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Exploring the Smart Campus

A common pain point I hear about on campus visits is parking. Higher education may aspire to lofty goals for civil society, but students are still frustrated when there’s not a parking spot. It’s a challenge that can be addressed with smart technologies, like the smart parking pilot at Cal State San Bernardino. Real time information on spaces, whether it’s parking, computer labs, gym equipment, is a modest way to improve the student experience, but one that is becoming easier to achieve.

An emerging technology area we are interested in exploring is the smart campus. A smart campus uses advanced infrastructure, data, and internet of things to enhance student success and the campus experience, increase efficiency and sustainability, and improve public safety. As the enabling technologies become more affordable and ubiquitous, institutions are experimenting with smart technologies. According to a 2018 survey of over 130 higher education officials conducted by the Center for Digital Education, 43% of respondents said IoT or connected campus initiatives are part of their institution’s strategic plan. Arizona State University’s new Cloud Innovation Center is focused on smart city and smart campus challenges.

Information technology plays a key role in providing the infrastructure underpinning “smart” projects and, often, the front-end user experience. Key partners in the smart campus include capital planning and building management, facilities, university police, academic technologies, and libraries. It is in collaboration and partnerships across business units that the smart campus takes shape. Based on a preliminary scan of articles and existing projects on campuses, there are three areas of exploration that I speculate fit the CSU context, including: Student Success and the Campus Experience, Public Safety and Security, and Facilities Management.

There are already projects and initiatives underway across the CSU that would be considered part of the smart campus. Some questions I’d like to explore: How do we better learn from those efforts? How does information sharing enable new projects to get off the ground more quickly, efficiently, and successfully? How do we document the key partnerships, technologies, processes, and evaluative approaches to maximize the success of the smart campus?

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