requiring a high-pedigree team of solutions providers working together over the course of a year. They needed to input many sources of content, including VGA, DVI, HDMI, SD/SDI, HD/SDI, satellite, HD cameras and OFT.
“We needed a way to make all of this content available to patrons wherever they were within the one-squaremile facility. We wanted buyers to be able to use a remote control to access the content they want from any of the displays, as well as allow them access to very specific information via interactive touchscreens.”
- Dean Reverman, Director of Business Development, Hammond
Scala 5: A Safe Bet
Hammond selected the Scala 5 software platform to power the network, as well as manage and distribute the content. The system includes two servers and more than 20 media players driving content to more than 50 displays. “The software made it all run smoothly,” said Reverman. “We were able to customize the system to Fasig-Tipton’s specific needs. For example, we could use VBScript and Python to pull data from off-site SQL databases, parse XML files and include various modulators so that the system can input multiple video sources, both live and ondemand. This makes the system very flexible regarding the playback of various content formats.”
Hammond’s team implemented Scala Content Manager to manage the transmissions of all multimedia content to the entire network of digital signage displays and kiosks before, during and immediately following auctions. Planbased content distribution, timetables and playlists keep Hammond in control of the Fasig-Tipton network at each sale.
The system uses Scala Player for multimedia playback of HD horse workout video and sales data such as updates and sale results. It can also run customized graphics, and sound and video updates continuously on the LCD TVs and kiosks according to an established schedule.
The portable digital signage network features:
- Six interactive touchscreen kiosks;
- AS400 database integration;
- Web site integration;
- International racing feed capabilities up to 10 contiguous channels;
- On-demand high-definition video library searchable by horse ID number (Hip No.);
- Satellite feed capabilities through two channels;
- Four channels of off-the-air broadcast capability;
- 65 LG high-definition displays ranging from 26-inch to 55-inch;
- High-definition remote-control Sony cameras for live camera feeds; and,
- High-definition tote board auction display.
To ensure that the network could be easily and safely transported, Hammond purchased rack-mounted servers with multiple points of redundancy and rack-mounted media players that were capable of providing multiple 720p channels. The company also constructed the system in rugged, shock-mounted racks that could be quickly rolled in, plugged in and turned on.
“Digital signage continues to evolve, and this project highlights Hammond’s and Scala’s industry leadership. Customized solutions like this are advancing the technology and the industry. Our customers are blown away by the system, and our competitors haven’t been able to come close to matching it.”
- Max Hodge, Director of Client Services, Fasig-Tipton
The Scala-driven system has already supported Fasig-Tipton at 13 auctions in five different locations in the U.S.
Formed in 1898 by William B. Fasig and Edward A. Tipton, Fasig-Tipton Co. is North America’s oldest Thoroughbred auction company. Today, Fasig-Tipton is headquartered in Lexington, Kentucky.
About Hammond Communications Group
Hammond Communications Group is a full-service multimedia communications company specializing in digital signage applications. For digital signage, Hammond provides turnkey solutions with core competencies that focus on content creation, content management, custom Scala programming, database integration and network operations. For multimedia, Hammond provides video/film production, video news releases, DVD presentations, 3D computer animation, virtual tours, Web site development, interactive sales and marketing presentations, computerbased training applications and development.