• The Case for A Smart Campus, From Someone Who Would Benefit

About Me

I’ve lived in the Bay Area my entire life. Growing up and then attending a University in the Silicon Valley, technology and the “future” permeates my conversation and my culture. At Stanford, where I am a rising Junior, I hear 5-6 startup pitches every week. I study techcrunch like priests study the Bible. I observe eyes-glued-to-smartphone-induced bike crashes biweekly. And I watch Stanford adopt and embrace new technologies faster than an entrepreneur says the word “disruptive” or “revolutionary” in a startup pitch. However, there’s one technology that Stanford, and most college campuses around the world, has proceeded slowly in embracing. And it’s one that could actually be “disruptive” or “revolutionary.” It’s the Internet of Things (IoT)-enabled Smart Campus, and it could change mine and others’ college experiences as we know it.

The Possibility

Before digging into the exciting applications of IoT, we have to take a step back and understand what made Smart Campuses possible (okay, okay, I said it: this section isn’t the most fun. But the best way to predict where we’ll go is by understanding how we got here). The potential growth of Smart Campuses, other than from the attention from bright-eyed, non-jaded college kids like me, stems from two technology trends:

  1. Cyber physical systems: Large-scale networks of sensors that provide data and receive instructions from the cloud.
  2. Big data, internet of things and cloud computing: The ability to store and intelligently process all of the data received from the cyber physical systems.

And underpinning the technological advancements powering Smart Campuses is the ubiquitous craving for, availability, and usefulness of big data. As Oprah would say, “You get Data! You get Data! Everyone gets Data!!!” In terms of the greater economy, managers, presidents, and CEOs alike want to know everything about their operations and security at every hour of the day on any device in any location. And for the first time in history, technology has made this data accessible and actionable.

How can these trends be applied to further education, one of the most important facets of modern day society? With the implementations of Smart Campuses (I’m sure you were surprised to hear this!).

The Potential

Yes, I used the word “limitless” to describe the abilities of IoT on a college campus. Classic marketing maneuver, right? Well, in this case it’s true. I could list 100 ways to use IoT on a college campus, but by the time you’re on number 12, I’m sure you’d feel the urge to click on the Facebook browser tab. Instead, I’ll talk about five of the most exciting IoT-enabled opportunities that would have a positive and distinguishable influence on my college experience.

  • Identification and Authorization – Monitor and manage access to certain buildings, rooms or areas. The remote monitoring capabilities makes me feel safer in my dorm and in my classes.
  • General Security – Unfortunately, a reality of many college campuses is that they’re prone to crime. With a smart campus, you can integrate security cameras with motion detectors all over the campus to limit crime. Also, right now, at Stanford, we have a mass notification system in which the police can email every resident, and this system would be dramatically improved with the real-time monitoring and analyzing features of an IoT-enabled security solution.
  • Navigation – If you’re like me, you’ve probably gotten lost once or twice inside that ugly, archaic hall that was built while your great great great great great great Grandma was alive. With a smart campus, students, faculty, or visitors can discover where they are in an unfamiliar building and get directions to where they need to be.
  • Payments – College is expensive. Students have to pay for things ranging from textbooks, to laundry, to greasy food at 2 AM. A smart campus could connect all the ways that students make payments in one system.
  • Learning – Oh yeah, I forgot, we learn in college! With IoT capabilities, faculty and program coordinators can gain real-time and actionable insight into student performance.

The Platform

While I could talk all day about the possibilities, let’s take a look at how to actually create the Smart Campus. This is an IoT platform blog, after all.

Today’s campus is already full of data and automation. Most likely you are running a range of management systems, such as an energy management system, building/lighting management system, and/or a student management system. You already have operational sensors and data. The key to upgrading – in addition to improving each system by itself – is to tie the disparate data from all systems together using an orchestration platform, to create a whole that is much smarter than its parts. Like the guy who makes your burrito at Chipotle.

The good news is you don’t need to commit to upgrading the entire campus all at once. You can pick a specific aspect of operations to start with and build from there. For example, you can start with my idea of IoT-enhanced security. You want simple open/close door sensors to use CrossApp insights to coordinate with movement, door lock and other sensors to create a more precise picture of the security situation. Sensors communicate with the cloud 24/7 and security managers overseeing several floors/buildings can view all of the data for all locations. Then, once you set-up your building security management, you can use an orchestration platform to add lighting, authorization, and anything you want to the same cloud platform, as the efficiency case for improvements are made.

In summary, the future is pretty freaking cool. I envision a campus that’s safer and more efficient than it has ever been. And this technology is not far away- it’s happening now. To reap these rewards, build or buy an effective orchestration IoT platform that can meet all of the wildest needs of complex college campuses. Indeed, the right platform has the capabilities of something that one might call “disruptive” and “revolutionary.”

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