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

I know what’s good for you…


I like to try and get 10,000 steps into my daily routine and weather permitting I am usually successful. I have started for example parking further away, getting off a stop early on the tube and walking the rest of the way, walking further to get coffee or lunch.

It was whilst talking to Jisc’s Matt Ramirez about the intelligent campus space that I realised that it would be useful if my iPhone (which I use to measure the steps) could be more helpful in helping me reach my daily steps target.

If I ask Siri how to get somewhere, it helpfully tells me the shortest route, or the closest place. I did wonder if I could get Siri to help me reach 10,000 steps by rather than showing me the closest place for coffee, show me a place (that serves decent coffee) but the round trip walking would result in me walking 10,000 or 5,000 steps.

This got me thinking about how an intelligent campus could (with consent) support learner’s health and wellbeing.

Imagine the scenario where a learner has requested the university intelligent agent to help them be more healthy. The learner arrives on campus and asks Siri or their university intelligent agent where can I get on a computer, the university intelligent agent doesn’t send the learner to the closest free computer, but recommends the learner go to a computer lab on the other side of campus.

After two hours the university intelligent agent then recommends the learner take a break and provides a voucher for a free or cut price healthy snack and drink in the coffee shop on the other side of campus.

The result, the learner is given the opportunity to walk further and eat healthy foods through incentives on their device.


The university can use the resulting data (with consent) to analyse what interventions are successful and which ones aren’t.

Overall the result will be learners who are healthier, potentially happier (wellbeing) and this could have an impact on the overall learning experience.

I didn’t know I needed to ask…


Do you remember your first day at University or College? What about the first week?

Arriving at a new institution is a disorientating experience. As students walk around the university or college campus they are faced with problems that need to be resolved in order to help them settle, provide a satisfying experience and even help them on their learning journey.

Transition is hard, for most learners going to an FE College the last time they moved between educational institutions was when they left primary school and moved up to secondary. Transition to an FE College is for many learners a huge leap.

Similarly transition to University can be for many students a challenge, especially when moving away from home (often for the first time).


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.

There are the known problems, such as where is my next lesson? What books would be useful for this topic? When is my tutor free for a quick chat on assignment? Do I need to come into college today?

Even simple questions could result in a complicated route to multiple online systems. Imagine asking the question, where and when is my next lecture, what resources are available and are there any relevant books in the library on this subject? The module design or course information system (or more likely this is a dumb document) would have the information on what would be next. Timetabling systems would be able to inform the learn which space and when the lesson was. The campus map (which could be interactive) would provide the information on where the space was on the campus. Imagine the extra layer of last minute changes to the information because of staff sickness, or building work resulting in a room change. As for what resources are available, this may be on the VLE or another platform. As for additional resources then this could be on the library systems. Add in a social platform, say a closed Facebook group, or a collaborative tool such as Slack, then you start to see how a simple question about what am I doing next and where is it, becomes rather complicated.

One big assumption we make in all this is, we assume the learner knows about all our system, knows how to use them all, has access to them all, and has a connected device to do all this!


There are also the unknown problems, these are the kinds of problems that learners don’t even know they have and haven’t thought to ask? Could the university or college push information and notifications to learners based on where the learner is on campus, when the learner is on campus, and how far the learner is on their learning journey? Would this extra information confuse the learner, or could it help to reduce the disorientating experience?

So how are you supporting learners in this area?

If the walls could talk…

lecture theatre

Across colleges and universities there are a variety of rooms and areas in which learning takes place, sometimes there is teaching and sometimes there isn’t.

Lecture theatres are used to deliver lectures, students use the library to read and discover and classrooms can be used for a range of activities.

If the spaces we use for teaching and learning could speak to us, what would they say?

Would we want to listen?


There is an institutional memory within those walls that is inaccessible and lost every time the learners leave the room. The room doesn’t remember what worked well or what could have been better. The spaces, if they could store experiences and feedback, would know what was the ideal environment for different learning activities.

What could we do about it?

The spaces across colleges and universities are core to teaching and learning. Are we using them effectively to enhance and enrich the learning journey?

One question that gives different responses is, does the environment in which we learn have any or a significant impact on that journey?

Some people say that they can teach anywhere and often do. Other people say that all teachers can remember a time when they tried to teach in a poor room.

We know learning can happen anytime and anywhere, the key question is does the environment in which it is happening, make that more effective or does it impair the learning process?

Could we use data gathered from teachers and students, as well as space usage, to inform and improve teaching and learning?

What would those improvements look like?

Teaching staff often have little power or control over the spaces they work in. However could we change that?

Could Jisc help build the tools required to make the gathering and analysis of that data easier as well as exploring how to best act upon the insights produced to make changes?

Consultation Workshop Discussions

We recently ran a consultation workshop as part of our discovery phase in the Intelligent Campus space.

We covered many different use cases and scenarios across this area.

Some of the issues that arose out of our discussions.

The intelligent campus is intrinsically cross-campus, cross-faculty and cross-service. Any intelligent campus initiative will require a holistic approach from an university or college and involve stakeholders from academia and professional services.

Often initiatives are undertaken in isolation, with limited or single needs. To take advantage of the potential benefits of the intelligent campus, single function projects may need to consider other facets and needs of other areas of the university of college. The reality of actual challenges students face may be invisible to significant parts of the institution.

Students often offer objections to data gathering when it comes to the university or college, but may off little or no objections to commercial data gathering from apps and mobile services. Often this dichotomy is down to the inferred benefits that data gathering may or may not provide. Incentives to engage must be obvious to students.

We also discussed smart building design. One aspect of the intelligent campus is can physical design be mapped to react to data to build efficiencies? Or nudge positive behaviours? There are aspects of will notifications actually encourage the behaviours and that you want from students (and staff) or will they be ignored and seen to be spam.

These consultation and discussions are an useful mechanism to support the discovery phase of the project and can continue online by looking at the future use cases we will be publishing to the blog as well as the draft guide.

Future City Predictions – A glimpse at Cities of the Future

So this video talks about the cities of the future. What do you think the university and college campuses of the future will be like? Let us know in the comments.

Do you ever wonder what cities will be like in the next few decades?

With over two thirds of our population living in urban areas by 2050 the demands on cities’ services will increase significantly.

Technological improvements to our infrastructure will change the way citizens interact; artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things will allow the city to become smart; perhaps even allowing cities to think like a human brain.

What changes can we expect?

  • Cities will become greener and have more cycle and walking space along with less pollution
  • Buildings will generate their own energy from renewable sources and their design will be continually optimised thanks to smart data
  • The high street will offer richer, interactive shopping experiences with augmented reality changing rooms