A new bundle of VoIP applications helps educators and administrators unify and expand touch points for students and faculty.
Posted Sep 11, 2006
Public schools have a great and underfulfilled need for communication technology that keeps students, parents, faculty, and staff connected. VoIP solutions provider IPcelerate is seeking to answer the call with a preconfigured, preintegrated package of applications targeted at K-12 schools and school districts.
The IPcelerate education package employs the most commonly used features among the company's current education customers, with special attention paid to dissemination of information, security and safety, and better communication between families and schools. Key features include customized intercom and paging, outbound dialing for weather advisories and emergencies, and group collaboration.
"We've had a great deal of success delivering IP technology solutions to our customers, many of whom are in education," says Kevin Brown, CEO of IPcelerate. "Schools provide much more than an education; they provide their students with meals, transportation, healthcare, and most of all, a safe haven. Districts are looking for off the shelf, ready to use packages that make it easier to provide these essential services."
One key area where IPcelerate improves the education experience is reaching out to students in their own territory, Brown says. For example, one application extends Myspace virtual communities into the telephony environment, allowing students to pull other members into conference calls to discuss work or collaborate on projects. "Educators can do this as well, allowing them to have greater access to students and vice versa," Brown adds. Future enhancements to the education bundle will include video capabilities for better interaction.
IPcelerate addresses security with wearable RFID pendants for teachers and staff. "If a teacher feels threatened or witnesses an unsafe situation, a press of the button turns on alarms and cameras, and sends a notification to administrators and local authorities," Brown says. "Teachers also have the ability to record threatening phone calls and send an alert."
Zeus Kerravala, vice president of enterprise research for Yankee Group, sees a good future for vertical plays like this. "The future of VoIP, transitioning from TDM telephony to IP, will be similar to the transition from mainframes to PCs," he says. "Companies like Cisco and Avaya provide the infrastructure while IPcelerate delivers value with focused vertical solutions."
Kerravala says he would like to see more of these types of applications, focusing on the value proposition instead of cost cutting. In order for the IPcelerate education package and similar products to succeed, though, "breadth of support so that the apps can work on a variety of technology backbones is critical."
Outreach through partnerships and active marketing is also going to be a major factor in the ultimate success or failure, according to Kerravala. "IPcelerate also has to find the right channels; there aren't many large systems integrators working in the education vertical, so IPcelerate has to do some legwork and find regional providers to work with."
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