The Wireless Broadband Alliance recently added to the already long and impressive list of accolades awarded to Cisco indoor location analytics. The industry organization named the Cisco Connected Mobile Experiences (CMX) deployment at the University of British Columbia as the Best Business Wireless Service Innovation.

Seventy Thousand Users

Like many educational establishments, the University of British Columbia wanted a wireless network that could meet the demands of its faculty and students.  The university turned to Cisco to provide more 5,500 Wi-Fi access points to support 70,000 concurrent clients and 130,00 unique devices on the network, every single day. Via this network, they were able to provide personalized learning experiences for better student engagement, research activities, and improved operations.

More Than Connectivity

While the ability to better serve students and facility was a clear win, the university saw the opportunity to do more. The university also wanted to use their Cisco wireless infrastructure to gather indoor location information, learning about user behaviors with real-time analytics, such as dwell times, high traffic zones, and heat maps.

The Cisco indoor location solution provided real-time location analytics, enabling the university to get visibility into the movements and patterns of building occupants through trending data. The insights and analytics derived from the Wi-Fi network were able to provide significantly more insights compared with the more conventional and imprecise tracking of occupancy by using CO2 sensors.

Stefan Storey, CEO and Co-Founder of Sensible Building Science explained, “Buildings use over 40% of all primary energy and hence pursuing sustainability is a great sector to be in. The lightbulb moment was when I realized that Wi-Fi data could be used to make buildings smart, to make buildings responsive to people.”

Access Points as Sensors

“Essentially what we are doing is using the Wi-Fi access points as a sensor network,” continues Storey. “The solution tells you when people are coming, when people are leaving a space, how busy a space is at any one particular time. What we are doing is taking that data and sending it to the building control systems, which means that the building can respond really quickly to where the people traffic is.”

Previously, Wi-Fi analytical systems did not talk to building control systems. By connecting the two systems, and by leveraging data insights from the Wi-Fi system, the university, Cisco and Sensible Building Science developed a new system that can influence and control the building’s environmental systems –an approach that is improving energy conservation across campus.

Five Percent Energy Savings

Cisco developed a platform that can interact with other specialized applications through open APIs. The Sensible Building Science Bridge application communicates with the Cisco Restful APIs, extracts occupancy data, performs streaming analytics, and sends HVAC control commands to the building automation system, all in real-time. Now the building HVAC systems control airflow, heating, and cooling into each room, optimizing environmental control to occupancy. The results? Five percent energy savings.

Blair Antcliffe, Energy Engineer at University of British Columbia states, “We have usually to spend a great deal of money for 5% savings, and so seeing that success, we wanted to roll this out. UBC has over 1 million square meters of floor space, it’s a small city frankly. As we expand this out to the whole of the campus, we are looking at between $200,000 and $400,00 worth of energy savings on an annual basis.”

See a video of the deployment.

More Innovation

Cisco continues to push the envelope in indoor location services, introducing innovations in reliability, location accuracy and asset tracking. Most recently, the acquisition of July Systems and their cloud capabilities promises further innovations. Stay tuned.


Daryl Coon

Cisco Customer Solutions Marketing