The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) is an academic health sciences university and medical center with a main campus in Little Rock, and eight regional campuses throughout the state. As the IT manager for Classroom Technologies, Ernie Bailey oversees on-site and remote support for all classrooms, meeting rooms, lecture halls and labs across five colleges (medicine, nursing, pharmacy, health professions and public health) and a graduate school. But his expertise doesn’t stop there. The Classroom Technologies division also designs and installs presentation and conferencing systems in-house. Live events, such as administrative meetings and health-related public forums, are also supported by Bailey’s department. With such a diverse range of management areas, we were excited to share both Bailey’s insight and the university’s strategies for AV/IT convergence, IoT, and collaboration.

How is AV/IT convergence playing out in your facility?

Ernie Bailey, Manager of Classroom Technologies, University of Arkansas, Little Rock, Arkansas

Ernie Bailey: Audiovisual Support was reorganized into IT six years ago and renamed Classroom Technologies. As a part of IT, we have brought our systems into the campus network infrastructure. We have developed a remote support desk and are using standard IT helpdesk tools to assist users in the classrooms. We have adopted structured cabling and the data network as our primary AV signal transport systems.

On the human resources side, new applicants receive greater weighting for traditional IT knowledge, experience and background.

What AV/IT problems have you solved recently?

Ernie Bailey: Instead of placing our AV equipment on inaccessible IP networks isolated within each system, we have recently worked with network engineering to develop and implement a routable Class B network (spanning both campuses) for the specific use of AV. This allows us to place all networkable AV equipment in an accessible IP space, which enables us to manage our AV systems from anywhere on campus or remotely through VPN while still providing some isolation between our AV and the campuses IP traffic.

We have also started the process of converting audio conferencing classrooms and auditoriums from POTS to VoIP. This is part of a campus directive to help cut monthly operating costs. Our VoIP system has a one-time setup fee but does not have the recurring monthly costs associated with POTS lines.

Does the IoT have any influence in your organization and or facility?

Ernie Bailey: The IoT has definitely had an impact on our AV system designs. I would say that in the last two years we have seen the average number of hardwired IP devices in an AV system go from 12 to 48. Most control links, audio I/O and even video streams are all on the IP network. In our medium systems we are now typically installing a 48 port switch and 2 x 48 port switches for our large auditorium systems. We are utilizing UAMS’ enterprise grade networking equipment and our system switches have become part of the campus network management system. This has promoted an interdepartmental cross training between the network engineering, video conferencing and AV departments.

What is your IoT strategy?

Ernie Bailey: At first, there were some reservations regarding the need to add so many devices to the campus network, but those reservations have diminished as our network engineering department has gained a level of trust for us managing our subnet and as other campus departments have seen support response times decrease because of the added remote abilities. As such, we will continue to expand our network utilization for control and audio I/O and are starting our push into adding multicast video streaming from our larger classrooms and auditoriums.

What AV/IT do you hope to buy in the near future? Why?

Ernie Bailey: Here’s my list.

  • Multicast video streaming for campus distribution
  • Centralized lecture capture via streaming H.264 over the network from medium-large classrooms and auditoriums.
  • Reflector services for video streaming for wider distribution of special events.
  • SIP audio communication from the in-room touch screens to the AV support desk.
  • Voice commands
  • Proximity beacons to help automate classroom setup for instructors and to help support staff pull up control interfaces on their portable devices as they enter a presentation space.
  • Automated meeting prep and tighter asset management through scheduling data integration and occupancy sensing.

How do you procure/purchase your AV for in-house installs? Distributor, manufacturer direct, in bulk, other?

Ernie Bailey: We do all of our own installs, but we rely on local dealers to provide the equipment. We do this for several reasons:

  • The dealers have access to multiple brands.
  • They can generally get demonstration models of new products.
  • They have a relationship with multiple manufacturers.
  • They have a method for returning damaged or non-functioning devices for repair replacement.
  • They generally get information on new items quicker than we do.
  • They are experts in the field and as such they provide a review for what we are doing and catch errors or suggest alternatives we may not have considered or been aware of.

Where are technology manufacturers getting it wrong or missing opportunities?

Ernie Bailey: Most manufacturers do not visit educational institutions on a regular basis. Some do, and more are beginning to. Some manufacturers even have education reps who work with us and the dealers to help us meet our needs.

On the manufacturing side, many AV companies do not make it easy to put their equipment on an enterprise network—they design as if their equipment is the only thing on the network or the network is restricted to the AV system. Once again, this is changing, but slowly.

What is the biggest obstacle to collaboration?

Ernie Bailey: Audiovisual technology has not traditionally been viewed as part of the IT culture or structure. In the academic environment it has traditionally been part of academic affairs or facilities. IT administration has a difficult time understanding how our systems fit in to their environment and we have always had our own way of doing things. As our technology has moved into the connected world, the acceptance of AV has been slow and cautious.

What are your collaboration strategies?

Ernie Bailey: Working closely with the various traditional IT teams to both educate them on what we do and learning from them what they do so we can work together to create a more integrated environment for everyone.