Project Spotlight

U West Florida Uses BYOD Content-Sharing System for Collaborative Problem Solving

Christie Brio

Courtesy of Christie

The Innovation Institute at the University of West Florida is using a digital collaboration system that lets people share content on a single screen from their own laptops, tablets and smartphones, so they can more easily discuss ideas and solve problems together.

The Innovation Institute opened in January 2014 in a historic building in the Belmont Devilliers historic district of Pensacola, FL. One of the institute's primary missions is to bring together people from industry, government and education to talk about problems and figure out how solutions from one particular domain might be extended to another domain. "Our charge is to address some of the large problems in education in particular to try and discover an innovative way to approach what we're doing," said Dave Dawson, research scientist at the Innovation Institute.

Connection Challenges

The people who come to the institute for these problem-solving sessions bring with them a wide variety of technologies, some of which are locked down in a way that makes it almost impossible for the user to make any configuration changes to his or her device. The collaborative nature of the problem-solving process at the Innovation Institute requires the ability to analyse and compare the differences and similarities between what different organizations are doing, and the institute wanted a content-sharing system that could simplify that process.

"We wanted to make it so that people could walk into the building with whatever it is that they use most often, whether it's a PC-based laptop, a Mac, an iPad, an Android tablet or a phone of any type, and connect to our display system and collaborate with other people with a minimum of distraction — without going through a trunk full of hardware connectors or adapters or going through contortions for systems configuration, which they often don't have the administrative rights to do," said Dawson.

Digital Collaboration on Any Device

The Innovation Institute worked with a third-party audio-video systems design and integration company, Technical Innovation, to identify and implement technology to support BYOD (bring-your-own-device) digital collaboration. The institute's list of requirements for the digital collaboration system included ease of use, flexibility, wireless connectivity, seamless system integration, real-time videoconferencing and multimedia content sharing. Technical Innovation researched the available options and came back to the institute with a couple of proposals. "They did a very good job of the evaluation process to make sure that the things they proposed actually met our performance requirements," said Dawson.

In the end, the institute selected the Christie Brio wireless presentation and collaboration system from Christie Digital. Christie Brio supports multimedia, multi-device and multi-platform content sharing without additional hardware or drivers. It can share content wirelessly and in real time for up to five content feeds per unit.

The system was in place in time for the opening of the Innovation Institute's new facility in January 2014. According to Dawson, the implementation process was "absolutely painless." As part of the process, the institute created a separate guest network to enable visitors to connect their mobile devices to the Christie Brio system. Apple iOS devices, such as iPads and iPhones, connect to the system over Apple AirPlay, and Android devices connect to it through Miracast. So far, the only unexpected surprise occurred when Apple released a new version of the iOS operating system, which broke the AirPlay connection to the Christe Brio system, but Dawson noted that the people at Christie Digital fixed the problem in just a few minutes over a remote connection.

Results

The Christie Brio system lets people from any organization bring their own mobile technology to the Innovation Institute, log on to the guest network and start sharing. They share interactive digital video, presentations, spreadsheets and other digital content, and collaborate to solve problems and develop new ideas. According to Dawson, the people who visit the institute love the technology. "The first thing they always ask is, 'can we get one of these for our shop?'" he said.

Since the Innovation Institute opened just over one year ago, it has grown from 12 people to more than 150 people and has roughly doubled its square footage, taking over another part of the building where it's located. The institute plans to implement a second Christie Brio system with a larger 4K ultra-high-definition display for use in the expanded space.

Dawson calls technologies like Christie Brio "enabling technologies" because they simplify the collaboration process rather than complicating it. "We're looking for things that enable us to do the things that we want to do without the distraction of tinkering with the technology to make it work for a particular case," he said. "We want people to be able to focus on the issue at hand rather than on the technology to enable them to articulate their vision."

About the Author

Leila Meyer is a technology writer based in British Columbia. She can be reached at leilameyer@gmail.com.

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