We look at how Unicol’s Obelisk Digital Signage System has improved customer experience at the University of Hertfordshire. Based largely in Hatfield, the University boasts more than 25,130 students, including more than 5,200 international students that together represent 100 countries. Situated across two campuses –College Lane and de Havilland ­– the University offers a wide range of Undergraduate, Postgraduate, Professional and Short courses and has been named among the top 150 universities in the world under 50 years old.

Project Brief

With the UK government’s publication of an EdTech strategy that aims to encourage institutions to embed technology in a way that fosters efficiencies and cuts barriers to education, it has become more important than ever for universities to consider how they can best utilise technology to improve facilities and increase student satisfaction. This, along with the fact that the University of Hertfordshire welcomes thousands of students from all over the world each year, led it to focus on creating a more efficient, practical and accessible Student Centre.

The aim of the Student Centre is to offer advice and guidance on non-academic matters to staff, students and applicants. This can cover everything from allocation of accommodation to financial support and guidance.

Project Details

UNICOL were asked to create a bespoke digital signage totem. Working alongside the University and award winning installer CDEC, UNICOL’s project team manufactured a solution designed to deliver a streamlined experience for both staff and students when interacting with the University of Hertfordshire’s Student Centre. Tasked with replacing their original configuration of eight computers arranged on a round table with chairs, the custom totems incorporate an ID badge scanner, ticket printer and a touch screen.

Students who wish to raise a query with staff now only need to select the query type and scan their ID badge (or enter their ID number and date of birth) for their query to be logged.  The customer’s details are added to the digital queue and a numbered ticket is printed off, the ticket number can then be called forward when an advisor is available – similar to that used by retail stores and fast-food restaurants.

Project Challenges

The challenge was to design a solution that was reliable, intuitive and scalable enough to be trusted by staff and students alike.  Disruption and downtime also had to be minimal.

Unicol’s Obelisk Digital Signage System was chosen for its unrivalled ease, simplicity, quick delivery and customisation, which provided a highly suitable solution within the university environment. Featuring a central H frame design, each kiosk or totem can be installed quickly and easily, with neat cable management and front and back covers that can be swapped out should they get damaged – or users wish to update their screen.  Utilising the fully adjustable mounting arms installers can comfortably make side-to-side adjustment with 15mm in-out and fine levelling adjustment. The all-metal outer body can be finished in a variety of RAL colours and allows installers to front or rear load the screen, offering ease of access in confined spaces.

Project Outcome

A total of four totem kiosks with NEC V404-T screens were installed in the Student Centre.  In digitising the process within the totem, the University has been able to provide students with an easily recognisable ‘go-to’ display that instantly encourages users to interact. In addition, the familiarity and simplicity of the new system has enabled the University to reduce the amount of assistance staff in the lounge area, with both students and staff commenting on how fast the process is and how easy the totems are to locate and interact with. Francesca Coxon, Head of the Student Centre Information Service said, ‘we asked visitors to the Student Centre to vote on their location and they could also leave additional information about what they liked about the totems. Comments included: Easy use and perfect interface, quick and easy to use, large enough to notice, better than old system.’

To see the totems in action, check out the University of Hertfordshire’s video about their Student Centre here; Alternatively, for more information on products, custom projects or even just advice, get in touch via +44 (0)1865 767676 or visit