Space, the final frontier. Looking at smart technology.

Ben Pammenter

Published by Ben Pammenter
February 22, 2018

Smart technology is changing the nature of buildings worldwide, and we are starting to see the benefits of these developments in our homes and workplaces. The further education sector also stands to reap huge rewards by embracing this new technology.

We’re all aware of ways that digital enablement has transformed teaching methods and student experiences in recent times. Teachers and students now regularly make use of online learning and a host of IT enabled resources. Online communication between colleges, teachers, and students is, or should be, seamless and efficient. The next challenge is to digitally transform the physical spaces to meet the ever-evolving needs of the users.

The challenge

Real estate is the second largest cost in further education after staffing, accounting for around 20% of the operating budget. With so much invested in this asset, colleges obviously want to maximise their real estate potential.

Colleges are not always the comfortable, well organised environments they could be. Issues with temperature control, ventilation, and lighting, can all affect how well students learn. Spaces are sometimes used inefficiently, with some areas being over used while other areas are neglected. The space that best suits the activity taking place may not be available, either because it’s already booked, or not ready to use. Time can be wasted trying to find suitable places to work, and learning outcomes potentially negatively affected by needless inconvenience.

 

The smart solution

We are seeing an emergence of workplace analytics, which when combined with the latest Internet of Things (IoT) networking, has the potential to revolutionise the way colleges work.

IoT provides an abundance of networked sensors and control systems, all securely connected to the college network. The sensors supply continuous data for real time analysis, which is used to provide accurate building control. Intuitive benefits include easy to find study spaces, responsive lighting and climate control, and a safer learning environment.

Controls can be immediately responsive, i.e. lights that turn off automatically when an area is not used, or planned to fit into timetabled events. The way physical space is used can be reviewed and adapted at any time, supported by the ongoing analytics.

By creating smart and flexible learning environments, colleges can improve staff and students’ relationship with their environment. This has clear benefits in terms of enabling productivity and supporting wellbeing, while also reducing operational costs. The result is a digitally transformed and efficient estate, ready for the current and next generation of students and staff.

The transformed learning environment

  • Teaching and learning is agile and flexible.
    Students can attend remotely or catch up on missed learning. Real time occupancy data also allows you to plan timetables effectively.
  • Business partners and guest speakers can easily become remotely involved in lessons.
    Video collaboration is able to bring in industry specialists from around the world.
  • Buildings are being used efficiently based on automatically analysed data.
    Staff are able to arrange lessons in rooms that suit their needs, freeing up spaces for others to use. Teaching is taking place in the most appropriate rooms, and students are able to find quiet places to study.
  • Students and staff can quickly respond to timetable changes and get where they need to be on time.
    It is also easy to find free spaces and resources for further learning.
  • Use spaces to generate new income
    Thanks to real time availability of rooms, the college is now able to use spaces to generate new income, providing an attractive working environment for community and business users.
  • The college has become a safe and secure learning environment.
    Security is easily alerted in case of an incident and smart monitoring puts life saving steps into place as soon as a problem is spotted.
  • Monitoring and control
    Monitoring and control of energy use has created a comfortable environment and reduced the college’s carbon footprint. Expenditure on energy is reduced. Lighting and climate systems respond dynamically to the areas being used, reacting to changing conditions and automatically switching off when not needed. The optimum amount of light and heat is delivered at the right time of day to the right areas.
  • Parking is simple and painless.
    Staff, students, and visitors can easily find and book spaces. Occupancy is continually monitored, providing a more secure and well organised resource.
  • Maintenance is efficient and timely thanks to continuous monitoring.
    Cleaning is automatically prioritised into the most used spaces, so that the college is always looking its best.

 

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