Congressional Caucus on Smart Cities: Smart Campuses 101: Introduction to the Future

Digitally connected campuses benefit not just students and faculty but also local developers, startups, entrepreneurs and the community at large. IoT and intelligent software can improve educational outcomes and help fill the pipeline for new STEM employees.

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On Tuesday July 23rd the Congressional Caucus on Smart Cities, lead by Rep. Yvette D. Clarke (D, NY-9) and Rep. Darrell Issa (currently R, CA, pending congressional approval of his nomination as Director of the United States Trade and Development Agency), hosted a panel on Smart Campuses. Panelists were from the Center for Urban Informatics and Progress at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, CenturyLink, Northern Arizona University, the Center for Smart Cities and Regions at Arizona State University, and Rice University. The panel discussed how IoT technologies has transformed colleges and universities around the country. Smart campuses use modern and emerging technologies to enhance student learning and quality of life, lower operating costs, provide security and safety, as well as improving environmental sustainability. 

Event highlights:

  • Panelists discussed the correlation between poor retention rates amongst college students and (read: due to) the lack of accessible technology at home. Campuses are now looking to use ubiquitous wireless technology to bridge the digital divide for at-risk groups.

  • Smart Campuses create more efficiencies, from shorter lines at the registrar’s office to better traffic flow of students between classes. Many projects are geared toward student wellbeing and improving student retention and graduation rates. A congressional staffer in the audience asked if these projects could provide a positive impact on the student loan crisis. Panelists hesitantly agreed this was a long term possibility, with no one in attendance complaining.

  • When asked about how to protect student data privacy on Smart Campuses, the panelist from Northern Arizona University stated that they intend to deidentify student data before using it for applications. He cited that the aggregate data of people on campus was the most important from their research, but that they did not intend to jeopardize any individual liberties. He explained that they always gave the students the ability to opt out, though very few chose to, because millennials.

  • Arizona State University highlighted that they would like to see Congress act more on workforce and educational development. Specifically, they are concerned with a workforce deficit in the Internet of Things space. They stressed the importance of not only skilled labor at the university level, but at community colleges and job training programs. The extra hands will be needed to implement IoT projects (and even 5G!) in a timely fashion. 

  • Panelists highlighted they would like to see Congress work to remove barriers to acquire and use data (ethically) so that researchers in the IoT space can understand the full impact of their inventions and Smart Cities/Campuses while still protecting private citizens. Smart Cities were cited as a matter of national importance. It was noted however that it is impossible to know the full impact of Smart Cities if we are unable to measure it.