Form meets function in the latest tech advancement on campus at Kettering

By Website Administrator | Apr 26, 2002

Wireless kiosks are being piloted at various locations around campus to give students a direct line to their records, a warm welcome to visitors and to provide the entire university community with information about events and happenings.

Wireless kiosks are being piloted at various locations around campus to give students a direct line to their records, a warm welcome to visitors and to provide the entire university community with information about events and happenings. Prototypes will be operation in early May at two locations on campus.

"The kiosks are like an ATM machine only they are an information machine," said Donald Guthrie, vice president and chief information officer at Kettering. "Our two target audiences are visitors and students. We wanted a system that would enable us to provide a warm welcome for visitors and a set of useful functions for students."

"We wanted a system we could leverage off of a wireless network design Hewlett Packard (HP) is donating to Kettering," Guthrie said. "HP is developing and donating the campus-wide wireless design, most of the equipment for the first two kiosks, and they will assist us with the initial implementation," he said. The university decided to start with a mobile prototype of the kiosks to evaluate of placement options.

The prototypes will have only basic functionality, said Guthrie. The opening screen will feature a 'Welcome to Kettering' banner on a touch screen, with three or four key functions such as campus maps, event calendar information, a campus telephone directory and "send-only" email access.

"Initially, the equipment will be mobile stand-alone enclosures with a touch screen. It will have some computer power, a phone handset and maybe a keyboard," said Guthrie. "I would like to get to the point where the keyboard is on the screen so users can look up phone numbers on the screen and just press send to direct dial an office and then just talk through the screen. "Eventually the system will include permanent built-in models as well as mobile units.

Guthrie also envisions the phone becoming wireless or voice-over internet, and the campus maps interactive so the kiosk can tell visitors where they are and how to get to any location on campus. Another function hopes to add to the kiosks is infrared download capability for hand-held devices like palm pilots, enabling students to download email.

The e-mail function will remain a send-only system. "These are not going to be work stations," Guthrie said, "they are targeted for short duration, stand-up use by visitors and students."

"We are using a limited number of prototype kiosks to make sure the functions all work and to begin assessing locations," said Guthrie. "It's our ultimate objective to add more functionality to the system and have kiosks scattered around many locations on campus, some mobile and some permanent."

"The kiosks are not prohibitively expensive," said Guthrie, "but at the same time they can't all be put in at once. The mobile units cost about $1,200 each, the built-in models are more expensive. Once the functionality is in place, however, the technology is the same for all of them, we can just replicate it over and over with each unit," he said.

Initial locations include the rear entrance to the Academic Building near the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETL), the entrance to the Library or on the second floor main entrance to the Academic Building near the Science and Math Department.

"As soon as I can I want to get one in the Campus Center in the Great Court where we get most of our visitor traffic coming in," said Guthrie, "so they can walk up to a kiosk instead of a booth with a uniformed security person."

Because the prototypes are mobile, locations can be assessed for usage, traffic volume and easy access. Projecting into the future, Guthrie said other possible locations include: the lower level of the Campus Center where students enter from Thompson Hall and staff enter from the parking areas, the front entrance of the Academic Building near the Provost's Office, Thompson Hall and the Connie and Jim John Recreation Center. "After we determine the functionality and how students use them, there is no reason why we can't put them in the Sunrise Room, the Sunset Room and BJ's too," said Guthrie.

As part of a class project for Adjunct Lecturer Gary Erwin, a study group conducted a survey to determine what functions students would like to have in a kiosk. Their results indicated students wanted phone directories, class schedules and course catalog information.

The Kettering Information Technology organization is responsible for the design and implementation of the kiosk project, a part of the information technology strategic plan, which supports the Kettering University strategic plan.

"Overall the game plan is to start small and make sure its working right, but we have grand plans for the kiosks to be virtually scattered all over the place, a slick visible statement of technology on campus for visitors and students," Guthrie added.

Written by:
Dawn Hibbard, director of Media Relations and Communications
Phone: (810) 762-9865
E-mail: dhibbard@kettering.edu