Ensuring wellbeing

Use Case: Student Wellbeing on an Intelligent Campus


What’s the issue?

As well as enabling a student to achieve their academic goals, colleges and universities have a responsibility for a student’s wellbeing. Their health, both physical and mental, security and safety, are all important to institutions. The development of intelligent campuses can offer considerable support for student wellbeing.

Safety and security

The intelligent campus is a safer and more secure campus. For examples intelligent street lighting is being developed as part of Future City Glasgow initiative. Street lighting will dim during quiet periods but the use of sensors to monitor movement and noise can bring up the lighting. The lighting could even be controlled by the approach of students via a signal from their mobile device.


A range of apps are already available to help students to be safe at night. A typical example is the  Circle of Six app which keeps an individual in touch with their 6 most trusted contacts making it very easy to send help messages with their location coordinates. Apps could be integrated into the intelligent campus to provide help beyond their friends when a student is lost, worried, in trouble or in a dangerous situation. An example is GuardianSentral which works with campus security and safety systems such as emergency phones and campus police. It provides GPS tracking of individuals who are in danger. It can provide check-in facilities and an arrival time at a destination. A security alert is sent if the student does not check-in. If the student is feeling uneasy the app can ask campus police to monitor them via GPS or send an officer to escort them. If they are in immediate danger there is an urgent, call assistance button which also provides the police with their current location.

Linked to a student’s safety is drinking responsibly. It’s already possible to monitor alcohol drinking using apps like WiseDrinking which monitors an individual’s drinking, based on their size, gender, time of last meal etc. provides advice on unsafe drinking and helps with calling a taxi or using public transport. In future, on the intelligent campus a student could allow their drinking in campus bars to be monitored to allow student welfare services to be alerted when drinking is excessive.

Keeping healthy

Similarly the intelligent campus could provide students with help in eating healthily on a budget, providing healthy recipes and shopping advice. The Internet of Things could monitor fridge contents and food which is out of date.

There are a large number of mental health apps now available, many of which could help with student wellbeing. The University of Edinburgh student counselling service provides a useful review of a number of these apps. They look at issues such as panic attacks, wellbeing, mental health, anxiety and mood improvement. Coventry University’s CU Health and Wellbeing app “provides information to Coventry University Students on student support services, interactive maps to NHS providers and campus buildings, and emergency contacts and help.” While this app is not really taking advantage of intelligent campus developments it does demonstrate that universities and colleges are keen to improve the health and wellbeing of their students.

In future the intelligent campus could move beyond offering advice to monitoring student behaviour and intervening if necessary. If their typical behaviour in terms of alcohol consumption, coffee drinking, movement patterns, absence from lectures, missing meetings, etc. changes, alerts and interventions could be planned by tutors or student welfare services.

Keeping Fit

Many students and staff are now using wearable fitness trackers. These could be integrated with the intelligent campus, for example, providing walking routes around the campus to achieve activity targets. Campus communities of activity tracker users could be supported creating social opportunities and even a level of competition. The university or colleges sports facilities, programmes and courses could also be integrated with the individual’s fitness targets and goals providing further support. If confidentiality issues are not considered a problem, wearable fitness trackers could provide the intelligent campus with huge quantities of data about students. This could include their sleep patterns, or lack of sleep, since many activity trackers have basic sleep tracking facilities, others can provide heart rate data which could be used to provide information about individuals with high stress levels or other health issues.

Going mobile

Use Case: Mobile Applications and the Intelligent Campus

mobile phone

What’s the issue?

Many universities and colleges are already providing student applications for smartphones and tablets to enhance their campus and learning experience. It is in fact surprising that all institutions are not offering apps, even if there is currently very limited data available for their campus.

What’s currently going on?

University and college apps at the moment typically provide information and services such as:

  • Manage library account, catalogues and e-publications
  • Viewing personalised timetables
  • University and campus news
  • Searchable and interactive campus maps
  • Find available PC’s and workstations
  • Make payments

An extensive list of features that combines a range of apps being offered by UNiversities and colleges is provided below.

However, the further integration of new apps with the intelligent campus could enhance their functionality enormously.


What developments are taking place?

The Smartphone developments will drive student apps and the intelligent campus can integrate with and take advantage of these developments.

For example, relatively simple campus developments can enhance the student experience, these include incorporating wireless charging facilities into desks, tables and benches. Also, provision of display areas where students gather socially, or for group work, for smartphones with built-in projectors.

The availability of augmented reality (AR) is likely to become widespread. Universities and colleges will be able to make data generated by the intelligent campus available, overlaying it onto what their smartphone camera is seeing. Real time images of buildings will be tagged with the location of, for example: their next lecture or tutorial, routes avoiding steps, location of toilets, showers, cycle racks or ATMs.


As AR develops it is likely to become very familiar in enhancing learning. It could have a place in many disciplines, providing simulation environments for the teaching of surgery or archaeology, allowing architecture students to walk around experimental buildings or positioning historians in historical events.

Its predicted that wearable devices will become widely available, and popular, in the next few years, this will present further opportunities for the intelligent campus. Headsets, glasses, watches and wristbands will talk to the campus and provide information in new ways to the user.

Beyond wearable devices developers are discussing internet enabled implants. Futurists, such as Raymond Kurzweil, predicts that within 20 years implants (removable or permanent) will be available that will communicate wirelessly with the network. The possibilities for integration with the intelligent campus are wide ranging. These devices might record everything that the “connected” student sees and hears, indeed everything they are learning.

So what are the issues?

Clearly some of the ideas discussed here are still in development and may not come to fruition. If they do there will be a number of other issues to address. The well-known Issues concerning data security and management will need to be dealt with.

We are only at the start of the uptake of AR and wear devices which will throw up new ethical questions. Implanted devices will of course be a whole new ball game ethically and development could be halted by the ethical dimension.

For those developments that do look promising perhaps the biggest barrier is not the technological development or security questions but the need to bring together a wide range of stakeholders. In developing these mobile applications almost every component of the university or college structure, as well as local transport authorities, will need to provide data in a standard format and to a very high standard. This will require considerable resource, goodwill and management skill.

Student apps that are currently provided by universities include the following:

  • Manage library account, catalogues and e-publications
  • Viewing personalised timetables of courses, events and other activities
  • University and campus news channels and news flashes
  • Searchable and interactive campus maps
  • Exam timetables
  • Find available PC’s and workstations
  • Buy and use print credits
  • Pay for services, food and products
  • Contact tutors and other staff
  • Gym facilities availability and classes
  • Self-guided tours including videos, photos and interactive panoramas
  • Search for friends and colleagues
  • Call or email contacts
  • Push notifications of alerts and announcements
  • Alerts for upcoming deadlines
  • Attendance registration by scanning the QR codes
  • Access to cloud based file store
  • Lecture capture
  • Weather information
  • Revision resources and guidance
  • Real time cycling, train and bus information for public transport authorities
  • Details of union clubs and societies
  • Help desk and helpline access
  • Task tracking and notification – assignment and course progress.

The list of features above is based upon those offered by the student apps provided by:

  • UCLA
  • Newcastle University
  • UCL
  • Southampton University
  • Nottingham Trent University
  • Strathclyde University


I know how you’re feeling…

Use Case: Student Emotion Recognition


What’s the issue?

Can the performance of students and tutors be improved by a combination of emotion recognition and artificial intelligence (AI)?

A number of universities are already looking at to the possibilities of using video monitoring and webcams across the intelligent campus along with emotion recognition software. In lecture theatres and learning spaces, disengaged or struggling students, could be identified and feedback provided to their tutor or lecturer, possibly in real time. In libraries and learning resource centres systems might recognise confused or distressed students allowing appropriate action to be taken.

Emotion recognition systems are already being piloted in the marketing and security industries.

Marketing companies are using the emotion recognition technology to determine customer’s level of attention and engagement. These results can be used to develop and launch new products.

Security software developers are claiming that emotion recognition systems, using CCTV footage, can identify possible criminals before they commit a crime.

These developments might be adapted and used to improve the learning experience for students both on and off the campus.

It is even envisaged that AI techniques, along with emotion recognition, could lead to the “digital tutor” that tailors courses to each student’s requirements.

Are there any current examples?

The Sichuan University in China has been using facial recognition technology for attendance monitoring for some time and is now investigating emotion recognition. The aim is to determine the student’s interest level, identify sadness, happiness and boredom as well as nodding or turning of the head. This data can then influence teaching techniques and content to ensure that students are stimulated and paying attention.


In Paris the ESG business school is planning to use a combination of facial recognition and AI to monitor student attention levels. They are focusing on online courses using webcams to record eye movement as well as facial emotions. If a low level of engagement is identified the system will create quizzes in real time to test content delivered during the inattentive period.

What issues are there to be concerned about?

There will clearly be concerns regarding the misuse and security of the data being collected about students using emotion recognition. Those involved in developing systems are well aware of these concerns and endeavouring to address them by protecting data through encryption and only storing data while it is being used.

There are also real concerns about the reliability of the emotion recognition systems. Misinterpretation of expression, such as confusion or concentration, can be an issue for humans, let alone algorithms and AI systems. Individuals often express similar emotions differently, indeed there are cross cultural differences as well. This issue was explored in by Shioiri, Someya, Helmeste and Tang in their paper Misinterpretation of Facial Expression which looked at Japanese and Caucasian expression differences.

It is clear that the level of errors made will need to be very low before use of these techniques will be widely accepted and used.

In the city there’s a thousand faces, all shining bright


Use Case: Intelligent Campus, Smart City

What’s the issue?

The Wikipedia definition of a smart city is “an urban development vision to integrate information and communication technology (ICT) and Internet of things (IoT) technology in a secure fashion to manage a city’s assets.”

These developments are also directly applicable to college and university campuses. Additionally, with extensive areas of city centre real estate and large numbers of people living and working in city centres, universities and colleges will be a big part of smart city development.

Typically smart cities plans are characterised by themes including:

  • Transport
  • Data and technology
  • Energy and sustainability
  • Wellbeing and leisure

These are also familiar Intelligent Campus themes.


Are there any current examples?

City transport authorities, such as Transport for London, are using data from sources such as travel cards and Wi-Fi access learn about travel patterns and improve services. Universities and colleges are major contributors to city transport loads, so bringing together intelligent campus data, about the movement of students and staff, with the city transport data can inform city transport planners, and provide real-time travel information to students and staff.

Newcastle University is working with the City Council to develop a Cooperative Intelligent Transport System (CITS) leading to a “Smart Corridor”. This will mean that buses on one of the main routes used by university staff and students will be controlled by digital technology. This will allow buses to “talk too” traffic lights, maybe holding green lights for a short time or redirect drivers past congestion, improving journeys and reducing delays. The development of this intelligent infrastructure will lead to reduced air pollution, improve safety for cyclists and even lead to the use of driverless vehicles.

In Milton Keynes, as part of the MK:Smart initiative, the Open University and Bedfordshire University are providing the MK Data Hub to manage and allow access to hugh quantities of data from city systems. The sources include the local authority, government, business, and private contributors. Application developers can use the data relating to energy, water use transport etc., via APIs and software tools, to create applications.


Many smart city initiatives are investigating microgrids which provide local energy requirements without being dependent on the traditional power grid. A number of universities are developing microgrids for their energy requirements. These systems have the potential, using artificial intelligent techniques, to be more reactive and flexible. They will provide and store energy based upon forecast weather conditions, resources available and the current (or predicted) need. For example the University of California has a microgrid providing its San Diego campus, of 45,000 people, with electricity (85%), heating (95%) and cooling (95%). It consists of a mixture of solar, gas and steam turbine power. These university campus systems are acting as test beds for the wider city and, as they are rolled out, will become a major plank of the smart city.


Universities and colleges will increasingly offer tailored, and personalised, student apps for smartphones that are informed by the intelligent campus. These will communicate with the smart city and the data it provides, including travel, leisure and wellbeing information.

It is clear that an intelligent campus can be the testing ground and incubator for smart city initiatives. The development of close relationships between the city and university or college, using the internet of things, artificial intelligence and widespread data collection and sharing, will be of benefit to both parties.

What about ethical and other issues?

The exchange of data between the smart city and the intelligent campus will, as with many similar developments, need to be handled carefully. Issues of privacy and security will be of great concern to all of the stakeholders.

The range of stakeholders involved will also be a major issue, both the city and the university or college will have a number of diverse stakeholders. Coordinating these groups, who may not have worked together before, is likely to be as challenging as the development of the required technology.

What do you mean all the rooms are booked?

Efficient spaces on the intelligent campus


What’s the issue?

When you move around a university or college campus do you notice rooms and spaces that are currently unused or underused?

Is space being utilised well or for an activity for which it wasn’t designed? As a teacher or lecturer do you have rooms you dislike and spaces you think are great?

Is the room temperature never correct? Is it stuffy? Are the students dozing off? Are empty spaces being heated?

Is the wireless infrastructure inadequate for the video studies workshop?

Does the fixed furniture inhibit group activities?

On an Intelligent Campus rooms and spaces should used be efficiently, in comfort and with the suitable activities taking place.

Extensive, low cost, monitoring that is already rolling out across campuses. Data that will be collected includes:

  • Occupancy
  • Temperature
  • Humidity
  • CO2 levels
  • Lighting levels
  • Sound and noise levels
  • Network and wireless usage

If this data can be combined intelligently with other systems it will contribute considerably to the development of the Intelligent Campus.

Are there any practical examples?

A number of institutions are now starting to collect and interpret real time data from across their campus. For example, in an effort to improve space utilisation Cambridge University are implementing a system that collects live space usage data that reports through a web portal every 15 minutes. This is integrated with the rooming booking system to provide high quality reporting. A case study is available in University Business. This type of system could lead to changes in the management and timetabling of space.

A system could flag up block booked rooms are regularly unused and make them available to others.

Other developments may be possible. Could the length of bookings be flexible? Is an hour always the optimum time for a booking?

Similarly, could the data collected lead to variable, flexible course dates allowing better space utilisation across the calendar year?

Feedback from room users on their specific needs could be matched to available suitable spaces – these might even change from week to week as course requirements change.

Video monitoring of spaces could also gather data on the numbers of people using a space noting underuse or overcrowding, and suggesting other more suitable space.

Similarly in areas with seating for lectures, workstations or at desks, the seats themselves could collect data – truly the Internet of Things. This takes seat availability to a new level, beyond showing un-booked seats on a Virgin train or the open access computers availability at Edinburgh University. Unused bookings or the German towel method of reserving facilities could be revealed. The aggregation of this usage may well show low usage levels, for example 100 seat lecture theatres booked for courses of 100 that regularly only attract 50 students.

Clearly a very warm, stuffy room may lead to less alert students. The improved monitoring of rooms not only allows better temperature control but measuring a rising CO2 level could automatically trigger windows to open or air-con to be turned on.

The availability of extensive and detailed monitoring of rooms and spaces means that Georgia Tech’s Smart Energy Campus Program is able to quickly identify unusually high energy usage, and notify the facility team to rectify the problem.


What about ethical and other issues?

As with many Intelligent Campus developments there is a reliance upon high levels of monitoring to collect useful data. This inevitably raises ethical and security issues. The university or college will need to communicate the benefits to staff and students.

Who needs to be involved?

Unlike many other Intelligent Campus developments this Use Case does not need a wide range of departments to be involved. It will primarily be the responsibility of the facility manager and estates service with some input for the networking team and those responsible for timetabling.

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.

Hey Siri, what do I need to learn?


Use Case: Contextual Learning with a Virtual Assistant

What’s the issue?

Virtual assistants, such as Siri, Alexa, Google Assistant and Cortana, are increasingly available through Smartphones and other devices using varying levels of artificial intelligence (AI). As they become more and more popular they will be used  in education and taking learning out of the lecture theatre and into a student life.

What is a virtual assistant?

Wikipedia says a virtual assistant (or Chatbot) is a software agent that can perform tasks or services for an individual. This is a pretty good starting point. Virtual assistants of the type available through Siri, Alexa, Google Assistant and Cortana endeavour to provide natural language processing (NLP) through AI allowing the user to ask questions, of almost any type, of the system behind the device.

What’s the current situation?

The initial benefits from this technology have included:

  • Replacing reference books
  • Reducing the need to memorise facts and for basic learning to be provided by lecturers
  • NLP and speech synthesis provide improved for accessibility for some students who have difficulty writing or with vision
  • Improved learning management using apps such as the Redcritter app for Cortana
  • Identifying images such as photographs taken of: paintings, buildings, cityscapes, etc. using an app like CamFind


How could it work?

This developing technology will increasingly take learning out of the class and provide contextual learning allowing students to relate their academic studies to the world around them and their everyday lives. The combination of the mobile device, the implementation of AI and voice activation can bring learning alive and demonstrate that it is available all around and at any time.

Examples might include:

  • Making an architecture student aware of a building that they are passing which relates to their course
  • Providing information about past events at close by locations that are of relevance to a history course
  • Leading a student to an example of soil erosion, or a geological feature, and providing information about its creation
  • Observing housing projects that illustrate social science topics

In effect the technology can provide personalised field trips for the student.

An additional feature that this technology could provide would be to answer the question: “How  am I doing in my course?” By linking these intelligent devices with learner analytics, calendars, learning environments and e-portfolios, students can monitor their own progress and be prompted if they are in danger of falling behind.

What about ethical and other issues?

Clearly there are issues for students in providing personal information such as their location, however, this type of information is regularly gathered by many of the most popular social media applications.

Many virtual assistants make a virtue of the provision NLP this could cause difficulty for students with speech or hearing difficulties. This could also include non-native speakers whose strong accents can cause problems for NLP systems.

Also, at a more basic level there may be concerns over the use of these systems to provide reference material. Issues regarding the reliability and authenticity of content obtained for virtual assistants will need to be addressed.

Who needs to be involved?

With the use of virtual assistants to provide contextual learning, as with many of the proposed services and technologies that will create the intelligent campus, there will be a need to a wide range of university or college departments and directorates to work together. This may well be a difficult hurdle to overcome. This will particularly be the case where the learning could also be outside the campus with the need for external agencies to be involved.

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.

I recognise you…

lecture theatre

Use Case: Attendance monitoring through face recognition

What’s the issue?

Student attendance is a major issue for higher and further education institutions for a range of reasons including the reporting requirements of the Home Office and Student Loans Company. Attendance levels have a strong relationship with the student experience, particularly, in terms of attainment and retention. Good monitoring systems provide efficient reporting mechanisms and an early warning of possible student wellbeing issues.

What are the current solutions?

Most universities and colleges have systems in place to monitor attendance, from simple sign in sheets and electronic sign in, to scanning ID cards and fingerprint readers.

More sophisticated systems are integrating attendance monitoring with other data such as coursework submission, tutorials, examination attendance, VLE use and systems logins to create a student engagement dashboard.

However, all of the monitoring techniques have drawbacks such as students signing for friends or using multiple ID cards. Also most systems can’t cope with students leaving after being logged as present.

How about monitoring attendance with face recognition?

A number of universities are looking into using face recognition systems to monitor attendance. The technology required has become cheap and reliable.

It has the advantage of being very fast and efficient, causing minimal disruption at the start of a lecture. While no system can cover all forms of abuse it does make it more difficult to be recorded as attending when they are not present.  If the system is scanning the lecture room, rather than the entrance, it can also re-scan the audience during, or towards the end of, a teaching session to ensure students attend for the whole lecture.

What about ethical and other issues?

Clearly there are a number of ethical questions raised through using face recognition technology. The level of reliability of the system would need to be investigated since incorrect data could have serious implications both for individual students and for universities and colleges that produce reports based on this data.

The intrusiveness of this type of “surveillance” will also ring alarms bells for some. Fears of misuse of the data collected will need to be discussed and addressed. However, face recognition can be seen as less intrusive than fingerprint based systems. Most students are happy to have their image held with their students records, they may not be keen to provide fingerprints.


Are there current examples?

The use of face recognition check systems has become increasing common in the commercial world and is widely used at airport passport control. The Australian government is planning to use face recognition to help eliminate the need to even show a passport.

In the education sector, in China, Henan University and Minjiang University have implemented pilot systems. Henan University has reported 100% attendance where the system has been used.

So how could it work?

Students enter their lectures as normal and take their seats with no need to sign in, scan ID cards or provide fingerprints. Once settled, a camera records the audience and forwards the image to a face recognition system. Individuals faces are recognised and matched with the student image held on the student records system. All students identified are recorded as present at the lecture. The camera records the audience several times during the session ensuring that the students attend the full lecture. Following the lecture the attendance record is then used to provide reports to the Home Office and the Student Loans Company as required. Also the attendance data is used to help build a picture of the students engagement and wellbeing along with course work submissions, recorded logins to university systems and a range of other data.

Who needs to be involved?

To implement a face recognition attendance system a number university departments will need to work together. These may include:

  • Lecture room services
  • IT and network services
  • Student services
  • Academic departments
  • Student records management
  • Senior management

Navigating the Airport

Gatwick Airport, way too early in the morning

In a world first for an airport, Gatwick has installed two thousand indoor navigation beacons enabling augmented reality wayfinding.

One part of the Jisc Intelligent Campus project is to reflect on the landscape in this space, and one part of that is what is happening elsewhere, in retail, entertainment and transport.

Learning from other sectors and provide useful guidance and inspiration on what is possible and we can evaluate the potential for applying new processes and technologies in an educational context.

Gatwick Airport is the UK’s second largest airport and one of the busiest single runway airports in the world. The two thousand beacons have been installed across Gatwick Airport’s two terminals providing an indoor navigation system that is much more reliable than GPS and that enables augmented reality wayfinding for passengers – a world first for an airport.

The lack of satellite signals makes road-based navigation systems – such as Google or Apple maps – unreliable indoors, so Gatwick has deployed a beacon based positioning system to enable reliable ‘blue dot’ on indoor maps, which in time can be used within a range of mobile airport, airline or third party apps.

The beacon system also enables an augmented reality wayfinding tool – so passengers can be shown directions in the camera view of their mobile device – making it easier for passengers to locate check in areas, departure gates, baggage belts etc.

The new navigation technology is currently being integrated into some of the Gatwick apps and the airport is also in discussion with airlines to enable the indoor positioning and wayfinding tools to also feature on their app services.

No personal data will be collected by Gatwick although generic information on ‘people densities’ in different beacon zones may help to improve airport operations including  queue measurement, streamlining passenger flows and reducing congestion.

Airlines could go further – and with the consent of their passengers – may send reminders on their airline app to late running passengers, for example, or find out where they are and make an informed decision on whether to wait or offload their luggage so the aircraft can take off on time.

Retailers and other third parties may also use the beacon system to detect proximity and send relevant offers or promotional messages, if the passenger has chosen to receive them.

Battery powered beacons kept logistical complexity and costs low, with deployment taking just three weeks, followed by two months of testing and calibration.

The new technology is part of Gatwick’s £2.5 billion investment programme to transform the airport.

Abhi Chacko, Head of IT Commercial & Innovation, Gatwick Airport, said:

“By providing the infrastructure we’re opening the door for a wide range of tech savvy airport providers, including our airlines and retailers, to launch new real-time services that can help passengers find their way around the airport, avoid missing flights or receive timely offers that might save them money.

“We are proud to be the first airport to deploy augmented reality technology and we hope that our adoption of this facility influences other airports and transport providers so that it eventually becomes the norm.” 

The tech stack comes with an indoor map which shows up to date content, positioning with +/-3m accuracy, and navigation technology that is dynamic and recognises, for example, areas currently under construction, or multi floor navigation including when taking lifts, proximity to retailers etc.

You can immediately see the application of such a technological rollout to a college or university campus. As I mentioned in a previous blog post, I said

With the forecast growth of apprenticeships and degree apprenticeships, colleges and universities will find their campuses awash with apprentices who are only on campus for a day a week or for blocks of a week or two. These learners will have the challenge of finding their way round, but not having the luxury of exploring the campus that full-time students often have.

This kind of beacon technology combined with apps from the college or university admin could make life easier for all students (and visitors) who are on campus.

You can also imagine how retail outlets and academic departments, could like the airlines in the Gatwick project could use the technology to provide real-time services (and in the retail space offers) for students.

What are your thoughts on this kind of technological development?

Image Credit: Gatwick Airport, way too early in the morning, by Dan Taylor-Watt, CC BY 2.0