Signed, sealed, delivered

Signage in education does more than get students from A to B. Simon Fry is shown the way

Attendees at 2016’s Integrated Systems Europe tradeshow in Amsterdam will be shown the latest in AV equipment, being directed around the 14 halls of the city’s RAI conference centre by state-of-the-art wayfinding. While not all of the hundreds of digital signage exhibitors work in the education sector, those that do are bringing numerous benefits to the schools, colleges and universities installing them and the young people learning within.

REINFORCE BRANDING

St Joseph’s School, a Catholic college in Swindon with 1,200 students and 200 staff provides a good example. Seeking to invest in digital signage to show regular information and events for students and parents and to reinforce its branding, it chose a ONELAN solution as the most competitive and comprehensive after investigating several options.

A ONELAN net-top-box (NTB) 550 player publishing content to seven ONELAN NTB 650 players was installed. These drive 10 LED screens located throughout the communal areas in the building, showing content relevant to the specific location. The digital signage was installed by Hugh Symons Audio Visual and is managed by the college’s IT team. Various sources are used to update text feeds, including ONELAN’s ad-hoc capability and Twitter, enabling access for different people wishing to provide input. Overall, the new signage is tied with the college’s branding and looks more effective than that previously in place. The college has a video wall of four LED screens running at 1080p, providing sharp images.      

EASE OF USE

ONELAN’s digital signage solutions used in schools, colleges and universities around the world range from simple standalone digital signage players to video walls. The ONELAN Digital Signage System is network-based with easy-to-use interface accessed directly via a web browser. ONELAN use a store-and-forward approach meaning content is stored locally on the player and updated automatically over the network. If connectivity is lost the player continues to play the latest content it downloaded.

While Barix’s specific ‘audio signage’ solutions are targeted toward retail and hospitality businesses, in higher education its approach is more about integration of digital signage into a larger, unified solution, with interoperability across multiple systems that live on the campus network being key. 

Specifically, Barix – an early pioneer of IP audio and control systems – offers highly programmable components helping integrators and major vendors build complete networked solutions. Its open-standards approach drives interoperability, simplifying the unification of public address, intercom, bell systems, digital signage, and in-classroom control and automation of AV systems over the network. 

Barix’s compact Annuncicom two-way IP audio systems and IPAM modules are most often used in these systems; the latter product line is developed specifically for original equipment manufacturers wishing to build their own audio and control components based on Barix’s IP networking intelligence. Additionally, simple upgrades to these devices further expands network interoperability, including SIP firmware for connectivity to campus phone systems. 

OPEN STANDARDS STRATEGY

Domenico Gambino, VP Sales Engineering, Barix, says that without the flexibility an open-standards strategy brings to device programming, it is far more challenging to establish the interoperability and seamless connectivity a campus needs to deploy a true unified network. “The integration of open-standards IP components into a campus-wide communications strategy essentially establishes a multipoint architecture for simple control and distribution of messaging,” said Gambino. “Our strategy is to help the campus unify all audio-based communications, whether it’s a standard all-call page or targeted, schedule-based messaging across large digital signage networks.”

Tightrope Carousel offers an infinitely scalable and interactive platform for digital signage networks, with rich content management and data integration tools enabling educational institutions to effectively communicate their stories campus-wide. Carousel’s enterprise architecture is ideal for communication across many departments, providing higher education campuses with a central signage platform upon which to build their entire networks.

Flexible content creation, editing and scheduling tools – as well as limitless user permissions – enable any number of users to disseminate content and messaging tailored for specific audience

 

Providing particular information to particular recipients is vital, according to Eric Henry, VP signage solutions, Tightrope Media Systems. “Flexible content creation, editing and scheduling tools – as well as limitless user permissions – enable any number of users to disseminate content and messaging tailored for specific audiences. Carousel’s built-in software intelligence also integrates cleanly with external data sources to display up-to-date calendars, RSS feeds and social media content.”

Exceptional video and graphical quality ensures stunning presentation of engaging content across a variety of technology, including large 4K displays and video walls to capture the attention of donors, alumni and prospective student recruits. Carousel networks also support interactive wayfinding and informational kiosks for visitors learning their way around the campus. 

DRIVING CONTENT

Roanoke College in Virginia has a Tightrope Media Systems Carousel digital system driving content across display screens onsite. The architecture includes six Carousel 250 media players, one of which acts as a player and a content management server accessible over the central campus IT network. Three of the player units are configured as a 1×3 video wall, (see photo.) Tightrope’s Professional Services Department designed, created and configured their custom content for the college as a part of their overall systems integration process. 

The college is pleased with the results, according to David Mulford, media technology director. “Roanoke College wanted a high-impact visual display connecting with students and families visiting our Student Centre. Tightrope’s creative services team helped the college execute the design we had in mind at a relatively low cost – and we’re quite happy with the results. Students, faculty and staff all seem to enjoy our new information display, and having dynamically updated information from our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts through custom programmed RSS feeds saves our staff from having to create new messaging on an ongoing basis. The Carousel programme reliably pulls the latest social media feeds to display up-to-date and relevant messaging for our Student Centre displays.”

Improving the student experience is the mantra for all universities. Attaining a high ranking on The National Student Survey will greatly influence prospective students in their choice of university; with technology – such as NEC’s large format displays and videowalls – being high on the agenda

 “NEC is committed to supporting teaching staff and students with the tools to enrich the learning environment and tap into the changing way younger generations interact with content and learn,” says Jon Garaway, education sales, NEC Display Solutions.

“Improving the student experience is the mantra for all universities. Attaining a high ranking on The National Student Survey will greatly influence prospective students in their choice of university; with technology – such as NEC’s large format displays and videowalls – being high on the agenda.”

UNIFYING STUDENTS

Higher education establishments are catering for vast numbers of students and staff in diverse academic departments located in numerous buildings. Communicating with students, linking campuses and unifying the student population can be achieved through digital networks enabling instant news updates and notifications, as NEC is providing at Newcastle University.

Universities are investing heavily in extending their digital networks in a bid to improve the student experience through more efficient student outreach, wayfinding and advertising. Promoting internal services helps to keep students, and crucially their spending money, on campus; it all helps with funding.

NEC V Series offers schools and universities a ‘value’ solution, delivering professional features and 24/7 operation at a budget conscious price. Sizes available are from 32” to 80”, with the 46” MultiSync V463 costing £1,226 inclusive of VAT.

NEC P Series is a professional range of displays with additional flexibility for embedded PCs and media players. Sizes available are from 40” to 80”, with the 46” MultiSync P463 costing £1,944 inclusive of VAT.

NEC UN Series offers an ultra-narrow bezel width for impressive videowall installations to welcome visitors and provide student entertainment. It is available in sizes 46” and 55”.

Pupils and students used to negotiating the World Wide Web via computers, devices and smartphones are increasingly expecting similar clarity of direction and information when (physically) negotiating the real world of their school and university. Educational establishments are aware of this, and are increasingly installing signage which informs, educates and entertains, helping direct learners around campus (and sometimes keeping them onsite where student loans can be spent.) Indeed, eye-catching and impactful signage can play some part in impressing learners and their parents choosing independent schools and universities; such establishments risk losing income if prospective pupils and students get lost on campus.