Let’s talk about IoT. Futuristic as “Internet of Things” may sound, the technology is already making airports, railway stations and other public areas more interactive and a hell of a lot more interesting. Over the past few years, quite some sector disruptors have been experimenting with IoT technologies to optimize their own products and services, and I believe it’s time for the world to follow in their footsteps. One of the sectors that would really benefit from an on-site IoT strategy is education. Both to increase efficiency- and for the very simple reason it makes the campus a great place to be.
Modernizing the beacon way
If evolution worked a little harder, future babies would be born holding a smartphone. Every student and scholar has one, and they use it more often than their parents and teachers can handle. So why not use this addiction to your advantage? If you communicate with students through their smartphones, you can send them relevant data as soon as they step foot on campus. This can be done through beacons: low-cost and on-site transmitters that send information to phones and other smart devices. When a smartphone owner has downloaded the right apps, beacons (which by the way are way more accurate than GPS) send out a signal whenever they move within their range. So, depending on their exact whereabouts, beacons provide students, teachers and other personnel with relevant information on anything you like. This makes beacons particularly useful to universities and colleges with multiple buildings.
Simplifying life on campus
University campuses often have the size of a small village. There are restaurants, a high number of classrooms and lecture theatres, offices and computer labs. Together, these campus elements create a maze, especially to new students. They have to get from classroom A to theatre 3 while getting a coffee-to-go in restaurant Y, which can be quite the search. With beacons, you can help students navigate the campus, or even have an interactive map show up on their screen. Second, you can send students a time table with details on their courses the minute they walk into the classroom. Or even better: let them know what their teacher discussed last week to refresh their memory! Third, you can throw out that old bulletin board every department has, along with the announcements that are attached to it. Beacons will get the right message to the right persons, without them needing to look for your office. Such clever tweaks make life on campus a lot easier and less frustrating- all because of a simple push notification.
Monitoring flow-through with sensors
Although IoT in education has the power to make student lives easier, its impact goes beyond the individual learner. Its added value becomes even more obvious if you use it to perform real time analyses on all of your data. When you deploy sensors to gather information on your students’ and teachers’ whereabouts, for example, you can predict peak hours, occupancy levels of classrooms, waiting lines at the cafeteria and monitor the flow-through on campus. Sensors are even cheaper than beacons, and as long as you don’t need them to interact with people (which they can’t) you’re fine. With the information gathered by sensors, you can create heat maps to increase safety and optimize campus planning. Again, this information is very helpful to students, as you can share this data through beacons in real-time, and improve throughput wherever they go. In the best-case scenario, you even replace your pricy security infrastructure with beacons too, that determine whether someone is allowed to enter a room or building based on his smartphone signal. Not only does this strategy help you reduce costs; it also makes the campus a safer place.
The value of IoT in education
The aforementioned applications of IoT in education are interesting, but the actual list of options goes on and on. How do you know which of them match your organization? The only answer to this question is to look at the bigger picture. What part will your IoT technologies play in your overall digital strategy? What is your take on hospitality, security of both people and data, the added value of great student communications and the future in general? You can connect as many beacons and sensors as you want; they’ll only help you reach your goals if you defined them beforehand. Sounds like an open door? Maybe. But when an IoT strategy fails, the problem often lies in a lack of added value. So, look deeply into the eyes of your colleagues and ask yourselves: “What do we want to get out of this?” If you find the answer, you’re halfway there.
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