Wireless may soon be all the ‘rave’

In a handful of campuses across the country, students’ cell phones are blowin’ up – not with calls from their friends, but with text messages from professors.

A new technology known as Rave Wireless allows students to stay in touch with campus information through their cell phones. With Rave, students can get text messages from professors about homework updates, create student groups, check their grades and see when a shuttle bus will arrive.

While Rave will be available only on 15 campuses by the end of the year, the co-founder and Chief Operator Raju Rishi said 75 to 100 campuses will join into the program by next fall – and GW is considering its options.

Rave’s features

Rave’s blast text messaging capabilities allow students to receive information catered specifically to them, such as weather and security alerts, upcoming student organization events and the latest parties on campus that night.

“Rave allows people to create a better sense of community,” Rishi said.

Rave also offers three specialized features to keep students connected and protected.

With Rave Academic, professors can send out announcements and schedule changes, and conduct in-class surveys like, “Do you think we should have a quiz on Wednesday or Thursday? Text me your preference.” Students can also use their phones to check in with Blackboard, software many professors use to organize class and communicate with students.

Rave Transit provides real-time bus tracking so students know exactly where the shuttle is and when it will arrive at their bus stop.

Rave Guardian allows students to use their cell phones whenever they feel unsafe. Students can activate a timer on their phone en route to a destination, and if the timer isn’t deactivated when it goes off, a built-in GPS monitor sends a message to campus police with the student’s exact location.

Schools have the opportunity to build their own packages composed of Rave’s different services.

The new campus trend

Universities can sign up to become Rave Wireless providers, which works with any phone carrier. Craig Carroll, Sprint’s national director for education, said the cost of building networks around campuses for Rave could cost between $30,000 to as high as $1 million per campus in some cases, according to an article published this summer by Red Herring Inc., a media company that covers technology.

So far no school has charged their students for Rave capabilities, but individuals can’t join the network unless their school is signed up for it, said Lynn Schwartz, Rave’s director of communications.

The wireless capabilities don’t require students to buy special Rave-enabled phones, but student phones do need to have an Internet connection. And if a school has an add-on feature like the Rave Guardian, which requires phones to be equipped with a GPS, student’s phones must have the necessary capabilities in order to benefit from specialized applications.

At some schools, like Montclair State University, incoming freshmen are given cell phones to ensure that everyone can be a Rave user, according to the company’s Web site.

Nearby, Georgetown University has begun its own experiment with Rave Wireless, gauging the effectiveness of campus-wide text messaging between school organizations, said Erik Smulson, assistant vice president of communications at Georgetown.

But, according to Rishi, the demand for Rave on campus is rapidly increasing.

“There are students that are going out there and are saying we need Rave on campus,” he said.

Rave at GW?

Although GW isn’t equipped with Rave Wireless, the University’s Information Systems and Services department has met with Rave representatives, said Alexa Kim, executive director of ISS.

“We are in the middle of discussing different aspects of mobility – expanding wireless availability and services. Rave would probably be one of the services considered,” Kim wrote in an e-mail last week.

But Kim added that GW’s urban campus could be a roadblock to expanding the University’s wireless capabilities because unauthorized sources in and around campus may be able to hack into GW’s networks.

“With GW being located in a city environment, campus wireless bleeds into the streets, requiring additional measures to prevent unauthorized access,” Kim said. “In today’s world, security must be a central part of deployment, and at GW we consider the privacy and safety our community a priority.”

The Hatchet has disabled comments on our website. Learn more.