Pinwheel DME Automates Room Reservation Access Saving the College of Business Thousands
In Fall of 2014 Oregon State University opened Austin Hall, a state-of-the-art, $50 million, four-story building for its growing College of Business. Austin Hall boasts within its 100,000 square feet: 10 classrooms; a career success center; a cafe and marketplace; computer labs; conference rooms; faculty offices and workrooms. Ilene Kleinsorge, dean of the College, desired to create professional, collaborative meeting spaces for students. A key feature of these meeting spaces was that they serve as project rooms that students can reserve for class projects, club meetings, individual or group study, and peer tutoring.
Austin Hall is a true 21st century building. Students and faculty are greeted with an interactive stock ticker illuminating a lobby wall with live stock market values and an image of either a bear or bull. To match the modern aspects of Austin Hall, Kirk Wydner, Operating Systems Network Analyst for the College of Business, along with the director of operations and the rest of his team were tasked with finding innovative technical solutions to meet the behind-the-scenes needs of the new building.
Open Sesame: Outfitting a State-Of-The-Art Building
A major undertaking for Wydner and his team was implementing Austin Hall’s physical security system and room reservation scheduling system.
Since students already carry ID cards with embedded “contactless” chip technology, Wydner and his teamelected to install wireless electronic door locks and the SMS door access system from Vanderbilt Industries.
Next, they needed to find an easy solution for students to reserve one of the 21 project rooms. After visiting other campuses the team first decided on wall-mounted Crestron Touchscreen Schedulers. “We loved that they light up as you walk by and that you can tell at a glance if a room is occupied or open, even from down the hall,” says Wydner.
Making it easy for students to reserve these project rooms on the web was an important piece of the project. The team selected the EMS event management system from Dean Evans for the online room reservations and to drive the Crestron Schedulers.
Flexible, Automated Reservation Access Solution
With the right door lock, access software, room display and scheduling software in place, the last step was to make everything work together.
“For our specific use case, having to manage 3-4,000 enrolled students each term, we knew we had to have some kind of automation in loading the users and assigning them access to the doors,” explains Wydner.
Much to his surprise, a native provision for integrating a security management system with an event scheduling system didn’t exist. Wydner adds, “It made sense to me that you’d want to be able to automatically grant and take away cardholder access based on a live schedule.”
This led the team to seek out a solution that would seamlessly integrate the College’s disparate event management and door access systems with the goal of forming an automated reservation system for the building’s users. A top priority was maintaining the security regulations of the College of Business and Oregon State University.
“We wanted to ensure our users could access the project and meeting rooms whenever they needed and, if they had a reservation, it was important that no one else would be allowed to enter without permission,” noted Wydner.
Wydner’s team explained these needs to their security systems contractor, who came back with the Pinwheel Data Management Engine (DME) from SwiftData Technology.
Pinwheel DME is a custom-configurable data management system designed to automate business workflows between disparate campus systems.
Seeing that the Pinwheel DME cost-effectively met all of their requirements, Wydner and his team moved forward with the SwiftData solution.
Connecting the Pieces
SwiftData used a Process Document to define the needs of the College of Business and develop the data management workflow. Wydner then created a step-by-step process for each possible scenario and performed logic checking with a SwiftData programmer.
Since SwiftData needed pertinent College of Business data in order to tie all of the systems together, Wydner developed the functionality to pull proximity card numbers from the University’s card center database. He also matched the information with their user records in Salesforce, pulling the combined user data down from Salesforce to temporary files, cleaning and formatting the desired fields, creating staging databases, and making the user records accessible for SwiftData to pull into the Pinwheel DME.
After obtaining the necessary data from Wydner, SwiftData configured the Pinwheel DME to:
- automatically load and manage accounts for all 4,000+ users (students, faculty, and staff) in both the EMS and SMS systems;
- pull reservation data (start time, end time, event name, user name, room number) every five minutes and assign access to the room to the user who reserved the room, for the length of time they reserved it;
- allow for assignment of access to sets of rooms based on group membership or class standing;
- allow for two reservation modes: one where reservations were required for door entry and one where they were not;
- allow for granular assignment of special rooms for individuals;
- regularly check the users’ assignment of areas for errors.
Ultimately, SwiftData satisfied all of the College of Business’s requirements for the project.
Recounting the process, Wydner says: “SwiftData lives up to their name. From the design phase through the implementation and into ongoing support, SwiftData always responded to my calls or email the same day, most of the time within the hour. They communicated clearly, in detail, and provided exactly what we had agreed upon.”
Improve Efficiency, Save Money
The Pinwheel DME loads the appropriate users into the EMS and SMS systems, maintains accurate account records in both systems, and ensures access permissions are consistent with the rules set by the College of Business. This whole process is automated and hands-off for the College of Business IT department.
“Manually regulating who got into the project rooms or conference room, especially during dead week and finals week, would not only take several hours, but also cause an excess of unnecessary headaches for the staff and students alike,” Wydner says.
To create additional time savings for College of Business IT staff, SwiftData created a user-configurable registry setup program. College of Business staff can now easily set:
- the location of the EMS API, EMS username, EMS password;
- the reserve only day start;
- the reserve only day end;
- number of minutes to wait to check if a person badged in;
- the length of time for the created reservation if someone badges in without making a reservation;
- and the number of minutes to check for bookings.
“Altogether, I would estimate that Pinwheel DME saves us hundreds if not thousands of dollars per academic term and easily in excess of several thousand dollars over the course of the year,” says Wydner. “Those savings provide a solid return on our investment in Pinwheel DME.”
Featured image credit: Lara Swimmer Photography