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SMART launches two new products in Middle East

Entry-level SB400 series, high-end SB800 series are targeted at schools and educational facilities in the Middle East

The SMART SB800 series is the Rolls-Royce of SMART's interactive whiteboards, according to Aaron Fright, SMART regional director.
The SMART SB800 series is the Rolls-Royce of SMART's interactive whiteboards, according to Aaron Fright, SMART regional director.

Interactive whiteboard software and hardware specialists, SMART Technologies has launched two new models, the entry-level SB480 and the high-end SB800 in the Middle East.

"Some of these new solutions that we are just launching into the region are really going to impact the education process and the education system here, really enhance the way teachers teach and students learn," said Aaron Fright, regional director for SMART Technologies.

The entry-level SB400 series is hard-backed for durability, intuitive and full of functionality, according to Fright. The SB400 series includes the SMART Board 480iv interactive whiteboard system with a short-throw SMART V25 projector and the SMART Board 480iv-A interactive whiteboard system with a SMART V25 projector and integrated speakers.

Both devices are single-user devices, meaning only one person can use the screen at any one time. The 400 series recognises both pen and finger inputs and supports Microsoft Windows and Linux operating systems.

"Our new solution SB480, there is no intelligence in the pen, no batteries required, it is hard backed, and it is very intuitive. This is our entry level, but it is full of functionality, it also comes as an integrated solution with the SMART V25 projector, so it is a very good low -cost entry level for schools that perhaps don't want to go straight to a higher level, but want to do a roll out," said Fright.

The SB800 series is the top of the SMART interactive whiteboard range and features different size screens and multi-touch capabilities.

"The SB800 series really is the Rolls-Royce of interactive whiteboarding. Touch is around us all the time today, people are talking about pinching and flicking on a device, you can do this on the 800 Series, it really makes it fully intuitive," said Fright.

The SB800 is a true multi-user device and allows two people to work interactively on any part of the screen simultaneously.

"People talk about dual touch it means the board is divided into two parts so you don't get the real estate of the board. This is true multi-touch. Two people can walk up to any part of the board and interact with content and it again enhances the level of student-teacher interaction. Many whiteboards have small boxes on the lower left and right sides of the screen, which the students have to stay in. This [the SB800] takes it to a completely new level," said Fright.

With the SB800 users can toss files or objects from one side of the board to another. It has a durable surface and is modular, for example the pen tray allows users to bring up keyboards, add wireless extenders for laptops in the classroom, and it can also be fully Arabised.

The device works with SMART Notebook 10.7, the company's software package for its interactive whiteboards.

The 800 series includes the models 880 and 880i, and the widescreen 885, 885i and 885ix models.

SMART currently ships interactive whiteboards to over 175 countries and holds a 42.5% market share in the EMEA region according to figures from Futuresource Consulting LTD 2011. The company's nearest competitor stands with a 22.3% market share in the EMEA region.

"In EMEA, the UK has been very much at the forefront of deploying technology in the learning environment. The penetration rate of interactive whiteboards in the UK is over 75%. Here in the region, in the Middle East, it is less than 5%, so you can see, in the region there is a lot of upside in terms of growth opportunity, but also in terms of the investment and what is required in the education system here to get where some other geographies are, in terms of ICT adoption," said Fright.

While the percentage of whiteboard penetration is low, Fright says that governments in the Middle East are planning heavy investment into the development of ICT in education.

"We are starting to see a lot of countries here in the region, particularly the GCC, a transformation occurring, particularly in learning and teaching, the way that teachers teach and prepare lesson content, but also the way that students are learning. The challenge is  not just about deploying the technology in the classroom, it is about the whole learning strategy, content development, professional development and teacher training," said Fright

SMART is also in the process of rolling out its SMART Exchange website in the UAE, which houses approximately 50,000 language, curriculum and country specific lessons and forms an online content depository and resource for teachers across the globe.

Currently SMART interactive whiteboard technologies are deployed in 250 K-12 private schools in Bahrain, Oman and Saudi Arabia and several higher education institutions across the Middle east, including UAE University and Kuwait University. SMART is also in the process of deploying its interactive whiteboards at Princess Noura University in Riyadh.