Wireless company aims to keep students connected

As the number of college students who own a cell phone increases yearly, wireless technology corporations continue to gain new clientele to expand the trend of social networking via mobile phones.

According to Student Monitor, a market-research company, 78 percent of college students owned a cell phone last spring, up from 34 percent three years ago. Now companies such as MySpace, Google, Facebook and Yahoo are partnering with mobile phone service providers to allow customers to check e-mail, search the web, access their site accounts and interact with others.

Rave Wireless, a company formed in 2004, provides a mobile phone technology geared specifically to college students. The services they offer includes the ability to receive academic alerts from sites such as Blackboard; to send out text messages to all the members of an on-campus organization; or to receive text message alerts about classroom changes and cancellations.

“Our idea is to try to give students the easiest way to access the most important aspects of their university experience,” said Robert Jones, director of marketing for Rave Wireless. “We partner with the big mobile carriers like Cingular and Sprint so we can negotiate contracts that benefit the students.”

Once a university decides to partner with Rave Wireless, interested students must buy a cell phone and plans for minutes and text-messaging directly from the university, receiving the Rave Wireless services as well.

“I know I have a family plan on my cell phone, so it seems [the service] would get too technical,” Diane Le, a junior, said. “I like the idea, but it seems like a lot to get everyone a phone.”

Furthermore, Rave Wireless provides students with a security feature called Rave Guardian. Each phone comes with Global Position System technology that a student is able to activate a personal safety alarm that notifies the police he or she is in danger.

“I don’t like [the GPS service],” Matt Gutterson, a junior, said. “Say the cops were looking for me, the last thing I want is my phone to be used against me. That’s an invasion of privacy.”

Other students also think that the GPS technology is a negative part of Rave services.

“I think it could wind up being used for things other than safety,” Elise Fender, a junior, said.

Despite such concerns, Montclair State University, which uses Rave Wireless technology, recently received an award for campus safety, known as the Clery Award, because of the GPS safety application. Because Rave Wireless is tailored to college students, the company says the services adapt to the specific university that provides the technology.

Jones explained that if UM adopted Rave services, students could receive emergency text alerts about inclement weather during hurricane season. Also, professors could use the services to send text messages to students asking whether they would prefer a quiz on Tuesday or Thursday. After students respond, the professor receives the information in the form of a poll.

“As a chronic class-skipper, it would allow me to avoid something I don’t like, which is going to class, and it would update me on test times and scheduling in general,” Clifton Scopino, a senior, said.

About 20 universities are implementing or have agreed to implement Rave Wireless technology on campus including California State University at Monterey, University of Maryland Eastern Shore, Montclair State University in New Jersey and University of South Florida in Tampa.

Although the University of Miami has no plans to provide Rave services to students, UM plans to introduce new safety measures on campus by upgrading to the Enhanced 911, or E911, for their land lines.

As part of the new services, each campus phone will be linked to a street address in the city of Coral Gables 911 database. According to a press release, the E911 will help cut down on emergency response time by allowing dispatchers to not only see the address, but specific building location, such as a cubicle or conference room.

More information about Rave Wireless and their technology may be found at www.ravewireless.com.

Karyn Meshbane may be contacted at k.meshbane@umiami.edu.