5. Making the campus smart

From the perspective of those managing the campus and the various functions and services operated within it, the intelligent campus has much to offer. In addition to the specific needs of learners and researchers, wider issues are relevant to all campus users, including visitors and professional services staff. The latter in fact are key to supporting and implementing some of the applications of the intelligent campus. Examples of this include:

  1. Efficient use of energy and resources
  2. Effective utilisation of facilities
  3. Managing the movement of and interaction between resources and people within the campus
  4. Finding cost effective methods for the delivery of campus services

Energy

Energy has been the focus of a number of initiatives, driven by both environmental and cost concerns but also ways to enhance the experience of the campus user. At Georgia Tech for example, they collect data from energy utility systems all over campus, analysing consumption trends and looking for opportunities to become more energy efficient. Not only is data collected and analysed but teams are notified to remedy problems when they arise. They recognise that developing a predictive model of campus energy is complex but using thermal networks and electric grid modeling they aspire to systems that can self-correct without human intervention.

It isn’t just about saving money or reducing consumption though, such systems can also help monitor and adjust the working environment to make it more comfortable or conducive to work and learn. One of the themes from Jisc’s consultation was the vision “if walls could talk” – a room that is too hot could open a window automatically for example, and what about adjusting noise levels or air quality or improving safety?

Waste

At the other end of the consumption lifecycle is waste. Waste management and recycling are significant challenges for any large organisation, particularly one with a highly mobile and varied user base. Already facilities management services such as those at the University of Nottingham include prioritising bin collection by weight, but combining such data with mapping information on facilities eg toilets/social spaces, and effectively routing collection services through campus could streamline the waste management process.

Location and Movement

The movement of vehicles, supplies, and people is another aspect of campus life that could benefit from careful analysis of data from devices. Whether this is reducing queuing time at registration, ensuring food supplies meet demand, or synchronising public transport to special events, many opportunities exist for improving the flow of people and resources to maximise utilisation and minimise waste (including time!).

Location data is currently widely used through smartphone apps and contributes to analysis for example of traffic flow in Google maps. A combination of mapping and location tracking within campus could provide a range of interesting applications including:

  • Finding a workstation or a seat in the library and knowing how busy they are
  • Providing real time routing for; the most direct route, wheelchair access or combining with activity monitors such as FitBit to hit exercise targets
  • Better use of parking facilities
  • A better experience for visitors through improving ‘signage’

Space utilisation

Universities and colleges have a complex portfolio of physical facilities, buildings, equipment and spaces designed for specific purposes or for flexible usage. Room utilisation for example has long been a challenge for timetabling and resource management. We have already noted some learning specific opportunities such as live information on usage of lecture rooms and alternative learning spaces, and equally usage of research equipment could be monitored and displayed.

The use of open plan offices and hot desking is also becoming increasingly common for staff, but many of these processes rely on accurate planning in advance rather than responsiveness and flexibility in real time and may be constrained by specific processes. Examples of more adaptive use of facilities could include interchangeable spaces between teaching, research or public events, usage of space according to time of day or the weather, noise levels or density of people.

Additional benefits could be realised by combining different data sets and communicating to users for example contextual notifications, getting the right information to to students/staff at the right time. Not only could you look up where there is a workstation free, but your smartphone could indicate one nearest to you as you move through campus, assess how many other people are heading that way, check the noise levels and find you the quickest route there.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *