SLC Kiosks Not Worth the Cost

by uwchevron

By Amy Rose Gofton

Photo Taken By Amy Rose

Photo Taken By Amy Rose

I’ve been lost in the SLC a time or two, searching hard for obscure room numbers, but I’ve always found my way by consulting a map on the wall or flagging down a friendly face. In first year, I discovered what services were available in the SLC by visiting the university website and wandering the floors to familiarize myself with the space. Just as I’ve learned to know my way around the PAS and Hagey Hall, I have also learned the layout of the SLC.

Feds has a plan—in the form of three MappedIn Kiosks—to end the confusion and wandering of students and help people find their way around the SLC, but only the SLC. Ben Balfour, Feds VP of Operations & Finance responded to an email from the Chevron: “The University is working with MappedIn to install similar kiosks in the future” for other parts of campus Balfour said, but he could not confirm whether Feds would “integrate the map layouts” of all the future kiosks on campus. Balfour said he is “hopeful that there will be that possibility.” For now, Feds’ $44,183 investment ($13,400 from the Student Life Endowment Fund and $30,783 from Feds itself) will only be of use to students when they are in the SLC.

MappedIn, the company providing the kiosks, is local. Founded by former UW students, they specialize in “wayfinding.” According to the company website, they create custom software and 3D maps which are accessible from their kiosks as well as computer browsers and phones. Oddly, the website does not contain any pictures of the kiosks. A twitter search revealed a “kiosk” which resembled an over-sized tablet on a base that was installed at the Velocity Foundry in September.

Although the list price for the kiosks is $14,500 each, Ben Balfour said that Feds, by “moving quickly and combining with another larger order” was “able to secure them at a cost of $10,900 each.” Feds also signed a three year agreement with MappedIn, ensuring that fees for “all management panel access, system support, maintenance, and licensing have been waived.” Without this agreement, Feds would spend approximately $18,000 a year on maintenance and other costs for the system.

Balfour said he is unsure what the cost to continue using the system after the three year deal will be. “If the project is deemed valuable for students,” Feds will renegotiate.

From an idealistic point of view, Feds’ MappedIn plan sounds like a great idea. The system is modern; it’s technology for a tech-savvy university. However, can we really justify the cost? More than $44,000 for a computer system that will help us find our way around only one building on campus? Personally, I can think of a better use for part of that $44,183; for instance, the women’s washroom on the SLC main floor is rundown, poorly lit and often disgusting.


Relevant Reading For Interested Students:

Here’s how easy it is to learn about SLC services now: