University of British Columbia Relies on Digital Signage to Bring Instant Cost-Effective Communications to 54,000 Students

February 20, 2013

Following a pilot phase, UBC selected Haivision's CoolSign digital signage solution for its campus because it provided highly scalable infrastructure for easy expansion, simple management tools for content broadcasters, platform stability and an economica

With 54,000 students spread out across the province in different campuses and learning locations, the University of British Columbia (UBC) began searching for a digital signage solution that would enable instant communications to its entire student body, faculty and staff. Its specific set of requirements included the ability to broadcast instant information across various campuses in the event of an emergency, facilitate the university's marketing and branding efforts and provide advanced signage solutions to business units, schools and faculties. In addition, since the university does not allow for third-party advertising on its network, UBC needed a solution that was both simple and cost-effective in order to keep its operating expenses at a minimum.

Following a pilot phase, UBC selected Haivision's CoolSign digital signage solution for its campus because it provided highly scalable infrastructure for easy expansion, simple management tools for content broadcasters, platform stability and an economical price tag. In the event of an emergency, UBC can now instantly deliver a broadcast message throughout its network of displays via a centrally controlled communications platform. The solution is also fully scalable, meaning that as the university continues to grow, the digital signage solution can be adapted to accommodate any number of new applications. To manage the cost of the solution, UBC also benefits from a flexible licensing agreement, which allows for cost-effective operations that can be tailored to the university's specific needs.

To support UBC's marketing and branding initiatives, content administrators now have the ability to include a central content playlist, which is relevant to the entire campus community, in their own local playing content. From within the different schools or faculties, students and other members can also submit content for rotation on internal, campus-wide, or large outdoor screens. This setup enables UBC's different units to use digital signage in a way that corresponds to their existing workflows while still allowing for centrally managed infrastructure and support. Recent initiatives have included notices for Remembrance Day ceremonies, teaser profiles of student athletes participating in the 2012 London Games, and student film projects posted to the UBC's large outdoor display. The university also incorporates social media to help augment its brand awareness by broadcasting curated Twitter streams and posting photos to promote events unfolding live on its campus.

For business units, digital signage has made operations more efficient and is being used to promote specific products and services. For instance, the university's Food Services now uses dynamic menuboards to advertise its offerings. Via digital panels, the service is able to instantly adjust the menu to better match its inventory and launch spontaneous promotions to coincide with special events taking place at UBC. Food Services also enjoys increased operability with its point-of-sales system and a better overall service to its customers.

Since launching the system two years ago, UBC has already increased its number of displays from 15 to 110 and intends to add multicast video streaming throughout its signage network in the near future. Furthermore, the "Campus Signage Unlimited" program is currently enjoying a 100 percent retention rate from all of its participating services. UBC's signage solution has also enabled substantial economies of scale; networking, infrastructure, security, disaster-recovery, software licensing, training and support costs have all be reduced thanks to the deployment. From a content perspective, there is now more consistency to the university's branding message due to more centrally managed broadcasts and an increase in successful campus-wide campaigns related to faculties and student life.

Wilson Lo, senior programmer analyst in the IT department at the University of British Columbia (UBC), comes from a varied technical background. He started out as a Unix systems administrator and then moved into the area of Java development. He has been involved with the delivery of several enterprise open source-based services at UBC. Most recently, his work has shifted more into the solutions architecting of enterprise services, including the UBC student e-mail and digital signage services.

Lo will also be a presenter during the "Digital Signage in Education" conference from 9 a.m. to noon Feb. 26 at Digital Signage Expo 2013 in Las Vegas.


Wilson, who are the centralized 'content administrators' within UBC? Are they marketing staff with new signage content-creation responsibilities, or are they IT staff interacting with other UBC content-creators? Thanks for the case study; appreciate all the details.


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