BellCommander receives high marks in online article on eSchoolNews:
Old-fashioned school bell goes high tech
By Laura Ascione, Contributing Editor, eSchool News
October 28, 2004
Some forward-thinking schools across the country have replaced the traditional school bell that signals the
end of classes with a more high-tech version that is cheaper to install and can be programmed easily by
The familiar ring now can be replaced by chimes,
music, or even customized sounds like chirping birds,
all made possible by a software called BellCommander.
Released by AcroVista, a technology company based in Austin, Texas, BellCommander is a PC-controlled bell
system that schools can install on their networks in the form of a small device. The system is compatible
with a standard TCP/IP network that all computers use to communicate with each other, said Danny Weidig, founder of AcroVista.
The device can be connected to a school's public address system or a central computer. Once installed,
BellCommander plays audio files at scheduled times from the school's computer.
The BellCommander software comes in two versions--one version can be used in single-zone school systems
where there is only one bell schedule, and the second version is designed for schools with two or more bell
schedules, Weidig said. The software contains several MP3 files with chimes, bells, and different sound
sequences, and other MP3 files can be uploaded to the system.
Schools whose bell systems are in fine operating condition do not necessarily need BellCommander, but
many new schools or schools with extremely outdated, malfunctioning bell systems can benefit from the
technology, said Weidig.
"Lots of schools have older systems that require
specialists to come in and fix them," he said. "The
BellCommander software is very simple to use, and school IT specialists or administrators can program it
without needing outside help." Another benefit to using BellCommander, he said, is that new cables for
bell systems do not have to be installed, because the system uses a school's computer network.
The system is especially useful when schools have different classrooms on different bell schedules,
Weidig said. If a school has two or three different lunch periods, students in each lunch will be on
different bell schedules for some part of the school day. BellCommander can play two different audio sounds during that portion of the day, so teachers know when their specific class period is over.
BellCommander can also be used in schools with multiple buildings, such as the Ross School, a private
school in East Hampton, N.Y. The Ross School's previous bell system was unable to synchronize the
bells in all the school's buildings, causing confusion when some teachers dismissed their classes earlier or
later than other teachers.
School administrators chose to install BellCommander network devices in each school building. All the
devices were connected to the school's main network, and then school administrators logged into a computer running the BellCommander software to set the bell schedule.
Weidig said approximately 140 schools use BellCommander's single-zone software, and 10 schools
use the multi-zone software.
BellCommander software supports many different school schedules in addition to regular bell schedules, such as block schedules and holiday or early dismissal schedules, Weidig said.
AcroVista's single-zone BellCommander software, which is a sound card version of the product, sells for
$49.95. The multiple-zone software, which is the network audio device version, sells for $299.95. Each
network device costs between $100 and $150, depending on the quantity ordered. AcroVista also offers
discounts for multiple-license purchases.
"BellCommander is an awesome program," said Chris Noles, computer administrator for Midway Baptist
Schools, a small private school system in San Diego.
Last year, Midway Baptist was searching for a new school bell system, and administrators there got
estimates on the installation of a new system priced around several thousand dollars, Noles said. The
school system could not afford that expense, said Noles, but came across the BellCommander software on
"We have three different buildings that needed bells installed, and BellCommander was very inexpensive
because we already had a computer network installed," Noles said.
A network MP3 player is plugged into the school's network, then runs into an amplifier and connects to
all the school's speakers. "Right now, our bells are set to a baseball theme, and the kids love it," Noles
said. Students and teachers complained when the system was set to the regular bell sound and preferred more original sounds, he said.
Installation was simple, Noles reported, and each building needed only the BellCommander software, a
network MP3 player, an amplifier, a speaker, and speaker wire. The total cost of installation was about
$700, much less than the school originally thought it would have to spend, Noles said. BellCommander is an innovative audio scheduling application and optional hardware solution which enhances or provides a full low-cost replacement for business and school intercom systems. BellCommander features an easy-to-use interface and allows you to broadcast any MP3 or WAV (such as chimes, tones, or even music) to your school or organization while saving thousands of dollars over a traditional intercom system.
Success Story: Read about how the Roth School benefited from BellCommander