There is no ‘cookie cutter’ or one size fits all approach to defining what a Smart Campus is, however there are common drivers and themes and also an ever growing community of research and data to support Smart Campus planning and development. At Deakin we have been exploring and evolving our Smart Campus strategy for a number of years and this is the first of a three part series of posts detailing some important aspects we have learnt along the way.
With the ever increasing inclusion of the Internet of Things (IoT) into our daily lives through smart home devices and intelligent systems in the work place it isn’t difficult to appreciate why organisations should have a ‘smart’ building, campus or city strategy. Leveraging these ‘smart’ or intelligent technologies can help organisations on their digital transformation journey, embedding emerging technologies into the physical environment to augment user experience, deliver new business value and enhance safety, security and organisational efficiency.
A Smart Campus is not just about technology.
The true value of a ‘smart’ strategy is quite frequently reduced or overshadowed by a technical focus or set of outcomes. To gain engagement from your users, buy-in from your stakeholders and support from all of those within your organisation you absolutely must be able to tell a story – most importantly you need to illustrate something compelling to your organisation. Although there may be common themes of ‘What is a smart campus?’, this should be augmented through your organisation’s vision and values and personified through the look, feel and vibe of the experience to smart campus users. In effect, we want to demonstrate our organisational DNA in the smart campus experiences we provide.
Before you can fully develop your own story however it is important to start with some basics. Therefore, let’s look at the specific words in the term and their definition (from Cambridge dictionary);
Smart (computer definition) – ‘A smart machine, uses computers to make it work so that it is able to act in an independent way’
Campus – ‘the buildings of a college or university, or of a large organization, and the land that surrounds them’
These definitions are of course valid – they are core components of a Smart Campus after all, but they only illustrate a very small part of the story. The definitions provide very specific, impassive descriptions which don’t support the human focus of a digital organisation. When designing our Smart Campus strategy here at Deakin we reflected on what these terms meant to us, went out and engaged with our students, staff and visitors and came up with the following statement for them:
Smart Campus – The Smart Campus is a university-wide program to digitise Deakin’s physical campus environments. Using many cutting-edge digital technologies, we aim to give you and all visitors to Deakin a ‘smart’ personalised, responsive and enriched campus experience.
A much warmer statement, or at least I think so!
Much like a town or city which has buildings, accommodations or dwellings, parking, transportation, utilities, services and most importantly people – so does a university campus. One of our aims with smart campus is to complement these physical environments, services and utilities with technology chosen with a purpose. The technologies in question are multi-layered; such as the need for widespread, reliable and secure networking as a basis, supported by other foundations such as internet, communication and collaboration services. These technologies are then augmented by others such as big data, smart sensors and actuators, digital identity and artificial intelligence.
Simply rolling out ‘old school ICT’ services will no longer cut it in terms of providing engaging experiences and services – we have evolved to enabling seamless physical to digital experiences for our smart campus users.
The diagram above identifies these three key areas with a range of supporting components, importantly placing the ‘campus user’ at the centre. This sweet spot for the user can be achieved through collaborative planning across the business, identifying shared priorities to support the journeys and experience of the user, whether they are visiting, engaging, transacting or staying on campus. Designing your Smart Campus with this intersection in mind will help set a strong basis for intuitive, consistent and engaging experiences for users on campus, providing seamless interactions between physical and digital services. This is a great opportunity for your organisation to demonstrate how it stands out from the crowd.
In closing if I was providing advice to anyone about ‘What is a smart campus?‘, I would say the most important thing is to not let the technology be the primary driver for your vision or end objectives. Take a collaborative organisational approach to exploring what your users (the students, staff and visitors who visit, engage and stay on campus) want and need, mix this with your organisational DNA and then identify how technology, people and process can enable a consistent, engaging experience.
That should be a story everyone can get excited about!