In December of 2021, we published a case study featuring the Crestron solutions that were integrated into the Corning Optical Communications building, a new 180,000-square-foot facility in North Carolina. We decided to take a deeper dive into the project, so what follows is conversation with Corning’s Senior Solution Architect, Robert Basile.
CRESTRON: Can you give us a bit of background on how Corning has developed, and how has the Optical Communications segment grown?
ROBERT BASILE: Corning has been around since 1851. Today, the company has five major business segments: Display Technologies, Environmental Technologies, Specialty Materials, Life Sciences, and Optical Communications. We have always been focused on life changing innovations with glass — from Edison’s light bulb, the Hubbell telescope, large screen TVs, smart phones, to optical fiber — we have remained focused on making the world a better place through innovation.
In the early 1900s, Corning discovered ways to make glass stronger and heat resistant. This led to products like Pyrex and CorningWare as household names. We introduced the first low-loss optical fiber in 1970 – and really had no idea at that time the impact it would make. Over the past decade, Optical Communications has surpassed the Display Technologies group to become the largest division within Corning.
Our optical fiber has kept us connected with our workplace, our customers, and most importantly, our families. And while it has been optical fiber that has kept us connected during a pandemic, it’s also fiber that is creating the connections, and enabling the technologies that are allowing us to get back together.
CRESTRON: What was the “entry point” for specifying Crestron products — was there a particular device or solution that opened the door for the whole system?
BASILE: When we set out to design our new HQ, there were a couple key factors in mind. Mobility and flexibility were second only to capability. We evaluated multiple solutions from low-end to high-end. We appreciated the scope of the Crestron offerings — especially the built-in SFP capabilities of Crestron’s DM NVX components which could seamlessly fit into our cabling architecture. Much like the plumbing or electrical which was planned for the facility, we wanted the telecom infrastructure to be a 50-to-100-year asset. No matter how technology advances, we are ready for it.
CRESTRON: What was a “mission critical” element of the system — something you had to have?
BASILE: Our new HQ facility had an overarching goal of enabling collaboration across the space. Less offices and “hard” spaces; many more meeting rooms, small breakout spaces, and flexible areas that could enable the next big idea on a moment’s notice. We also have employees working remotely all around the world, so we needed to enable interaction without fighting for cables and connectors. Reserve a space, enable the space, get productive. Technology needs to be seamless.
CRESTRON: Why is it key to have zero latency in the DM NVX systems when you broadcast throughout the building?
BASILE: Video is one of the least tolerant technologies for delay and packet loss. With the current world climate, there are many times our teams cannot be physically together. Our DM NVX solution allows us to join spaces and teams together as well as share content. Showing slides is one thing, but moving a cursor or pointer around virtually shows delay instantly if not done right.
CRESTRON: Were you familiar with “attendee equity” in hybrid work solutions? What was your concept of it at the outset? How has it changed or evolved?
BASILE: While I have never heard the term before, this was actually an overall concept we set out to achieve long before anyone knew what COVID-19 was. Our space is meant to collaborate, bring multiple job functions and teams together, and allow us to come up with the next big ideas.
CRESTRON: Did the pandemic alter your approach – or was a hybrid workplace already in the plans here?
BASILE: The pandemic didn’t change our approach, it simply reinforced it. Scheduling panels allow for easy viewing of available space while keeping people socially distanced. Wireless presentation allows for less physical touch of cables, and our mobility- and flexibility-focused approach allows the space to adapt between internal use and customer engagements while being socially responsible to the external climate of the pandemic.
CRESTRON: There are wireless access points for roughly every 1,100 square feet of floor space — why the commitment to wireless connectivity in a place developing fiber solutions?
BASILE: One of my favorite conversations with customers is this topic. Customers will many times say that there is no reason to invest in cabling because they just use wireless. The greatly missed point is that there are many wires in wireless, so we firmly believe you should pull the right ones when you have the opportunity.
Our philosophy is that the two most valuable commodities in network design are bandwidth and power. Corning’s approach of “Fiber- and Power-Deep” solves both and creates a “Future Flexible” environment.
CRESTRON: Is there a “favorite” part or aspect of the system for you? And what’s next?
BASILE: We’re frankly very pleased with the entire integration. On a lighter note, I am partial to how good of a “speaker” the Mercury is. Conferences are easy where everyone can hear and be heard, but cranking up some tunes in an empty lab really helps productivity!
While Corning leads the way in 5G and optical technologies, we look to Crestron to tell us the next cool thing we can’t miss out on regarding A/V and immersive experiences. We’d can’t wait to enable those next ideas.