Cambridge University plans to use Bluetooth tagging to improve student experience

Cambridge Universityis considering using Bluetooth tag technology for when it completes a Wi-Fi network across its open spaces next year.

Jon Holgate, head of network at the university, said it was “two thirds” of the way through the large-scale Wi-Fi project and has installed 300 access points on Cambridge’s traditional lamp posts,CCTV poles and public buildings.

It is expected to offer its 50,000 wireless users free access in outdoor areas across the city of Cambridge, including through the historic buildings that Holgate described as, “seven-hundred-years’ old with walls a metre thick.”

Once the rollout is complete next summer, the team will assess how it can complement this increased coverage with Bluetooth tagging technology.

Bluetooth tagging technology

Bluetooth tagging, combined with a Wi-Fi network and a smartphone app, can provide personalised experiences for those logged on.

Aruba Networks, who supply Cambridge University, today launched Aruba Mobile Engagement, which offers this bluetooth and network technology as a complete package for aimed at retail, entertainment, healthcare and sports businesses who want to boost their mobile strategy to engage with customers.

The system will allow businesses to send push notifications to a person’s phone when they enter a specific area that has installed ‘Aruba beacons’ that pick-up devices. The beacons currently have accuracy of a metre, but can be optimised by installing more devices.

Bluetooth tagging in Cambridge University’s libraries

Holgate said that there were two areas in which Cambridge university could benefit from this kind of geo-location tagging technology.

There are 114 libraries at Cambridge. The main library has eight million books, which is more than the British Library.

An app that could help students find their way around the library or suggest where to find a book could give the university the edge over its competitors.

Holgate said: “Cambridge is competing with MIT, Stanford, Harvard. It has to provide the very best... It’s also about me and my department staying relevant.”

Additionally, Cambridge’s high foreign student intake would benefit from language specific apps. First, a bluetooth tag could track a user signed in on the network. By logging into their own account, the system would be aware they spoke a specific language and the app could assist in finding books through locating tagging while communicating in their language.

Holgate, speaking at the Aruba Networks launch in London's Shard this morning, predicted that this technology would be key for business analytics to learn about who is using networks generally, and to optimise town and campus planning for further infrastructure in Cambridge specifically.

“I suspect there will be a hell of a lot more down the road”, he said.

From 22,000 to 50,000 unique wifi users in two years

Cambridge began investing in its Wi-Fi networks last year when it realised that to stay competitive it needed to offer the most wide-ranging and reliable network for its students.

Unique users of the Wi-Fi networks have gone from 22,000 to almost 50,000 in two years.

Undergraduates at Cambridge’s University will have been born in 1996, the year Google was launched, Holgate told the conference. He said: “The digital world is their version of reality.”

To keep tabs on usage, the university stipulate a policy of 30GB per day per user, “and we have a significant amount who get close or over that regularly” he added.

Image: Cambridge University Library Credit: Ben Gallagher Flickr

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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