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Automate Innovation Series: Automate Efficiency

Technical services can better serve their universities when efficiency is automated
University Business, June 2013

Employing resource management software (RMS) can help higher education institutions maximize A/V, financial, and personnel resources. Additionally, the automation provided by RMS can increase A/V equipment efficiency. This web seminar, originally broadcast on April 9, 2013, was the final in the three-part “Automate Innovation” series and focused on how the University of Minnesota centrally controls its A/V hardware, maximizes sustainability, and improves efficiency through RMS.


Program Manager
AMX Education Alliance


Engineering Manager
Classroom Technical Services
University of Minnesota

Kym Glass: The Global Education Alliance is a worldwide consortium of higher education A/V and IT users. The Alliance has taken part in the best practices and development of solutions globally for a wide variety of institutions for over 20 years. This long history has led to a unique understanding of the challenges and technical requirements for colleges and universities. The Global Education Alliance was established to address the needs of IT and A/V leaders and offer exclusive benefits to its members.The University of Minnesota is a Global Education Alliance member, was a finalist in the Innovation Awards at UBTech 2011, and has been leading the way for A/V best practices in the classroom for years.

Ray Troyer: Classroom Technical Services evolved from various separate audio-visual departments on the Twin Cities campus of the University of Minnesota. We have 23 full-and part-time employees, with five engineers and six technicians. We have an average gross sales of $2.75 million, and this year we will get closer to $3.3 million. I mention the gross sales because we are an Internal Service Organization (ISO) within the university that is not supported by university funds. We charge other university departments for our services and are federally mandated to neither make a profit nor operate in the red. We purchase our equipment from local dealers and re-sell it to our internal customers.

I also believe that as an ISO, we inherently have an efficiency advantage over an outside vendor. The Office of Classroom Management was formed in 2000 to deal with many issues, including the classroom physical environment and classroom technology. At that time, Classroom Technical Services was formed and charged with developing a base design that could be scaled across the wide variety of Classroom Management’s classrooms. One of the initiatives we developed was the “Projection Capable Classroom.” The Projection Capable Classroom requires the instructor to bring his or her laptop to the classroom. This one decision lowered the cost of the base design and has saved thousands of dollars each year on support costs compared to classrooms with dedicated computers.

The Projection Capable Classroom’s base design includes a projector and program sound system with a VGA laptop input, a VHS VCR and a DVD player. The system is controlled by a tactile button control panel with eight buttons. Variations on this base design include ITV functionality, video conference and most recently, the Active Learning Classroom, or ALC. ALCs provide the student with a collaborative environment with as many as 14 tables seating nine students each. Students are expected to bring their own tablet or laptop to class. Each table has its own flat screen monitor with three laptop inputs. The instructor has the choice of displaying his or her presentation on all of the student tables, routing one student table’s signal to all student tables or allowing the tables to work independently. This capability is provided via AMX NetLinx controllers and AMX CatPro routers.

We have gained efficiency with our Projection Capable Classrooms because:

  • Laptop-based teaching saves time and money compared to rooms with dedicated classroom computers. Teachers working from their own laptop or tablet can deliver their presentations more efficiently than working with a computer with which they are not as familiar and don’t use every day.
  • Our instructor interface is consistent from classroom to classroom.
  • Systems automatically shut down after a set time. Classrooms generally will not operate during non-class hours, further extending equipment life and reducing energy costs.

We asked to be one of AMX’s RMS Beta sites when the program was first being developed. Among its many benefits, RMS provides source usage reports that help inform classroom planning decisions. Campus police are notified immediately when an attempt is made to remove a projector or unauthorized tampering with a system occurs. It should be noted that we have never lost a projector in a classroom connected to the RMS server.

Rooms showing an issue can be dealt with before class begins. Every classroom system hosts a web page that allows a support person to assist an instructor with any issues they are having with operating the classroom technology. This saves time and money for the university. RMS provides us with notifications when projector lamp life meets a predetermined threshold of lamp hours. This allows us to replace the lamp well before it burns out, preventing projector damage. Teaching and learning are never interrupted by lamp burnout. Overall, classrooms are operationally ready more than 99 percent of the time. In my opinion, the automation supplied by the control systems and the RMS server allows us at the University of Minnesota to efficiently provide the classrooms needed to support the university’s mission. To summarize, I would like to use a phrase of our classroom support manager: “Maximized teaching time by reduced classroom down time.”

Casey Foulds, Education Relationship Manager, AMX: There are two key stakeholders involved to maintain an efficient campus. The instructor wants the technology in the room to be reliable and intuitive. It must work every time and class time must not be wasted getting the room powered up to use. The user experience must also be consistent from one room to the next. An instructor should not have to relearn the way the system operates in every room. The room should also provide perfect audio and video for the knowledge transfer from the instructor to the student. The other key stakeholder is the support person. From his or her perspective, it is all about minimizing the total cost of ownership.

Therefore, the technology must be:

  • Cost effective to purchase and to maintain throughout its lifecycle
  • Reliable, so he or she does not need to babysit the equipment
  • Energy efficient to meet the campus’ sustainability objectives
  • Simple to manage – tools should be available to allow for remote monitoring and management To create a perfect classroom, there must be projectors or displays and speakers for audio reinforcement.

Lighting control should be incorporated through simple-to-install light switches or dimmers. Occupancy sensing for energy management purposes is also easily and cost-effectively installed. AMX Resource Management Suite software provides centralized management and monitoring of all of the equipment across the campus. This suite helps a campus incorporate collaborative initiatives into their technology equipment, use, and support. It helps to maximize A/V and IT staff efficiencies and provides asset utilization reporting. RMS Enterprise is a scalable client or server-based software for IT and A/V managers that provides remote management capabilities for A/V assets and building systems.

The rich web application offers a widget-based dashboard with enhanced graphics and navigation to simplify operation, support and security. RMS Enterprise contributes to energy reduction initiatives and extending useful life of devices. The millions of dollars you’ve invested in beautiful, state-of-the-art A/V technology throughout your campus are worthless when these systems are not working. RMS Enterprise is a simple answer to maximize your technology return on investment. RMS will simplify operation, support, and security with enterprise scalable software, and improve Help Desk performance metrics and meet service level agreements through proactive maintenance. AMX can bring you the textbook result for a technology efficient campus.

To watch this web seminar in its entirety please go to