With the advent of IoT, and smart technologies evolving rapidly, many campuses are recognizing their significance in optimizing student and faculty success. The number of IoT connected devices is expected to skyrocket to over 75 billion by 2025. Today, connected devices, cameras, sensors, and machines – all embedded with smart technology – are increasingly used on campuses throughout the nation. So much so that we are starting to call some of them smart campuses.
Why are smart technologies fast becoming a vital component of college campus infrastructure? Well, many of these IoT devices also compute and produce valuable data through the monitoring of security operations, classroom usage, student attendance, and more. Then, this data can be used to make more effective decisions as well. A smart campus not only helps with security, but it can improve student success and community and public relations.
Students are also consumers, and today, they have the power of choice. Plus, students are quite socially aware and make their decisions based on purpose and experience. As a result, campuses should reshape how they operate moving forward to meet evolving expectations. Other sectors have already implemented smart technologies, and it would behoove colleges to leverage innovative practices to improve the customer experience in the digital era. But, it’s not just the students who expect a more digitized and automated environment – faculty and staff expect this too.
What is a smart campus?
Similar to smart cities, a smart campus utilizes smart technologies to create new experiences and services. These smart technologies, which are connected to the Internet and AI-driven – can improve various aspects of the student and faculty experience on campus such as:
- Enhancing the financial aid process
- Improving student services
- Reducing wait times
- Mitigating compliance mistakes
- Reducing human errors
- Automating workflows
- Conserving energy and resources
Why a smart campus and technology?
Our lives are already embedded with smart technologies in our cars, in stores, in banks, and in our homes. We interact with smart environments regularly. And, yet, many universities are still inundated with siloed infrastructures that often do not serve or communicate outside of their associated stakeholders. There are dispersed systems, and large ERP/SIS systems that do not communicate in a seamlessly integrated fashion. Yet, imagine another type of infrastructure, one that did communicate intelligently so that positive outcomes came about in every interaction and scenario.
A smart campus helps universities to differentiate from their peers because it facilitates efficient practices and eliminates outdated transactional processes. Some examples of smart campus technology include:
- Location-based systems to help students find their lost text books or other personal effects
- Network computing
- Paying for meals with digital devices
- Finding the time, cost, and location of student events
Digitizing the learning process gives students the power of choice to decide when and where they want to engage in learning. For instance, students can use their smart devices to work on homework assignments. Further, they can attend classes remotely quite easily now. Smart technologies can also notify school officials about which students are struggling with their grades or are not attending classes regularly.
Smart campus technology examples at Universities and Colleges
Let’s take a look at how colleges are embracing smart technologies throughout the nation.
1. Arizona State University’s football stadium has undergone a $300 million renovation which includes smart sensors and cameras to improve operational efficiencies. For example, the sensors will send data about water usage, concession sales, and even noise levels.
2. In the same state, Northern Arizona University (NAU) is already in the process of transitioning to a smart campus. In fact, the university has created a lab designed to study towns, cities, and campuses and how they use AI, robotics, IoT, and more.
3. In 2019, Portland State University created the Digital City Testbed Center (DCTC), which is also part of a network of testing sites including the University of British Columbia. PSU is also partnering with the city of Portland for these smart technology tests and is working with Portland’s Bureau of Planning along with the Portland Bureau of Transportation. One of their projects is entitled Smart City PDX. Much of the focus is around air quality sensors and traffic sensors (200 sensors computing real-time data on bike, pedestrian, and vehicle traffic).
The test sites are used to ensure smart city projects work as intended. It’s really about experimenting with smart technologies before they are deployed throughout a city.
4. At the University of Wisconsin-Madison, they are preparing for an autonomous vehicle testing zone which will include sensors on traffic lights throughout the 32-acre site.
5. At the University of Texas at Austin, it’s 20,000,000-sq. Ft. campus – complete with 150 buildings – is run by the largest microgrid in America. The microgrid manages and provides all the electricity, heat, and cooling on campus.
There isn’t any question that both WiFi and IoT technologies have accelerated greatly and now provide better security and safety for campuses in the form of digitalized lighting systems, networked security cameras, geofencing, and more.
6. Over in Cleveland, both Case Western Reserve University and Cleveland State University work have joined forces to work on the Internet of Things of Collaborative. The focus is on how smart technologies can improve the city’s urban and industrial infrastructure.
7. Not too far away, Boston University has already worked on their Smart-city Cloud-based Open Platform and Ecosystem SCOPE for five years. The objective is to test sensor networking throughout innovative environments.
8. At the University of Michigan, Mechanical Engineering professor Huei Peng serves as the director of Mcity which is a public-private partnership between the university and the city of Ann Arbor. The purpose of Mcity is to develop smart, automated technologies to power transportation such as driverless vehicles. Within Mcity, participants can test theories and collect data.
The partnership has already connected over 2,800 privately-owned trucks and vehicles via smart devices with GPS antennas and dedicated short-range communication. The collected data shows the vehicle’s speed, direction, location to other Mcity vehicles, and speed. Not to mention, 65 intersections throughout Ann Arbor have been fitted with DSRC devices.
For resident volunteers, all their identifying details are removed. The data is stored on SD cards for analysis. It is strictly researched only by the university, which is why Mcity has garnered a lot of success with local residents. Moreover, the driverless electric shuttle called the Autonom was first introduced to the nation at the Mcity Test Facility in 2016. The French firm who manufactured the Autonom, NAVYA, is an Mcity affiliate member.
The University of Michigan has sustained a successful partnership with both local and regional communities to explore the opportunities presented by IoT. The funding, and the research capabilities, are already there. A municipal collaboration simply takes it to the next level. Still, one of the major benefits applies to the students. They get to learn first-hand about the smart campus technologies that may soon be deployed throughout the cities where they will eventually live and work. The testing also makes campuses much more safe and efficient. All the while, the universities research and help cities solve complicated and real-world problems.
What types of smart campus technologies can we see trending soon?
Smart paint is coming to a city near you. Created by Ohio State University, paint is mixed with an oxide additive that can be detected with a sensor-equipped cane. It is smart because it can give real-time location assistance to the visually impaired and is best used to mark dangerous areas.
Smart lampposts are gaining traction such as the Hello Lamp Post. This type of lamppost will have a code, which you can text to find out useful information about the surrounding area such as the nearest seafood restaurant or ice cream parlor. Smart lampposts are already installed in Tokyo, Austin, and at PSU.
Smart facilities management is also trending because it can use WiFi to determine how many people are in a room. That data is then sent to the HVAC system to automatically adjust cooling, heating, and lighting to ensure both comfort and energy savings.
Colleges and universities are starting to recognize the significance of smart technologies in their desire to better serve and educate their students and communities while optimizing their resources. With smart campus technologies, the potential is unlimited.
The campus digital transformation is gaining traction throughout the nation, and it is going to continue. It may turn out that if you don’t join the smart technology revolution, your campus may get left behind.