How to Use Beacon Technology to Improve the Campus WiFi Experience

Written by Danny Mareco Danny Mareco | December 10, 2015 | Read Time: 3 mins

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Being a new student in college or a new faculty member naturally comes with several challenges; navigating a new campus can be one of the most daunting. Where is the closest study room, bookstore, campus police, a nurse, or just the classroom you need?

The use of Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) beacon hardware and analytics software coupled with GPS and wifi based sensors can allow students to find their destination without asking for repeated directions or wandering the halls looking for a specific room.

While still being fairly new, beacon technology offers colleges and universities a real opportunity to drive a more robust wifi experience through context, interactive content and big-data analytics.

Improving the campus wifi experience 

Most students, if not all, have a smart phone in their pockets which means that they're also carrying a sensor-enabled device with them 24/7. This makes taking what they have and combining it with beacons a very logical decision.

Syncing the physical with the digital creates a new school wifi environment guaranteed to impress and enhance the user experience.

Imagine being on a new campus and using an app to get turn by turn indoor navigation within a 10 story building to find the specific computer lab you need?

Once in the lab, you are instantly notified with instructions on how to access the network and/or computers because the technology knows where you are in the computer lab.

Getting even more specific, what if you needed to find where specific information within the library exists?

With the proper use of beacons and integration, students can see on a map where they can find ancient Egyptian history vs. the Cold War.

Students in a particular section can be notified of other sections that may be helpful or events on campus relating to their research interests.

"For an incoming freshman who has never been to a building this big — it's seven stories and hundreds of thousands of square feet — you can use the tool you already have — the smartphone -- and get navigation and location-based content,"- Matt Cook, Oklahoma University.

Maps can be used in the case of emergencies to find safe locations in the event of a tornado, other natural disaster, or more recently a security threat.

The campus wifi experience becomes interactive, giving the student, faculty member and ever guest a personal, contextually relevant experience.

Beacons can be used in a large or small campus environment, but the larger the campus, the greater the possibilities and benefit for students.

Oklahoma University recently implemented BLE beacon technology on their campus and have roughly 50 battery powered beacons which is anticipated to expand continuously.

Knowing students’ locations on campus is mutually beneficial for student/faculty and the university.

In the event of an evacuation, staff can see if a building has been properly cleared and that students can get instructions on where to go. And for those concerned with student data security, the beacons chirp outwards and do not collect information on who specifically is using the beacon.

Think about it like this, you track beacons, beacons don't track you.

College and university IT departments can see students' location in relation to the beacon and a number of users without getting personal information on the student or device. This allows them to see the number of new visitors in a location, allowing you to determine where to place additional beacons.

Analytics are a game changer

In addition to the user experience the other side of beacons that offers a tremendous opportunity are the analytics.

Beacons can deliver data that can be used to drive smarter, contextually-based decisions.

For example, using beacons your school can measure how long students spend in a specific part of your campus. This could lead to better strategic decisions regarding your campus layout as well as improve public infrastructure.

This is one example of an almost endless number of possibilities, it all comes down to what you want to measure and the outcomes your looking to drive. 

If you have any questions about how you can utilize wireless beacon technology to enhance and optimize your campus wifi experience? Please contact us today.

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