Critical for Safe Campuses
Social distancing is a critical part of campus safety during the pandemic
- By Hussain Suleman
- February 01, 2021
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.
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
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
• 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 & Life Safety.