Networked classrooms driven by connectivity and analytics


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For effective education outcomes in this digital age, educators and students alike need assured connectivity solutions that are easy to use, reliable and seamless. Achieving this is not as hard at it seems, as long as the right technologies and technology partners are chosen.

Connectivity is driven by ‘behind the scenes’ technologies that are largely unseen by those who use them — think Wi-Fi and networking, and the intelligent data analytics systems that keep them performing at optimum levels.

In order to enhance students’ learning opportunities and to empower their teachers to produce creative learning opportunities, an educational institution’s network needs to be smart, secure and fast, with complete connectivity in the classroom and beyond. And it also needs to be able to seamlessly scale as demand grows.

Connectivity solutions from CommScope draw on its wide portfolio of RUCKUS wired and wireless solutions to enable schools to deliver on these requirements. RUCKUS’ high-performance Ethernet, Wi-Fi 6 and cloud-enabled applications are the key enablers.

Wi-Fi 6 is the future

CommScope delivers Wi-Fi 6 and Ethernet infrastructure that provides the speed and security students need. Its end-to-end solutions combine to create a more secure, dependable ecosystem that promotes learning, safety and accountability.

Administrators need assurance that students’ tablets, laptops and desktops will remain connected at all times, enabling access not only to the Internet and school intranet, but also for instance to virtual and artificial reality services… both of are known for their high demand on networks. That’s why every school needs rock-solid Ethernet, Wi-Fi and cabling infrastructure to provide the kind of high-bandwidth, low-latency connections needed by AR and VR learning tools, 1:1 computing, online assessments, video collaboration and more.

Wi-Fi 6 (or 802.11ax) offers dramatically increased wireless bandwidth and network efficiency compared to Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac). It is designed to allow for data rates up to 10 Gbps and to operate in today’s increasingly demanding environments.

But Wi-Fi 6’s true benefits — and those of Wi-Fi 5 for that matter — will only come when it is used with the right kind of wireless access point (AP). The CommScope RUCKUS R750 802.11ax indoor Wi-Fi AP for ultra-dense client environments was the first AP in the world to be Wi-Fi 6 certified, validating its use in environments such as schools and stadiums.

Another example is the RUCKUS R650, a dual-concurrent indoor Wi-Fi 6 AP that supports 4x4:4 (in 5 GHz) and 2x2:2 (in 2.4 GHz) spatial streams and peak data rates of up to 2974 Mbps with up to 512 clients connections. It also has built-in IoT radios with on-board BLE and Zigbee capabilities.

RUCKUS offers schools many ways to control and manage their APs and switches seamlessly, from cloud-based solutions to on-premise controllers, all of which offer intuitive web interfaces for easy configuration and administration of the entire network.

Multi-gigabit connectivity is here

Communications networks are more complex than they have ever been before, and more demands are being placed upon them. Media-rich educational applications, remote learning and the extent of BYOD diversity all influence the choices institutions must make when planning for network implementations. Which is why it is absolutely vital that educational facilities are equipped with networks that meet a multitude of needs, and with speed, security and flexibility that is second to none.

To handle current and future expectations for bandwidth and latency, multi-gigabit solutions have been developed that vastly increase AP throughput. With Wi-Fi 6 on the way, throughput on the 1 Gb Ethernet backhaul links currently provided by typical APs will potentially become overtaxed, necessitating a new generation of multi-gigabit connections between the APs and network switches.

CommScope offers RUCKUS multi-gigabit solutions that include APs and switches optimised for Wi-Fi 5 or Wi-Fi 6 with 2.5 GbE connections, or Wi-Fi 6 via APs or ICX Z-Series switches with 2.5/5/10 GbE ports. These solutions, such as the RUCKUS R750 802.11ax indoor AP mentioned above, enable educational institutions to balance cost, performance and Wi-Fi client density.

The entire RUCKUS ICX switch range delivers multiple options for Ethernet switching speeds, which allows for not only the high data rate Wi-Fi 6 APs to be connected, but also any legacy infrastructure that is present on the same network. The ICX switch range also provides more POE power per port than standard switches… important for future proofing and to allow IoT applications, to connect to the same infrastructure. And the ICX ZP models, for instance, provide even greater PoE power to suit the needs of evolving networks. And the ICX 7850 switch is designed from the start to deliver 100 GbE edge-to-core connectivity for multi-gigabit enterprise and campus networks.

The combination of RUCKUS multi-gigabit switching, Wi-Fi technology and unified network controllers, along with CommScope’s structured cabling, provides a comprehensive end-to-end network solution.

Campus-wide connectivity

Not every school’s networking needs are directly connected with teaching. Educational institutions have a wide range of other requirements for connectivity, from building automation systems to environmental sensors to safety solutions… all of which comprise parts of a campus’ IoT infrastructure.

CommScope solutions empower many money-saving efficiencies through smart-building automation, whether that’s monitoring the HVAC room and the server room, or operating door locks, CCTV and security systems. And real-time video feeds of school buildings and across school grounds can lead to improved safety for all staff and students.

A perfect example of a smart building application is that of an Australian student accommodation provider that needed a partner to help improve the security of its facilities via intelligent, connected door locks, but without the expense of retrofitting cabling throughout its buildings. The company selected a wireless solution from CommScope that connected RUCKUS H510 access points to digital door locks using the Zigbee communication standard. Its staff can now see all door lock activity on a central dashboard, read lock logs remotely and receive automated reports so that the locks’ batteries can be proactively replaced when required.

The CommScope IoT platform can even provide management for third-party products across existing infrastructures. It is precisely these kinds of flexible solutions that empower agile, adaptive networks campus-wide that reduce operating costs and improve service.

Driven by AI and analytics

CommScope solutions enable educational institutions to gain valuable insights into operational circumstances and needs, combining the power of IoT sensors and Wi-Fi connectivity with data analytics and artificial intelligence.

For instance, educational institutions can apply analytics and insight into functions such as location tracking to help administrators track student movements within campus buildings in case of emergencies, or to enable lecturers to track attendance without requiring students to manually tap in using their student IDs.

Wi-Fi networks need to be more efficient, flexible and intelligent than ever before. Thus sensor data and machine data, when combined with artificial intelligence, will enable for automatic provisioning for added capacity, thereby proactively solving potential problems before they affect the user.

For system administrators, a converged AP enables IT staff to easily view, manage and secure an entire wireless infrastructure. This facilitates network automation, generation of actionable analytics, and creation of custom dashboards with open APIs.

RUCKUS Analytics, a cloud service built on a foundation of machine learning and artificial intelligence, offers network intelligence and visibility and troubleshooting capabilities, helping to ensure security and efficiency while driving down operational and helpdesk costs. It integrates with APs, switches, network controllers and cloud services, and provides data visualisation and planning and reporting tools.

And there’s CommScope’s imVision automated infrastructure management (AIM) solution, which drives actionable insights as well as real-time intelligence and visibility into events that affect the network and the devices connected to it.

Networks and network management

Network planners need to take into account not only the expected ongoing huge increase in bandwidth and speed requirements, but also of the vital requirement for network management and visibility needed to ensure smooth running, intrusion protection and so on.

As far as wired infrastructure goes, the fibre-optics capable of meeting the speed requirement is OM5 wideband multimode fibre. CommScope’s SYSTIMAX structured cabling, featuring singlemode, multimode and OM5 wideband multimode fibre, is certified to meet or exceed industry standards.

To help manage the SYSTIMAX structured cabling portfolio, fibre optic backbones and PoE solutions, CommScope’s imVision AIM system provides network administrators with a holistic view of the network from which to optimise the allocation and use of resources.

Conclusion

Choosing a trusted technology partner who can supply complete, end-to-end solutions is the key to implementing educational connectivity systems that are both wise fiscal investments and which meet and even surpass the technical requirements needed to achieve teaching goals.

With communications networks becoming more complex than ever before, it is vital that educational institutions stay ahead of the curve when it comes to Wi-Fi, fibre and networking, mobility solutions and network management. For this, CommScope’s RUCKUS wired and wireless networking, connectivity and analytics solutions definitely pass the test.

Image credit: ©stock.adobe.com/au/Dubo

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