Connected Campus Experiences in the Age of #IoT

Imagine the Internet of Things–empowered experience of new students arriving at a college campus for the first time. They’ve downloaded the school’s app, which directs them to open parking spots that are student-eligible and close to their dorm rooms. It also prompts them to enter their license plate numbers and registers their cars. They’re IotEducationdirected to their dorms, and notifications update the resident advisors’ dashboards and brings up their names on a welcome screen in the dorm’s entry hall. The app leads each student to their rooms, where their phone opens the door to reveal a room with a tablet pre-loaded with materials specific to their classes as well as the non-digital materials for the classes they will be taking already piled on the bed. The app shows their class schedules, class locations, and assignments. It lets them browse and sign up for extracurricular activities and shows open seats in computer labs, group study rooms, and the library. A phone bump pays café bills and laundry machines. Meanwhile, intelligent security cameras watch over public spaces and identify visitors whose faces the software does not recognize and alert campus safety personnel.

On this modern campus data is integrated, and automation provides a student experience that is safe, personalized, and always connected. This data is correlated with student performance data to give the school insight into specific student engagement patterns to ensure that every student needing assistance receives it before issues become acute. Just as baseball managers have adopted “pitch counts” and use advanced analytics (sabermetrics) to direct action before negative events occur, higher education institutions use data to direct actions and interventions that drive better outcomes for students and

the institution. Data from parking systems, campus access cards, wireless access points, and cloud productivity tools are combined to paint a previously unavailable picture of student engagement. Is there correlation between engagement and the number of weekends spent off campus? How does use of school resources such as group study spaces or the library correlate with grades? Does it differ by major? Cloud-enabled machine-learning models applied to student engagement and performance data can help institutions materially increase graduation rates, just as schools such as the Tacoma and Cleveland Metro school districts have done.

The Internet of Things Is Exploding

Few of us had heard of the Internet of Things only a few years back. Big data was the hot topic, with promises of new insight from advanced analytics. If big data is the heart of advanced analytics, IoT is the pumping blood. Today IoT combines with cloud-enabled analyticSmartCities3s to bring gains in efficiency and cost savings while at the same time making a reality of services that were previously impossible or cost-prohibitive.Gartner predicts IoT will explode: connected endpoint devices are expected to grow 32 percent year over year through 2020, reaching an installed base of 20 billion devices. In 2020 alone 6.6 billion “things” are expected to ship, and hardware spending on connected endpoints will reach $3 trillion.

Educational institutions have begun to recognize the potential benefits from these IoT solutions applied to their campuses. Operational efficiencies can lower costs, and reduced consumption can lower carbon footprint, aligning with an institution’s goals for fiduciary and social responsibility. Cloud service data centers are in some cases carbon-neutral, reducing the school’s carbon footprint rather than just shifting it to a cloud provider. These same technologies also generate data that can be used to personalize campus experiences.

Why the sudden explosion? Wireless and Wi-Fi networks are ubiquitous, as are the devices that use them to communicate. The phones in our pockets are relatively expensive examples, powerful and chock-full of sensors (temperature, compass, acceleration, energy use, sound, light, radio waves, and more). But the cost of the simplest of sensors and the Wi-Fi chip needed to connect them has fallen to a few dollars and continues to decline. Cloud computing provides the centralized collection, storage, and analytics systems and algorithms necessary to make sense of the resulting masses of data.

Extreme Networks

Facilities Management

The history of building management systems and the energy efficiency they now yield provides an example of the concrete benefits of cloud-enabled IoT in higher education. Twenty-five years ago buildings were completely dumb — they did not collect information about how they were operating, much less communicate it. The subsequent inclusion of building automation systems allowed a facilities manager to see a building’s current status, but the data stayed local and did not include history. More recently data was collected over time across multiple buildings, but only if they shared systems of the same generation from the same vendor. Only in the past few years has building data been normalized across multiple building automation systems and equipment vendors, stored so that patterns over time become visible, and compared with other customers’ data collected from hundreds of other buildings. Today you have systems that let you see in real time how your energy is being consumed across all of your buildings, see current status and detect faults in your equipment, and identify patterns in historical equipment telemetry in order to predict and prevent failures before they happen. All of that leads to reduced energy usage (10–20 percent, increasing with time and additional analysis) and facilities tickets that are declining and focused on prevention and the highest priority failures. Both save you money. At Microsoft we’ve implemented such a system and are on track to cut costs by 18 percent of our previous expenditures on energy — and that’s on top of the earlier gains made by ensuring unused equipment is turned off at night and replacing energy-inefficient lights. Schools including Carnegie Mellon University and the Peirce School in Massachusetts already benefit from these systems.

Industry adoption creates a huge IoT and cloud computing employment opportunity. A university’s own IoT projects, such as building and energy management, can serve as a live lab for learning, enabling students to add value to real-world solutions. At the same time, students learn valuable cloud computing and analytics skills necessary for tomorrow’s jobs. This data can also be rich fodder for faculty research projects, presenting an opportunity to collaborate across schools and combine data sets to increase the accuracy of data models.

Cloud-Enabled IoT

How can a school begin to leverage cloud-enabled IoT? Start with existing data — many on-campus systems already generate data that can be combined and analyzed to generate new insight. Identify a cost-saving pilot as a first step; energy efficiency would be an excellent and timely choice for any school not already running a second-generation system. Iterate (as with any tech). As confidence grows and savings are realized, invest in additional services that will allow your school to stand out from your competitors and attract great students. Then go big by adding new sensors, combining new and existing data sets from different systems, and creating new applications. Leverage the cloud, which provides centralized data collection and analysis, built-in scalability, preconfigured environments optimized for the IoT, and powerful machine-learning algorithms. Then bask in the admiration of your peer institutions!


Seth Atkinson is senior business development manager for Worldwide Education, Microsoft.  Rob Curtin is director of Higher Education for Worldwide Education, Microsoft.

© 2016 Seth Atkinson and Rob Curtin. This EDUCAUSE Review article is licensed under Creative Commons BY 4.0 International.

EdTech is the next FinTech

Fintech is a factor of the fourth industrial revolution that has completely taken the world by storm and forever revolutionized how we bank. But many believe it is still in its infancy, with figures suggesting the same: global investment peaked at $5.3 billion in the first quarter of this year — a whopping 67 percent over the same period last year.

So why the screaming surge to success? Fintech startups identified a shift in society, one led by a hungry consumer demand for innovative and digital services. In fact, recent studies showed more than one-third of us would leave our bank if they didn’t offer the most up-to-date technology.

It’s simple — we want things made easy, more accessible and provided instantly. The founding fathers of fintech recognized this expectation and took the traditional concepts of financial services, added a pinch of innovation and a touch of technology and watched the future of banking change forever.

And boy did venture capitalists take notice. In the U.K. and Ireland alone, fintech startups raised more than £461.3 million from investors between 2008 and 2013. And now we can pay with a wave of a mobile phone, transfer funds by speaking into a watch and almost never need cash.

So what’s next? While the fintech bubble shows no signs of popping just yet, it has begun to show signs of the speed wobbles as turbulent motions of the current global economic climate tests its stability.

As the world tries to make sense of economic tremors from the Brexit fallout, upcoming U.S. elections and volatile European financial markets, it’s easy to see why investors are becoming less willing to roll the dice and throw money at oversaturated venture markets. This presents a window of opportunity for investors trying to spot, catch and ride the wave of the next “fintech.”

Enter edtech — 2017’s big, untapped and safe investor opportunity.

Roll Call for Investors

The education market is big. We’re talking $5-trillion-globally-per-annum big. Yet edtech has been completely overshadowed by other red-hot investment opportunities, not only from the fintech industry, but others. For example, in 2015, more was invested in Uber alone than the entire edtech industry.

But now the cat is out of the bag. The rise of a new education and learning world has begun with investment in edtech set to reach $252 million globally by 2020. Just as digitalization has transformed the financial services industry, it too will soon have its progressive grip wrapped around education.

For the past 150 years or so, most learning models — especially regarding children — have barely changed: A teacher or lecturer stands at the front of the classroom explaining ideas or introducing facts while students sit and listen with the learning materials being mostly physical textbooks or printouts.

Edtech is poised to be the biggest and possibly most profitable digitalized sector yet.

Now, however, digital technologies are starting to transform today’s classrooms. More students are using computers or tablets, and teachers are increasingly using screens to illustrate aspects of their lessons. Physical textbooks are being replaced by online, interactive services that are more up-to-date and in-depth, which allows learners to explore and learn at their own pace.

This is important because of two contributing factors. First, students are born with digital DNA. When considered like a business, education institutions need to cater to the digital demand of their consumers — people who are constantly exposed to digital technologies outside of the classroom have come to expect the same digital capabilities within the four walls of a learning environment.

EdTechSecondly, the world is fast becoming aware of the burgeoning digital skills divide in our society. Digital will soon be the nucleus of every industry. We are already seeing it happen, from human resources to healthcare to fashion. In fact, four years from now, the U.K. is predicted to require 2.3 million digitally skilled workers alone. Are we adequately preparing our young people for such a workplace? Many would argue we are not. In fact, only 10 percent of schools offer any kind of computer science class. If we don’t start at school-level exposing learners to technology existing outside the classroom, the skills gap will soon be a valley that cannot be bridged.

EdTech is the new FinTech

The education and learning technology sector contributes more than £1 billion to the U.K. economy each year, and in the process has established some of the most innovative startup companies in the world. From Raspberry Pi to Blackbullion to our very own Knowledgemotion, there are now more than 1,000 edtech startups in Britain, ready to lead the world in education innovation.

Other than being the only technology industry to have direct access to schools, colleges and universities, edtech is also the safest bet for investors. Unlike the ups and downs of the financial markets, edtech remains constant, sheltered from many of the pressures of the broader geopolitical landscape. It is somewhat of a safe haven for smart money from smart investors.

But this is just the tip of the iceberg. The opportunities edtech promises the world’s largest content providers, the biggest educational institutions and any investor looking for a “sure thing” are almost endless. While it might be slightly late to the “digital-first” party, edtech is poised to be the biggest and possibly most profitable digitalized sector yet.

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I’m the (Kevin) Bacon of the Salesforce Community – Introducing Charlie Isaacs


This is the first post in mynew blog series in which I will feature people I know from the community: Salesforce employees, MVPs, User Group Leaders, Partners, and honestly, anyone who I’m connected with who is willing to share with me the answers to five simple questions. I hoping that this blog series will help everyone out in the community get better connected to others who are either like them, can help them, are nothing like them, can’t help them, or are simply people they haven’t met yet! After all, a stranger is simply a friend you don’t know yet.

For me, one of the greatest strengths of the Salesforce Ecosystem is its people and the connections that are shared.

So, if you are brave enough, even if you’ve never met me in person, fill out this form and I’ll feature you in an upcoming post. But beware, I might…

View original post 640 more words

I’m the (Kevin) Bacon of the Salesforce Community – Introducing Nana Gregg


This is the thirty-fifth post in my blog series in which I feature people I know from the community: Salesforce employees, MVPs, User Group Leaders, Partners, and honestly, anyone who I’m connected with who is willing to share with me the answers to five simple questions. I hoping that this blog series will help everyone out in the community get better connected to others who are either like them, can help them, are nothing like them, can’t help them, or are simply people they haven’t met yet! After all, a stranger is simply a friend you don’t know yet.

For me, one of the greatest strengths of the Salesforce Ecosystem is its people and the connections that are shared.

So, if you are brave enough, even if you’ve never met me in person, fill out this form and I’ll feature you in an upcoming post. (In case I have confused anyone…

View original post 680 more words

Flexible Reality

How higher ed can avoid the IT/analytics ‘lock-in’ with three demands to vendors.

GUEST COLUMN | by Timothy D. Harfield

CREDIT Blackboard AnalyticsIn a recentFuture Trends Forum discussion with Bryan Alexander, George Siemens expressed concern about lock-in: a situation in which technology investments become so integrated with the business practices of an institution that disentanglement becomes all but impossible. Where hyper-rationalized approaches to data-driven decision-making come together with inflexible technological ecosystems characterized by a lack of interoperability, what we end up with is a dystopian future in which colleges and universities are unable to change their investments. “Once you integrate your learning systems with your business practice systems, you don’t change anymore. When was the last time someone changed their

How can institutions invest in technology, while at the same time avoiding lock-in and preserving the agility they need to promote the success of their students under conditions of constant…

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The Academic Cloud

Do you know who’s protecting your cloud application data?

GUEST COLUMN | by Jeff Erramouspe

CREDIT SpanningCloud technology has forever changed how we work. Academic institutions have especially benefitted from the cloud, because it allows them to take advantage of economies of scale that are difficult to achieve with on-premises systems. Cloud technology, and especially software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications, have also improved mobility and collaboration, as well as access to enterprise-grade solutions, without having to develop or maintain software in-house.

Google Apps and Office 365 have proved to be especially useful for educators, given their exceedingly affordable (and sometimes free) access to email, word processing, spreadsheets, presentations and cloud storage. These applications also boost student motivation and performance, as cloud-based products appeal to students’ affinity for

As of February 2016, more than 40 million students, teachers, and administrators reported using Google Apps for Education, including 7 of the 8 Ivy League schools…

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Security in #HigherEd: Anticipating the Attack

Cybersecurity in higher education.

GUEST COLUMN | by Linda Ding

CREDIT LaserficheEducational institutions are on high alert. The ransomware attacks on financial institutions, hospitals and government entities that continue to make headlines is spreading to colleges and universities. These organizations are stewards of private data—including medical and financial records, valuable intellectual property and personal information—and cannot easily recover from the shock of sensitive student information being held hostage. Furthermore, institutions of higher education often do not have the advanced and vigilant cybersecurity tools and strategies that are commonplace in other industries.

There is hope for colleges and universities that recognize the immediate threat and develop a cybersecurity strategy.

In a recent Wall Street Journal article, Chris Stangl, a section chief at the FBI’s Cyber Division, described ransomware as “a prevalent increasing threat” and that the problem “is growing.” The pervasive and increasingly sophisticated nature of the attacks mean…

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