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Smart Campus: How 5G Impacts the Future of Education

We discuss what a smart campus is, how 5G has the potential to change higher education, and how students and staff can benefit from smart campus infrastructure.

What Is a Smart Campus?

A smart campus uses technology to create a digital environment that improves the experience of students and staff.  This technology can provide features such as adding value to classrooms with self-service technology, directing visitors to open parking spaces, offering virtual health appointments, and kiosks for food services.

But the value of smart campuses goes well beyond simple quality of life improvements. As campuses grow to support tens of thousands of staff and students, staff are tasked with managing network access, public safety systems, and maintenance requests at the scale of a small town.

Smart campus technology can improve these systems through centralized control, which enables better scalability, enhanced data visibility, and cost savings through automation and simplified management.

Before we explore the use cases and benefits of a smart campus, let’s first touch on the backbone of a smart campus and how it works.

How Does a Smart Campus Work?

A smart campus leverages Wi-Fi and/or cellular technology to provide blanket coverage over an entire campus to support the IoT sensors that enable campus services and applications.

Colleges often leverage private 5G to adequately support the coverage of very large outdoor areas across many buildings throughout the campus. Unlike commercial carriers, private mobile networks are owned by the campus and controlled by the IT department. Cellular wireless technology works well for this task since their per access point coverage allows for a wider range, especially across outdoor areas. Since private cellular networks use a different spectrum than Wi-Fi, both networks can coexist on campus without interference.

Unlike other wireless technologies, private cellular networks can also reliably support connected devices with seamless handover when they are mobile. This means when a device switches from one cellular base station to another, the user’s device’s connection remains strong. This is vital for supporting technologies such as connected vehicles, remote controlled robotics and public safety / police services.

Small cellular IoT sensors can use the same network to share information about their environment in real time. For example, maintenance can use IoT sensors to monitor for air conditioning failure, while students can use similar sensors to know when a washer is free at the campus laundromat.

This helps administrators reduce their costs and downtime while providing students with unique services and reliable access to resources anywhere on campus.

The biggest difference between a smart campus and a traditional campus is that smart campuses collect device and environmental data to enrich the lives of staff and students. On a traditional campus, not all devices are online, and the ones that are often don’t share information with each other. This creates silos of lost data that could otherwise be used to improve campus conditions.

With the basics covered, let’s dive into a few specific use cases for smart campus technology.

Smart Campus Examples

Colleges across the country are quickly turning into smart campuses thanks to ubiquitous 5G and simplified cellular hardware.

The University of Illinois Chicago and the University of Kentucky use their smart campus network to power autonomous six-wheeled delivery robots that deliver food and other goods directly to students at their dorms.

Over at San Jose State University, administrators partnered with Celona to integrate smart IoT devices into their maintenance, security, and student services.

For specific details on SJSU’s smart campus, check out the video below.

Student Services

Smart campuses directly benefit the lives of students and can be a unique selling point for students looking to narrow down where they’ll attend college. This is especially true for larger universities with on-campus dorms and shared student spaces.

A few popular smart campus services include the following:

  • Sensors that track and schedule shared spaces for students.
  • Autonomous transportation and delivery robots.
  • Sensors that alert students when shared resources are free (computers, laundry, etc.).
  • Contactless payment methods.
  • Automated kiosks for food services.

As technology advances, students expect to have connectivity everywhere they go. Smart campuses will be able to deliver reliable campus-wide coverage and provide secure and personalized student services to stay competitive with other universities.

Classroom Analytics

Smart campuses can use room tracking sensors to monitor lecture hall availability, attendance, and student engagement. IoT sensors can share seat availability with students in real time via mobile app and help foster social distancing guidelines through room scheduling and space management.

A few smart campus classroom services include the following:

  • Space optimization for social distancing.
  • Capacity planning data for future campus expansions.
  • Shared space tracking.
  • Room scheduling.
  • Enrollment tracking.
  • Identifying at-risk students through automated attendance and participation tracking.

Smart campus classroom analytics provides administrators with powerful insights that help keep students safe, provide insights into growth, and prevent at-risk students from dropping out.

Safety And Security

Internet-connected sensors, smart locks, and location intelligence platforms are making smart campuses safer than ever before. Security personnel can use IoT technology to reduce crime across campus and improve their emergency broadcast systems.

A few key security services include the following:

  • Motion and environmental sensors for sensitive areas
  • Geofencing and smart locks for improved access control between students and staff
  • SIM provisioning for secure and reliable communication across the cellular network
  • Digital signs and speakers for emergency alerts
  • High-definition low-latency video monitoring
  • Automated lighting across campus

Universities are improving student safety by giving security teams a deeper understanding of what’s happening across campus. These insights combined with intelligent access control keep students safe while allowing easy access to areas for staff members.

Reducing Operational Costs

Smart campuses can reduce operational costs through improved efficiency and proactive maintenance. Maintenance staff can rely on IoT sensors to indicate when machines need maintenance or proactive replacement.

This helps campuses operate at the highest level of efficiency with reduced downtime. Automation also plays a key role in orchestrating lighting, heating, and cooling in HVAC systems for significant cost savings.

Reduced operational costs include the following:

  • Avoiding downtime due to unforeseen machine failures.
  • Improved HVAC efficiency through environmental sensors and automation.
  • Improved efficiency of maintenance staff with advanced remote troubleshooting.

How to Setup a Smart Campus

A traditional campus doesn’t become smart overnight. Designing a network, building back-end infrastructure, and designing management platforms can be daunting for IT departments. Many universities partner with Celona to help plan, design, and implement their smart campus deployments. No matter which route you choose, keep these steps in mind when designing your smart campus:

Start with a Goal in Mind

Administrators should start with an overarching goal they wish to achieve by integrating IoT into their campus. Whether it be improving student safety or reducing operational costs, starting with a single goal will keep the project on task during its early stages.

Ask yourself what information you’ll need to collect to achieve your goal. This narrows down what sensors and platforms you’ll use. Make a note of what areas of the campus you’ll need to monitor to achieve your goal. For example, an emergency broadcast system needs to reliably cover the entire campus.

Plan Your Private Cellular Network

Planning your network allows you to reliably meet your performance, coverage, and capacity demands the first time around. Administrators can use collected network data to estimate demand and perform site surveys around campus to determine what hardware is required.

The Celona Network Planner is a free web-based tool administrators can use to quickly estimate their hardware, spectrum availability, coverage, and performance requirements. The tool uses your campus geolocation to give you the most accurate look at your network needs.

Set Your Service Levels

With a private cellular network, smart campuses can dynamically manage highly specific service-level objectives for bandwidth and latency performance of critical use cases. This is similar to how Wi-Fi handles quality of service but at a deterministic level for application performance and availability.

This step will vary depending on the private 5G solution you choose. Celona’s 5G LAN solution takes a unique approach by providing enterprise-level reliability through MicroSlicing. This essentially allows administrators to set application-specific QoS targets that match exact throughput and latency requirements.

These targets are continuously enforced to reflect the rules you set, even during peak network usage. This same back-end platform also enables smart campuses to gain insights from IoT sensors and orchestrate device management.

Designing Your Campus for the Future with Celona

Within a Celona 5G LAN, cellular wireless access points can be quickly deployed throughout university campuses as plug-n-play and be managed centrally via cloud based operations.

A Celona 5G LAN ensures that device group or application specific service level objectives on critical applications, such as throughput and latency requirements, are consistently met.

Celona’s industry-first approach enables university information and facility technology teams to build their own private 4G LTE and 5G networks as a seamless turnkey solution. With a Celona 5G LAN, out of the box experience is drastically simplified, operations across a large network can be performed at scale, and onboarding can be done alongside existing wireless and IT infrastructure, without interrupting business operations.

To get started, check out a live demo of Celona’s solution by visiting us at celona.io/journey where you can also sign-up for a free trial of a Celona 5G LAN.

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See a Celona 5G LAN in action and learn the basics

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