West Chester University has welcomed a new addition to the school and it has arrived in the form of 22 digital display screens across their 388 acre campus in West Chester, PA.
These screens will be used to display messages and daily news that are unique to their location on campus. Each department has the ability to display their own schedules and messages through a system that operates at high speeds with minimal levels of difficulty at an affordable price.
With nearly 13,000 undergraduate students, the digital signage monitors are beneficial for notifying students about things such as school closings, events on campus, local weather updates and emergency situations should they arise.
The technology was brought to life through two companies, Visual Sound and Scala, by utilizing some of the technology that the school already had in place.
Shannon Vander Giessen, the vice president of operations at Scala said that along with working with technology that the school already had, they also had to take into account the fact that there is an ever revolving job population due to the rotation of incoming and outgoing student workers. This created a need to have a system that was streamlined and easy to learn for students and faculty alike.
“The digital signage is one piece but chances are pretty good that your Facebook admin is different than the guy [who is] going to do your text messaging, who’s different from the guy who runs the website, who’s different than the guy who’s running the digital signage application, who’s different then the guy who does the audio out in the football stadium, and if you really truly have an emergency or a need to communicate, you’re going to spend an hour just calling people,” said Vander Giessen.
By using the technology that the school had in place, there was little training to be done for the IT department at WCU. Vander Giessen said that it was a matter of figuring out who was in charge of what, how to use the template or create their own and they were off and running.
Screens have been installed in locations on campus such as the music building, the registrar and bursar’s office, the computer center and many other departments.
One of the many features of the monitors is the ability for all of them to be overridden and display the same emergency message regardless of the monitor’s location on campus.
“Having the ability to notify the masses instantly and dynamically through digital signage is extremely beneficial to the safety and welfare of the students and faculty at WCU,” said Doug Aldrich, a systems integration engineer at Visual Sound who helped with the installation at WCU.
Vander Giessen said that although Scala began as a broadcast company, the need to provide a form of communication for places like universities has evolved over the years.
“Unfortunately what happened at Virginia Tech really highlighted the need to be able to communicate in a wide variety of methods, not only to the people on campus but also with the community. That’s something that’s been a morbid growth industry because people need a way to communicate more effectively on limited budgets,” said Vander Giessen.
According to Aldrich, the installation process took just under a week to complete at WCU while classes were in session this past spring and more monitors will continue to be added in the future.
“WCU’s digital signage system is constantly growing; we have consistently added more monitors and players to the digital signage system every quarter. Each department has realized the benefit of having their own display with their own dynamic content, and each department has the ability to change portions of their display on the fly,” said Aldrich.
Aldrich and Vander Giessen said that each of their companies had worked with other universities to provide the same kind of technology according to the specific schools’ needs. For example, Scala has provided LED parking signs, menu boards in cafeterias, information kiosks and video walls for universities.
“Because we are a template and a web based application you can have the students involved, you can have the faculty and staff involved [and] you can get outside organizations involved, like campus police, to do security alerts; so it’s really a great platform and it’s been used in universities in a wide variety of methods,” said Vander Giessen.
Scala has been in operation for nearly 25 years and is a digital signage software manufacturer for a multitude of outlets such as retailers, universities, entertainment, healthcare, etc. They partner up with companies like Visual Sound to provide customized digital signage to their customers.
Visual Sound has been operating for more than 40 years and works with institutions such as universities, corporate offices, government facilities and houses of worship.
Laura Esposito is an AVT intern.