Leading the charge in education

Device storage and charging is a growing challenge for the education sector, and the solutions are surprisingly simple, finds Larry Day

We all know that technology advances at an alarming rate these days (although robot butlers and flying cars might still be a way off), with the rampaging rate of obsolescence blunting cutting edges quicker than ever. Tech use in schools has skyrocketed in less than a generation, and nowadays tablets and laptops are commonplace in classrooms – so how do educational establishments in 2018 combat 21st-century problems such as security, charging, and even simple storage? 

It’s certainly a new range of obstacles to overcome for administrators and teachers, and even in the past few years we’ve seen some major changes in the sector. Fortunately, there are companies that have developed ingenious (and ingeniously simple) solutions that help keep the school day running smoothly. Rising tech use in general is supposed to make our life easier and better, after all, so it’s only logical we have handy gadgets and gizmos to make the whole process a cinch.

One such company paving the way in this area is Gratnells. The storage experts have a particular knack for IT hardware storage, and in 2016 they released the PowerTray and PowerTrolley. Both are designed to “store, charge, and sync… USB devices at ultra-fast speed,” say the British company – they add on their website that the PowerTray is the “only” charging solution available that seamlessly integrates with furniture already common in UK classrooms.

“The growth in device usage, and the demand for access to charging has grown exponentially,” said Richard Picking, Gratnells’ International Marketing Director. “Most classrooms don’t have enough wall power points to service a full class, which necessitates the need for new device storage and charging solutions.”

He’s definitely not wrong. Most schools in the UK aren’t newly built – many are more than a handful of decades old, and almost all predate the need for a huge number of plug sockets. This is obviously an issue in an increasingly connected and digital classroom landscape, and pretty much an issue in every building more than 15 years old. But the practical aspects of swelling tech use in classrooms is not the only challenge facing institutions.

“The mix of devices and their specific requirements can also present issues,” continued Picking. “Battery and device technology is advancing quickly which changes the demands of power consumption and battery life. The Gratnells tray storage system is widely used in the education sector, so it was natural for us to combine our trays and charging with the PowerTray, a solution to intelligently charge and store up to 10
USB devices.”

“Device proliferation is an issue with many individuals using three devices in parallel – phone, tablet and laptop,” he added. “Not to mention newer items like AR glasses. Common docking stations are an increasing necessity as is the need for a secure solution in an environment where space is often at a premium. The time required to charge different devices can vary greatly so DDR – or dynamic device recognition – helps by providing optimum charge rates and cycle times to each charging point rather than splitting overall charging capacity equally between each point in use.”

As you’d expect with the advent of ultra-connected classrooms and device-rich educational environments, Gratnells are not the only suppliers in the growing market. Storage and charging have been difficult hurdles in previous years, but there is now a wide range of options from a variety of companies. Two other major players are LocknCharge, the Australian-born company dedicated to top-notch “security, charging, and transport solutions”, who provide similar equipment for a wide range of businesses and schools. They expanded to the US in 2010, and now help classrooms across the world keep devices safe and topped up with power. Lapsafe also offer solutions in the same vein, and have supplied colleges and universities across the country with everything from storage and charging to library management integration or RFID access.

Although there are plenty of hands making light work of storage and charging issues, no one can rest on their laurels. The very nature of technological advancements means that problems never stay solved forever.

Obsolescence and surges in hardware – such as the aforementioned AR glasses – are certainly going to continue to pose problems for schools, but they can also bring excitement. Game-changing tech such as wireless charging is a particularly eyebrow-raising development that could shake up the entire system… when it’s properly realised, that is. Currently the tech isn’t quick enough and is being used in limited environments – Gratnells’ Richard Picking told us that “widespread implementation is a way off,” – but it’s surely something to keep an eye on in the coming years. Additionally, and perhaps more reasonably in the short term, we should be able to expect further advances in traditional battery life and device energy consumption.

Certain Silicon Valley giants’ continued desire to mess up the status quo could also prove challenging in the future – Apple, for example, have not exactly been shy about dumping elements they see as unnecessary but consumers value, such as the 3.5mm headphone jack, and it remains to be seen how long the humble USB port has left in their eyes. That’s pure speculation, but it’s the kind of thing that would wreak havoc in an iPad-using classroom that’s just had significant USB-centric upgrades. 

As well as physical elements of technology, some believe that big change is coming in mindset. Tech use won’t be limited to classrooms, and we could start seeing a rising expectation that certain services (especially charging) will be on hand whenever students, teachers, support staff, or others expect it. This could require a greater number of storage options and charging points than ever before.

As with all technologies it pays to keep your ear to the ground and stay abreast of the issues at hand, but fortunately there are businesses out there making sure that classrooms can keep on top of the ever-shifting landscape with ease. 

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