Updates from
the Associate Vice President for IT and CIO

February 2018

Audio and video upgrades enhance classrooms for instructors: IT Services completed nine additional classroom audiovisual (AV) upgrades over winter break, for a total of 21 major classroom upgrades in 2018. In Harper Memorial Library, IT Services completed five classroom upgrades, which included adding new projection screens and speakers. In Stuart Hall, four classrooms were upgraded with features such as additional AV rack components to add native digital input (HDMI), new touch panel controls, a new projector, and upgraded Blu-ray players. These changes bring additional classrooms up to the current UChicago classroom AV standards and will make the experience of sharing content in the classrooms easier for instructors.


Alexa integrated into an app to assist elderly caregivers: Dr. Megan Huisingh-Scheetz, Assistant Professor at The University of Chicago Medicine and co-director of the Successful Aging and Frailty Evaluation Clinic, and Louise Hawkley, Senior Research Scientist at NORC, enhanced their EngAGE app proof of concept by extending it to the Amazon Echo through Alexa. The original proof of concept allows a caregiver to prescribe an exercise program to an elderly person at risk of frailty. The app sends notifications through text message, email, and robocall, and can easily provide feedback and encouragement to the patient. Maintaining a structured therapy program is a commonly recommended treatment for older adults, and EngAGE for the Echo provides a simple way for patients to be reminded to continue their physical therapy at home without having to log into a system to get information. To further enhance the EngAGE app, the project programmer created a small Alexa skill that tested how well notifications through an Amazon Echo would work. IT Services staff previously had not programmed any Alexa skills, and this project provided them the opportunity to gain that skill set.


App created for incident reporting to help staff with lab safety: In 2015, Dr. Daniel Rubin, Assistant Professor of Anesthesia and critical care director at The University of Chicago Medicine, approached IT Services for help in creating an app to allow staff to immediately report safety incidents with photos and the option to dictate comments. After the app was released, incident reporting increased in the department. Larry Hill, senior associate vice president for strategic initiatives contacted Dr. Rubin, and with IT Services help, created another version of the app to be used University-wide for reporting lab incidents. As part of the UCAIR (UChicago Accident/Incident Reporting System) program, this work makes incident reporting simpler and robust by providing more data to the medical center and University staff charged with campus safety.


Reducing the frequency and duration of service outages: The command center is a 24-hour operations team with responsibilities to monitor the availability of IT systems and services and the underlying infrastructure. Recently, a refurbished video wall was introduced into this facility to significantly enhance the visibility of these elements to command center staff. With this new capability, staff are able to maintain a large number of simultaneous views which improves their response time to events leading to a reduction in the frequency and duration of service outages.


IT Services demonstrates ability to prototype ideas: A University of Chicago Booth School of Business alumnus, John Lockhart, was the first alumnus to submit an idea to the UChicago App Challenge. He based his idea on something he had learned at the University 20 years earlier from esteemed Professor of Behavioral Science and Economics, Richard Thaler. The concept is essentially a voting algorithm that takes into account everyone’s votes and tries to predict a winner. In this case, the voting is applied to the total bets placed on horses—win, lose, or show bets multiplied by the number of horses.  The submission demonstrates UChicago’s ability to quickly prototype ideas no matter where they originate.


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Updates from the Associate Vice President for IT and CIO – February 2018