Beacon’s Transform Universities into Smart Campuses

Proximity-based apps offering real-time mobile interactions have become mainstream trends, particularly among college students. But contrary to social media outlets, these apps can also be used to enhance the typical college experience, stemming from the organization itself. These technologies have recently begun integrating into the university-sphere as mediums that have the capacity to collect data analytics, improve security measures, optimize internal campus organizations, simplify standard school procedures, and enhance accessibility — just to name a few.

Personalized Campus Tours

Universities tend to offer frequent campus tours year-round, however, in respect to everyone’s time, these tours are often structured in a way that only allows for a general overview of the campus. Tour times are also not always going to be compliant with visitors’ schedules. With beacon-enabled tours, visitors have the freedom to explore the campus on their own time, at their desired pace, while selecting specific spots to discover that are catered to their personal interests.

For example, a high school football player visiting the campus specifically to get a feel of the school’s athletic culture can be redirected to the athletic buildings, gymnasiums, and practice fields, while an aspiring engineer can dedicate their time to touring the math and science buildings.

Augmented Educational Experiences

Universities such as Penn State and University of Oklahoma have implemented a type of learning that extends beyond the classroom. With an augmented learning space, students can explore their campus and dive deeper into nearby surroundings. Hands-on learning experiences such as virtual guides for historical landmarks on campus or within campus collections and educational games, like scavenger hunts that incorporate rewards or check ins, have been put into place, providing a more efficient learning strategy for student comprehension.

Multi-Level Mapping and Campus Navigation

These universities have also initiated beacon technologies that allow students and faculty to navigate areas on campus, ranging from wide scale classrooms, buildings, hotspots, to pinpointing the exact location of a library book. With beacons representing multi-level mapping systems on their smartphones, navigating throughout buildings has never been simpler.

Broadcasting Announcements and Events

Internal campus activities such as club events, greek life, and other forms of social gatherings on campus can be without an email subscription list that might take students a while to check. Broadcasting announcements and messages through phone notifications is a much more direct approach. Students can receive alerts when passing by a building where an interesting talk or an event offering free food is being held and gain an extra experience for their day, while at the same time increasing attendance and success for the event organizers.

Smart Parking

Beacons even have the capacity to identify available parking spots so that precious minutes of roaming around in panic aren’t wasted. They can also project alerts to the driver of whether or not the lot is full before they enter.

Networking

Personal finances are always a topic of concern to college students, but job postings can be quite disconnected and difficult to find. Local recruiters and businesses can broadcast open positions that they are looking to fill to the students on campus. Both parties will benefit from the quick connectivity and instant responses.

Data Analysis

Connecting to these apps can allow for instant data collection, capturing further analytics to determine things like which events had the greatest attendance, which areas are the most popular hotspots, as well as gathering user feedback on campus activities. This data can be used by management to review and make improvements within the organization.

Accessibility

Going hand-in-hand with augmented reality accompanied by real-time location properties, turn-by-turn directions can be used to assist campus navigation for the visually impaired. Penn State already has proximity-based mapping apps that help guide students to their desired locations, promoting a safer and more inclusive campus.

Security

Beacons can heighten security measures on campus by replacing and optimizing card swipe procedure into buildings for students and faculty — an idea rapidly being adopted at many hotels to automate guest access into their rooms. During emergencies, such as campus lockdowns or weather drills, locating student positions via heat mapping can easily be done. During certain campus incidents, isolated communication towards targeted areas can often be a more convenient and efficient way to distribute necessary information.

Asset Tracking

Many schools implement some sort of rental system, allowing students in need to borrow items like a bike, camera, or a computer. Some of these management systems work using barcode scanners to scan out items, some have some sort of online database tracker, while others still have someone manually entering in check outs. Beacons can optimize most product management systems currently used at universities.

Perhaps the impact of taking on these foreign measures might seem to make trivial difference, simply cutting out several minutes of your equipment search, but in places like hospitals or even during on-campus emergencies, these minutes could mean life or death.

Bike-Share Organizations

For bike-sharing organizations on campus, beacon apps on smartphones can be used as mini tracking devices for each bike, to locate a lost bike, decrease theft, or to simplify check-in and check-outs. This eliminates the unnecessary step of having to use a barcode scanner in these situations. It can also allow students and faculty to visualize where all inventory is right on their phone.

Library Efficiency

These methods also apply to libraries — instead of constantly locating individual books or desired genres, students can get an overall view of where they need to be and what resources are available. Whenever a student passes by the library, they can also receive notifications reminding them that their book return date is coming up, or that a book they were searching for is now available.

Minimize Congestion

Long lines in the dining hall are almost inevitable at certain hours of the day, but beacon technology can minimize foot-traffic by redirecting students to other dining services upon recognition of heavy congestion.

Especially during study-intensive times like midterms and finals, students often have to scope out several different study areas before finding one with available space. With beacons placed in popular hotspots, students can get notifications prior to entering that the area is too crowded.

Lessen Environmental Footprint

Beacons can be used to connect all forms of electronic devices. Relying on manual power saving is tedious and time-consuming compared to setting campus beacons to shut off the lights and other classroom technologies when the room is empty, enable and disable cameras in specified areas, or trigger classroom PCs to switch to screensaver mode when a professor leaves the area.

Minimal Trade-Offs

A common concern for students is overusing their smartphone’s data plan, however, since beacon technology uses Bluetooth as its medium of connectivity to identify phones within the area, most beacon-based apps do not need internet connection. On top of not needing access to wifi, beacons use a low energy Bluetooth protocol (1-20% of standard Bluetooth power), taking up a “whomping” 1-3% of your phone’s battery life.

Where We Go From Here…

As universities strive to adopt more digital innovations in the pursuit of a smart-campus, beacon technology is one in the front running that can help solve or improve upon current procedures within the organization in a cheap and malleable way, increasing security, connectedness, education techniques, and internal productivity.

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