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Beacon privacy statement

We know that you care how information about you is used and shared and we appreciate your trust in us to do that carefully and sensibly.

Beacon is a cloud service using AI and machine learning to which you can send messages — the more you use Beacon; the more it knows what students are asking and the better the answers get.

We handle any personal information we receive through Beacon in accordance with Staffordshire University Privacy statements. This page provides additional detail about how we use your personal information to provide and improve your experience and our services.

What happens when I send messages to Beacon?

When you speak to Beacon, the message of what you asked is sent to Staffordshire University’s servers so our systems for intent recognition and natural language understanding can process and respond to your request. We associate your requests with your student (or staff) username to allow you to access other university services, systems and databases (e.g. so you can ask Beacon to display your timetable for the week) and to provide you with a more personalised experience. For example, knowing your user preferences allows Beacon to send you push notifications about the news and events you might be interested in.

How do the messages sent improve Beacon?

Beacon is a continuously improving service that is designed to get smarter every day. For example, we use your requests to Beacon to train our intent recognition and natural language understanding systems using machine learning. Training Beacon with real world requests from a diverse range of students is necessary Beacon to respond properly to the variation in our users’ vocabulary and speech patterns for users using the speech option available in the main chat. This training relies in part on supervised machine learning, an industry-standard practice where humans review an extremely small sample of requests to help Beacon understand the correct interpretation of a request and provide the appropriate response in the future. For example, a human reviewing a user’s request for directions to the Henrion building can identify that Beacon misinterpreted it as a request for the direction to Mellor building. Our supervised learning process includes multiple safeguards to protect customer privacy.

How do I know when messages are being sent to the cloud?

For Android and iOS devices, any message that is successfully sent to the cloud will have timestamp indicator right under the text typed

Can I review and manage my user preferences?

Yes. You can review your user preferences by signing in onto the app and going into the side menu.

Does Beacon use other information?

Depending on how you use Beacon, we may also connect to other university systems and request additional information to provide and improve your experience and our services.

Here are some examples:

  • Request Timetable information – Beacon will connect to the timetabling system and request the information on your behalf.
  • Request a new student card – Your university details will be passed on to the team dealing with those requests so they can process it in an effective manner.
  • Request personal tutor information – Beacon will connect to the main university database to retrieve that information.
  • Requests to view university news – Beacon will fetch the latest news events based on your preferences and previous interactions with news events.

Who can I contact if I have a question?

You can email beacon@staffs.ac.uk for any queries related to the app.