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Oregon University Uses RTLS to Ensure Disabled Students Get Accessible Classroom Furniture

OSU knows the locations of 480 specialized tables and chairs throughout its 40-building campus, thanks to AeroScout Wi-Fi RFID tags.
By Claire Swedberg
Apr 08, 2013

When specialized furniture for disabled students is assigned a classroom location at Oregon State University, a real-time location system (RTLS) lets the school's Disability Access Services (DAS) department automatically know where those items are located, and when they have been moved. The DAS department is utilizing an RTLS solution provided by AeroScout Industrial (a division of Stanley Black and Decker), to track 480 pieces of furniture throughout 130 classrooms and 40 buildings within the school's 1,800-acre campus in Corvallis, Ore. Now, other departments at the university are considering using the technology as well, in order to track specialized master keys for dormitory rooms and monitor temperature changes in the cafeterias.

The DAS provides furniture such as specialized SurfaceWorks tables and lumbar-support chairs for all students who require them, as well as chairs for individuals who serve as interpreters and transcribers for hearing-impaired students. During the past few years, says Jennifer Gossett, the school's DAS coordinator, the university has noticed an increase in the number of disabled students, as veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan enroll in classes at the school. The DAS department provides the necessary furniture to those students, in the classrooms corresponding to their class schedules. Tracking the furniture and ensuring that each piece is where it should be for a specific student and class, however, had been a difficult task. The university did not want to bolt furniture to the floor, but on the other hand, because the furniture was mobile, locating it was often a time-consuming task, even if it was merely moved to another classroom within the same building. Consequently, some students did not receive the items they required at the time of the class.

If the DAS department received a call from a student reporting that a chair or table was not where it was needed as a class began, a staff member would have to hike out to that building and start physically searching for the missing furniture. In some cases, this could be up to a half-mile away. In fact, when the school purchased 480 new items in 2011, employees had joked that they would need a GPS unit on each piece of furniture to ensure that it did not end up missing. According to the university, personnel found that they could use the school's existing Wi-Fi network to locate the items, not with GPS but via AeroScout's Wi-Fi-enabled tags.

The solution consists of AeroScout MobileView software operating on the school's back-end system, as well as an AeroScout Wi-Fi T2 tag attached to each piece of furniture. A graphical map of every building on the MobileView software can display each item's location with a varying degree of granularity, based on the quantity of Wi-Fi access points within that building. In some cases, an item can be located within a classroom, while in others, the DAS department can view where the assets are, specific to a floor or a particular part of a floor in that building.

The DAS staff attached the T2 tags to each of the 480 items. At the time, workers discussed whether to hide the tags or make them visible, by placing them where users could easily see them. Ultimately, Gossett says, they opted to make the tags visible, and that visibility also acts as a deterrent to those who might want to move an item.

Once the goods were tagged, each item's assigned location—such as a classroom number (based on the course scheduling of the disabled students)—was input into the MobileView software and was linked to its tag's unique ID number.

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