Montana Data Transmitter (MTDT) at The LARK
by Jenny Sheets, roving reporter
The LARK is Bozeman’s premier basecamp for adventure, equipped with the necessary resources to plan the trip of a lifetime. Before heading out to the river to fly fish or up to the mountain to ski fresh lines, stop by the hotel’s Map Room and check out the Montana Data Transmitter Box (MTDT-BOX). The interactive wall map shows current snow depths, snowfall, river heights, and temperatures across the state of Montana.
In developing the idea for the data transmitter, Smith and Brian Caldwell of ThinkTank wanted to move beyond the generic, sterile television displaying weather and news updates found in many hotel lobbies. Drawing on inspiration from the contemporary aesthetic of The LARK’s motor lodge architecture, collaborators designed a retro-style metal wall map complete with blinking lights and needle gauges.
Guests can turn dials, flip switches, and gather useful data thanks to the visions of Casey Smith and Brian Caldwell, and the detailed aluminum fabrication by MFGR. The data gathered by Smith gave designer, Christian Schultz, a chance to play around with map design, visual appeal, and user experience. Schultz says it’s more than just visually appealing though: “The daily apps we use on monitors and mobile screens are getting so boring. The interaction of the MTDT-BOX is really fun. There should be more data transmitters in the world.”
Although the MTDT-BOX gives guests an old-fashioned interactive experience, the methods for collecting the data are extremely advanced. Smith explains, “The sensors that measure the snow and river conditions are sophisticated instruments maintained by the government and installed in remote and usually harsh locations. They are solar powered and report data to centralized servers via meteor burst or cellular communications. The MTDT-BOX queries these servers every hour to get detailed measurements of snowfall and river flow.” So from the top of a mountain peak in the middle of a blizzard, or from the wet banks of a rushing river, data is collected, gathered, and whizzed through space to The Lark’s Map Room for visitors’ pleasure.
While the MTDT-BOX contained plenty of data for the recreational user, Smith and Thinktank wanted to add one more element. With tongue-in-cheek, they designed a map of some of the nuclear silo sites in Montana. Smith created this element based on a former project of his, which measured “terror” on the Internet – his response to the fear mongering created by the media after 9-11. Schultz says it was personally difficult for him to design this element, having grown up in the Cold War era, in near proximity to the silos. But he likes the fact that it makes people stop and think. He says, “It gives a little shocker to the visitor and,” (pun intended,) “will blow your mind.”