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Universities Are Primed to Capitalize on the IoT's Transformative Potential

As colleges strive to attract the best students, they must provide an autonomous experience that is intuitive, personalized and connected; the Internet of Things can help.
By Viswanath Subramaniam
Nov 03, 2019

Usually, the imagery evoked by the Internet of Things (IoT) is of an industrial setting with several connected devices exchanging intricate insights to streamline complex manufacturing processes. Or one might imagine the future of personal transport undergoing a paradigm shift in which, thanks to the IoT, smart connected cars can provide a seamless and heightened experience with minimal human intervention.

However, the IoT has a variety of possible use cases, and one of the more compelling examples is taking shape at universities and campuses across the globe. As colleges begin to dedicate sizable investments to differentiating themselves in order to attract the best students, it has become imperative for them to provide an autonomous experience that is at once intuitive, personalized and connected.

As the vision of smart cities, smart factories and smart cars begins to take shape, leading universities are placing the same impetus on smart campuses. In fact, Stanford University, Curtin University, Arizona State University and the University of San Francisco are just a few examples of colleges that have made significant strides in their IoT journeys.

A Smart Campus Starts With Smart Buildings
There are several applications of the IoT within a typical university campus, but one of the more compelling is making buildings smart to optimize energy consumption and reduce operational expenses. On a busy day, a classroom or lecture hall could contain up to 300 students at a time. Imagine the amount of productive learning time that is lost due to suboptimal classroom conditions or functional equipment not working correctly. Furthermore, it is imperative to track the consumption of electricity and water on large campuses to mitigate carless use and contribute toward energy and cost savings.

An IoT platform, for instance, can collect data about temperature, humidity and air quality in order to proactively provide for a more comfortable classroom environment. It can also control projectors, HVAC systems, curtains and blinds in a building to ensure things are working seamlessly in the background. Lastly, from an energy-consumption perspective, it can identify the intensity of lighting required in a facility based on the number of people present and the nature of tasks being carried out.

Making Campuses Secure With the IoT
Even with surveillance cameras and other technology elements in place, it becomes difficult to regulate the inflow and outflow of people. Often, it is difficult for these systems to differentiate between students and external visitors, which necessitates the involvement of "boots on the ground" supervisors and placing trust in students to not facilitate external access.

An IoT platform can build in an integrated entrance-management system that can provide facial recognition-based access control to various parts of the campus. Facial recognition and advanced video analytics can be used to provide better surveillance, detect unattended bags, prevent intrusion into restricted areas and identify abnormal sounds, among many other things.

For instance, the University of San Francisco has instituted a Cisco-driven IoT-enabled solution that helps in facilitating ease of surveillance through advanced analytics and facial recognition. The university is spread over a 52-acrre campus containing 10,000 students, of which 3,500 live on campus. Managing such a large pool of students can be a challenge, especially as human behavior can allow for vulnerabilities to creep into a well-designed security system. For instance, students can leave doors open in the residential halls, allowing for unauthorized access. Tail-gating or door-surfing also continue to remain challenges, especially when there is a large group of people entering a building.

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