Much like the rest of business and society, higher education has gone digital. Online classrooms, projects, tests—much of what students, faculty, and staff need to do nowadays is digital.
Being digital-first creates some challenges, though. Not every student can afford a device to access online resources. And even if they can, laptops have a habit of breaking at the worst time possible. That is why many institutions have looked for new ways to distribute loaner laptops and tablets to their student body.
That is a fantastic solution, but it creates another set of problems: how do you secure, track, and manage all of those devices? Especially if you want them available 24/7 when students are studying.
AssetTracer smart lockers from Real Time Networks automate complex and tedious asset management tasks to solve those problems.
Here are twenty ways smart lockers make life better for your students, faculty, and staff and improve campus safety.
1. Secure laptop sharing
AssetTracer lockers allow secure, self-service access to laptops and other electronic devices. Their durable design stands up to use on high-traffic campuses and against brute force attempts to steal their contents.
Thanks to digital access control, students can sign out or return a laptop any time of day without an equipment manager needing to be on hand. Instead, students can access the devices they need to study, complete assignments, take tests, or conduct research when it works for their schedule. And when they’re done, they simply return the device on their schedule, and the locker will charge and ready it for the next user.
2. Automating manual processes
Many older colleges and universities are tied unnecessarily to pen-and-paper management processes through force of habit. Automating device transactions and tracking with a smart locker system improves students' quality of life and streamlines the management processes that take up your staff’s time.
Smart library lockers get users the devices they need in seconds, charge and monitor them for technical problems, and keep an error-free log of who has which devices. So your equipment managers can see at a glance where every device is, who has it signed out, and when they’re due to return that device.
3. Non-contact transactions
For health and campus safety-minded organizations, smart college lockers provide a way to distribute electronic devices that minimizes physical contact. In our post-Covid world, colleges with high-density campuses are looking for ways to distribute college computers without unnecessary infection risks that might lead to outbreaks and closures.
Covid has disrupted too many semesters, harming educational outcomes and revenues. Finding ways to mitigate unnecessary infection risks can help your institution stay open through the next variant or the next major infectious disease outbreak that will sweep through your wider community.
4. Modular design for easy placement
AssetTracer cabinets are modular, meaning you can stack and combine them in different configurations based on what you need to store and how much space you have to work with. You can mix and match different cabinets and install them anywhere on campus. So you can get university computers distributed where they’re needed in safe, convenient locations instead of in the one spot you have to fit a one-size-fits-all locker.
5. New insights into stored asset use
Manual tracking processes can’t tell you much about how students use your devices. Manual processes are also prone to human error. Smart lockers give you detailed, error-free reporting on everything about laptop use.
You get up-to-the-second insights into who has devices, where they’re using them, and how they’re using them. You’ll also be able to analyze usage to reveal trends easily. For example, is one laptop model responsible for more than half of your student hardware failure reports? Is a small set of students responsible for multiple reported hardware failures?
6. Reduce losses and theft
Busy equipment managers may not notice loss or theft until it is too late to recover a device. University smart lockers make it much easier to identify missing devices, allowing you to respond faster and increase the chance of device recovery.
Advanced lockers, like AssetTracer systems, offer wired USB connections in each compartment that can verify the identity of each laptop returned, so a student can’t log a deposit of the wrong device. They also offer signout curfews. Suppose a student doesn’t return a laptop in a given amount of time to university storage. In that case, the system sends an email alert to a designated staff member with details about the device and laptop in question, allowing them to investigate right away.
7. Improve business operations
You can also provision AssetTracer smart lockers with touchscreen access terminals. These allow you to collect a range of data whenever a user interacts with the system. For example, you can present students with checklists when they want to sign out or return a device. Prompt them for any meaningful data you want to collect, like the expected length of use or any hardware or software problems they encountered.
If they report a problem, you can configure the locker system to unlock a designated troubleshooting locker. The student deposits the device there, and the system alerts your technicians. That compartment then only unlocks for someone authenticating as a member of the service team to pull the device for troubleshooting.
8. Improve fleet vehicle performance
Along with smart asset lockers, Real Time Networks also offers smart key lockers—KeyTracer systems. These offer the same level of advanced workflow support that lockers offer. They’re especially useful for managing fleet keys for your staff.
Use access checklists for drivers to report any damage or mechanical problems. Lockout keys to specialized vehicles if a driver hasn’t verified they have the proper license. Get alerts if a driver hasn’t returned a key at the end of their shift so you can stop them from accidentally taking it home with them.
9. Declutter your buildings
The efficient, modular design of AssetTracer systems allows you to fit lockers into any available space. So you can set up large lending hubs in your main library as well as smaller satellite laptop lockers tucked into corners of crowded dorms.
10. Flexible use
AssetTracer smart lockers can just as easily manage staff toolkits, A/V equipment, and other expensive university assets as they can laptops or keys. In addition, you can customize them for a wide range of use cases, including temporary college storage, equipment kit distribution for new employee onboarding, medical kits for campus EMTs, or police gear for your campus security personnel.
11. Manage kit signouts
AssetTracer university lockers also offer wireless content surveillance using RFID tags. Sensors in locker compartments verify that the correct items are taken or returned. RFID signals can pass through plastic and other common materials, so you can use them to scan all kit components inside a case at once simultaneously. That makes it easy to ensure student workers, police, or EMTs take everything they need when they leave on a shift.
12. Reduce unnecessary overtime
Since automated smart lockers are accessible 24/7, you won’t need to bring in equipment managers after hours to handle urgent transactions. Instead, students and staff can access any equipment they need, and managers can issue emergency unlocks, or access overrides from home through a secure web connection.
13. Free up staff time
You can pair your smart locker systems with an automated guard tour system to free up security personnel's time and make their patrols more efficient. As a result, they’ll secure your campus faster and free up time to focus more on individual students and their needs.
14. Easy-to-use technology
Smart lockers are easy to use, so every new student, temp worker, or employee in a high-turnover department will be able to get up to speed fast. They’ll be able to get the laptops, kits, or keys they need fast.
15. Automate regulatory compliance
Smart lockers easily generate transaction reports on all stored college assets and keys. As a result, you’ll have complete, airtight records of who accessed sensitive devices or spaces and who had access to student data. Tighter controls, which will improve your campus safety.
16. “Cradle to the grave” asset tracking
Smart laptop lockers offer complete “cradle to the grave” tracking on every managed device. You’ll know everything that happens to each laptop, college tablet, or other stored item from the moment it enters your organization until you retire it.
17. Better accountability for equipment use
That complete recordkeeping extends to the people who use your university equipment too. If poor recordkeeping has led to students becoming careless with your devices, smart lockers can help keep them more accountable. You’ll always know who returned which device late, damaged, or reported something missing.
RFID content surveillance tags also help you ensure you know a student returned the right device. For example, if they attempt to record a return but leave a locker empty, the AssetTracer system will know and report it instantly.
18. Real-time monitoring of device health
You can use wired USB connections to monitor the status of stored electronic devices while you charge them. Many modern operating systems can interface with smart lockers and report important service events.
19. Efficient system integration
All of the systems we've mentioned—AssetTracer smart lockers, KeyTracer lockers, and guard tour systems from Real Time Networks—can communicate with leading access control and IT systems. You can manage smart locker users from the same Active Directory system you use for IT user management. Use the same swipe cards for smart lockers that you use for door access too.
20. Support your institution’s future growth
Your students and staff will save hours a week on tedious administrative tasks, hours your students can spend on academic and community activities, and hours your staff could spend on more meaningful work. In addition, the new insights you’ll gain from smart locker data collection can better inform your strategic decision-making and help you further our institution’s mission.
Want to see how AssetTracer smart lockers work?Schedule a FREE live virtual demo today.
About the Author
Vice President of Marketing
Jay oversees marketing and strategic partnerships at Real Time Networks and has over three decades of experience in leadership roles in the financial services and technology industries.