The Geneva Area City Schools in northeast Ohio has signed an agreement with VBrick Systems Inc., a Connecticut-based provider of video-over-IP network solutions, to stream cable television to its classrooms economically and reliably–eliminating $200,000 in traditional IT infrastructure costs. Its agreement with VBrick also will enable the district to select and restrict access to specific cable TV stations, thereby ensuring age-appropriate content throughout the district.
Geneva’s cable television streaming initiative is a component of the district’s modernization plan to build five new schools for its 3,011 students. In addition to a new high school that opened in January, Geneva’s strategic plan includes four additional schools by 2010. Ohio funding for new school development is contingent on the district’s compliance with state guidelines that require all classrooms to include network connections, PCs, and cable TV access. Ohio also requires school districts to manage (modulate) access to age-appropriate cable television programming and channels in each building.
The district required robust network classroom capabilities that are economical and easy for its one-person IT department to manage. Geneva also wanted to avoid installing expensive modulation equipment in its planned schools.
Geneva selected VBrick encoder appliances to stream cable TV channels to each classroom across the district’s gigabit fiber-optic network–thereby eliminating the need to deploy a separate coaxial cable network for classroom television. The VBrick solution also enables IT administrators to restrict access to cable TV channels in the district’s classrooms. Perhaps most significantly, the solution empowers Geneva officials to provide cable TV streams to their existing schools and add classroom cable TV capabilities to the new schools seamlessly without incurring additional costs.
“VBrick was head and shoulders above the other products that we researched, because it is easy to configure and use,” said Scott Huggins, director of technology for the Geneva Area City Schools. “We chose VBrick because it provides the most efficient and economical way to bring cable television into the schools. Its flexibility to support additional applications is nice, but its value as a cable television distribution system is the key short-term driver.”
VBrick’s intuitive management and reliability frees Geneva’s scarce IT human resources to focus on other initiatives. District officials estimate that VBrick will save the district $200,000 in initial capital costs–or 26 percent of Geneva’s new school development IT budget. Geneva also expects to sidestep management requirements using VBrick’s solution.
Geneva’s video-streaming solution
A VBrick digital video appliance receives cable feeds from CBS, CNN, Discovery, and other networks. VBrick appliances then typically digitize and stream the programming to all networked PCs or televisions in real time. VBrick multicasting technology enables an unlimited number of IP-networked users to view a video stream, while only requiring the bandwidth of a single stream.
Geneva developed an IP-TV cable streaming solution using VCRs and VBrick MPEG-4 dual-channel appliances. The new high school’s media facilities room includes 10 VHS players, each tuned to a different cable television station. Two VHS players, in turn, are plugged into one VBrick dual-channel appliance. Each VBrick encoder appliance streams two digital video channels to the classroom across the district’s network segment provisioned for video traffic.
Networked classrooms access all 10 simultaneous channel streams from VBrick. Teachers view the cable channels directly on their classroom PCs. VBrick’s StreamPlayer software, installed on the PCs, enables the teachers to access any of the 10 cable streams. StreamPlayer’s intuitive, menu-driven interface makes it easy for teachers to select a preferred channel. Most classroom PCs are connected to television sets, which broadcast the content to students. In select labs, the PCs are connected to LCD projection systems.
“Geneva Area City Schools combines ingenuity and leading technology to lay the foundation for a best-in-class learning environment,” said Pat Cassella, senior director of marketing and education for VBrick Systems. “We commend Geneva’s commitment to identifying cost savings while providing premier teaching resources to engage students. VBrick continues to enable Geneva and other districts to provide innovative learning tools for diverse applications and budgets.”
The VBrick solution reportedly provides the flexibility and scalability to support the district’s evolving visual communications requirements. In the future, for example, Geneva might use this solution to stream morning announcements or presentations to classrooms across the district. In addition, teachers who have recorded video onto a DVD or VHS tape can make that video available to any classroom on one of the 10 available channels.
Geneva Area City Schools
VBrick Systems Inc.