What Can Smart Buildings Do for Higher Ed Campuses?

What Do Smart Buildings Actually Do on a College Campus?

What would you see if you could walk around one of these smart buildings? Well, It depends on what type of building. Here are a few ways universities are optimizing these developments.

Uninterrupted Connectivity

For one thing, nobody would be fighting with the Wi-Fi, no matter where they were on campus. Schieber points to the city of Borås Stad, one of the largest municipalities in western Sweden, which is moving toward becoming a smart city and has already made this happen.

“They’ve deployed citywide Wi-Fi to support uninterrupted connectivity for everything from education and healthcare to business sectors and emergency services,” he says. “And though this may sound complex, they have a robust cloud management solution that enables their IT department to easily manage the network and ensure consistent services delivery for residents, including students.”

This is a great example of what can happen when a smart city is realized, Schieber adds, and it’s reproducible on campuses around the world.

Facilities Management

Dorm rooms would never get too cold, and security cameras, lighting, automated doors and bio-scanners would all be on the same network.

“Because all of these systems are visible on the network, it makes it very easy to see when something may be wrong and troubleshoot it to ensure that building occupants — in this case, students and staff — continue to enjoy a seamless experience. Second, by automating things such as HVAC and lighting systems and connecting them with motion sensors or timers, higher education buildings can minimize the amount of energy they’re using to become more efficient and sustainable,” Schieber says.

Orchestrating Multiple Systems

Some options for smart buildings are indoor/outdoor asset tracking, energy monitoring, people traffic monitoring, orchestration between different systems and occupancy (such as hot desking and conference or huddle room use), says Steve Mandery, director of business development at Losant, an IoT business platform.

“This also includes automated lighting and climate control for energy savings, advanced security systems and enhanced learning environments with smart classroom technologies,” he says, noting that there are many occupancy use cases, including classrooms, dorms, restrooms and locker rooms.

Rettig says that using student ID badges to swipe into dorms and dining halls might be a thing of the past. “Most companies are moving to biometric scanners for logging in to your computer, so instead of two-factor, now you have a thumb scanner or eye scanner.”

LEARN MORE: How to realize the benefits of hybrid cloud environments.

Efficiency and Cost Savings

“Athletic venues can improve the customer experience. Apps showing which concessions and bathrooms have the shortest lines are at top of the list,” Mandery says. “As universities become more connected, the student experience will greatly improve. Students can spend less time in line for the cafeteria or study rooms, which will allow more time to do school work.”

He also says that this environment might even encourage more in-person class attendance.

Hybrid, In-Person and Remote Learning

Rettig says smart buildings will ultimately improve AI-based classrooms, but not all at once.

“It starts to bridge the connection between a smart campus and the smart classroom. You’re able to teach in person to a class and also have people remotely. The camera’s tracking you, and the board is showing it live on the person’s screen at home,” he says. However, there is more progress to be made on this front, he notes. “In most cases that have those around campus, they are one-off classrooms. It’s not the typical classroom, and you have to register to have a class in there. It’s still a way off, in my opinion, that smart classroom that’s really tracking you and enabling you to teach online.”

Progress on Smart Buildings Is Steady but Slow

As with any major technological advancement, universities won’t be adopting smart building technologies overnight.

“The technology and progression on campuses and at universities is always way behind. It’s the people, not the technology,” Rettig says. In a world of conflicting priorities and tight budgets, not to mention the looming enrollment cliff, it can fall to the bottom of the priority list. “This is all a big challenge for them, because I’ve been at universities giving them everything they need, and then they still don’t move on it,” he says.

IT staffers can start with what the data that they have now, he says. “You could easily get 99 percent of your occupancy from your current data. Then, all you need is a smart building platform software company that you could go to, and then you can start connecting your current data through APIs, and then you are on your way.”

IT innovators are pushing for these changes, both for current students and for the learners of the future.

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