Campus Communication at UC Merced

MINNEAPOLIS, November 29, 2021 – As the newest University of California campus, UC Merced had its finger on the pulse of digital signage since opening in 2005. It wasn’t until recently that students, staff and visitors saw the power of digital signage as a campus communications tool. Since transitioning to Carousel Digital Signage earlier this year, several departments now create and contribute dynamic, targeted content across an expansive Carousel Cloud network on UC Merced’s recently completed “2020 Project,” which comprises 13 buildings constructed from 2016-2020.

“We’ve had false starts and other problems with digital signage over the years,” said Jodon Bellofatto, Technology Enhanced Spaces, Lead Analyst, UC Merced. “There was one system that has survived in the library building, and another was decommissioned as it was considered too clunky and difficult to navigate. People simply abandoned it.”

Bellofatto and his colleagues had many goals in mind when it came to selecting digital signage software for the 2020 Project. Product support was top of mind; along with not being user-friendly, the previous system was decommissioned due to lack of vendor support. Interoperability was important, particularly CAP (Common Alerting Protocol) support for emergency alerts, and native compatibility with BrightSign media players. There was also a desire to bring digital signage into classrooms and conference rooms, with wireless presentation systems automatically switching to digital signage content following a presentation or lecture. 

Above all, the team wanted a solution that would allow multiple departments to easily create compelling content that would engage audiences, and keep content fresh and dynamic. Upon evaluation of several solutions, Carousel Digital Signage offered the best solution to meet these and other goals, including scalability to existing buildings.

“We have 49 digital signage screens active in the 2020 Project, and have since enabled six more in some older buildings as we make upgrades and renovations,” said Bellofatto. “No matter where the screens are, we want software that will help us create captivating content. We have to offer something that is more interesting than the black mirrors that students carry in their pockets, and that isn’t an easy nut to crack.”

That has made what Bellofatto calls “curation” an important part of their digital signage strategy, with an accessibility to departments that invites creativity. “I can establish user permissions in a way that anyone who understands the workflow and wants to upload content to the network can do so,” he said. “There are branded zones based for each department, largely by building, and these zones are broken down into specific channels. There is creative freedom to build landscape, portrait, and what we call ‘event’ content. Carousel Cloud renders content very fast, so any changes to bulletins and graphics will appear automatically with the right permissions.”

Bellofatto adds that technical support has been exceptional, and there is even a collaborative spirit that he says was non-existent with the previous vendor. “We actually started with Carousel 7 hosted software, and transitioned to Carousel Cloud recently. We have recently turned on new features in Carousel Cloud that have been very helpful, such as stitching multiple displays together. We have some amazing OLED displays, in our Welcome Center, that we can now use in all their glory. I also like their new channel duplication feature, which means that I don’t always have to create new channels from scratch.”

Carousel Digital Signage’s native integration with BrightSign players has also simplified deployment, and allowed UC Merced to take advantage of zero-touch deployment, remote player configuration, and other features that only native player integration offers. He adds that Carousel also integrates cleanly with Mersive Solstice collaboration systems and Zoom Rooms, which they use in many of their meeting spaces and classrooms. Finally, he expects to enable Carousel Cloud’s CAP support functionality in the future in partnership with the Campus Safety department.

“There is a lot to offer with Carousel Cloud that we simply could not get before,” said Bellofatto. “My next steps are to investigate Carousel Express Players to bring campus content to our website, and to overall find new ways to accelerate our return on investment. The ability to do so much with one platform goes a very long way in achieving that goal.”

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