Educational institutions today are undertaking multi-million dollar digital engagements that aim to transform them from traditional learning institutions to smart campuses. The reason for such as push towards smart campus is several fronts. Tomorrow’s work force will rely heavily on technologies. An institution that provides technology related courses will have to embrace new technologies into the campus to reflect its educational vision. Students today are highly connected and will expect schools and universities that provide high technology infrastructure into their campus. Modern technologies such as sensors,IoT, big data, cloud solutions have lowered the cost of adoption which makes campus transformation more affordable. Today’s students come to expect experiential learning with a variety of engaging channels to augment their academic learning. All these form part of the smart campus initiatives that are being undertaken by major schools and universities.
While the smart campus terminology applies across a variety of areas such as collaboration, administration and learning, we focus more on the facilities aspect of the smart campus and its impact on the student and staff. What is a campus without its classrooms, labs, libraries and sports complexes? These spaces are fundamental to a campus that inspires students and staff to work and learn. These spaces, when managed effectively can boost efficiency, improve student and staff morale and provide confidence to parents who want their kids to have the best facilities for their education.While having spaces and upgrading them is one thing, ensuring their effective usage is a totally different thing. Lack of a proper system to manage such facilities can result in misuse, abuse and under use of these resources leading to wasted time and capital. We feel that managing these resources form a core part of a smart campus solution. Below, we discuss how a room booking system can significantly contribute towards a smart campus environment.
1. Integrated Classroom Scheduling
While this does not seem so “cool” in terms of visibility and outward branding, it helps perform a core task that is fundamental to all educational institutions. Scheduling of term sessions has been a challenging endeavor for staff and teachers. Before the beginning of the term, staff and teachers are in a mad rush to schedule their classes and calendars. They pore over large sheets of paper or have excel sheets doing the rounds across the different departments before a finalized schedule is produced. Some institutions use automated rostering systems to manage the schedule. However, many of the rostering systems do not include room reservation into their algorithms. The output of the scheduling exercise results in a manual reservation of all the rooms in a common shared calendar or a room booking system. A smart campus must have a system in place where the results of the schedule are automatically imported into the room booking system with all the business rules to validate bookings and prevent conflicts and double bookings. Priority should be given to the scheduling algorithm and ad-hoc meetings that are booked during that time should be gracefully bumped off the calendar with notifications. This frees up a tremendous amount of time for the staff and teachers and provides the confidence that the all classes are assigned the correct rooms at the right timings.
2. Smart Space Reservation
Modern teaching involves a lot of team work and group projects. Spaces such as study pods, group discussion corners, learning labs, innovation spaces and break-out areas have risen in the smart campuses. With the rise of these spaces, there is a need to better manage them with appropriate technologies. A room booking system that brings in business rules and the ability to effectively administer and execute them is a key component of using these smart spaces.For example, providing a quota system in common work desks and private cubicles can ensure that all students and staff get equal share of usage. When it comes to group spaces, the need to invite 2 or more students can prevent hogging of space by just one user thus maximizing the space usage. Time limit based usage of computers in the computer center and restricting specific rooms for specific group of students all form part of the core smart campus ecosystem.
3. Integrated Mobile Apps
Today, everyone is equipped with smart phones. Smart phones can be a powerful tool to extend the smart campus initiatives into the palm of the users. A campus wide mobile app can help staff and students locate and reserve free spaces on the go. Combined with the ability to notify them of the upcoming booking and provides them a chance to cancel their space if they do not intent to use it. Using desk based QR-Codes allows students to scan the desk and check for reservations. When linked with beacons, smart phones can act as direction finders and announcement tools for the smart campus.
4. Building Automation System
When linked to the Building Automation Systems (BAS), the Room Booking Systems can be a power tool to save energy and reduce green house emissions. The ability to switch on/off air-conditioners, lighting and A/V equipment before and after the booking can save a tremendous amount of energy. Smart room booking systems can even recommend rooms that are along with same air-conditioning zones so that greater efficiency in energy consumption can be achieved.
5. Secured Access Control
In most institutions there are rooms that are normally out of bounds to most students unless they are enrolled in a specific course or class. For example, students that take up music are allowed into the studios that may contain expensive instruments. With the ability of the room booking system to link to the door access control panels, there is a built in safety of preventing unauthorized access into those rooms based on the student’s card identification. This dramatically improves security and control over these precious resources.
6. Digital Information Dissemination
Most campuses today have some form of digital signage spread out across the campus. However, these show advertorial messages or statis animated slides or marketing videos. By integrating the room booking system with such smart digital TVs, real-time event and classroom information can be pushed to these devices. The ability to push classroom schedules across campus and display that information in digital wall-board signage can help students and staff navigate the campus for their next class. Touch based way-finders can help visitors navigate large campuses.
7. Fault Reporting
Facilities teams are usually under staffed and extremely busy to be able to do the rounds to check for faults. But what if the process of detecting faults and reporting them can be delegated to the people who use it the most? Staff and students can raise faults through the room booking system which contains all the usable space in the campus. This provides the facilities and estate teams instant notifications across the campus, thus providing rapid turn around to fix issues. When linked to the building management system, the system can be designed to even contact the vendor who is in charge of the equipment that is faulty to trigger a work order. This complete automation can remove a lot of the workload from the facilities team and increase turn-around time.
Having an integrated room booking system can contribute tremendously towards a smart campus, helping in terms of improved usage, reduction in energy consumption and overall wellness of the students and staff.