In 2015 alone, there were more than 13.4 billion devices connected globally, which is almost twice the human population, EDUCAUSE reports. These days connected devices extend far beyond smartphones and notebook computers.
The rise of the Internet of Things means that literally anything — from slow cookers to vending machines — can be connected to the internet. As hubs of innovation, EDUCAUSE notes that universities are uniquely able to explore growing IoT technology.
“The higher education community can lead the development of the technologies, business models, ethics and leaders of the IoT-enabled world,” writes Florence Hudson, the chief innovation officer of research and education organization Internet2 in an IoT article on EDUCAUSE’s website.
Some universities have already embraced this challenge by exploring how to use IoT data, creating smarter campuses and developing new and exciting research.
Data has been buzzy on college campuses for the last few years with its potential to boost student achievement and help with decision-making. At the University of Southern California, researchers have been striving to take the data generated from IoT technologies to improve teaching and learning, Campus Technology reports.
In partnership with USC’s Rossier School of Education and Viterbi School of Engineering, the Center for Human-Applied Reasoning and the Internet of Things (CHARIOT) aims to take cognitive modeling methods tracked by cameras with sensors to obtain data on learning and understanding and use that “to optimize and personalize learning for all students,” their website reads.
“I think it’s vitally important that personalized education begins right now,” USC Provost Michael Quick told Campus Technology. “By bringing data, engineering and artificial intelligence principles to bear on something like personalized education, it’s going to have a transformational impact.”
Collecting data through IoT devices can also help campuses to become “smarter,” which in turn can make them serve students better and make more cost-effective decisions.
Professors from Case Western Reserve University received a grant from the U.S. Energy Department to test some innovative concepts, including a device that can harvest energy from the vibrations of people moving and cars passing.
Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University have already developed two IoT apps: Snap2It, which links users to a printer or projector after they’ve taken a photo of it on their smartphone; and Impromptu, a system that calls up shared apps when they are needed, like when a student enters a store or is near a bus stop.
As more universities are utilizing the IoT in daily campus life, they are simultaneously heeding EDUCAUSE’s call for them to be trailblazers in creating and implementing this new technology.
At Case Western, the IoT developments will now come out of the Institute for Smart, Secure and Connected Systems, which was established this past summer. This new institute is aiming to “leverage” the university’s engineering and technology strengths to develop new tools and create best practices for data science and cybersecurity, Case Western’s website reports.
Carnegie Mellon is also joining a Google-funded partnership with several other universities “to create a robust platform that will enable internet-connected sensors, gadgets and buildings to communicate with each other,” according to the article on CMU’s site.
These kinds of university research partnerships into the IoT aren’t an anomaly either.
Forbes reported in 2014 on several universities that have been exploring IoT innovations, including Syracuse University, which has been researching machine-to-machine (M2M) communication for at least a decade.
“We are not just following industry trends,” says Syracuse’s Lee McKnight, a professor of entrepreneurship and innovation. “Students and faculty are actively experimenting with a variety of new IoT and M2M applications and open specifications.”