Transforming Higher Education And Research With The Internet Of Things

Andy David

The vast number of connected things and the explosion of data generated by connected devices are changing the way businesses are run across sectors. Higher education and research is also being re-calibrated by possibilities offered by the Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI), and machine learning (ML).

What are some of the use cases? How can IoT transform education? Let’s take a look at the potential.

1. Immersive and connected educational spaces

Sophisticated facilities are crucial to attracting students and faculty. IoT and future-facing technologies can enable universities to build immersive educational spaces with mixed virtual-plus-reality environments for learning intelligently. By providing a sense of “being there,” AI, IoT, and ML can enrich both students’ learning experience and the faculty’s teaching experience, in part by detecting conditions when it makes sense to switch to different learning scenarios.

Imagine teaching a lesson on volcanoes while showing live, 3D information generated through sensors, live feeds, and other live data on Sakurajima in Japan, Mount Vesuvius in Italy, and Cotopaxi in Ecuador.

Now imagine if students in a classroom or at home could interact with other students, educators, and experts across the world studying the same topic. This type of information sharing can be of tremendous value for learning. 

2. Connected infrastructure: Safer, more-efficient use of space

With universities’ infrastructure connected to personal devices of educators, researchers, and students, every stakeholder can dynamically plan and more efficiently use university space. Students will know whether study pods are full and they should collaborate on projects online rather than meeting at the library. Researchers can determine in real time whether space in their favorite lab is available, or book a lab in sister resources if needed.

Entire buildings can be monitored and surveilled with empowered sensors, RFIDs, cameras, and connected devices to improve safety and security. If a building must be evacuated, the system will transmit the safest plan in real-time to anyone detected in the building.

3. Personalized learning

With smart things – such as cameras, health trackers, learning devices, and more – gathering information about students connected to an institution’s learning management system, universities can create personalized learning solutions with study plans and learning paths tailored to individual students.

Information can be automatically gathered about students and their use of learning resources, and AI and ML can be harnessed for the system to learn and adapt. For example, as a student demonstrates mastery by passing tests, the system can offer higher-level learning resources to the student. Conversely, supplementary materials can be provided to a student who is struggling to comprehend the material.

Smarter sensors can be harnessed to detect and determine changes, such as when students are distracted during learning, and generate alternate learning scenarios. Intelligent tutoring systems can also provide dynamic feedback about students’ current learning state and improve the ability of ML to learn and predict better.

4. Increased sustainability and cost savings

IoT is already making a considerable difference in reducing costs and improving productivity and safety in the energy sector. Remote monitoring of room utilization and equipment can generate analytics to help higher education and research institutions conserve valuable energy and save significant dollars. Facility managers can use energy data to assign equipment and rooms based on utilization to make sure resources are used in a sustainable manner.

Sophisticated sensors in research equipment and assets can trigger predictive and proactive service to decrease maintenance costs and downtime. Sensors can also collect data on access control, waste control, and other types of operations to highlight areas that need improvement – and ultimately save valuable manpower and countless hours.

5. AI-powered research

To be successful, researchers must collaborate across research projects while being acknowledged for their unique contributions. AI and ML can be harnessed to intelligently expand a researcher’s network to adjacent fields, connect across disciplines, or discover insights in previously unknown papers. It can also surface related problems where new research collaboration may be reciprocally beneficial.

An interesting example is Quartolio – an initiative launched by the MIT Global Entrepreneurship program working with the NYU StartEd Incubator, the New York Institute of Technology, and other universities. It claims to improve researchers’ workflow by automating research discovery and identifying connections across research on a productivity platform powered by AI. Quartolio also aggregates, curates, and facilitates research for student and professional researchers – learning how articles, datasets, and other media are connected so researchers can move one step closer to their next breakthrough.

Thrive into the future

To continue thriving into the future, universities and research institutions need to create a destination for brilliant minds.

IoT and future-facing technologies provide educational institutions and research powerhouses new possibilities to transform the very fabric of education and research. IoT and other innovations can strip away barriers in education such as geography, language, and economic status. The potential is simply too promising to be ignored.

Find out how other organizations including higher education institutions are driving innovating and transforming digitally. Download resources here.

Andy David

About Andy David

Andy David is the Director of Healthcare, Life Sciences, and Postal Industry for the Asia-Pacific and Japan region at SAP. He has more than 14 years of professional experience in IT applications to government, healthcare, and manufacturing industries. Andy has been working with public sector organizations for over 12 years and plays a pivotal role in determining the strategy across the region, covering market analysis, business development, customer reference, and building up the SAP brand in the public sector.