By Chris Scherr and Rebecca Moss
When we changed the layout of Anderson 110 from a cubicle farm and help desk setup to an open, customizable space, we turned four of the former offices into reservable meeting rooms. We created Google calendars for each so groups could reserve them, but spontaneous uses of these spaces were difficult to accommodate. We needed a solution that allowed folks in And110 to see if the rooms were reserved or free, and let them add a meeting on the spot.
Joan Assistant offered us the flexibility we were looking for, at a modest cost, and without the need to pay for upgrading the wiring in the room. Here is a quick video overview of how Joan Assistant works. We hope that sharing our experience might help others on campus who are looking for a lightweight solution to scheduling spaces.
Once we had the Joan Assistant, we had to figure out a way to connect it to our wireless network, which has a lot more security protocols than your average wifi setup. We gave the task to Chris Scherr, LATIS system engineer, who worked with Network Telecommunication Services (NTS) to figure out how to get it securely connected and online. Once that was accomplished, we bought two additional units and installed them by the meeting rooms.
There are three versions of Joan Assistant, and the only version supported on campus is the Executive as enterprise WPA2 is needed to authenticate to the wireless network – https://joanassistant.com/us/store/.
The company is also offering a limited edition 9.7 inch screen which I assume is enterprise WPA2 ready: https://joanassistant.com/news/9-7-limited-edition/
**Any unit in CLA can use our on-premises server, we would just need to work with the owner of the room calendar to grant the proper permissions to the Joan server .
Several items are needed (any IT staff is more then welcome to contact Chris directly – firstname.lastname@example.org)
From my experience setting this up, here is the order I would take for a new setup:
1) Obtain a sponsored account for wireless access for the devices (IT will not grant departmental accounts access to wireless). Request here: https://my-account.umn.edu/create-sponsor-acct
2) Get a departmental account to serve as the google calendar tie in. This account can own the room calendars or be granted full access to existing room calendars. (https://my-account.umn.edu/create-dept-acct)
3) Get an on premises server. (https://joanassistant.com/us/help/hosting-and-calendar-support/install-joan-premises-server-infrastructure/)
The simplest solution is to request a self managed (SME) Linux VM from IT (1 core and 2 gigs of ram is adequate although two network adapters are required). Ask them to to download the .vmdk from the link above as it is a preconfigured Ubuntu 14 VM. Once the VM is setup I did the following configuration: Limited ssh and 8081 traffic via iptables, changed the default root and joan user passwords. Set IP addresses / dns names / cnames via servicegateway.
4) Joan Configurator (https://portal.joanassistant.com/devices/wifi-settings)
Download and configure each Joan device with the Joan Configurator available from the link above. You will need to specify the dns name or ip address of the on-premises server and authenticate to wireless via the sponsored account created in step 1 using PEAP. Once configured, charged, and unplugged from usb the unit should display a 8-10 digit code. If the unit is not responding gently shaking will wake the device from standby.
5) Joan portal (https://portal.joanassistant.com/devices/)
Several items need to be configured here:
a) Hosting selection – Make sure On-premises is selected
b) User settings – You may want to set additional contact emails for low battery warnings etc.
a) Calendar – Connect to google calendar via the departmental account created in step 2
b) Room Resources – Scan and add the room resources you want your Joan device(s) to be able to display/manipulate.
a) Devices – click add device, you will be prompted to enter the 8-10 digit code from step 4 along with time zone and default calendar.
b) Optional settings Logo/Office hours/Features can be changed/defined here
6) Monitoring: You can get quick information about your device from the on-premises server web portal. It can be accessed here: http://yourservername.umn.edu:8081/
Devices – This will show all devices configured to use your on-premises server. You can click on any device and get information about it. I would suggest renaming the device names to the room number or calendar name. Live view will confirm the server is sending the correct image to your unit(s). You can also check Charts to show Battery levels over time, signal Strength, disconnects, etc.
The e-ink screens require very little power so the batteries last a month or more before needing recharging. When batteries get low, it will send emails to whomever you designate. The power cords are standard ones and it takes about 6-8 hours to charge the device.
The units connect to the wall with a magnet so they will not be secure in an open space without additional configurations. Here in And110, we have them mounted on the door signs already located outside each door. We customized the units so they have the U of M logo. We are still in the testing stage with these devices, but our experience so far has been very positive. Please contact us if you would like to learn more – email@example.com – or come see them in person in Anderson 110 on the West Bank.