Jan 10 2018

3 Ways Colleges Use Beacon Technology to Innovate

From wayfinding to public safety, beacons allow higher education institutions to provide those on campus with better experiences.

Experimenting with beacon technology in its football stadium was just part of Texas A&M University’s plan to engage millennial fans attached to their smartphones. The beacons, located in a few spots in the stadium, offer up what TAMU network architect Matthew Almand calls “infotainment.”

For example, when a stadium-goer connected to Wi-Fi walks in front of one of the many statues at Kyle Field, a message with background information on the statue is sent to their smartphone.

But, at TAMU and other colleges, beacons are being used for much more than infotainment.

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1. Beacons Gather Valuable Information

In addition to using their beacon pilot to engage sports fans, Almand tells EdTech that his team is also collecting information with the beacons to optimize planning around crowd flow and queue management.

“Our chokepoints for getting around the stadium don’t stay the same, so we’re anticipating if we had a more pervasive beacon deployment it would help us all strategize and not be purely reactionary,” says Almand.

2. Beacon-Paired Apps Guide Students Through Campus Resources

For students new to campus, beacons can be a useful tool in providing some guidance.

In 2015, University of Oklahoma Libraries deployed Aruba Beacons and the Aruba Meridian Mobile App Platform to create NavApp, which helps users navigate the library and its many resources.

A year after the adoption, OU received the Campus Technology Innovators Award for increasing access to library resources through digital means.

“OU is a large campus and the Bizzell Memorial Library is a seven-story building that has been expanded and renovated, which has created navigational questions for first-time visitors,” said dean of OU Libraries, Rick Luce, in a press release. “The NavApp ensures that visitors are empowered to explore the library, knowing help and access to resources and services are at their fingertips.”

Much like OU, Grove City College in Pa. plans to leverage Aruba’s beacon technology — the integrated Aruba Beacons in its 802.11ac Wave 2 access points — to help students with indoor wayfinding.

“For example, prospective students will be able to take a self-guided tour, and students will be able to look up the availability of reference materials in the library from their mobile devices,” says Grove City College CIO Vince DiStasi in an Aruba case study.

3. Beacon Networks Increase Public Safety

Beacons can also help aid public safety on campuses. Early in 2017, Columbus State University in Columbus, Ga., announced a new safety app paired with a network of more than 100 Bluetooth beacons.

The app allows students to easily report safety concerns or suspicious behavior with accurate location data.

“The Safe Campus program provides an easy way for officials to accurately and quickly dispatch assistance to the student, even if the student is not sure of their exact location,” says Mark Lott, chief of university police, in the news release.

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