Smart Campuses Are Here

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You have a smart phone and possibly a smart watch. You understand smart buildings. But are you aware of smart campuses?

Technology is transforming our world from the inside out. As intelligence, sensing, and communication technologies find their way into more devices and network connectivity is expected to be ubiquitous, we are finding that the systems we employ in every aspect of our lives and enterprises are either communicating, or that there is emerging potential to connect these systems and reap increased efficiency, improved experiences, and added value.

Smart devices and systems are enabling smart buildings, which are hubs of operational technology such as heating, ventilation, lighting, access control, security, and more. As such, smart buildings drive the necessity for campus-wide high-speed network infrastructure. With so much investment in place, expanding the "smarts" across the campus itself is an evolutionary, incremental step that extends the management domain beyond the building and thus increases the potential for efficiencies, automation, and optimization.

Common components of a smart campus include:

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So, what are examples of a smart campus technologies?

  • Monitoring water flow to identify water leaks, notify the customer, and cut off the water

  • Using IoT sensors to monitor the fill-levels of dumpsters as well as recycling, donation, or waste oil bins; plan collection routes and times that are sent directly to staff
  • Monitoring parking areas to provide availability to the customers and notify staff of areas that need attention
  • Adjusting lighting according to activity as told by motion sensors; manage real-time building occupancy, and events, increasing efficiency and reducing light pollution
  • Utilizing security camera analytics to alert operations to actionable intelligence such as unusual pedestrian traffic or higher than normal volume -- and using information from environmental sensors or equipment monitoring to alert security personnel to worrisome anomalies
  • Digital signage serving multiple purposes, from tenant advertising to wayfinding to event management; can be repurposed automatically for emergencies, weather events, after hours guest support, and more

Regardless of the smart technologies that will eventually be used, there are identifiable features that will enable the best options, even as technologies continue to emerge and change. Campus-wide fiber backbones provide the basic, expandable communication infrastructure. Lighting poles can be designed to allow for multi-use, providing an ideal platform for not just intelligent lighting, but also video security and analytics, wireless networking, digital signage, and sensors. Optionally, head-ends for distributed antenna systems can greatly ease tenant adoption of DAS.

The campus should have at least two different service provider connections to the campus, separated geographically and connecting to different central offices or data centers. And wherever possible the network infrastructure should be designed with consideration for future expansion. A flexible design will ensure the network is adaptable as requirements inevitably change and grow.

While automation and efficiency are key benefits to be derived from smart campus technologies, improvements in communication are just as important. Notifications to customers and tenants improve the delivery and efficiency of services. Notifications to employees and vendors enable the timely application of specialized expertise. Automated collaboration features can be triggered to bring together the right resources at the right time. Mass notification can keep everyone one step ahead of the weather and unusual or special events. The mature and well understood features of a modern unified communications system are a natural extension of these capabilities -- one more vital system that can be integrated to extend the capabilities of every other aspect of the campus.

The immediate value of a smart campus can be seen in:

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A key benefit of smart campus investment is that it helps to position the property for the future. The pace of technological progress continues to skyrocket. Options that seemed fanciful yesterday are becoming viable today, and will be indispensable tomorrow. Campuses that can't provide these capabilities will either require rapid investment or become less desirable than the competition. A smart campus when planned properly will be positioned to meet present expectations, but even more importantly to meet future technology and IoT capabilities.

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"SCTC Perspectives" is written by members of the Society of Communications Technology Consultants, an international organization of independent information and communications technology professionals serving clients in all business sectors and government worldwide.

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