Smart research

Use Case: Smart research on the Intelligent Campus


What’s the issue?

The Intelligent Campus is bringing together the features of the university campus with developments, such as the Internet of Things, to provide new research opportunities. An university campus offers an ideal environment for experimentation with a large population that is likely to be motivated to take part in research along with an excellent technology infrastructure including increasing numbers of internet linked devices and sensors. Obvious areas for research include: energy use, air quality, water use, traffic flows and, health and wellbeing. This use case only looks at a snapshot of the possible research on the intelligent campus.

Are there any current examples?

There are already instances of the use of the Internet of Things in the research lab.  For example, freezers used by the evolutionary-biology laboratory at Harvard University, holding  valuable samples, are internet connected and able to message researchers, who may not be on campus, on their current status.

A number of universities are already using their whole campuses for research. The University of Twente in the Netherlands is developing a set of experiments under a programme called the Living Campus. These experiments include:

  • A health experiment – before using a toilet the user is identified via a fingerprint and their urine is then analysed, they are then weighed while washing their hands. Using this type of data individual’s health can be monitored, also campus wide trends can be identified using anonymised data. Additionally the experiment tests the sensors and diagnostic equipment deployed, on behalf of commercial suppliers.
  • Using the connectivity of the myriad of smartphones, tablets and other devices connected to the wireless network, research is taking place into crowd movement around the campus identifying busy events, helping space utilisation and improved campus navigation.
  • Energy consumption in student accommodation is being monitored and published. There is a competitive element with students who use the least energy receiving prizes. This has the added benefit of stimulating innovation amongst the student body..

So how could it work?

As the the Internet of Things becomes pervasive across the campus, and in the research lab, not only will there be new research opportunities using the data that can be collected but Open Data initiatives will enable the wider community access.  Experiments will allow research results and data to be collated, managed and published by the experiment equipment itself. The data will be metadata tagged and be machine readable. Any researchers will be able to access, reuse and interpret the results. The development of systems such as the Automatic Statistician (funded by Google) will be then used interpret the ever increasing quantity data being produced.

What about ethical and other issues?

As with many intelligent campus developments, research using the wider university community will have a number of ethical issues to consider. These will include the gaining of consent from the individuals involved and the secure management of personal data.

Who needs to be involved?

The development of research on the intelligent campus will be a need to a wide range of university or college departments and directorates to work together including research groups, IT services and estate services. This will be a difficult hurdle to overcome and will need the establishment of cross departmental groups to be implemented.

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