Silicon Valley Sizzle Arrives in Houston

SNA Displays, i.e.Smart Systems bring HPE’s new corporate campus to dazzling life.

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For Spring, Texas-based i.e.Smart Systems, there is a simple credo to live and do business by: “Each project yields a long-term customer.” That customer commitment has served the design-build integrator remarkably well ever since being founded in 2000.

Originally a structured-cabling specialist, i.e.Smart Systems branched out into audiovisual integration in 2008; by 2011, its AV efforts had eclipsed its structured-cabling business.

These days, the firm, which boasts three offices throughout Texas, employs 150 full-time team members, including a large group of programmers and a robust managed-services team. i.e.Smart Systems has doubled in size over the past three years and, now, it does up to $40 million in annual business.

Its customer-centricity and rapid growth made the integrator an especially appealing partner for Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), which invested its trust in i.e.Smart Systems and digital display leader SNA Displays for a new, Houston-area headquarters campus.

Laying the Groundwork

CI’s recent chat with i.e.Smart Systems’ CEO, Nick Colvin, and senior VP, Jason DeMille, reveals that the HPE project’s scope grew tremendously from the initial ideation. The company had always had a footprint in Houston, but it wanted to relocate its regional office to a new, up-and-coming area.

As the pandemic descended, however, the job scope kept widening, eventually evolving into HPE’s new headquarters campus.

“There’s never been a project I’ve seen that has changed this much,” Colvin acknowledges, saying that the job scope increased exponentially when it became clear that all HPE’s various business units would need distinct technological capabilities. Thinking only about SNA Displays’ component, Colvin says, “One videowall turned into a complete customer experience of just their product.”

And all that was set against a highly expedited timeline coupled with lead-time challenges.

Although i.e.Smart Systems is far from a small business — it works in an average of 20 states per year, as well as internationally — Colvin recognizes that, for a firm like his, reputation is everything.

“We can’t afford to mess up,” he says candidly, “especially not in our backyard here in Houston.” That meant the integrator had to have complete trust in vendor partner SNA Displays, even though they hadn’t had a multi-year history of working together. Happily, the organizations synthesized harmoniously from the start, united by their commitment to excellence.

“It’s not just a PO to SNA,” Colvin explains. “Their reputation is on the line just as much as ours.” DeMille drives home the point further, complimenting SNA’s project managers and saying of the partnership, “We were in this together, and we were going to succeed or fail together.”

Inside the Walls

So, what, exactly, did HPE task the team with achieving? We’ve already noted that the project sought to create a new corporate campus, complete with HPE employees from a range of business units.

Equally important, though, was to create a showpiece space for clients and customers to visit. DeMille underscores the centrality of that purpose, saying the company hosts multiple large events per week.

Related: SNA Displays Helps Modernize Milwaukee High Rise

“There’s a huge customer presence on the site,” he stresses. With HPE being recognized as a technology trailblazer, the company naturally wanted its new digs to reflect and amplify its brand equity. And, indeed, it does. “You can’t look somewhere and not see something futuristic,” Colvin marvels. “You can’t look somewhere and not see technology at work.”

Naturally, SNA Displays is an integral part of that, with an astonishing 40.7 million total pixels divided among about a half-dozen eye-popping displays. It’s a perfect picture of the kind of environment that draws people from their homes and out into the world.

On a corporate campus teeming with technology, the Executive Briefing Center (EBC) and its surrounding environments are the undisputed pinnacle. The experience begins in the reception area/lobby, which boasts a 28’x13’1″ (HxW), 2.5mm-pixel-pitch LED screen.

The BOLD Interior display is vertically oriented and delivers artistic content that sets the right mood. With more than five million pixels, the display immediately dazzles visitors. Next up is The Fishbowl, an immersive installation that features two LED walls and an LED floor with glue-on-board pixel packaging.

All together, the Fishbowl delivers 3.9 million pixels of eye candy, utilizing the BOLD Interior product with a pixel pitch of 2.5mm. Arguably, the most stunning environment is the Immersive Theater, in which a concave BRILLIANT Interior LED video display curves around HPE’s in-house movie-theater-style space.

Measuring 7’5″x49’10”, the ultra-tight-pixel-pitch (1.25mm) videowall has almost 22 million pixels and displays custom-designed immersive content. This ensures that campus visitors have an unrivalled experience that they won’t ever forget.

The Next Step

During our interview, Colvin and DeMille reference that, in the next few days, the i.e.Smart Systems team would be integrating yet another SNA Displays showstopper on the HPE campus — this time, a massive exterior videowall, measuring 100’x50′, on the façade of the parking garage. “

Everything there is an experience,” DeMille enthuses. But it’s not just sizzle for sizzle’s sake; instead, it all feeds back into HPE’s brand equity…back into giving customers and clients the experience that they expect. “They’re able to touch and feel what HPE does,” Colvin states.

SNA Displays, a company whose videowalls abound in Times Square and on the Las Vegas Strip, was the perfect vendor partner to deliver the wow! factor that HPE wanted. Meanwhile, i.e.Smart Systems brought the passion and technical know-how to make the campus equal parts awe-inspiring and functional. It’s not surprising, then, that the vendor and integrator are already planning their next projects together.

“We’re in it to win it together on each project,” Colvin declares. “[With SNA,] the answer is never ‘no.’ The answer is always ‘yes.’ It might cost something, but they’ll figure it out.” That’s essential for a company like i.e.Smart Systems, which lives by its motto of each project yielding a long-term customer. As Colvin puts it, “When our head hits the pillow at night, we need to know we have partners who are willing to go above and beyond to meet our clients’ needs and expectations.”

Honesty and transparency…customer service and flexibility in the face of change…technical wizardry and a commitment to excellence — these are the hallmarks of a successful integration project. And thanks to i.e.Smart Systems and SNA Displays, HPE now boasts a corporate campus in Houston that rivals anything you’d see on the east or west coasts.

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About the Author


Dan Ferrisi has been covering the commercial AV industry as an editor, reporter and writer since 2004. He is the former editor of Sound & Communications, and he joined Commercial Integrator as editor-in-chief in November 2021.

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