Feb 01 2022

Meeting K–12 Schools’ Power Needs at the Edge

To prepare for an edge-driven future, district IT teams should act now to set up power management and software solutions.

Edge computing promises to reshape K–12 education, but the promise comes with new challenges.

As a distributed IT architecture, edge solutions bring computing capability closer to the sources of data. It operates much like Internet of Things technology, with smart devices that deliver key insights despite being remote from the core computing facility.

In the K–12 IT environment, edge computing presents new power management challenges. Districts can’t rely on old manual processes to ensure appropriate power use across this expanding IT landscape. They need sophisticated software and other tools to realize edge computing’s potential to support improved student outcomes.

Edge-Driven Infrastructure Offers New Opportunities in K–12 Districts

The pandemic demonstrated that physical proximity can’t be taken for granted. Edge computing supports education equity in virtual environments, says Johnathan Hill, product manager for the Eaton 9PXM line of uninterruptible power supply devices. “It means giving every child the opportunity to leverage the full spectrum of learning resources.”

But remote learning is just one example of the educational potential inherent in an edge architecture.

LEARN MORE: Discover the Eaton solutions that power edge computing in education with CDW•G.

Edge could also support all the connected devices and equipment in a digitally enabled classroom. It could empower schools to track and understand the ways in which students on the playground interact with sensor-enabled educational toys and equipment.

Security, too, is an area where edge technology promises to ease the workload on K–12 IT teams while simultaneously driving better outcomes.

“This is about enhanced security protocols, things like automatic door-locking mechanisms, and audio and video surveillance,” Hill says. “With edge computing, you can relay that information back in real time, with automated tools to help security personnel understand what they’re seeing.”

But all these promising use cases come with a caveat: To take advantage of edge capabilities, districts will need to put renewed emphasis on power management.

Manage Power Needs in K–12 Schools to Prepare for Edge Technology

With more devices operating across a wider physical footprint, power management becomes a central consideration.

“Schools need to think about how they’re going to set up the power architecture. They need to look at power distribution and power quality,” Hill says. “They need new ways to lower overhead costs while supporting critical functions for students and teachers.”

To that end, district IT professionals need tools that provide a granular view of their power infrastructure. “You want the ability to identify — down to the slide- or tray-level of a battery string — whether it has gone to fault or whether a certain power module is going bad,” Hill says.

A modular approach to power management makes it easy to change out a battery tray or swap out an individual component, even with the system running.

Johnathan Hill
Schools need to think about how they’re going to set up the power architecture.”

Johnathan Hill Product Manager, Eaton

Modular UPS solutions are growing in popularity in K–12 environments because they’re both user friendly and resilient, Hill says. “Lithium-ion UPSs can extend battery life to seven or eight years, possibly even more.”

Wall enclosures, meanwhile, offer a state-of-the-art-approach to ensuring robust power management. Robotically applied seamless foam-in-place gaskets ensure high performance in demanding environmental conditions, and districts will find accessible latches and concealed hinges for easy door removal on many enclosures.

IT Teams Need Better Visibility and Data Insights for Edge Computing

Modernized solutions bring down total cost of ownership by increasing visibility while simultaneously minimizing the need for human interventions. The increased visibility allows IT teams to spot issues more quickly, and they can therefore be remediated more effectively in support of uninterrupted learning, even in the complex power-consumption landscape inherent in an edge-driven infrastructure.

“In K–12, IT staffing and resourcing often are pretty low on the list of priorities,” Hill says. “Power management software becomes a force multiplier, enabling teams to manage more efficiently. Is the power device loaded properly? Is it sized appropriately, so you don’t overload and risk failure? Power management software gives you insight into all of that.”

RELATED: Scale small IT teams through people, tech, processes and partners.

There is also software, such as Eaton Brightlayer, that drives operational success, with real-time insights into data for improved decision-making. In the context of edge computing, Brightlayer makes it possible to access millions of data points, using core analytics to drive faster response times in a highly cybersecure environment.

Schools can take steps now to pivot toward improved power management in support of future edge deployments. By assessing their power consumption needs, district IT teams can begin to align their architectures accordingly.

“Once you know how much compute you’re going to be hosting, Eaton can work with you to make sure it’s all secure and stable in terms of power inputs and power continuity,” Hill says. “This partnership gets you to the most important piece: ensuring students’ educational outcomes.”

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