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Spotlight: ASU To Deploy GPS For Campus Tours

By | August 16, 2004

      Arizona State University (ASU) is collaborating with Chandler, Ariz.-based OnPoint Systems to develop Global Positioning System-enabled, self-guided walking tours of the school’s campus. The new technology is slated for debut this September to give visitors and prospective students another way to explore the university at their own pace.

      Tour participants will use Dell Computers’ [DELL] pager-sized GPS receiver and a wireless headset to access the GPS-enabled tour program. As users approach each of the forty-three GPS “hot spots” located throughout the university’s 700-acre campus, the audio program will provide listeners with pre-recorded information and anecdotes about landmarks and their relevance to student life.

      OnPoint Systems produced the audio tour content using ASU journalism and theater students to describe the campus highlights to newcomers. ASU officials expect that the technology-based tour will appeal to prospective students, most of whom grew up with computers and are comfortable using advanced technology in their daily lives, said ASU spokeswoman Carolyne Kennedy.

      Jerry Ufnal, vice president of marketing at OnPoint Systems, said the GPS-enabled tour is designed to appeal to visiting students who are undecided about which major to pursue. The audio program also focuses on the range of possible career options offered by each ASU college.

      “The information that we provide about career options will help students to hone in on the critical decisions they have to make,” said Ufnal, who sees immense potential for further use of GPS technology on campus tours. Possible applications include streaming video, access to online information about schedules and professor biographies, as well as connections to the Wi-Fi network of individual colleges on campus.

      The GPS-enabled tour also would be useful for students who are interested in a particular college at ASU, Ufnal said. The technology potentially could allow students to create their own personalized tour. Students with questions after they complete their self-guided tours still will have access to the same university resources as in the past.

      “We’ll still offer guided tours, but folks who miss the tour or would rather move at their own pace now will have another choice of using one of these new devices,” Kennedy said.

      Universities in increasingly competitive environments must develop new ways to market themselves in a world where education is available in so many places, Ufnal said. The GPS- enabled tour is one way that ASU hopes to promote itself and increase its number of enrolled students. As a result, ASU views its purchase of the GPS product as an investment in a student recruiting tool.

      OnPoint Systems plans to roll out approximately fifty GPS devices this fall, to be followed by ASU’s purchase of more units in the future, if demand warrants. The new technology will cost ASU an estimated $500 per device, Kennedy said. Campus visitors who choose the GPS self-guided tour over the traditional student-guided tour will not be charged to use the technology, but will be asked to leave a driver’s license as to ensure that the device is returned.

      OnPoint Systems President and CEO Robert Boscamp, an ASU alumnus, envisions marketing the first-generation technology to other schools, after initiating its pilot project at ASU.

      –Tonya Oben

      (Carolyne Kennedy, ASU, 480/965-4012; Jerry Ufnal, OnPoint Systems, 480/446-8500)

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