Many existing educational IT networks already have the inherent intelligence to monitor air quality, automate climate control, and collect user data to make better use of resources and spaces. Unfortunately, this capability often goes overlooked even though the process is pretty basic. It starts by simply extending your building and campus network using sensors, then leveraging advanced analytics for use on all the collected data. This lets you create “actionable data” to improve efficiencies, reduce resource usage, and enhance user experiences. All while improving health and safety as well.

Recently, two Cisco customers came together to discuss how they’re focusing their energies on eco-sustainable practices and exploring approaches to connect educational environments to the larger world around them. Through the efforts of educators, students, staff, and private partnerships, they’re developing what may someday become the best practices we all use when applying digital technologies to assess the impact of climate change or to maximize occupancy of classrooms and other facilities.

Campuses as testbeds for analytics

For Jonathan Fink, professor of geology and director of Portland State University’s Digital City Testbed Center, the concept of using digital technologies to help communities run more efficiently and effectively for citizens is a daily reality. Under his guidance, the university has established a network of five campuses as testbeds to better understand how climate change is impacting communities.

Fink feels the campus environment is an excellent place for such a study. “They mimic cities in many ways but provide more controlled conditions,” he stated. But he also added that this type of effort must be done in partnership with local government because public-private partnerships can bring much expertise and a rich diversity of perspectives to the table.

Through this campus testbed approach, Fink and his team is assessing the many environmental challenges cities typically face. Primarily excessive heat, wildfire smoke, flooding, and risk of wildfires entering urban areas. Fink believes there are many existing technologies that can leverage smartphones, sensors, and cloud computing environments to help populations adjust and react to these natural events faster and more successfully.

He also considers Cisco solutions like Cisco DNA Spaces and various Wi-Fi offerings, including 5G, to be “enabling solutions” that can be attractive to other private and public sector entities since they can use them to build out other services.

“We must also look at helping vulnerable populations. They may not be able to easily adjust thermostats or find shelter during extreme weather events. That’s why partnering with local government is key to overcome the challenge.”

—Jonathan Fink, Professor of Geology and Director of Portland State University’s Digital City Testbed Center

The capability to extend connectivity among many devices throughout a community is helping accelerate this approach, as is the capability to easily correlate the data gathered. “Thanks to solutions like those offered by Cisco, we’re able to explore new ways these technologies can be leveraged,” stated Fink.

Applying analytics for smarter, safer classrooms

Stefan Storey, CTO and Building Scientist at Sensible Building Science is also actively assessing the use of digital technologies to improve our environments. In this case, the usability, health, and safety of classrooms and campuses.

Storey’s desire is to improve energy use in buildings and to also improve building circulation and comfort for users. This can be done effectively by taking occupancy data and feeding it into HVAC systems to customize and more efficiently control resources based on how spaces are being used in real-time. This allows facilities managers to setup system profiles and settings based on realistic data rather than just estimating. Collected data can also be presented visually in real-time for deeper understanding of space utilization. Cisco solutions like DNA Spaces, coupled with facility-wide Wi-Fi, can also help them calculate occupancy and better understand user locations and behaviors.

Over the past decade, Storey feels there has been a shift among communities in how they approach environmental issues. What started as a desire to develop more sustainable practices, including reducing energy consumption and making everything as “green” as possible (such as with autonomous vehicles and sensors), has now shifted focus to community concerns. Questions like “how do we keep data, especially sensitive personal data of citizens, secure” and “which technologies do we really need and which are fluff” have helped pushed security and data privacy to prominence.

That’s why many organizations that are leaders in the transition to digital technologies are now inviting the community itself to be a more integral part of their ongoing processes and discussions.

Powering analytics for a better environment

At Cisco, we’re helping bring advanced technologies into common use so classrooms and campuses can become healthier and safer environments for all. By leveraging trusted and secure solutions like Cisco DNA Spaces, educational institutions can manage their limited resources, reduce costs, and maximize occupancy. They can also help better understand user behaviors and create actionable data that can be automated for operational use and used for long-term facility and campus planning.

Watch now

We invite you to view our latest webinar “How eco-friendly and sustainable is your infrastructure? Leveraging analytics tells all” to learn more about how Cisco and our partners in education are working to improve educational environments.

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Anton Goldman

Sales Lead, Cisco DNA Spaces

Enterprize Networking & Software Sales