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101 best Practices ConvergeConvergence is a tricky technology term, as we discovered when we began to create this section of our special Best Practices issue. D'es it refer only to the “blending” of technologies, as in smart phones? Can it extend to the blending of technology processes, as well? Is convergence the same as “integration”? As you work your way through this section, you’ll see how gray some areas of technology convergence truly are. For the most part, we left the clearcut integration examples behind. But since technology is an ever-converging world, and integration takes it to new heights, there is some overlap. You be the judge.


Connecting patients, doctors, medical students, and community across a wholly converged network

University of Miami Jackson Memorial Medical Center and the Miller School of Medicine wanted to converge voice, data, e-mail, Internet, and eventually, biomedical technology and devices across a single network, but access point (AP) problems, channel interference, user-density issues, and the burden of endless site surveys were preventing the initiative from getting off the ground. That is, until IT Director Chris Bogue and his team realized that they could support all access points on a single channel, automatically optimize coverage among APs in a given area, and dynamically balance user loads among nearby APs. With the solution they discovered (Meru Networks' Wireless LAN system), they would not have to plan alternating channels or manually adjust power levels for varying user densities in different areas. Right now, IP communication badges link users between the main campus and the medical center's clinics in disparate geographical areas. In the coming years, the medical school and center's pervasive WLAN infrastructure will enable voice, database access, patient information data collection, e-mail, Internet access, streaming video, numerous other applications, and even facilities maintenance. Bogue estimates that the network will carry from 700 to 2,200 concurrent wireless connections on a sustained basis, and the institution and medical center will realize considerable savings in the process. A PDF is available for download.


Toward '100 percent' convergence

Bryant University (RI), a relatively small institution with limits on resources, has been implementing a campuswide technology initiative to develop a single converged network infrastructure capable of supporting a rich variety of voice, video, and data applications that enrich learning and collaboration, improve student career opportunities, boost administrative productivity, and extend Bryant's resources beyond the classroom. The university looked to Cisco Systems, Verizon and Unicom to deliver its vision of convergence. Art Gloster, VP of Information Services describes the "100 percent totally converged" network's evolution: "As Bryant moves toward total IP convergence, we have already implemented VoIP, 100 percent wireless data coverage in all buildings, IP video, LAN mobile radio integration, IP security cameras, library and audio visual-streaming media storage (enterprise content management), Wi-Fi/cell phone convergence, HVAC controls, physical access security, digital signage systems, videoconferencing, Virtual Language Labs and GIS. Additionally, we are exploring how our technology can support state Homeland Security initiatives, global training with affiliated institutions, and interstate collaboration of educational resources with like institutions. Many aspects of the project have been completed, some are underway, some in the planning stages." Results: "We've seen a real transformation in pedagogy. Our technology systems are allowing us to do things and explore options that people only dreamed about just a few years ago. In the areas of communication, collaboration, storage, and delivery of curriculum, we are in a whole new world." More than 2,700 students already have access to IP phones, and the system is being extended to faculty and administrative offices. Unified messaging for administrators and faculty will allow them to manage voicemail and e-mail messages from a single, integrated mailbox for improved responsiveness and productivity. IPTV, Web cameras, and IP Communicator softphones are all being considered for students to use on the laptops deployed to them. Read more


Converge cable TV and schoolwork

Talk about convergence: As colleges and universities rush to send voice over the Internet, a handful of institutions are using their broadband pipes to deliver video information as well. Leaders in this area (Illinois' Northwestern University, for one) are enabling students to watch cable television through the same interface they use to write papers with Microsoft Word. Other schools, not yet sold on the idea of eliminating coaxial cable all together, are turning to video over IP for next-generation video conferencing to facilitate distance education. But at Northwestern, through a broadband application from the vendor Video Furnace, every student with a laptop or desktop computer and a network connection can now access up to 24 channels of public and cable television, including MTV, TNT, C-SPAN, and more. According to David Carr, director of Telecommunications and Network Services, students only have to open a program to watch their favorite shows. Read more


End-to-end convergence from the ground up

At the Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering (MA), administrators faced a challenge: to build a communications network equal to the college's ambition to educate a new breed of engineering students by emphasizing an interactive curriculum, interdisciplinary design, entrepreneurship, creativity, and advanced communications skills. The network was to be created from a blank slate, deployed to greet Olin's inaugural class and grown as the college continued to elaborate its mission. Olin's CIO Joanne Kossuth was determined to build a fully converged network, but knew the college needed to plan for rapid growth even though administrators couldn't be certain what future needs would be. The solution was a converged, end-to-end IP network, serving the entire campus and well beyond. Olin College deployed Nortel end to end: Ethernet Routing Switches, Communication Server 1000, Multimedia Communication Server 5100, and a Nortel VPN Router solution. The converged network is now scalable and delivers converged voice and data services over a single IP-based network. It supports more than 2,000 devices, including IP phones, laptops, building control devices, and security systems, and enables collaboration, mobility, personalized application development, remote access, routing, firewalling, authentication, and encryption. It also provides multiple virtual local area networks (VLANs) per building, per floor. Everything is in a redundant mesh setup. It has a full wireless 802.11 overlay and provides quality of service for voice traffic prioritization. To date, the college has realized sizable savings over a PBX solution which Kossuth says would have cost about a million dollars, but on the initial investment alone, the college saved approximately two-thirds of that money by going with a VoIP solution. The real payoff, says Kossuth: "Adds and changes literally don't cost me anything. And I don't have to have a telecommunications department." Students have VoIP phones in their rooms; students, faculty, and staff have unified messaging; the laptop program includes wireless access; and students can use their laptops as their communication device—as a phone as well as for course work. Every student, faculty and staff member gets a VPN client. "We have students who are in Australia and Mexico right now, and they connect as if they're here. It's like a local call," says Kossuth. Olin's network is today supporting more than 2,000 devices, including IP phones, laptops, building control devices, and security systems.


Converged networks and communities

In January 2003, Case Western Reserve University's (OH) then-new President, Edward M. Hundert, challenged university leadership to engage with the community, and help Case become the best university neighbor any city ever had. The OneCleveland initiative—a grand experiment in converged connectivity— has enabled that vision. While OneCleveland began as an extension of the Case gigabit IP network, Lev Gonick, Case's CIO and VP of IT Services, is watching the growing number of institutions within the OneCleveland community that are now making free public wireless services available as an additional layer of mobile connectivity at various museums and city, county, health care, and education facilities. Partnerships with OARnet, Platform Lab, Internet2, National LambdaRail, and the emerging OH*1 provide OneCleveland's subscribers either direct or aggregated access to these key regional and national transportation systems. Commodity Internet-bound traffic today approximates 500 Mb/sec and is scalable. Initially conceived and driven by Gonick, the design and rollout of the OneCleveland gigabit network effectively delivers nearly unlimited bandwidth to community partners (subscribers), helping to create a network and platform for innovation and provocative application development. OneCleveland has helped to validate numerous new broadband wireless services being introduced among the network's subscriber base. It has also helped to validate advanced, high-definition video-based services from television over IP to thousands of interactive video conferencing collaborations made possible by several partnerships with Radvision. There is even some early experimentation underway with Sony and LifeSize in the area of near-highdef-quality video conferencing. New private sector investors and technology parks have been formed that explicitly leverage those public and non-profit institutions subscribed to OneCleveland. Building and construction developers are working with OneCleveland to design communities of the future. Innovators like Hexagram Inc. are now delivering meter-reading technologies (water, gas, electric) over Wi-Fi, another dimension of the digital city initiatives associated with OneCleveland. Read more: CT Innovator and CT Visionary.


Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) expands/converges communication

The Internet2's initiative is promoting the convergence of communication identities on college campuses by facilitating the use of e-mail addresses for voice and multimedia communication. The initiative seeks to build a large base of SIP-reachable Internet2 users by making existing campus PBX, Centrex, and VoIP systems reachable via SIP. "Educational institutions are poised to reap significant benefits from SIP," says Robert Bluemer, North America director, State and Local Government and Education Markets, Avaya. "By adding new SIP capabilities to their existing hardware and software investment, they can prepare their campuses for the future—using intelligent communications to connect students and staff in new ways and making them more productive and accessible." An industry-standard protocol, SIP breaks down communications silos and uses a single address to reach students or staff—whether they are on the phone, using a laptop computer, or away from the office on a cell phone or PDA. SIP also erases the boundaries among vendors, since it operates with any communications device, regardless of the manufacturer. As a result, colleges and universities are able to add new capabilities to their networks and gain new flexibility, while protecting their investment in their current infrastructure. Read more


Croquet is convergence

What if you converged a broadband communications platform with a 3D "immersive" interface and peer-to-peer (P2P) network architecture? You'd have a full-blown 3D virtual environment running on a simple, inexpensive P2P architecture. At the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the Croquet initiative is a broadband communications platform with a 3D user interface and peer-to-peer network architecture that provides educators with a new "expressive meta-medium" that its creators say can replicate and in some ways surpass the most valuable features of campus life. From project architect Julian Lombardi's blog: "Moving away from the remote, cramped, and emotionally flat experience of online learning, Croquet helps to create a collaborative information space where students and faculty can interact freely, moving away from many of the restrictions previously imposed by proprietary operating systems, applications, and formats. Key facets of Croquet: a) shared telepresence of large numbers of people, b) singular or shared authorship of complex spaces and their contents via open GL-based graphics engine and late-binding scripting language, c) shared open-source central repository for storage and retrieval of all created and modified objects, d) collaborative, real-time viewing and manipulation of all network-deliverable information resources, e) synchronized architecture allowing actions and behaviors of infinite networked users to be simultaneously apparent to users across Croquet, f) environment supports real-time interactions, and g) Croquet interface elements do not need to be literalized as a rendered 3D geometry. Viable presentation layers for Croquet spaces may be implemented in any display output metaphor." For more info, see "Croquet Learning Environments: Extending the Value of Campus Life into the Online Experience," Marilyn May Lombardi, Julian Lombardi [Third International Conference on Creating, Connecting and Collaborating through Computing (C5'05), 2005], and go to Julian Lombardi's Croquet Blog and read more.


Converging sectors:
public/private partnerships

Moving at "the speed of Internet2," Richard Bendis, president and CEO of Innovation Philadelphia, told a general session audience at the Fall 2005 Internet2 Member Meeting about "The Importance of Networking in Technology Convergence." A significant, regional initiative bordering on three states—Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware—and spanning 11 counties in the area surrounding Philadelphia, IP brings academic, civic, and corporate entities together to connect to resources and promote economic development and collaborative research. Rather than focusing on particular technology components, the key to the initiative's success is getting people to communicate: "Human connectivity is equally important, if not more important than the electronic connectivity that this meeting [of Internet2] is going to be focused upon," said Bendis. But the initiative is well connected electronically, particularly in the biotechnology sector. MAGPI, the regional Internet2 GigaPoP, has connected 192 sites in the region, and much of the area's academic research is conducted via Internet2. The general populace is also a beneficiary. This past March, wireless Philadelphia was incorporated as a 501(c)3 nonprofit, and full coverage of the city is expected by the fall of 2006. View the streaming video at Read more.


Students never miss a lecture—
notes, slides, and all

At Stanford University (CA), Engineering professor Ed Carryer has found a way to save his lectures for students who missed or couldn't get into his often closed-out talk, and he even hands out CDs of his lectures to students who request them prior to an exam. Importantly, the audio, video, Microsoft PowerPoint slides, student questions, plus the overhead LCD, are saved as they were used and delivered, even if Carryer strays from his planned lecture and annotates his slides differently than he has previously, or even if he delivers his lecture in a new manner altogether. Carryer says that previous lecture-recording solutions used up a lot of bandwidth just to "stay on his head," and the annotation quality was poor. But his new technology solution (Camtasia Studio from TechSmith Corp.) records annotations in real time and d'esn't lose the annotation layers, allowing him to go off topic. Carryer brings up his PowerPoint slides on his tablet PC, which is displayed on the LCD overhead; he wears a microphone headset so that all his audio is recorded with the slides. The solution is "efficient and portable," he says, enabling him to teach in any lecture hall on campus. A new PowerPoint add-in feature enables indexed recording so that students can easily navigate to any point in the recording. And Carryer never has to edit or "clean up" the live resource. A PDF is available at Read the article (PDF)....


Breathing life into classroom presentations

At the University of Washington-Seattle, Richard Anderson has effectively converged the instructor's live presentation and prepared slides, in hopes of reducing classroom PowerPoint fatalities: "Both students and instructors complain about the impact of using slides in lecture," he says. "One colleague expressed this directly as, 'PowerPoint sucks the life out of a class...' We developed Classroom Presenter specifically to address this problem, and to provide flexibility while using slides. .. The idea behind Classroom Presenter is simple: Support writing on top of slides by using the Tablet PC as the instructor device... Classroom Presenter is just the first step in using electronic materials in the classroom. The current work on Classroom Presenter is to expand its interaction with student devices. One natural direction is notetaking, where the ink and slides are broadcast to notetaking applications such as Brown University's (RI) Remarkable Texts, Microsoft's OneNote, or the Classroom Presenter, so that the student can take notes on top of the instructor's ink and slides. Another direction is to provide mechanisms for the instructor to direct student activities." Besides working toward more student interaction and instructor feedback, long term, the work on Classroom Presenter will include developing curricula for technology-enhanced classrooms and studying the impact of student devices on classroom instruction. Read more


Devices converge via smart phones

At the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, Chris Colomb, director of Messaging, needed a way for IT staff, students, and faculty to task and communicate on a single device rather than the multiple devices—cell, PDA, pager, etc.—that they were lugging around. As the school's IT infrastructure grew over the years, the requirements of staff, students and faculty had become more complex as well. He believed one device would not only save the university money, but would also allow users to be more productive. Personally, Colomb felt he would be able to streamline his workflow and stay up-to-date anywhere, even if he was off campus. On the software side, Colomb needed to implement a platform-agnostic solution that would accommodate all the users in his system. He opted for the Palm Treo smartphone for himself and for other campus users. "Even if I'm just standing in line somewhere," he says, "I can feel the e-mails piling up at the office, waiting for me to read them when I get back. Now I can deal with them while I'm anywhere." Campus users have their calendar and address book at their fingertips, and can make sure they're on top of meetings and other events. Colomb even uses an SSH client, PSSH, that enables him to check the status of his servers and immediately call someone if a problem arises. His Bluetooth headset allows him to keep the focus on the information displayed by his device while he's talking to someone. To accommodate the wide range of users at UNC-Chapel Hill, Colomb turned to SEVEN, a hosted push e-mail solution that is employed through the cellular carrier Cingular. (No IT infrastructure changes were needed.) It works for the more than 500 faculty, staff, and students who carry the smartphones, as well as those who use other hardware. Calendar synchronization happens with the help of Oracle's Collaboration Suite Calendar. The software supports two-way wireless synching, so Colomb and other users can stay on top of their schedules from anywhere on campus. They can schedule meetings, check for the availability of resources, and decline, acknowledge, and accept invitations, as well as ask for an alternate time. It's accessible by the Treo smartphone users, as well as the people who carry Palm Tungsten handhelds and other compatible devices.


Learning on demand through convergence

Chosen as a 2005 Campus Technology Innovator, Coppin State (MD) combines several technologies, including the Web, course management systems, tablet PCs, and multiple audio/visual devices installed in smart classrooms, to offer students the greatest flexibility and support for study and learning. The university was looking for a way to expand class time beyond the four walls of the classroom— to give students a better opportunity to succeed. Coppin State chose the Tegrity Campus solution from Tegrity. According to the university's VP of IT and CIO Ahmed El-Haggan, "What struck us about Tegrity was that it was a technology that impacted and improved fundamental learning behaviors—listening to lectures, taking notes, studying—with minimal change in classroom behavior for both the instructor and the student. While the underlying technology is complex, it's simple for our students and faculty to use, and can benefit all students, traditional and non-traditional. In terms of scalability and extensibility, the technology could easily be implemented across the entire campus in a short period of time; we employed a pilot program prior to implementation to ensure that it would be appropriate, beneficial, and worth the investment. Other technologies included in the deployment: Blackboard's course management system, already in place; tablet PCs to capture written communication by professors; and audio and visual recordings, projectors, document cameras, and wireless microphones and cameras, many of which were already installed in our 40 smart classrooms." Read more


Converging cell phones and VoWLAN

Buena Vista University (IA) has long been known as the nation's first totally wireless campus, and it was also the first private college in Iowa to sign on to its state's fiber-optic network, the Iowa Communications Network, allowing full interactive audio, video, graphics, and data. BVU is now the largest private educational user of that facility. The university is again pushing out front, leveraging technology to broaden Web-based instructional programs and forge ahead with integrated campus communications. Technologists there have most recently explored wireless voice convergence— VoWLAN+cell phone—to enable individuals using a single instrument to receive calls through the network in areas without cell service, and still receive regular cell calls when cell service is available. Read more


GPS that pizza

Converging directions, maps, satellite imagery, and cell phones, Google Local for mobile phones is a free download that lets anyone—most notably, millions of college and university students—find local restaurants, hangouts, and businesses across town or across the country, right from their cell phones. Students can be walking the campus and surrounding areas, driving, or using mass transit; their correct route is displayed on the map on the cell-phone screen, together with step-by-step directions. Local business locations and contact information appear together, integrated on the maps, which are also interactive, draggable, and zoomable for visual orientation. Users can also get a bird's eye view of desired locations. The service is terrific for new and existing students on campus, but also a boon for campus visitors who may be considering applying or attending. Something to think about for schools considering all-cell (no landlines) telecom, or for innovative admissions directors looking for a creative campus-visit edge.


Dartmouth converges IP Phones and video over the Internet

In May 2005, Dartmouth College (NH), dubbed "Unplugged U" by Wireless Magazine in 2002, announced via The Dartmouth its plans to converge voice, television, and Internet via the school's network. (The college went wireless in 2001 and moved to VoIP phone systems in 2004.) With its Video Furnace video-over-the-network system, the school can now give students cable TV access. All they have to do is go to http://license via any Ethernet-connected computer on the campus network. The system works on Microsoft, Apple Macintosh, and Linux operating systems. Dartmouth also plans to expand its VoIP network (already allowing users to make phone calls over the Internet), either using IP phones in the new dorms, or softphones (virtual phones on computers—either PCs or Macs). With its converged network, the college now has the infrastructure to effect communications for both voice and video. Read more


More talk about cell phones/PDAs

"Where's that campus shuttle bus?" "Will I be able to get a washing machine this morning?" "What did Dr. Brown say about the sculpture I'm looking at, here in the campus quad?" The answers to these and other pressing questions may be just a few PDA-clicks away, anytime, anywhere, at least for a group of students on the campus of Wake Forest University (NC). Through MobileU, a pilot program launched this term, CIO Jay Dominick and colleagues will test the use of converged Pocket PC/cell phones (Sprint Nextel 6600 and Cingular SX66 models) with about 100 students and staff. Their investigation spans academic, work, and lifestyle issues as they study the control features, messaging functions, and information access capabilities of the mobile devices, loaded with specialized and locationbased applications. For more, go to


Converging all campus resources and information

into a single unified digital campus via a personalized portal easily accessible to users is now a premier initiative at large, multi-campus institutions. Access is gained from a single sign-on (no need to remember multiple passwords for different systems), and there are no boundaries between the different campuses. Via its MIF (Multi-Institution Functionality) initiative, the mammoth University System of Georgia is standardizing on the same administrative system (SCT Banner) and the same integration/portal technology (SCT Luminis) to create seamless, multi-institution functionality. Georgia students will be able to take courses from any of 34 of the system's institutions without having to repeat administrative processes such as admissions, payment, and applying for financial aid; they'll perform the tasks only once, either online or in person, at their home institution. Students will thus have access to a greater selection of courses, and the system will gain increased efficiencies. But standardizing on systems is not required: Though an SCT customer as well, Wayne State University (MI) is building out its unified digital campus to work with non-SCT solutions including Blackboard, and the university's OneCard for bookstore purchases, library services, parking fees, and other services. Because the OneCard application is integrated with SCT Luminis, its corresponding data are available through the university portal. Students and employees can click the OneCard icon to view current balance and account activity, and add funds to their account electronically.


Coverging majors and technology simultaneously

The Missouri School of Journalism (MOJO) had been looking for a partner to help transform its journalism curriculum and create a "convergence" major, while updating its aging computer technology to pervasive, converged computing. The J-School signed on with Apple Computer as one of five charter members of the Apple Digital Campus initiative. (The partnership has since expanded.) To carry out the school's vision of pervasive computing in journalism education, it purchased wireless laptops for all full-time faculty and adopted a laptop requirement for all undergrads. A core group of instructors developed experimental courses that would have a direct impact on the new "convergence" sequence. One of the more exciting projects involves using laptops and iSight cameras to bring experts into the classroom from remote locations, or even teach courses virtually while faculty are traveling abroad. Across the board, though, technology-enhanced courses provide the building blocks for the new convergence sequence. In 2007, students, faculty, and visiting professionals will work in a new Futures Lab, an experimental newsroom and testing facility modeled in part on the IFRA Newsplex at the University of South Carolina. Read more


Converged IT asset management

Managing IT assets via software is still fairly new to much of higher education, but an ever-expanding range of asset management tools are now available to campus IT professionals, and are grouped into several classes which can overlap and converge for optimal management capabilities: a) large systems for traditional fixed asset management, b) targeted solutions for managing IT assets specifically, and c) systems that do both. For managing buildings and associated elements, most schools use some sort of facilities management software, often as part of a larger ERP suite (PeopleSoft EnterpriseOne asset management; SAP; Sungard SCT's Enterprise Data Warehouse). A few software companies such as MRO software (Maximo Enterprise IT) are reaching out to include IT asset management, and then there are solutions that specifically address IT asset management, usually including remote-control network management features. LANDesk, NetSupport, and AMX Meeting Manager are three in this category; some such products have modules with asset-tracking features, or they allow you to add asset-tracking features, security, and other specialties. LANDesk (spun off from Intel Corp. several years back) includes modules tailored specifically for security, as well as the more complex aspects of asset management. Other IT asset management solutions come from companies such as Peregrine, Computer Associates, BMC Remedy, Opsware, and Altiris. Sunflower Systems combines both traditional fixed asset management capabilities, and IT-specific asset management solutions, plus offers a module for managing mobile assets, useful for tracking laptops, tablets, or PDAs. Help desk solutions can overlap with IT asset management, and traditional configuration and system management tools—Microsoft Systems Management Server, Novell ZENworks, HP Novadigm, and BMC Marimba— can be used for managing IT assets, too. Think convergence. Read more


Informatics: converged tools for environment control

In this case, we'll limit the definition of informatics to systems designed to help monitor and alert you to possible concerns in rooms that require specific environmental conditions and perhaps some additional security. In years past, this may have been possible via your environmental control system, using attached sensors for humidity, temperature, and the like. Today, there are appliances specifically designed for this purpose. These often come with both temperature and humidity sensors built in, with options for remote, wet-floor sensors and for video cameras, with or without motion sensing. The cameras can be set up to trigger when a door is opened. You can place these items wherever you need them (as long as you can get Ethernet and power to the location), allowing your network, security, and/or building engineering staff to routinely monitor conditions and be alerted when pre-set thresholds are reached. The systems can send alerts to a network management application, or page to designated phone numbers (though, in this case, you'd miss out on the videofeed if you selected that option). One example is Net-Botz (see the case studies under the Industry Solutions/Education tab), which offers many options. Costs start at $900 for a single cameraless device, or you can reach tens of thousands of individuals if you select a centralized system with hundreds of NetBotz devices. Read more


IP-enabled building automation systems (BAS): More converged control

While many proprietary systems are available based on two previous ad hoc standards, the building control systems industry is moving (albeit rather cautiously) toward using IP as its base transport. OASIS (Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards) is making headway in promoting the Open Building Information Exchange (oBIX) set of protocols, based primarily on XML. You can now obtain individual building control components that can be placed directly on an IP network. Examples include actuators (e.g., to turn a valve on and off for heating and cooling control), elevator controls, sensors, and security cameras. Two makers on the forefront are Siemens Building Technologies and Andover Controls. Typically, an integrator is needed who specializes in BAS, especially if linking to existing proprietary systems is a must. One area of concern in this market is security of network access. Many BAS makers offer basic password protection only. Chaos could ensue if a hacker got into the system, and results could be devastating if the BAS controls the fire suppression systems. For this reason, prudent organizations implement multiple network-security techniques to separate and protect the BAS traffic. Read more


Building paging/Internet join forces

via IP speakers now available from vendors such as Berbee Information Networks Corp. and Valcom. Berbee offers both AC-powered and Power-over-Ethernet (P'E) versions, the latter providing more flexibility in placement. Berbee's speakers are available as ceiling panels, wall panels, horns, and weatherproof forms, while Valcom's are available as wall and ceiling models, and in P'E only (but they also offer "talkback"). The speakers can be part of a new installation, or interfaced to an existing paging system. Potential uses are to replace defective speakers, to allow placement in locations where only Category 5/6 cable is available, or to function as a portion of an entire paging system installed with a new voice over IP (VoIP) phone system. The benefits of this last use are the ability to employ the same cabling everywhere and to avoid separately maintained systems. As with legacy systems, an IP-based paging system can be zoned, and if used in concert with a VoIP system, the zones can be configured by logical uses and groupings, as well as or rather than by physical areas. Read more


Taking digital signage to new heights via IP multicast and streaming video

When people think of digital signage, they think of monitors that display constantly updated information at an airport, hospital, or some retail/public venue. Digital signage is used to convey directions, important announcements, current weather, etc., to keep visitors or customers informed. While mostly used in the commercial arena, it can be a great asset to most college campuses, as well. In the past, digital signage relied on having a dedicated baseband video connection to every monitor on the system. This meant having to install coaxial cable to each location and headend electronics necessary to make the system work. Often this can be very expensive, especially when delivering different content to each monitor, sometimes requiring a dedicated PC or server for each display. Lately, the shift has been to deliver this content over an organization's existing data network, utilizing IP. But the convergence of streaming video and IP multicast have enabled digital signage to become a more dynamic and less expensive solution for delivering content. Digital signage can now be placed anywhere there is access to the data network, wired or wireless. The content can be individualized for each display, showing, for example, classroom use, campus activities, or directions for clueless freshmen on orientation day. Some manufacturers offering components of a digital signage system are Tivella, Scala Broadcast Multimedia, and VBrick Systems. Read more


Boosting security via the convergence of IP cameras/digital storage

Look at your current campus security camera system, and you'll probably find a jumble of coaxial and fiber cables at a central point, connected to a large array of VCRs. Somewhere else on your campus is a large storage room with hundreds or thousands of tapes containing security camera footage. In order to retrieve information, someone has to consult the camera logs, go digging for the appropriate tape, and then cue up the tape to the precise moment, usually through a process of manually fast-forwarding or rewinding the tape. Thanks to IP, all this has changed. With the introduction of IP cameras and digital storage to campus security systems, campus IT and security personnel can easily deploy cameras, manage the system, and quickly retrieve stored images. With the vast array of IP cameras available, these systems can match the performance and functionality of "old school" security camera systems. While the ease of installing a camera that connects to the network just like any other IP/Ethernet device may pique security admministrators' interest, they'll find that the dynamic storage and image-retrieval functionality is the true reason they'll want to deploy IP cameras and digital storage. Based on the number of frames-per-second they record, hard-drive compression, and video decoding format (MPEG-4, for example), they will be able to store weeks' if not months' worth of images. What's more, digital storage is cheap. With the appropriate backup plan and network security, the recorded information will be as secure (probably more secure) than a locked room full of tapes. With multiple stored copies of recorded information, security administrators and technologists will never again have to worry about losing information because a tape wore out or was eaten by a VCR. But the coolest thing about IP cameras and digital storage is accessibility: Any authorized person can retrieve a recorded image from anywhere on the network, simply by entering the date and time into a Web browser. Live feeds from IP cameras can also be accessed in this same fashion. With most security systems moving to IP cameras and digital storage, this may be in any campus's future. Read more


AV resource management systems

Every campus technology department has examples of instructors being unable to use the technology-enabled teaching tools that have been provided for them. Many times, this means dispatching a technician to fix the problem, which occasionally is caused by equipment failure, but more often is the result of user error. Since lost class time is not replaceable, the ability to monitor and prevent equipment failure and to fix user-error problems in real time is extremely valuable. An AV resource management system ties data from each individual classroom's control system back to an administrative software tool. With such a tool: 1) Real-time status of all classrooms can be monitored, showing rack power, projector on/off, current selected source, room lighting, and projector lamp hours for each room. 2) Technicians have the ability to change any of these parameters directly over the converged network from a help desk position, without the technician needing to be dispatched to the room. 3) User activity can be logged, so that IT/AV staffers can determine whether people actually use (for example) document cameras, and can see how often they are used (and which instructors and departments use them). Log information helps direct better decisions regarding purchase of new or replacement equipment, since priorities can reflect actual usage patterns. Examples of classroom integrated technology systems that tie back to an AV resource management system include AMX, Crestron, Dukane, Extron, and SP Controls. Read more


Classroom video streaming teams with teaching and expands it.

Storing and distributing video and audio from classrooms can be an effective way to reach students not able to attend in person, and to provide a handy means to review lectures and class sessions. Camera servers permit the transport of video from a classroom to a control room, where video can be monitored and recorded, cameras controlled, and titles added. What is so great is that a single control room can monitor and control cameras for an entire campus, with the network infrastructure the only necessary piece to tie together widely dispersed building locations. A single control room allows centralization of equipment and staff, which in turn leads to greater efficiency and better use of available features. Canon is one provider of cost-effective networked cameras and camera servers. Read more


Calling all dual-mode phones

If you're like most campus IT personnel, you have to deal with both a cell phone and a desk phone at your work area. When both ring at the same time, you need to determine who is most important (or who you don't want to speak with at that moment). Having multiple voicemail boxes and multiple phone numbers are other annoyances. Campus IT folks are constantly on the run, so having a fixed desk phone d'esn't make sense. An ideal solution would be a single wireless phone with a single phone number and voicemail that could operate both on and off campus. These "dual-mode" phones are becoming a reality. Multiple manufacturers— Nokia, HP, and Motorola, to name a few—now offer products that integrate 802.11 wireless technologies into a GSM or CDMA cell phone. The original intent of adding 802.11 was to provide high-speed Internet access when the phone is within range of a high-speed WLAN, giving the user more efficient means of accessing the Internet. Now these phones are connecting to the organization's data networks and VoIP systems. Some manufacturers offer seamless integration between the enterprise phone system and a cellular network, allowing the individual to maintain a call when leaving the campus WLAN coverage. Read more


And for the visually impaired...

At Utah State University, researchers are working at creating a convergence of several technologies into a single device for the visually impaired. None of the technologies is great on its own for an individual's use, but merging the capabilities of a wireless network, a pedometer, a Global Positioning System, and a digital compass looks to do a much better job. Read more


Event scheduling/Web converge

At The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, with four satellite campuses and teaching operations in dozens of hospitals and clinics, an ever-increasing number of events takes place at each campus. But no central event calendar existed, forcing the university to advertise events via flyers, departmental Web sites, or the university's weekly newsletter. Microsoft Outlook or Meeting Maker was used for Internal departmental scheduling, and academic class and room scheduling was handled on a separate system. With three systems, event information would become outdated, and event planners were unable to easily identify scheduling conflicts. Once the event was scheduled, the options to publicize the events were limited. To centralize, administrators opted for WebEvent View from Meeting Maker (now PeopleCube). University employees, students, or the public now can include their event in the university-wide or department-specific Web sites by submitting a request through WebEvent View to one of 36 event calendar managers within 18 departments and schools of the university. Administrators post approved events to the event calendars on the university-wide or departmental Web sites. Since converging the Web with the new event management capability, The UT Health Science Center has seen real improvements in the process—and in event attendance.


Bringing 'hands-on' to distance ed

With students at 79 campuses in 31 states, ITT Technical Institute (WA) provides adult education students with instruction in IT, electronics technology, and more. In most ITT Tech programs, students spend considerable time in the lab, applying what was taught in the classroom. The challenge was to provide the same experience for ITT Tech's online students. The Institute began a pilot program with TestOut's LabSim Online product for A+ certification training in one of its online education courses. (The product is a high-fidelity, simulation-based computer and network lab that presents students with realistic, real-world scenarios.) ITT Tech first mapped the A+ LabSim Online to its existing course. Then the syllabus was adjusted to incorporate key hands-on learning activities available in Lab-Sim Online. Online ed students were provided with a CD set of the hands-on learning activities set forth in the syllabus. As they participated, their scores were reported to their instructors via the Internet. (Instructors can see more detailed performance data for all classes combined or within a selected class. They can view information based on all the lab-topics/products the students have been using, or by a specific lab topic/product. This gives the instructor the ability to see how one class is doing compared to another, or how well a certain lab topic is being received compared to other lab topic being taught.) What started as a pilot program for distance ed students has grown into more than 10 different LabSim titles.


The Internet, gaming, and leadership

A MMORPG—massively multiplayer online roleplaying game—is defined in Wikipedia as a multiplayer computer role-playing game that enables thousands to "play" in an evolving virtual world at the same time, over the Internet. MMORPGs are a specific type of MMOG. Interestingly, they are now attracting significant academic attention, notably in the fields of economics and psychology, and in the examination of relationships between real-world economies and synthetic economies. Because advancement in MMORPGs involves collaboration among groups of users in an attempt to achieve a challenging task, leaders and leadership skills tend to emerge, and the structure and design of these environments make them good candidates for a host of alternative uses for social scientists. For more on research into the convergence of gaming and Internet: See also


Physics labs/cyberspace converge

Virtual physics labs from makers such as Kinetic Books allow students not physically on site to partake in lab study and exercises, and also enable examination of subjects that are difficult or impossible to cover in a traditional lab (such as spacecraft-docking exercises, or experiments in special relativity). Other labs add "missions" to regular areas of study, to challenge students to use their newly acquired skills. Of clear value in secondary school education, the labs are also proving invaluable in community college environments as well, where non-traditional students are accustomed to more hands-on learning situations.


That's entertainment! (And info)

Cisco Systems and MTV ( and ) recently launched mtvU über, a new 24-hour college-age network streamed entirely in broadband. The new network may be the first continuously streaming broadband Internet protocol television (IPTV) network, broadcasting 24/7 to over 700 college campuses and six million US students. For participating institutions, audio and video data is routed to common areas like dining areas, lounges, and fitness centers, but can also be routed to dorm rooms. mtvU &Uuber;ber can be viewed only via Microsoft's ( Internet Explorer browser and Windows Media Player. It is including local college-centered news and features on campus life, fashion, dating, sports, work study, travel, in addition to popular music and the like. Cisco and mtvU &Uuber;ber have initiated a national "Digital Incubator" project to discover new digital media broadband creators. The project will fund students or student groups who create games, movie shorts, music videos, or other content tailored for mtvU über, streaming 24/7 and on demand.

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