January 2021 marked an evolutionary moment for the company the AV industry has fondly called, Hall, for more than 30 years. Hall Research was rebranded as Hall Technologies and concurrently announced HIVE Control, its bold entry into cloud-based AV control technology.
“Hall Technologies solves problems,” said Hal Truax, vice president of sales and marketing at Hall Technologies. “We're building more of an end-to-end solution that solves the problems experienced with technology today. Right now, due to the need, we're addressing the problems that are being experienced in education.”
Slated to ship in the second quarter of 2021, the launch of the cloud-based AV control technology, HIVE Control, couldn’t have come at a better time as school districts and institutions of higher education throughout the country continue to struggle with the realities of legacy systems that can’t be managed via the cloud. The pandemic has punctuated the need for cloud-based systems.
Historically, sophisticated AV control has been deployed only in colleges and universities with large endowments. “In many cases, K-12 suffers because of budgetary or socioeconomic constraints,” Truax said. “With HIVE, we’re bringing affordable control that is every bit as compelling as any of the technology in higher ed, and we're making it affordable for the masses.”
Can AV Control Affect Student Outcomes?
In a recent Washington Post article, the inequities of sufficient technology and/or internet access were cited as reasons for an unprecedented rise in F-grades in different areas of the country during the first grading period of the 2020-21 academic year. Truax said he feels some of this can be remedied by providing educators with a cost-efficient and easy-to-use AV solution that helps create a more seamless learning experience and increases student engagement.
“We've talked to a lot of teachers and IT directors that are responsible for technology decisions at schools, and they're explaining to us that the teachers are getting frustrated with the technology,” Truax said. “They’re moving from a smart board, then going to the internet, and going to another medium of learning. It's tough right now.”
If the number of COVID-19 cases continues to trend downward, then this spring, most K-12 students will be returning to the classroom, and it is expected that by the fall semester, college students will be back on campus. When in-class instruction returns, there will be a whole population of teachers who will now be familiar with using classroom technology—many for the first time. But going forward, the experience must be positive and effective for teachers which could, in turn, affect student outcomes.
“One of the features of the HIVE Control system for education incorporates simple touch-based cloud control that ties into, ideally, one of our presentation switchers, which offers seamless switching, lecture capture, and it keeps the teacher very efficient while presenting the lesson,” Truax said. “They don't have to worry about the technology.”
HIVE Control enables teachers to enter a classroom and hit a button that says, "classroom on," and it will communicate with all the AV equipment in the classroom so teachers can go through their lesson plans seamlessly throughout the day. At the end of the day, they hit, “classroom off” and leave the classroom. “It is really that simple,” Truax explained.
Going the Distance
In the fall, it is expected that colleges and universities will be under pressure to offer students more hybrid or HyFlex learning giving them the option of attending some classes online and some in the classroom. This is going to pose challenges for colleges with few technology-enabled classrooms.
HIVE provides a holistic approach to solving the problems in every teaching scenario: 100 percent distance learning, hybrid and fully in person. In a hybrid scenario, Truax explained that HIVE addresses each environment whether some people are in the classroom, down the hall, in different buildings, or at home.
Even before the pandemic, schools needed to contend with sending students home because of weather- or other emergency-related events. But the extended length of time students needed to be out because of the pandemic provided a learning moment with the realization that teaching and learning must continue. “HIVE Control addresses the 100 percent distance-learning scenario, which has been the most problematic for schools and student engagement,” Truax said. “It allows the teacher to flow through the lesson plan. There's no time lost between moving from one medium to another. They're able to go through this just like they're in the classroom, without any lag or without any delay of what they're trying to convey to the students.”
Inside the HIVE
Out of the gate, Hall Technologies had an advantage in developing HIVE Control as an affordable AV control system, because the company wasn’t ladened with legacy black boxes or platforms. “Getting into control late in the game was actually a plus for us. We built this architecture from the cloud down,” Truax said. But HIVE can be retrofitted into any environment.
“Complete control of a classroom's IP or wireless-enabled AV and automation devices can be operated through our 5-inch wall-mounted, or 10-inch HIVE Touchscreen panel which has our Node Technology built into it,” Truax explained. The node-based architecture is what allows all devices, including legacy devices, to work seamlessly and talk to each other without programming. It also eliminates the need to maintain a centralized server or the purchase of gateway devices. “Given today’s need for a BYOD solution, alternatively HIVE Control can be operated through our app which is connected via the cloud.” For those not wanting to venture to the cloud, HIVE Control is offered as an on-premise solution.
“We’ve designed the HIVE Control UI so there's basically no learning curve for the teachers,” Truax explained. “It's activity-based teaching.” One scenario, when a teacher touches "classroom on," from the HIVE Touch, the lights would come on, the room temperature would go to a predetermined level, the projector would turn on, the projector screen would be lowered and the presentation switcher would go to a predetermined input to start the lesson. “It’s really easy to switch to a document camera or another device,” Truax said.
Although there’s “zero programming” required, HIVE Control is fully customizable. “It’s super easy for integrators to configure,” Truax said. “Integrators can take one UI and clone it throughout the classrooms that have the same configuration, expediting the process.” This helps keep the overall cost down, because integrators can get more classrooms done in a shorter amount of time.
The cloud offers school district IT administrators a central location view of HIVE Control’s dashboard to monitor the status of the system. “They can see what's working well, or if something's not responding,” Truax said. And these days, data and analytics have become invaluable tools for determining return on investment. The dashboard can show important stats such as device usage in a classroom and whether lights or devices have been left on. “From a central location, they can be shut down,” he added.
Why HIVE Control?
Why would a school choose HIVE Control over another system? “Because we’ve simplified cloud-based AV control. There is no programming required for deployment, our subscription-based pricing model doesn’t limit you to a number of rooms or devices, and once it’s deployed, there's very little human capital required to maintain it,” Truax said. The one thing that hasn’t changed is the amount of human bandwidth available to service technology. “They don't have to do a lot of site management, or a lot of stuff that's not in their job description. They don't have time to oversee an AV system. So we wanted to take most of that heavy lifting out of their hands,” Truax concluded.
Connect with Hal Truax: firstname.lastname@example.org