Why universities are ultimate test beds for IoT

The vibrancy of enterprising minds makes universities a great place to test IoT deployments.
1 March 2019

Radcliffe Camera and All Souls College, Oxford University. Source: Shutterstock

Education institutions are the ultimate testbeds for innovation, and new technologies have encouraged universities to explore the CIO role that is expected to help campuses climb the digital maturity curve.

A CIO’s task is no longer just to keep the school’s IT system in running order; in the age of digitization, university CIOs are now also responsible for implementing a wave of new and emerging technologies. Every facet of contemporary living can be improved through technology. Its application can only be limited by the imagination of its users. So where better to innovate than the university grounds?

Complete with its own residential areas, retail shops, transportation network, and even financial services, campuses can essentially become ‘mini smart cities’— and a trial for new technologies’ implementation to at scale to wider society, with universities’ undergoing digital makeovers both inside and outside of the classroom.

IoT in universities

Each item in the digital transformation agenda requires strategic planning to improve the experience for both students and the institution, but one technology that is being given serious consideration is Internet of Things (IoT) technology.

IoT is a web of wireless communications through smart devices and in the university space, the connectivity will need to be omnipotent. The system is expected to not only power campus infrastructure but also millions of electronics that go through campus gates.

The University of Arkansas (UA) upgraded its network in hopes that the campus will be able to support more IoT-enabled devices. The move last year towards greater wireless connectivity is natural as only half of the wired ports were being utilized.

UA’s CIO, Thomas Bunton, explained the logic behind the technological investment. “By decommissioning two-thirds of the wired ports, we’re saving about US$2 million and can invest more on the wireless side,” he said.

The move towards this technology could help universities with major savings that could be better spent on improving other infrastructure.

In the same year, the University of Ohio upgraded its network citing similar aspiration. As the number of smart devices used on university grounds grew exponentially, the demand for greater connectivity shifts too. “It makes sense for our network to support those devices,” said the university’s IT network distribution manager, Mike Dixon.

Digital transformation is seeping into all industries and the education sector is no exception. Universities’ role in preparing future graduates makes it the perfect setup for tomorrow’s leaders to experience a world connected by IoT-enabled devices.

Further Northwest in the States, University of Minnesota recently had a network reconstruction too. This upgrade enabled greater use of IoT-enabled devices that truly benefit users.

Having had digital information boards on campus for over a decade, the displays act more like interactive kiosks now. The IoT integration has allowed for the boards to also be news feed as well as their emergency alert display.

The university’s IT service owner Louis Hammond said that the wireless coverage has improved the experience of students and faculty. “We’re receiving praise from students and faculty alike, who have noticed a big difference in the performance.

“We’re hearing that instructors are feeling encouraged to use technology in the classroom to improve student learning,” Hammond added.

There is an abundance of brilliant ideas but one that is both practical and functional will be a disruptor. That’s what IoT is becoming in the university space. From cutting costs for the organizations themselves, to making the space more connected and aiding the education of students, campuses have shown to be effective places to test the potential of IoT deployments.

Not only do universities mirror a city, but the vibrancy of the enterprising minds also stimulates innovation. Put IoT in the right hands and we’ll hear about even greater use of technologies soon.