BYOD – Where Do We Stand?

Remember the days when all the AV and IT people at a campus needed to worry about were the computers the institution owned, or the installed computer at the podium? Those days are long gone as the IoT has become mainstream in our daily lives. BYOD is a fact of life in our day to day work, and often a headache. How do you manage these challenges and stresses  My recommendation is to develop a  BYOD strategy.

To get a sense of the magnitude of BYOD already on college campuses, here is an example. Bates College has about 1,700 full time students. We have over 5,000 devices registered by students on our wireless network. That number does not include all of the of wired devices that students bring. In our newest residence hall, which houses 130 students, we have 100 wireless APs. That is almost one AP per student! A sampling of some of the devices we have seen registered include: laptops, phones, tablets, Amazon Echos, Amazon Dots, Apple TVs, ChromeCasts, smart TVs, Playstations, PS4s and Xboxes. We have even seen a couple of power adapters that connect to the network so that students can turn their stuff on and off from their phones. Personally, I still prefer The Clapper.

The question that needs to be answered now is: Which of these will we see in the lecture halls, presentation rooms and other spaces that we design? The integrators who have been in the home AV market will tell you that they see all of these things already and have dealt with them — however, not in the same way that we will see them in the educational market. Home integrators work with their clients to define exactly what will be in a system. They don’t typically design for “my friend may come over and bring a some tech thing they want to plug in.” This is one of the ways in which the educational market is unique. Another way the market is unique is that AV in education is not all about audio and video at the front of the space. We use AV in huddle groups, in residence halls and at various groupings throughout all spaces.

n order to deal with these challenges colleges need to address the following four factors: connections, cost, communications and planning.

Connections is about the various dongles and adapters you may have in any room. Every time this industry thinks we have settled on something (remember when HDMI was the FINAL connector?), it changes. The latest change, of course, is USB-C. Apple is now putting out laptops with only (even for the power) USB-C connectors. In a few months Dell computers will be doing the same thing. The iPhone no longer has a standard headphone jack. You can continue to chase around these changing connections forever. However, it is guaranteed that you will eventually not have the correct connection. In addition to wired connections, you need to decide what type of wireless connections you want to provide. Will they support only computers? Or will they support mobile devices as well?

The costs part of your strategy will help you communicate with your administrators about which connections to provide. CIOs, CFOs and presidents don’t want, and won’t understand, long descriptions of switchers and matrices and the costs of each. What they will understand is a “cost per port.” This is something that our IT partners have been doing for years. Calculate this number on your own, depending on your standards. Make it simple for yourself and give yourself some room inside the numbers. For example, if the four-by-one switcher you use costs $1,000, be sure to also consider the various cabling, installation and programming that needs to go into the installation and use. Also, you need to factor in the break point — what if you go to five ports? You don’t want to have to explain that this adds a whole new switcher. Stick with your number. If your calculations come up with $350 per port, that’s your number. As you talk with the administration about which connectors to provide, tell them the “cost per port.”

The communications part is likely the most important. Once you have decided on connections and costs, make sure you communicate it! Most of the people who come to our institutions never think about how they are going to connect their devices. You need to reach out to them and make sure they are prepared. If your decision is to NOT offer VGA anymore, make sure you are communicating that somewhere. I recommend your department’s website. This is where we have our SLA for connections in the classroom and it’s where we point all our presenters.

Finally, you need to think about the planning part of your strategy. This is the fun part! You get to think about what you might be seeing in the future and if you are lucky, you may get to buy some new technologies and test drive them.  For example, we are seeing a lot of annotation tablets coming to our campus. The presenters want to annotate in front of the room. If it is a Microsoft Surface that someone is bringing, not only do you need to consider the correct adapter, you also need to consider the aspect ratio of the device (it’s not standard). If you have never had a Surface, the first time you’ll realize this is when someone is standing in front of 100 people waiting to give their presentation.  Google Home and Amazon Echo, along with Mark Zuckerberg’s “Jarvis,” demonstrate that voice control is going to be a major aspect of control in the future. What do you need to know about this? How will this affect your connections, costs and communications in the future? If you have a sound BYOD strategy and you continue to work on it, you will be able to answer that question.