Critical for Safe Campuses

Social distancing is a critical part of campus safety during the pandemic

From small colleges to large universities, no campus has been immune to the COVID-19 pandemic. The coronavirus forced Higher Ed institutions to abruptly adapt to remote learning for much of their spring semesters and is now igniting debate about how to instill productive, safe learning environments for students and faculty in the year ahead. As schools think about what the fall semester – and beyond – should look like amidst this ongoing pandemic, many are turning to technology for answers.

One solution that is receiving particular attention is the Internet of Things (IoT). When powered by a 0G network, IoT solutions offer a secure, reliable and cost-effective option for universities looking to foster safe campuses – whether that’s through desk monitoring that helps ensure social distancing, or contact tracing in the case of an outbreak on campus.

Here is a deeper dive into some of the many ways college campuses can benefit from the IoT.

Occupancy Management

One of the most critical aspects of campus safety during the pandemic is the ability to ensure social distancing. While many campuses have put distancing protocols in place – like remaining six feet apart and wearing masks – the IoT can help enhance these measures.

By placing IoT-enabled sensors on tables or chairs in classrooms, labs, libraries and other shared spaces, universities can monitor occupancy levels to limit the number of people in the common spaces. Through the sensors, campuses can alert students, faculty and staff when there are too many people congregating, ensuring compliance with guidelines without the need for constant human monitoring. These sensors can also alert campus facilities team to cleaning and sanitization of a station after it’s been used.

Beyond ensuring safety, IoT-enabled sensors can also help colleges and universities make smarter use of shared spaces on campus. With the data collected by these sensors, campus staff can better understand workstation, conference room and classroom utilization, allowing them to expand, reduce or reconfigure spaces to work best for the campus population’s needs. This data can also be used to automate ambient factors like lighting and temperature, allowing staff to turn off lights or reduce temperatures when spaces are not occupied, reducing utility costs and energy usage.

Contact Tracing and Emergency Notifications

To prepare for a COVID-19 outbreak on campus, many universities are seeking ways to improve on-campus contact tracing and emergency notification systems. With the IoT, this becomes easy, since campuses can now turn campus ID cards – used by most colleges and universities to allow or restrict access to certain buildings – into contact tracking devices. By equipping each person with an IoT device with an NFC tag – instead of a card – institutions can monitor movement throughout campus. This ensures that, if an outbreak occurs, the school can quickly inform those who have potentially been exposed

These devices can also enable campuses to improve their emergency notification systems by delivering alerts directly to the trackers, ensuring those on campus have the most up-to-date information about a situation – COVID-19-related or not – and can act accordingly.

Automated Campus Enablement

Many large universities’ campuses resemble small cities, meaning keeping them running smoothly takes a large number of people. With a second wave of COVID-19 shutdowns potentially on the horizon, IoT solutions can help to automate many of the day-to-day tasks critical to campus operations. Beyond helping campuses contain COVID-19, these solutions can also be used to help universities become smarter by providing critical insights into myriad activities on campus. These insights can be invaluable, especially at universities with large populations and campuses.

Some key use cases include:
• Parking.
By equipping parking lots with IoT-enabled smart parking devices, campus personnel can more accurately track parking spot availability, minimizing traffic congestion.
• Tracking.
Large organizations means a lot of equipment, which is often easy to lose. With IoT, universities can track the location of master keys, trolleys or any number of valuable assets.
• Cold chain management.
With many schools offering a variety of dining options on campus, ensuring perishables are properly stored is critical. By equipping campus cafeterias and food storage locations with temperature and humidity sensors, campus personnel are immediately alerted in the case of a disruption – like a refrigerator breaking down – allowing them to intervene before food becomes inedible.
• Pest control.
Keeping campuses safe from bacteria, bedbugs, rodents and other pests is a top priority for most colleges and universities, but also an expensive one. With IoT, campuses can enhance trap visibility, reducing these costs and improving efficiency.
• Water and gas monitoring
. Similar to the occupancy monitoring example used above, IoT solutions can help campuses automate their water and gas meter monitoring, providing unprecedented data into consumption, tampering and status and allowing campuses to make smarter usage decisions.

With IoT, campuses are not only safer, but they are smarter, creating a positive experience for students, faculty and staff as the pandemic reshapes the college experience. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to reshape daily life, stakes are high and safety is paramount, making the IoT a critical tool for colleges.

This article originally appeared in the January February 2021 issue of Campus Security Today.

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