Birmingham City University’s digital transformation

Birmingham City University deploys MOTORBO™ radios for enhanced campus management and staff safety

Birmingham City University (BCU) has more than 25,000 students and 3,000 staff, spread across 5 sites covering 96 square km of Birmingham. With the development of a new £180 million City Centre Campus supporting 18,000 students and the accessibility the planned HS2 train project represents, the University wanted a future-proof communication system to match its current and increasing needs.

For the past 10 years, the BCU used an analogue radio system which offered only limited capabilities. The University had outgrown the system which was suffering from coverage issues, and the base station and handset failures. BCU believed that the safety and security of all students and employees were being compromised and needed a robust communication solution that would support the next stage of The University’s development.

Concluding BCU’s tender process, Andrew Markou, Assistant Director of Campus Management & Services, said: “With such a major investment, we were looking for a company that could deliver a future-proof system that met our needs for quality and coverage, across all sites, at a competitive price.” Appointing Radiocoms Systems Limited, coverage and propagation checks across all the main campus sites, including the City Centre Campus area under development were completed. Radiocoms recommended a MOTOTRBO™ Digital Radio System to achieve the coverage, clarity and system capabilities BCU desired.Mark Blythe, Radiocoms’ Sales Director said: “ The MOTOTRBO system offered the best equipment to meet all BCU’s requirements, with a mixture of both DP4801 keypad radios for the majority of users and the SL4000 for senior management members who wanted a discrete radio unit that provided all major functions.”

Meeting the Demands of a Modern Campus

BCU had a good understanding of a digital radio system’s capabilities and so features such as telephone interconnect, text messaging, ‘lone-worker’, GPS tracking and remote ‘device stun & kill’ was high on its list of requirements. Given multi-faceted demands, Radiocoms designed a system that satisfies the features requested by the seven different departments, including Security, Campus Services, Health & Safety, Student Union, Estates, Accommodation Services and Media; in addition to the provision of the common Emergency Channel requirements.

BCU wanted the ability to manage all campus activities and events safely and securely, with the knowledge that the radio system was supporting their efforts and providing a duty of care to its workforce with the features it employs. The overriding requirements were communication quality, multiple simultaneous communication paths and the ability to monitor and track assets.

New Ways of Working for all the Team

The University Command & Control centre has a great deal to cope with. It monitors 13 barrier systems and more than 400 CCTV cameras; and controls 120 radios, 30 help points, numerous lift and fire alarms as well as handling student accommodation emergency calls when they arise. The MOTOTRBO system had to improve efficiencies if it was to be successful and provide solutions that benefited the users. Historically, the monitoring of staff was a manual process. Radio calls would be made at set times and knowledge of the exact location of staff relied upon end-user interaction. Combining communication paths during site incidents was difficult because individual department communications were separated.

The new digital radio system now automatically tracks its resources, with every radio being fitted with a GPS unit. The information is displayed on computers at key locations. Mark Clench, BCU Security Supervisor said: “Recently we had a radio go missing. We tracked it to its last known position and recovered it. Historically, this may not have been found and we would have lost a £400 asset.”

The system’s ability to allow parallel communication paths has been a great help to the University, with multiple departments co-ordinating incidents safely and securely. In a recent incident, Health & Safety, Security, Campus Services and the Environmental Officer via the Estates department, combined to handle a hydraulic leak, when a subcontractor had a problem with a valve at the City South Campus. The Security Operations Manager, Asif Zahoor stated: “With the ability to monitor more than one channel we can now respond quicker to an incident, making the area safe and responding accordingly. With one-click at the Command & Control centre, it brings all channels together enhancing our efficiency.”

With the use of MOTOTRBO, vulnerable workers are now automatically supported. From gardeners working for the Estates department to individuals who work at weekends or late at night, BCU staff now need only to register their radio with the system as a lone worker. They will then be automatically called on a timed cycle, checking on their well being without requiring an operator’s intervention. The software application creates an auto-escalation process and alarms are initiated should there be no response. This gives peace of mind to all users.

MOTOTRBO Radio System Gives Outstanding Performance

During the open day in June 2014, more than 14,000 visitors attended the BCU site to see the facilities. The challenges on the day were enormous with the coordination of car parking, student ambassadors, and security patrols looking after the well being of visitors. Asif said: “The new communication system was brilliant.” This has been reflected in BCU’s subsequent healthy student intake. But the biggest single change that Radiocoms has delivered with the MOTOTRBO solution is ‘clarity’ in the communication performance. Mark Clench says: “I certainly wouldn’t want to go back to the old system!”


Download the full case study here or visit the Radiocoms website: 


Image source Radiocoms Systems Ltd/Motorola Solutions.

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