Students give more weight than ever to campus technology during the college selection process. This emphasis is leading many schools to invest in Internet of Things (IoT) and unified communications technology. By creating smart campuses, they’re attracting and retaining a greater number of exceptional students.
According to a survey conducted by Ellucian, a provider of higher education software and services, 87 percent of students say it’s important for a school to be technologically “savvy.” Almost universally, college applicants believe a connected experience both inside and outside of the lecture hall is important.
But as they deploy IoT, universities face several challenges, including how to manage and protect the vast amount of data their devices collect. A closer look at some real-world applications demonstrates how IoT is transforming the college campus and how success lies in selecting the right kind of communications technology.
Reimagining campus life with IoT
1. Campus safety: Virginia Tech’s VT Alerts system notifies students, faculty and staff of emergency notifications via smartphone and smartwatch. Campus lighting can be controlled through IoT devices to ensure less-secure areas are well-lit at night. Intelligent video surveillance systems are used to identify potentially threatening situations and notify the proper security personnel immediately.
2. Conservation and efficiency: The University of New South Wales uses IoT sensors to monitor energy consumption, while the University of Washington collects data on power and building controls to monitor HVAC and lighting systems to ensure peak efficiencies. Traffic in rooms and buildings also can be monitored to adjust HVAC settings to their optimal level, conserving energy and reducing costs.
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3. Improved learning experience: The University of the Pacific uses sensors in classrooms to monitor student posture and body language to gauge how they correlate to learning and student engagement. Meanwhile, Arizona State University launched a pilot program where attendance is taken through a virtual beacon in classes that are too large to count heads manually. This allows the university to reach out to students who aren’t regularly attending class for early intervention.
4. More positive campus experience: Carnegie Mellon University developed two IoT apps that improve student life. One enables users to connect to a printer simply by taking a photo of it with their smartphone. Another suggests apps based on a student’s location, such as a ride schedule if they’re near a bus stop. The technology uses interactive maps to redirect lost students and sends alerts when a washing machine is open in the laundromat, for example, or when a study room is available.
Paving the way for IoT on campusThe Internet of Things is all about connections—connecting one device to another, connecting a device to a human, and even connecting data points to make informed decisions. No matter how much data IoT devices gather, it’s meaningless if it isn’t delivered to the right person or device for analysis. As the number of IoT devices grows and the amount of data collected skyrockets, communications solutions must be able to handle the load.
Many universities have upgraded their WiFi networks and added more access points to support campus-wide IoT. Even more important is a reliable and robust unified communications system. This is the only way universities can be sure they’re capable of meeting the increased connectivity and bandwidth demands of IoT.
Security and privacy are also concerns on smart campuses, especially as universities gather more personal data to tailor each student’s experience. Meanwhile, students connect to the campus network using their own devices, which may not be properly secure. Administrators and university IT teams can ensure a safe IoT deployment by implementing a cyber security policy and using a highly controlled and secure network for IoT device connections.
As universities continue to invest in next-generation technology, IoT is likely to be at the top of their priority lists. The technology will almost certainly transform the campus environment. Although it initially may present challenges, the educational and safety benefits for students will be many, making IoT a worthwhile investment.