I think I know the way!

Use Case: Intelligent mapping


What’s the issue?

Most universities and colleges provide good quality traditional campus maps on paper and electronically, however, these could be hugely enhanced using the technology and data that is increasingly available. Combining this data with smartphone apps and electronic signage will improve the experience of campus users.

Whether using basic mapping more effectively, combined with real time information, to provide routes around construction work, or to reduce congestion on the campus, combined with timetabling systems to improve the movement and facility use.

Other issues addressed through intelligent, live mapping include:

  • Finding available resources such as a workstation or a seat in the library
  • Providing real time routing for; the most direct route, wheelchair access or combining with activity monitors such as FitBit to hit exercise targets
  • Improved facility and space usage
  • Sustainability and the environment with better use of parking facilities, improved coordination with public transport and even monitoring of the location health of young trees
  • A better experience for visitors, for example new students, open days and events using a smartphone app and electronic, or talking, signage

What are the current solutions?

Some institutions are providing enhanced and interactive campus mapping services through integration with systems such as Google maps giving the advantages of all their services for example Street View, public transport access, accessible routes and parking. Also providing filters to show catering facilities, accommodation, shops, cash machines etc. Some are now offering real time data with a work station room showing the number of seats available.

Intelligent maps

Bringing together the latest in mapping technology to provide data about indoor as well as outdoor areas, and 3D data from sites on different levels, along with CCTV data, tracking of college vehicles and mobile equipment, and the use of smart signage makes for a better campus experience while increasing the efficient use of the estate.

Very high resolution mapping also allows the student or staff member to move from the campus view, on arrival, right down to the seat they take in the library.

Monitoring factors such as the weather can also enable a predictive element as movement patterns change when it rains.

Linking to forthcoming events calendars means the signage and campus apps can provide assistance for those attending activities such as open days, concerts, graduations as well as those working normally when the campus is busy.

Some organisations are providing mapping data on an open access basis allowing it to be used by anyone. If data from other campuses is made available, using standards, the same apps can be used at other universities and colleges.

What about ethical and other issues?

There is clearly an issue of privacy and surveillance associated with these developments. In order to gain benefits from intelligent campus mapping those using it will need to accept that their location and their needs are made available. However, many are already providing much of this information about themselves through the use of many popular smartphone apps.

Are there any current examples?

Many universities are already providing interactive mapping services that help campus users and visitors. Warwick, York, Manchester and Edinburgh Universities are providing services such as access to internal floor plans of mapped buildings, Google mapping services on campus and filters for tailored maps. The University of Santa Barbara has taken filters and layers further providing not just routes and tours along with images but also the energy rating for every building. Southampton University are making their mapping data available in a machine readable format through its open data service. If other universities follow Southampton’s lead smartphone apps could provide intelligent mapping at many university campuses.

So how could it work?

Having signed up for an open day the prospective student downloads an app before arriving at  the university.

The app provides a range of information including the timetable for the day and the relevant maps to each location. While car parking information is available, including access to the reserved parking, the student chooses to take public transport. The shuttle buses from the station are monitored through GPS and their exact location is shown on the apps city map.

On arriving at the campus it starts to rain and the  smart signage suggest a route to the introduction lecture that is largely under cover.

The app provides refreshment and lunch information including locations, menus and opening times.

A guided tour of the campus is offered through the app that is tailored to the students interests. When queues start to form at the student union the app adjusts the tour to return later in the day.

Upon arriving at the library the the access system allows entrance based on the student’s app registration.

The relevant academic department is aware that the student is on campus and is able to prepare for their visit. On arriving at the department building the student is able to zoom in on the map to find the reception on the 3rd floor.

Who needs to be involved?

To develop intelligent campus mapping a number university departments and others will need to work together. These may include:

  • Estates management
  • Lecture room services
  • IT and network services
  • Academic departments
  • City authorities

What about possible developments?

The availability of high resolution mapping and image data along with VR system availability will allow virtual site tours that will include real time data and information such as weather and video data.

Some of the real time data and information could be provided through crowd sourcing allowing campus users to add to the richness of intelligent maps from their mobile devices.

This work can be linked to the many Smart City developments taking place to allow integration with city mapping and services such as urban transport systems.

Also much of the emergency and disaster planning taking places in colleges and university will be enhanced by intelligent and real time mapping systems. For example helping in the efficient direction of people to safe areas, defibrillators and emergency phones in an emergency situation.

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