Founded in 1974, the University of Houston-Downtown (UHD) is a comprehensive four-year university offering bachelor’s and master’s degree programs aimed at professional development. Located in the heart of downtown Houston, America’s fourth-largest city, UHD offers bachelor’s degrees in 44 areas of study along with eight master’s degrees. With a 20-to-1 student-to-faculty ratio, UHD provides a unique hands-on learning environment for each student.
- Upgrade an unreliable and aging emergency alert system
- Provide an efficient, modern make-over for a print poster wall
- Replace aging Smartboards with updated interactive displays
- ViewSonic EP1042T 10.1” all-in-one interactive digital ePoster
- ViewSonic EP5540T 55” all-in-one interactive digital ePoster
- ViewSonic ViewBoard IFP7750-E1 interactive displays
- The new EAS system deployed quickly and is consistently reliable and easy to maintain
- The digital awards wall is easy and efficient to update, more eco-friendly, and delivers a more modern look
- Students and instructors are enjoying the enhanced interactivity delivered by ViewSonic ViewBoard interactive displays
- The university plans more deployments of ViewSonic solutions
We’re very happy with the ViewSonic emergency alert system solution. It’s very dependable. It works well with our software. It receives signals promptly, and we’ve had zero losses. They’re workhorses.
— STEVEN CACHIA, ASSISTANT DIRECTOR OF INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY AT UNIVERSITY OF HOUSTON-DOWNTOWN
Emergency alert systems (EAS) are a critical priority for higher education campuses, as mandated by the Federal Clery Act. The University of Houston Downtown Campus had an aging EAS. Deployed in 2011, it never quite met
the school’s objectives.
“At the time we couldn’t find a digital signage system to do what we wanted,” said Steven Cachia, Assistant Director of Information Technology. “So we went with an Android system that ended up presenting some serious challenges.”
In addition to requiring the IT team to modify the tablets, develop their own app and custom-build a power-up method, the system was high maintenance and not very reliable.
“Several years back we decided to get serious about making an improvement,” said Cachia. “We began looking for a system that would deliver fast, dependable alerts.”
Additional asks included easy, out-of-the-box deployment and reliable power.
UHD set out to assess the market. Cachia’s team found his options limited. “There aren’t many providers in this space who could deliver everything we were looking for,” said Cachia. “In addition to the functional specs, we were looking for a reliable product from a reliable brand – a company that would be there for us down the road.”
ViewSonic, the team discovered, had an ideal product to meet their needs: the ViewSonic EP1042T 10.1” all-in-one interactive digital ePoster. The company’s 30-plus years in the industry and solid brand reputation clearly checked off
the ‘here for the long haul’ box.
“The ViewSonic EP1042T monitors have an integrated media player that enabled us to lock it down to prevent tampering,” said Cachia. “And with the power over ethernet, setup was truly out-of-the-box.”
What’s more, he said, it offered exactly what they were looking for at a good price point for their budget. Cachia’s team evaluated the displays, which worked seamlessly with their interactive software provider, Four Winds Interactive.
The decision was clear and Cachia invested in 250 units.
In addition to the easy Power over Ethernet installation, everything about the ViewSonic EP1042T 10-inch monitors made delivering and managing the system simple, Cachia said.
“We’re very happy with the ViewSonic EAS solution,” said Cachia. “It’s very dependable. It works well with our software. It receives signals promptly, and we’ve had zero losses. They’re workhorses.” Basically, he added, UHD’s new alert system has been an “install and forget” application for the IT team. Thankfully, the system hasn’t seen much real-time use. When activated in response to what turned out to be minor incidents, the EAS performed admirably, distributing warnings to impacted classrooms/floors. Regular testing confirms the ongoing health of this critical system, which is monitored and managed by the local police department and campus public relations.
Everything related to the EAS project went so smoothly that UHD turned to ViewSonic for its next digital signage installation, Cachia said. “For years, the university had been showcasing awards in a high-traffic hallway using large print posters. It was time for an upgrade. We also felt the need to assess a new digital signage provider and wanted to see how the back-end part of the puzzle would work with the front-end portion similar to the EP1042T units.”
“The team in charge of the project asked us to find a digital alternative that would be more efficient,” said Cachia. How would a cloud-based signage provider work with the already proven ViewSonic core technology on a larger display concept?
Once again, ViewSonic had just what they were looking for with the ViewSonic EP5540T. The 55-inch EP series display even came with the same integrated mediaplayer. Cachia’s team tested the ViewSonic EP5540T displays with cloud software from Zignage and worked with both companies to develop their ideal solution.
“They work very well together and we were able to do exactly what we wanted to accomplish,” said Cachia. “The finishing touch was the addition of Chief Mfg frames to deliver a dressed-up look to the digital award wall.”
Several months post-deployment the award wall is still performing beautifully. In fact, the university has been so pleased with the performance that it has once again expanded its use of ViewSonic products, this time to classroom teaching,
“We replaced our old Smartboards with nine ViewSonic ViewBoard IFP7750-E1 displays and VPC15-WP-4 slot-in PCs. They look better and are performing well,” said Cachia. “Importantly, the choice of sizes is terrific. When we spec technology, we like to be consistent. If we deploy lots of different brands my staff and the instructors get annoyed – they have to train on and learn different systems.”
With ViewSonic as a partner, Cachia said, he has the ability to choose from a wide array of size options to meet the needs of different room sizes. “Because ViewSonic has such a great array of products in their portfolio, it makes it very easy to work with them,” he said. “And their reps are also great to work with. If we need to talk with someone it’s easy to get the answers you need.”
Across all three project deployments – from the emergency alert system and award wall to the classroom interactive displays – stakeholders have been very happy with the results, Cachia said.
“We haven’t had any issues. It’s all good and I look forward to continuing to work with ViewSonic as a panel provider. By no means is this it. We have a lot more panels to buy.”