Aerohive Networks is providing the City and County of Swansea (CCS) with its wireless LAN (WLAN) solution as the platform for mobility across its education and learning services and libraries.
In the first project phase, the Aerohive network will support digital learning initiatives for pupils across 102 primary and secondary schools by providing secure and resilient network access and a centralised management platform for more than 5,000 mobile devices.
CCS provides and manages services for the entire government system in the Swansea area in South Wales, serving 200,000 plus residents. This encompasses everything from social benefits to waste management and a service agreement to provide IT services and infrastructure to over 100 schools.
The Council sought to provide its schools with vital infrastructure to support IT initiatives in education, including 1:1 tablet rollouts to pupils and staff. Driven by the Welsh Government’s “Learning in Digital Wales” programme, CCS sought a high-performance solution that could meet the Wi-Fi access needs of tens of thousands of students and staff.
The aim was to enable e-learning facilities, such as mobile apps over the WLAN network, plus provide a simple way to manage complex security and access policies.
CCS assessed other WLAN solutions, but opted for Aerohive because of its controller-less architecture and proven centralised management system and control features, the company said.
Using a central management platform, Aerohive’s HiveManager Network Management System (NMS), to maintain policy and security control over the 102 distributed locations was particularly compelling for CCS, as was Aerohive’s controller-less architecture.
With intelligence in the Aerohive access points (APs) themselves, the Council is assured of the highest degree of resiliency and connectivity via a 'self-healing network'.
The scalability of the Aerohive solution was also a deciding factor, providing a platform for simply and cost-effectively introducing future mobility projects by just adding APs across other areas of the County, such as Wi-Fi in the city libraries.
The initial project sees over 1,600 APs deployed across the County’s primary and secondary schools, managed through a single centralised HiveManager Virtual Appliance.
The next phase of the Council’s programme is to extend the wireless connectivity into CCS’ 18 city libraries. Leveraging the centralised management system, pupils across the 102 connected schools will be able to gain access to the wireless network in other Council facilities, such as libraries, using the same credentials, providing both simple and secure access.
CCS currently plans to continue to add further Wi-Fi projects throughout 2014 as budget becomes available.
“The mobile device drive has been around teaching and learning in classrooms as opposed to productivity based activities,” explained Ricky Holdsworth, senior ICT programme delivery manager, City and County of Swansea.
“Simplistically, for example, during a history lesson, students would need a larger, desktop device to complete an assignment, whereas for learning fractions in a classroom, you need to use a tablet device with an app that explains how to do it. We needed the infrastructure to support all of that.”
Holdsworth continued: “We have a pioneer primary school in Swansea that has won national awards for the use of mobile technology and an initiative for extending that into other schools and the wider community called the LIFE Programme, which has also received a national award.
“That school was a real catalyst for others to pay attention to the benefits of mobile technology in education, which really spurred on the requirement to have high-capacity wireless technology across our establishments.
“It’s more than just connectivity though. We knew controlling, securing and giving the devices uninterrupted access was key to succeeding. We required a WLAN solution that was both resilient and intelligent to accommodate this, and scalable enough to provide a platform for other areas of the Council as we plan more Wi-Fi projects. We soon recognised the potential benefits of a centrally managed network,” Holdsworth concluded.