Beacons Guide and Inform University of Oklahoma Students

Aruba Networks provided a beacon-based app that helps users navigate their way through the college's library, as well as access information about its collection of Galileo books and related items.
By Claire Swedberg
Dec 14, 2015

The University of Oklahoma (OU) has installed a network of Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) beacons to help students navigate their way around the campus library, as well as exhibits of its Galileo books and manuscripts, located at seven locations within four buildings around the campus.

The solution, which employs beacon-based technology provided by Aruba Networks (a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company), is designed to solve a problem that the large public university had been experiencing: helping new students from small towns learn their way around a large complex building, such as the seven-story Bizzell Memorial Library.

The Aruba Sensor plugs into a wall socket and let's OU's staff remotely manage the settings and monitor the status of the school's beacons.
During the past few years, says Chelsea Julian, OU Libraries' communication coordinator, college administrators had been noticing that new students often walked into the library's front door, looked around and promptly headed back outside. Since students are engaged with their smartphones most of the time, the university considered how it could provide an app to encourage them to venture through the library and explore its resources, rather than becoming overwhelmed and leaving.

In addition, the campus is home to one of the largest collections of manuscripts and first-edition books written by the Italian Renaissance scientist Galileo. The school has displayed the materials have been on display at seven locations on campus since the fall of 2015, including the natural history museum and art museum.

During the previous academic year, the school—which enrolls 30,000 students—decided that an app that would help new and existing students navigate the library and its Galileo exhibits. With the OU Libraries NavApp, available for Android and iOS devices, individuals can now find their way to the library's branches, special collections, resources and service desks, coffee shop or Galileo exhibits. The app relies on BLE technology to display a student's location as a glowing blue dot on an indoor map. If the app deployment goes well at the library, additional functionality could then be added to the app over time, says Matt Cook, the University of Oklahoma's emerging-technology librarian. In fact, he says, the college is considering a campus-wide app in the long term that would enable navigation and access to content related to most OU locations.

The school's app uses GPS data to enable navigation outdoors, between buildings. But OU also needed an indoor location technology to help students navigate the library and the three other buildings in which the Galileo exhibit is housed: the National Weather Center, the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art and the Sam Noble Natural History Museum.

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