Vanderbilt’s Signs of the Times Go All-Digital

Reprinted with permission from Campus Technology

Today’s college students, who have never known a world without personal computers, MTV®, or mobile phones, expect accurate, up-to-the-second information delivered instantaneously and packaged in colorful, bite-size pieces for quick consumption. Their parents’ time-honored tradition of tacking announcements, flyers, event posters, schedules, and menus to dozens of old-fashioned cork bulletin boards just doesn’t cut it. And with no way to oversee content, school administrators dislike those sprawling boards just as much. Digital signage is the answer.

Accustomed to large, widescreen flat-panel TVs, informational displays at airports, malls, and arenas, and the immediacy of 24-hour cable news, students already understand the concept. For schools, the ability to place networked flat-panel digital signage displays in virtually any location, schedule and supervise content from a central point, and set up automated message rotation “play lists” can eliminate those old bulletin boards, cut down on wasteful paper use, generate new revenue, and bolster campus security efforts.

Among the hubs of student life on the 3,300-acre campus of Nashville’s Vanderbilt University is the Sarratt Student Center. Known as the school’s traditional locale to meet, study, grab a light meal, and buy event tickets, Sarratt’s digital signage system from NEC Unified Solutions consists of five display panels, quickly upped from the initial installation of three once their popularity became apparent.

On any campus, regardless of size or population, digital signage technology can be used to present broad content, including schedules for school- or student-sponsored events, guest lectures, last-minute room relocations or postponements, maintenance closure updates, weather reports, sports scores, cafeteria and bookstore daily specials, campus photography, maps, merchant advertisements, and more. Depending on the configuration a school chooses to implement, digital signage display panels can be individually addressed, allowing each to show different text or full-motion video messages.

“The graphics look professional and are what our students expect,” says Samantha Brandenburg, Assistant Director of the Sarratt Student Center. That’s not surprising for a generation that has grown up immersed in technology. Sarratt already has removed one bulletin board, enough to make a small dent in paper use and recycling. Using standard JPEG files measuring 1366 x 768 pixels, the Sarratt Center assures an appearance consistent with Vanderbilt’s overall graphics standards by merging ever-changing content with a set of pre-designed, easily modified design templates that support both text and video.

At the Sarratt Center’s main information desk, where Brandenburg installed two overhead panels side-by-side, one displays box-office information for upcoming on-campus concerts and other events. The impact was immediate and has become a catalyst for generating new revenue. On a day when Sarratt’s Ticketmaster® outlet sold 3,000 tickets, using the signage system to inform buyers of the proper procedure helped to eliminate confusion, keeping the line moving quickly. Another message informing students that Sarratt sells vouchers for the local movie theater has boosted sales to an average of two dozen a day, compared with just a few each week before.

Sarratt adjusts its play list to keep content current, but otherwise the system requires little attention. In addition to its scheduled slide rotation, the system maintains a library of slides that can be called up instantaneously to convey evacuation information in the event of a tornado warning or other campus-wide public safety emergency. Even if communication is interrupted, each display panel can continue to function with pre-loaded slide images.

Throughout the Campus

Digital signage is a natural for campus applications extending well beyond the confines of a student center. In academic buildings, digital signage can eliminate confusion about the last day to add or drop courses without penalty, deadlines for financial aid applications, and upcoming course registration procedures. At athletic facilities, signage can display continuously updated scores, intramural team sign-up information, and facility availability. Cafeterias can post alternating daily and weekly menus, and for those students who care, nutritional information. The campus bookstore can update items on sale based on inventory levels, announce book buy-back dates, or inform students that delivery of a particular out-of-stock textbook is expected tomorrow.

In addition to generating revenue from ticket sales, digital signage turns out to be a great vehicle for more traditional advertising opportunities. Local retailers and restaurants can reach thousands of students and staff with a different message every day—or every hour. Tourism companies offering Spring Break travel packages can incorporate a tropical beach video into an ad they’ve scheduled to run each time the campus gets hit with snow. With the NEC Unified system’s built-in ad-management scheduling and reporting capabilities, the information needed to collect revenue from advertisers, such as which ads have run, on which signage panel, and at what time, is easily available.

Of course, it doesn’t always have to be about revenue. During last year’s election season, Vanderbilt’s Sarratt Center displayed citizenship and service messages about how to vote and where to register, along with schedules for the candidates’ televised debates and local rallies. On Inauguration Day, all five of Sarratt’s displays carried live feeds of the day’s historic events. “People pulled up chairs and watched for hours,” said Brandenburg. The gatherings proved a boon for nearby eateries, too.

Touch-Screen Power

Digital signage need not be placed high overhead. Panels can be installed in kiosks at shoulder height and equipped with optional touchscreen capability that greatly broadens their usefulness. To maintain dormitory security, visitors in a secured vestibule area can scroll through a resident list and select the person being visited, triggering the intercom system to that student’s room. For campus visitors, touchscreen panels placed at strategic locations can aid with navigation.

Digital signage is the right technology for the times. Not only do students get current information in an appealing format, the technology reduces paper use and recycling, affords a high degree of supervision, generates new revenue, and instantaneously communicates instructions in the event of a campus emergency. “I can’t imagine any modern university without a campus-wide signage system for communicating with students, staff, and faculty,” says Brandenburg. With digital signage as much a part of their daily campus experience as e-mail, the 12,093 students of Vanderbilt University clearly agree.

For more information please visit: www.necunified.com/digitalsignage

NEC Unified Solutions, Inc.
6535 N. State Highway 161
Irving, TX 75039-2402Reprinted with permission from Campus Technology

Case Study from University of New Mexico

Thanks to Mark Reynolds, Associate Director ITS CNS at the University of New Mexico, for sharing a case study with us on a smooth voicemail transition.

Click on this link, pull down the menu to feature Higher Education, then click UNM case study at the top.

BAI Cuts Costs and Helps Eliminate Administrative Hassles with NEC Unified Communications

UNIVERGE® Sphericall’s high reliability and robust features enable flexibility and business continuity

IRVING, TX, April 21, 2009 — NEC Unified Solutions, Inc. (NEC), a leading communications solutions integrator, today announced that BAI, a financial services industry research firm, has experienced significant operational cost savings and efficiency improvements using NEC’s UNIVERGE® Sphericall pure software-based IP communications solution.

“UNIVERGE Sphericall works on standard servers utilizing a simple licensing model, and, in addition, we no longer have to rely on a service provider to make simple changes to our call routing requirements. As a result, we are currently saving about $1,500 per month on support costs alone,” said Jim DiNapoli, senior manager of networking for BAI. “We have found that Sphericall provides applications that fit the needs of our executives, call center agents and support staff. NEC designed technology around the role of the individual which, in our experience, has led to a reliable, highly effective and easy-to-use unified communications solution.”

UNIVERGE Sphericall is a 100-percent software-based alternative to traditional telephony that leverages open standards for flexible, IP-based unified communications (UC). BAI leverages three elements of the Sphericall enterprise softswitch at its Chicago and St. Louis sites, including:

Sphericall Desktop for instant messaging, click-to-call and presence-based call routing
Sphericall MeetingHub™ for centralized, simultaneous multi-party conferencing for up to 60 participants
Sphericall Manager for complete call control, seamless connectivity and call load-balancing for full redundancy
Prior to deploying Sphericall, BAI used a traditional voice solution that was complicated, expensive and difficult to manage without additional third party service charges.

UNIVERGE Sphericall allows BAI to enhance many different employee roles. The St. Louis site supports BAI’s online training offerings and Sphericall’s customized routing includes presence-based forwarding and voicemail rules. The administration of call routing is easy and can be changed remotely, allowing the BAI support team to stay operational even in instances of inclement weather when support calls may need to be handled via cell phones. Sphericall soft phones are very convenient for BAI’s remote trainers, who use this feature to conduct training anywhere, anytime. Additionally, supported Polycom® phones have made it easy and cost effective for BAI to set up remote offices.

By placing people at the center of business communications and identifying the employee’s role, NEC helps organizations such as BAI build a unified infrastructure, which is enabled by unified communications, integrated with business processes and supported by partnerships and services.

For more information on NEC’s communications solutions, visit www.UNIVERGE360.com.

About BAI
BAI is the financial services industry’s partner for breakthrough information and intelligence needed to innovate and stay relevant in an evolving marketplace. For more than 80 years, we have focused on advancing the industry by offering unbiased education and research. Our offerings are as diverse as the industry, and include premier events such as BAI Retail Delivery Conference & Expo, ground-breaking research and performance metrics, professional learning and development programs, and in-depth editorial coverage through BAI Banking Strategies. Visit www.BAI.org for more information.

BAI is Bank Administration Institute and BAI Center.

About NEC Unified Solutions
NEC Unified Solutions helps companies unify their business communications through innovative software, applications, development tools and services. NEC offers a complete portfolio for unified communications, wireless, voice, data and managed services, as well as systems integration and application development. NEC Unified Solutions serves as the North American communications integration arm of global giant NEC Corporation for Fortune 1000, as well as small to mid-sized businesses in vertical markets such as hospitality, education, government, and healthcare. For more information, visitwww.necunified.com.

NEC and UNIVERGE are registered trademarks of NEC Corporation. All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners.

Arlington Chamber of Commerce Enhances Collaboration with NEC’s Unified Communications Applications

UNIVERGE SV8100, UC for Business help improve staff efficiency and achieve ROI in six months

IRVING, TX, April 1, 2009 — NEC Unified Solutions, Inc. (NEC), a leader in enterprise business communications, today announced that Arlington (Texas) Chamber of Commerce in Texas achieved an approximate six-month return on its unified communications (UC) investment by improving staff collaboration and eliminating service costs using NEC’s UNIVERGE® SV8100 communications server and UC for Business (UCB) productivity software.

“We wanted the productivity enhancements that unified communications applications, such as presence and unified messaging, could bring to our employees,” said Randy Paine, IT manager, Arlington Chamber of Commerce. “The NEC solution, implemented by AIT Technologies, not only upgraded our fax application, but it is also enabling our staff to provide better service to both our members and the Chamber’s other stakeholders.”

In order for the Arlington Chamber to effectively work with the local business community, an outdated and expensive-to-manage voice infrastructure needed replacing. The Chamber turned to NEC’s UNIVERGE SV8100 communications server and UCB in order to streamline its business process and reduce decision latency. Desktop telephony and Microsoft® Outlook® integration simplifies call handling and gives users the ability to manage all communications from their desktop. UCB’s presence capabilities also allow Chamber staff to see coworkers’ availability.

NEC’s UNIVERGE360 vision is evident as the solution enhances many roles within Arlington Chamber, including receptionists and executives. Receptionists at the Chamber are more efficient using UCB’s presence function to look at employees’ statuses, which includes integrated calendaring. By moving the mouse over a person’s name, receptionists can see where the colleague is and their scheduled return time; this approach helps receptionists estimate when callers might receive a call back. Additionally, executives can now automatically route calls to their cell phones when out of the office or use UCB’s unified messaging to receive voice messages via their laptop’s Outlook inbox.

“Arlington Chamber of Commerce plays a key role in the city, and upgrading its technology enables the Chamber to foster a more collaborative working environment with the business community,” said Larry Levenberg, vice president and general manager, National Channel, NEC Unified Solutions. “NEC’s UNIVERGE360 role-based approach allows Arlington Chamber of Commerce to choose the best communications method and technology that fits the role of each individual employee.”

For more information on NEC’s communications solutions, visit www.UNIVERGE360.com.

About NEC Unified Solutions
NEC Unified Solutions helps companies unify their business communications through innovative software, applications, development tools, and services. NEC offers a complete portfolio for unified communications, wireless, voice, data and managed services, as well as systems integration and application development. NEC Unified Solutions serves as the North American communications integration arm of global giant NEC Corporation for Fortune 1000, as well as small to mid-sized businesses in vertical markets such as hospitality, education, government, and healthcare. For more information, visit www.necunified.com.

NEC and UNIVERGE are registered trademarks of NEC Corporation.

About Arlington Chamber of Commerce
The Arlington Chamber is one of the North Texas region’s largest business federations representing more than 1,400 business, trade association, and non-profit organization members, who collectively employ more than 60,000 individuals in Arlington. The Chamber serves as the primary catalyst for Arlington’s economic growth and development, and has become a regional and national leader in the areas of technology based economic development and education and workforce development. For more information, visit www.arlingtontx.com.

About AIT Technologies
Founded in 1998, AIT Technologies has forged over 700 client relationships in North Texas. AIT Technologies maintains on-site inventories for the support of its customer base and a technical staff that receives rigorous factory training from its select group of industry-leading partners. For more information, visit www.go4ait.com.

VoiceCon Recap from NEC

What an exciting week at VoiceCon! NEC was able to demonstrate new solutions such as our UNIVERGE Sphericall for Hospitality (meeting a need for the small- and mid-market hoteliers available April 1) as well as our Interactive Terminal Suite for the DT300 and DT700 IP phones, which will be generally available this quarter.

Here are a few observations from VoiceCon this year.
1. This is the year of video. Every year VoiceCon has a “show within a show” and the focus this year was video. Almost every booth in the show had some form of video capabilities. Polycom showing a new video phone. NEC showed off the UC Collaboration solution. Every where you looked, was the “great video experiment” (according to IDC).

2. The contact center is back!  We had several people come by the booth and ask about our contact center solutions (thanks Doug Hutchinson for your knowledge in this area).  Over the past couple of years it seems contact centers was fading in the background as “unified communications” became the buzz word.  But as people begin to understand that UC is a framework for adding components that enable business processes (an idea that Jeff Kane, NEC president, shared with several media/analysts/consultants and they all agreed), people are again looking at the contact center as one of those components.

3. SIP-trunking is extremely interesting to IT managers this year. Jeff Kane discussed this within NEC after chatting with one of our partners. I also heard this from Nemertes Research.  Nemertes is publishing a report in early summer that highlights several initiatives for the year (they get their information directly from customer surveys) including on premise conferencing solutions (audio and web); mobile device management; and SIP-trunking.

4. Services, services and more services!  This was the theme from almost every analyst and media person we spoke to at the show.  From managed services to cloud/hosted offerings, Paul Lopez did a great job (and a big thanks to Pedro Marquinez also) of sharing the NEC vision for services.

There was much more, but this is a quick summary of a few key topics that were floating around the show and highlighted in sessions. Let me know if you have specific questions or would like more information on a given topic.

Thanks,
NEC Marketing