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Nexus of Internet of Things, Innovation & Education

Jun 09, 2016, by Elizabeth Boten
Tags: CINO, Collaborative Innovation Community, Community-Driven Innovation, Internet of Things

By Asmaa Abumezied

Take a look around you and try to delete the things in your daily life that are dependent on technology; What would be left? You would be left with almost nothing. Increasingly, we are consuming technological devices as never before, from our laptops, our phones used to access social media, and our tablets to access fitness applications. However, there are two constant questions being asked, “how is our education system keeping up with this technology?” and “how best to utilize technology for delivering high quality education and student experiences?”

Internet2’s Global Summit in Chicago, which took place on May 15-18, 2016, addressed such questions in some of its sessions including “Smart Campus Initiative and Innovations” and “Internet of Things (IoT) Innovation Working Group Meeting.” Speakers and panelists discussed these questions and other relevant areas including:

  • Leveraging the Internet of Things for Smart Campus
  • Megatrends in IoT
  • Challenges of IoT and Smart Campus

Leveraging the Internet of Things:

With the unprecedented advances in technology, it is becoming an integral part of everything in our lives. Gordon Wishon, Arizona State University, pointed out how technology is enabling the instrumentation of the planet by installing technology in our houses, cars, farms, cattle and ourselves. Increasingly, technological devices are “blending seamlessly with the environment around us” resulting in what is currently known as Internet of Things. The evolution of the Internet of Things is extending to smart cities, environment, energy, agriculture, e-health, retail, logistics and industrial controls with a predicted economic value of US $11.1 trillion per year by 2025. (McKinsey, 2015)

One of the manifestations of the nexus between technology and education is smart campus initiatives which are being gradually adapted by universities in the U.S. Internet2’s smart campus initiative works on leveraging the community’s efforts of developing new insights and supporting collaborations to bring practical recommendations for the larger community on smart campus deployment. Florence Hudson, Internet2, shared that the development of strategic-technical campus planning, technology diffusion and knowledge exchange are main expectations from the initiative.

When addressing the possibilities of smart campus, a special focus needs to be directed toward two areas: students’ experiences and campus operations (Florence Hudson). One area currently in place is personalized education which utilizes students’ academic performance information to help them be more successful. As campuses are becoming an evolving learning environment with huge influx of data, campus operations must adapt to the challenges of infusing smart technology into campuses’ buildings, facilities, and security. Scot Ransbottom, Virginia Tech, emphasized the need to prioritize security and safety with smart campus especially as IoT device hacking impact data, people’s physical safety, and their financial security. This concern is being addressed by Internet2’s framework called TIPPSS (Trust, Identity, Privacy, Protection, Safety, Security) to ensure the safety and security of network, data, devices and people, particularly in smart cities and smart campus environments.  

Megatrends in IoT:

Currently, there are four main megatrends in IoT as shared by Glenn Ricart, US Ignite, and they include connected devices outnumbering people, golden age of wireless breakthrough, software-defined infrastructure and gigabit access.  Despite the different forecasts regarding the number of IoT connected devices in 2020, Gartner estimates 1 billion, Cisco-50 billion, Morgan Stanley-75 billion,  all agreed on the exponential growth of IoT devices especially in areas of enterprise, government and consumer (Business Insider, 2015).

It is estimated that the number of connected devices globally is 22.9 billion which is triple the current world population; reflecting how engrossed technology is in our lives. Examples of electronic fork that helps monitoring ones eating habits, smart tooth brush engaging users with their hygiene routine, smart egg tray, glucose monitoring, smart washing machine, smart sprinkler control, and smart home security were shared by Gordon Wishon demonstrating technology impacts on our lives in every industry. 

Moving to a national level, there are growing efforts to establish a resilient local digital economy, smart campus, smart city and smart community. For example, The White House announced in 2015 a new “smart cities” initiative investing $160 million in research and applications that addresses local issues of crime, traffic and climate change.

The gigabit access network, such as Google fiber and other competitors, resulted in large improvements to the traditional broadband. The upstreaming improved from 0.5 Mbps to 1Gbps, while downstreaming improved 100 times. Cost reduction was huge with cost per gigabyte per month decreasing from 28 cents to 0.02 cents. Moreover, gigabit access network made it possible for virtual reality streaming as well as intra-heartbeat monitoring. 

Challenges of IoT and Smart Campus:

Despite the promising potentials of IoT, there are major challenges hindering the effective utilization of technology. The challenges, highlighted by the speakers, encompass big data explosions and management, protecting the security and privacy of the users, lack of standards, power supply and efficiency, and the management of countless devices.

The sessions delved into system risk management as a fundamental factor to tap into the great potentials of IoT systems in enabling smart campus. Chuck Benson, University of Washington, highlighted implementation and management, such as vendor management system ownership, costing model and organizational culture, as main concerns in smart campus initiative. One of the main recommendations to address the procurement process in the vendor management system is developing requirements manual by the community. Additionally, he advised that universities should communicate clearly the expectations of what is to be delivered from the vendors as well as articulate the cost model especially regarding the cost of supporting the end point.

Organizational culture is another factor affecting the smart campus potentials. Management usually thinks long-term, with the assumption of decade usability, when it comes to building universities’ facilities. However, IT systems and applications are short-term reflecting future months rather than years. This could result in facilities’ lack of adaptability to the short-term technology thus raising the concern for organization culture change resistance especially when universities are moving towards being data centered organizations. 

Listening to the different speakers at those sessions and the different elements can be overwhelming and scary. There is a lot to be done for maintaining security and privacy, developing standards, managing big data, and preserving energy. These challenges are not local issues, they are global. Thus, this is the time to harness the benefits of IoT through taking actions toward local and global partnership between higher education, research institutions, private sector, industry and government.