Digital Signage Messaging Systems at Bryant University
Dec 1, 2007 2:00 PM,
By Linda Seid Frembes
In February 2003, a devastating fire at The Station nightclub in Rhode Island claimed 100 lives and injured hundreds more people. State fire officials and government leaders quickly passed new amendments to the fire code that affected all public spaces where crowds gather; the changes not only affected nightclubs and bars, but schools and universities as well.
At Bryant University in Smithfield, R.I., the changes meant that its 3,000 undergraduate and graduate students and 300 full-time and adjunct faculty members could no longer post paper announcements on community bulletin boards unless it was behind a pane of glass. The new code changes posed a challenge to Bryant to improve the delivery of information to its population.
Keeping in mind market changes such as concerns over campus security and the increasingly digital preferences of students, Bryant began to look for an immediate solution to effectively communicate with students and faculty. Phil Lombardi, director of academic computing and media services at Bryant University, assembled a multidepartmental team from Information Technology, Campus Management, Public Safety, and Academic Affairs. During the summer of 2003, the group decided on a digital signage system that would be installed in the common areas around campus by the fall of 2004.
Lombardi, who has worked at Bryant for 11 years, oversees all public access technology, the University’s digital television station, and the student laptop program (whereby all incoming freshmen receive a laptop, with the equipment refreshed during their junior year). “Besides paper posts, we had an archaic digital messaging system that was basically PowerPoint slides shown on the public access channel,” he says.
Bryant worked with systems integrator HB Communications to install 50 NEC displays in the public hallways and classrooms of its five main buildings, the library café, and laboratory spaces. The University chose two different models. First was the NEC MultiSync LCD2110 with a 21.3in. viewable image area and native 1600×1200 UXGA resolution. The LCD2110 is 4in. deep, and it weighs 23.1lbs. In addition, all NEC MultiSync LCD series monitors exceed Energy Star and NUTEK requirements for reduced power consumption, so power requirements were not an issue. Second, Bryant chose the 15in. NEC AccuSync LCD52V that weighs 11lbs. and has touch-integration capabilities.
“We were already an NEC shop for all our classroom projection technology. We had such great service, support and quality of the equipment, NEC Display was the first product we looked at for digital messaging,” Lombardi says.
Powering the content for the new digital messaging system are several channel players, a hardware solution by Visix called AxisTV. AxisTV allows Bryant to designate between administration and student announcements, as well as provide additional information using a scrolling ticker at the bottom of the screen. The signage content is also streamed into the IP-based classrooms and labs and appears as screensavers when a PC is idle. The content is also pushed to the University’s closed loop cable TV channels on campus. The system is also tied into Bryant’s CollegeNET R25 room scheduling system; students can check the displays to confirm any room changes.
Content creation is also managed by the AxisTV solution. “Visix has a complete workflow built into it. Each department has an administrator who has content creators working for them,” Lombardi says. “We use the built-in templates for a uniform look.”
The new system has provided unique opportunities for additional use. Bryant’s Public Services department can override the display system and send emergency messages. “We are also looking into a website service where students can register their cell phones to receive the same fast notifications,” Lombardi says. “We are also investigating the ability to send emergency messaging content to the classroom LCD projectors. Since all classrooms are IP-based, we should be able to send a command to override screens and show the emergency message.”
Since the implementation of a digital messaging system, the university has noticed an increase in the amount of digital communication pieces created especially for the system. Students are producing videos at the university’s digital television station, as well as incorporating computer graphics, music, and multimedia. “We are trying to keep content as dynamic as possible,” Lombardi says. “We are even contemplating using the NEC displays in our Food Service areas to display nutritional information in each serving area.”
In recent years, Bryant University was recognized as a Top 25 Most Connected Campus by The Princeton Review and Forbes.com.