Case Study: Aldenham Country Park

Case Study: Aldenham Country Park

Alenham Park logo

The new management of Aldenham Country Park has committed to provide visitors with the best free outdoor activities experience for people all ages.To attract more visitors and provide a more appealing service, they had recently opened an animal park and a number of other outdoor activities including pony rides and woodland adventures. In order to be able to charge for all these new activities an Electronic Point of Sale (EPOS) terminal and printer connected to the park’s existing network was needed close to the entrance of the park.

The Challenge

The task was to connect the ticket office to the main office building which was over 100 metres away from the main office building, which presented a significant network connectivity challenge.

The park initially explored traditional networking solutions such as structured CAT5/6 cabling and wireless (WiFi) communications, but neither proved to be suitable. The cost of installing structural cable over this distance was simply too expensive and involved digging a deep channel through the petting zoo which was considered too disruptive as the animals would need to be relocated and sections of the park would need to be closed to the public.

WiFi was also considered but proved simply not reliable or robust enough to deliver a continuous quality connection between the EPOS reader and the bank, which is essential in order to process credit card transactions.

Powerline Communications (PLC) technology was identified as a viable solution, as this would enable the park to use the existing power cables running to the reception building to transmit data; but Powerline adapters were ruled out because they do not provide a robust network as they can be easily unplugged and removed, particularly in such public areas.

The installation was further complicated by the fact that the site used three-phase power supply (see picture below) with the reception cottage and the main office served by different mains phases. This created a further challenge for a solution that relied on the mains power cables.

The Solution

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Having already identified PLC as a solution, Power Ethernet was asked to come up with a reliable and robust solution. Given the company’s expertise in the deployment of Powerline solutions, a quick survey identified that the existing mains power cables could be used to extend the data network to the reception area.

As can be seen in the photograph below, the older three-phase power supply comes in from a main transformer, distributed multiple times as the site has expanded over the years. The power board is complicated and the building’s electricity is fragmented on different phases as an attempt to balance them as the building kept expanding. The main office block and surrounding buildings are served by one phase while the animal park is on a newer phase along with the reception area.

After conducting a site survey, it was identified that the best route to connect the reception and the main office together would be bridge the network between the two phases. Two Power Ethernet Sockets were installed within the power and fuse box shed on spurs, each managing one electrical phase. These sockets were then connected together via a standard Ethernet patch cable to create one single data network across the two power phases.

The remaining units were installed in the reception building and in the main office which automatically connected all the computers, printers and EPOS terminals together and to the park’s broadband connection. As no additional data cabling was required, installation was completed with the minimum of disruption and within hours rather than days.

Robert Marsden Co-owner of Aldenham Country Park said “Power Ethernet Sockets proved to be by far the best networking solution for the significant challenge we had in delivering Internet connectivity to the park’s entrance booth.  The complete absence of disruption to the farm, as no new cable runs were needed, really helped – with the installation only taking a couple of hours. As soon as our installers screwed the sockets in place they began automatically talking to each other to deliver a fast and reliable network connection. Within seconds our EPOS ticketing system was online, enabling us to begin processing payments and receiving visitors immediately”