By Lo, Wilson
University Business , Vol. 16, No. 2
After being announced as a host venue for the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics, my colleagues and I at The University of British Columbia (Canada) began preparations for the thousands of visitors expected to come see the Olympic torch relay and attend events at the Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre.
Part of this preparation was the installation of a large outdoor digital display located at a main intersection for incoming traffic to our Point Grey campus. With only a few weeks left to the start of the games, the display had to be constructed and populated with content. Given this impending deadline, partnerships between UBC Information Technology, UBC Public Affairs (now UBC Communications & Marketing), and UBC Media Group (now UBC IT A/V) were formed to deliver a proof-of-concept digital signage solution for the large display. And deliver we did.
After the Olympics, the UBC administration continued its prior focus on finding an enterprise signage solution for the campus. So began a more formal pilot project, leveraging much of the work and experiences discovered during the Olympics.
Established in 1908 and currently home to 54,000 students from around the world, UBC is one of Canada's most prestigious postsecondary institutions. With campuses in Vancouver and the Okanagan Valley, UBC provides a globally connected research community with opportunities to learn, discover, and contribute within the surrounding beauty of the mountainous Canadian West. Our community also includes the Robson Square Centre for Continuing Education and its 45,000 students and staff, plus three affiliated teaching hospitals throughout the province.
In April 2011, UBC rolled out its 15-display digital signage network. The software-based installation allows us to instantly reach all students, staff, faculty, and visitors using multisite digital screens. Adopted primarily for broadcasting campus material, the system enables us to diffuse information for emergency preparedness, brand content, campus operations, and curriculum-related content from central locations to our academic facilities across the province. The solution was the result of a process involving a pilot phase and close collaboration with vendors to produce a digital signage platform suiting UBC's needs.
Digital Signage Needs: A Closer Look
Besides the need for an emergency communications vehicle, university officials wanted to put forth a more contemporary public identity that would better embrace the merits of today's digital opportunities, and the university's communications and marketing departments were eager to go beyond the traditional print and online media strategies for their outreach efforts. Our faculty and administrators were looking to create awareness for activities and events, as well as more campuswide initiatives that would reinforce UBC's brand identity in the eyes of our stakeholders. Business units such as Food Services also saw the need for extending and improving existing signage solutions. And academic schools such as the Faculty of Education and the Faculty of Arts were looking into the possibility of adopting this new technology.
The solution, of course, had to allow emergency broadcast content to be controlled from a central location. It also needed to be scalable from both a business and technology perspective. Our team was aware that deployment of new display endpoints should not incur additional licensing costs but only include the direct cost of the associated hardware and its related installation, and the actual introduction of the display into the signage network should require minimal installation time, configuration, and infrastructural support.
Prior to choosing the Haivision CoolSign digital signage solution, we looked at several commercial products and open-source solutions. In addition, we conducted a pilot phase with our vendor to fully evaluate whether the installation would provide an intuitive workflow given our specific set of functional requirements. …