These Universities Are No Less Than Smart Cities

Do Universities Have An Opportunity To Transform Into Mini Smart Cities?

Tech knowledge comes from universities and now the same knowledge is being used to redefine their existence – as mini smart cities.

A university campus has all the essential infrastructure that is part of a city. It has roads, transportation, retail shops, housing facilities, libraries, and laboratories to name a few. This means that they are in a position where the mini smart cities concept can become a trend. They are increasingly seen as the next must-watch hotspots that can transform into living labs.

Going with the anticipation, university campuses across the world are working on deploying smart city technology while keeping the focus on sustainability.

In fact, the initiatives have reached a stage wherein college campuses have appointed Chief Information Officers (CIOs) to coordinate smart and secure technological systems and innovations. The CIOs ensure the smooth flow of digital operations in every department across campus with the responsibility of strategic planning for further development that will benefit the entire institution with students being an indispensable part.  

So, what we are exploring next is going to unveil the reasons behind the rising trend to appoint CIOs. We move on with tech activities spurring transformation in different universities!

The University Of Minnesota

Digital information and service kiosks that we call it as smart kiosks have become a common sight in many smart cities. But now these smart stands are becoming popular in university campuses as well.


The University of Minnesota in Minneapolis has equipped its campus with over 300 digital information boards and interactive digital kiosks. The smart initiative began a decade ago much before the smart city concept. The digital system is a scalable platform that constantly integrates campus emergency alerts and other department-related information.

Carousel 7.0 Digital Signage Software from Tightrope Media Systems makes the system scalable. The software supports the departments in all the campus locations including Crookston, Duluth, Morris, Rochester, and Twin Cities along with remote research stations and outreach centres, as per sources.  

One of the biggest benefits of Carousel’s software is that it allows each department on the network to quickly create and broadcast local messages. At the same time, it enables Emergency Management services to automatically post and cancel alert bulletins using the Carousel’s supported CAP protocol.

As the network is active across all the locations of the University of Minnesota, any department on any campus acts their own government body including athletics, academics or administration.

The University has received a lot of positive feedback of being able to manage their own content with the capability to do it from anywhere on campus or any other location. Digital signage has significantly transformed the way communications are carried.

Furthermore, the digital signage network features a handful of interactive touchscreens and kiosks that are mainly used for wayfinding. People get access to real-time bus schedules and map routes of the campus that allow them to move through the campus with ease.

Another advantage of a smart kiosk feature has been seen in the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. The institution has launched a pilot for 28 smart kiosks. These digital systems enable students to remotely print from any connected device or cloud account. Moreover, the kiosks have integrated with other smart technologies in the campus such as connected lockers and self-service checkouts.

The University of Glasgow   

The University of Glasgow Turning Into Smart Campus

The University of Glasgow in the UK is working with innovation centre Future Cities Catapult on a strategy aiming at transforming the campus into mini smart cities.

The University is planning to invest £800 million to transform and expand its campus. Acquisition of a 14-acre land adjacent to the main campus is the biggest driving factor as it has paved way to rethink the design and layout of the institution.

The planning is going with Future Cities Catapult keeping into account the changes in the technology while also conserving the cultural and physical heritage and actualising on cost savings.

The innovation startup helped the University in realising the meaning of a ‘smart campus’ and how it can attract and engage students along with ideas that can create opportunities for the institution, now and in the coming years.

The startup’s strategy is human-centred. They performed in-depth research interview with every department and engaged with students to understand their vision of a smart campus. Furthermore, they carried out horizon scanning to anticipate development in a decades time and beyond. They identified the elements that will impact the existence of the campus in coming years which was followed by a practical analysis.

Going ahead, the startup concluded with a definition of ‘smart campus’ that supports the University of Glasgow’s new strategy.

Since then, the University of Glasgow has been advancing with the implementation of its Smart Campus. They already have a digital application for students that is under development and about to conduct trials. The university library is equipped with a sensor network which gives information on environmental occupancy. Then they have optimised timetable system which correlates to predictive analytics based on student’s course choice. In addition, the institution is exploring possibilities with smart parking, 5G and footfall sensors.

The University of Glasgow is on the way to becoming a pioneer in developing tried and tested approaches that can be embraced easily by other educational institution in the UK and the world.

The University of Deakin

The University of Deakin in Victoria, Australia has been recognised as one of the most digitally advanced educational institutions in the world. The university is the only one in Australia that made up to the world’s top 50 in smart campus program called  “2017 Digital Edge 50”.

The university owns a smart campus that allows students to get personalised information on campus including study locations, events and services. The smart campus has a Wifi network that enables students to locate an unfamiliar lecture room, find a quiet place to study or even notify them when something of their interest is happening in the close vicinity.

The college has its AI-powered digital assistant called ‘Genie’ which is a Siri-style voice-activated smartphone app that provides students with all the information related to their assignments, timetables, referencing and more.  It also enables students to ask for help through the device which is responded by a student support staff member who can identify the student’s location instantly.

Going further, the University has plans to integrate digital signage, smart parking systems and personalised mobile apps while utilising big data, analytics and AI capabilities.

Though at this point of time the institution is generating a huge amount of data, there are strictly no plans to interfere with the student privacy. The campus has a strong policy that disallows surveillance of students. However, the data is being used with their knowledge in an attempt to benefit them.

There are a number of universities around the globe that are experimenting and implementing different types of smart city technology for the good. Some of them like The University of Washington in Seattle is conducting a smart grid project with over 200 smart meters installed on campus while others like the University of Michigan owns a 32-acre Mcity testing site for connected and self-driving vehicles including a free autonomous shuttle service for students.

From the initiatives we explored, it is visible that universities are rapidly advancing towards a smarter future. As success continues there will be more sophisticated smart city technology entering the education zone. But we doubt that some concepts like self-driving school buses may not receive consent from parents – at least not in the near future.