How IP Speakers, Displays and Mass Notification Redefines K12 Expectations

Paging, Clocks, Bells and now Mass Notification are all standard pieces of equipment for any School. With that said, the last few decades have seen little innovation in this sector it would seem. With legacy product still dominating these categories, most schools tend to be frustrated with the type of existing systems. So why is it that there isn’t something better?

In the past ten years, we have seen public funds pouring out to streamline networks and phones with “E-Rate Funds” which have created robust backbones in districts across North America. During that time we have also seen a hardening of security in response to tragic events. Plans and communications both internally and externally have been implemented and the software market has responded accordingly. Getting a page over phones or a text to parents and students can happen simply and immediately. which has been a giant leap forward to safety with Mass Notification.

Unfortunately, the core systems used to communicate in schools by and large are unchanged.  I won’t address the high service costs associated with legacy technologies here (but these are real pain points). Instead, let’s look at the solutions that can match the changing expectations of schools.

The Lack of Innovation Starts With Profits.

If you are a School reading this, don’t cover your eyes. This is as much for you as those in the industry providing the solutions. It is common knowledge that most potential providers of mass paging and clocks steer clear of the education market. This is an incredibly mature market, and as such fierce competition keeps the margins razor thin on these large projects. While this might seem good for education buyers, the net result is that there have been few new technology updates and those that have come out don’t get talked about much.  I think we can all agree that no one wins in a less for less scenario.

Did you know there are now solutions thought that cost the same, but give you so much more? And in that same category, allow for a profit to help drive further innovations? You should think in terms of Win/Win/Win

Designing Complexity Must Be Abolished.

There is a gap in communications between school notification systems. Earlier we mentioned how networks have become substantial backbones that are driving many core systems. However, paging, bells, clocks, and mass notification systems at the core typically function independently. In many cases, these systems have complicated and proprietary head ends and it takes some ingenuity to get them to talk to one another. These patches offer limited functionality by and large, and each serves as a potential point for a  breakdown. If one patch fails, you might lose all of that cross-system communication. Being able to pick up a phone and talk to phones and speakers in a select group, such as all Kindergarten rooms in a district might be useful. Having a lockdown initiated by a teacher, that automatically turns clocks into location-based visual silent alarms, notifies 911 and school administrators via a conference call at the same time; now that is something that can save lives but is equally impossible with legacy systems.

A School does not care what brand of paging or clocks they have. What they want are reliability and functionality.  If we step back we can look at solutions that are simpler to design, and offer a new path for new expectations. Think of these as the new standards.

Elegant Solutions

In the world of core communications, there is a new solution set. One based purely on IP standards that leverage that same backbone that has already been thoroughly built out. These IP devices are endpoints. Each unit plugs into the network for power and signal, just like IP phones.

With the smarts built into the devices,  you now have a scalable solution without single failure points. A single unit is a speaker, microphone, clock and mass notification (scrolling text) that lives right alongside the phones, computers, and software that are already in place.

They are SIP-enabled, meaning they can directly interface to the existing phones and be managed. They do not require a custom server on the back end. In most cases, they can work with popular mass notification software such as Singlewire’s Informacast or a host of others.

Suddenly you are working with a system that not only combines all of these elements into one but goes one step further to work alongside all of your communications. The design layout becomes simple. The use is intuitive. The functionality increases a hundredfold.

Design Cost Comes Down, Profit Goes Up.

Instead of talking about price points, I want to tell you a real story from one of my customers from last year.

I met a CIO of a large district at a trade show one spring. This Gentlemen had bonds passed for a total school district upgrade of their paging and clocks. The designs were done, and the RFP was complete, but the project hadn’t started yet. I was showing Advanced Network Devices here, and after a short conversation, he told me he had no idea this type of IP based solution even existed.

The following week after the show we touched base. He put me in touch with the selected and winning reseller of the analog systems as well as the architect and consultant who made the specifications. They wanted a design and count to do the system with IP products exclusively to see how much more it would cost as the feature set was well worth it.

Working with them we were able to design systems for Twenty-Two Schools using Advanced Network Devices products exclusively in just 2 days. The original project for an analog paging system and clock system was designed on razor-thin margins and had been won at 1.8 million dollars for the district. This same reseller was able to quote the IP upgrade, at 1.4 million USD.  Netting a 400 thousand dollars in savings for the district. All because instead of running literally hundreds of miles of new wire, they could leverage the existing network for the backbone.

This school system was able to get this massive upgrade at a lower cost. The dealer shared with me that they actually had a larger profit as well. The next year, the neighboring school system specified the upgrade with the same integrator, and now both are incredibly satisfied.

Now Is The Time To Change Expectations.

You can be a part of one of the fastest growing trends in education. What is more, it is a trend that can literally save lives, and leave everyone who is a stakeholder satisfied. Getting into Mass Notification with IP speakers and clocks is a simple process that nets results.

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