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Carleton University: Broadening the Scope of Communications

Carleton University, located in the capital city of Ottawa just south of the city center, has over 20,000 undergraduate students, 3,500 graduate students, and a staff of several thousand.

In May 2009, Carleton hosted the annual Congress of the Humanities, a nine-day conference drawing 8,000 delegates, 4,000 presentations, 150 book publishers and 70 associations. Participants included leading public intellectuals, authors, artists, researchers, scholars, and students in the humanities and social sciences from every corner of Canada and around the world.

“Few of these guests had been to Carleton before,” says Services Marketing Coordinator David Townsend. “And we needed a way to get basic information out. Information that people need to know when they are in a new city, such as where the bus stops are, where to get food, or what the weather was going to be like.”

It was this challenge which led Carleton to Visix. “The performance to price ratio was an important factor in choosing Axis TV. The system seemed simple to manage and fairly low-maintenance. We also liked the web interface.” So one month before this major campus event, Carleton purchased Axis TV digital signage software.

Carleton boasts 16 screens of varying sizes, from 26- to 46-inch, located all over campus. “Obviously the focus has changed since the Congress ended,” says Townsend. “Since then the scope has broadened significantly.” Now the system is used to get out information about events on campus, contests and food specials, along with other announcements. “We run RSS feeds, news and weather feeds, as well as stream video. Individual departments can create their own content and publish it.”

Content is custom-tailored to the location of the screen. “We try to put the screens in places where lines form and people wait, such as the bookstore, the food court, the athletics area or the main desk at the housing area,” Townsend explains. “The screen at the athletics area will mainly display content concerning that location, such as information about upcoming hockey or basketball games, and the food court will provide information about any special promotions they might be running. If someone wants more information, they are directed towards a website, so it becomes interactive as well.”

Carleton displays a mixture of centrally-managed and venue-specific information. The majority of content is determined by staff at the various screen locations. “There usually is some crossover, though,” adds Townsend. “So there will be some sports or cultural-related content at the food court, and vice versa. But that part is centrally managed so that external content doesn’t dominate a particular screen.”

Carleton is looking to expand its digital signage to more locations around campus. “Now we’re having departments and offices coming to us and asking ‘When can we get a TV?’ So it’s growing,” says Townsend. “Customers want content that is of interest to them and that is more interactive,” he continues. “This is the way advertising is moving.”