Smartphones and smart watches. Smart fridges and smart TVs. Smart homes and smart cities. Sometimes, it seems like the Internet of Things (IoT) is making the world around us smarter and more woke by the minute.
And these IoT technologies aren’t limited only to consumer lifestyles. They are also changing the way we do business — especially in the housing and hospitality industries. From senior residences to hotels, smart IoT technologies have changed both guest/resident experiences and how these properties are managed.
Well, the student housing sector is no exception. An array of smart IoT technologies are revinventing not only campus living, but also student housing management, itself. And the results have ranged from augmented student lifestyles and better college experiences to greater security and reduced energy costs.
Smart Student Housing Tech
Student housing is in the midst of the same technological renaissance that the rest of the world is. From IoT to machine learning to AI, all sorts of smart tech is being used to enrich and augment student housing. As Kevin Exner writes for StudentHousingBusiness.com, “As quickly as new technology trends are emerging, [student] housing communities are adapting to provide a ‘smart living’ experience to residents.”
Indeed, smart tech is allowing both students to interact with their environment in a variety of ways, and campus staff to streamline building management. As the Stanford College Puzzle explains:
Colleges and universities are already using smart lighting, HVAC systems, and other mechanical equipment to optimize facility operations. College dorm security has also been reinforced by [smart] door locks, video surveillance and alarms to the remote control system. The Internet of Things makes it possible to control virtually everything, from student behavior to air quality in dorm rooms.
With two distinct sides to the smart student housing coin (student living and building management), understanding the impact of IoT on student housing requires that we look at each side in its own turn.
IoT & Student Living
Simply put, smart IoT tech is changing (and improving) the quality of student life from the dorm room to the classroom. As Navigant Research points out:
Saint Louis University and Arizona State University [have] installed Amazon Echo Dot devices in dorms to help students get information on campus activities. Schools including the University of Chicago, New York University, and University of California, Davis [moreover] are working […] to help students manage their thermostats through a mobile app.
And similar technologies are being used not only in the classroom, but as the classroom. While some schools are using classroom occupancy sensors to track and manage attendance, others are taking it a step further by smart campus planning part of their curriculum, and involving students directly in the development of next-gen IoT tech.
[ASU] has set up so called virtual ‘beacons’ in classrooms to find out trends in student attendance, which allow administrators to identify students who might need any assistance with their studies. The university also wants to replace traditional IDs and provide students with wearables that will bring more security to the campuses.
[…] Duke University has built a smart home that demonstrates what a campus should be in future. In this laboratory students can live with access to all the different smart home technologies, so they can come up with ideas and try to build a prototype to make life better.
Indeed, no one is in a better position to assess the strength and shortcomings than end-users themselves. After all, they’re the ones using it everyday, and understand how it can be improved in future iterations. So not only are student residents in the best position to interact with smart HVAC and lighting systems to maximize comfort, but they’re also the best candidates to help develop new smart student housing tech.
Smart Student Housing Management
Behind the scenes is where most of the world’s real magic happens, and student housing is no exception — especially when it comes to smart IoT tech. Without support, maintenance, and security staff, any student housing experience would be less than fulfilling to say the least. After all, it’s the integrated services that make a student residence experience livable.
Of course, each of those services comes with a price tag, and those costs are reflected in both student housing fees and property managers’ bottomline. Fortunately, IoT-enabled smart tech has created new efficiencies that allow student housing managers to reduce energy consumption, and more accurately predict and manage operational costs.
Smart HVAC Technology
Smart, interactive, IoT-enabled climate control isn’t limited only to the convenience that students enjoy by being able to adjust their dorm room temperature via a smartphone app. Indeed, smart HVAC technology also leverages machine learning and AI to manage energy consumption in real time, reducing both the carbon footprint and energy consumption costs of student housing facilities.
Specifically, smart thermostats and occupancy sensors allow campus staff to monitor and respond to fluctuations in occupancy in both dorm rooms and common areas. These thermostats and sensors, moreover, go well beyond the functionality of typical residential devices (such as those sold by Nest), which can’t manage the demand of commercial occupancy patterns over a large number of rooms or residences.
Commercial energy management (such as Verdant’s), however, monitor dorm rooms and student apartments for motion, body heat, and temperature. This data is then used to adjust room temperatures in real time to provide the best possible resident experience while minimizing energy consumption and costs. For instance, the Verdant EI smart energy management systems also uses machine learning and AI to analyze historical thermodynamics, local weather patterns, and peak demand loads in real time to constantly optimize energy consumption, all year round. Indeed, the adoption of smart energy management systems and its cost savings has even become commonplace for the hotel industry.
The efficiencies of smart energy management, moreover, go well beyond automated optimization. IoT smart energy management systems also offer remote management features so that campus staff can monitor HVAC output, and ensure that student housing climate control systems are running at peak efficiency. These remote management features also include HVAC diagnostic alerts when the HVAC system isn’t performing within expected parameters.
Smart energy management in the student housing sector is not limited only to HVAC systems. Lighting costs also represent a significant expenditure of student residences. Unsurprisingly, then, being able to (1) understand lighting energy needs, (2) automate consumption optimization, and (3) react to changes in resident occupancy patterns is integral to reducing both energy consumption and energy costs.
And similar to IoT-enabled, machine-learning-backed HVAC systems, smart lighting systems also leverage occupancy sensors and time-based lighting schemes to manage and optimized energy consumption throughout the days, months, and years. In fact, these smart lighting systems can even adjust lighting intensity according to time of day, providing a seamlessly comfortable, safe, and convenient experience for all student residents.
Many smart lighting systems, moreover, also interface with smart HVAC technology to allow campus staff and other facility managers to manage all their energy consumption through a single interface. For instance, Verdant’s energy management infrastructure (i.e. smart thermostats and occupancy sensors) integrate with third party lighting systems to ensure that lights turn on/off according to whether a room is occupied or not.
Smart Predictive Maintenance
All this being said, there is one hidden (re: ‘unpredictable’ or ‘uncertain’) operational cost that every student residence (or other commercial property) must burden to remain profitable: Maintenance.
Indeed, maintenance costs represent a significant expenditure for any commercial property manager — especially student housing managers. For instance, if overlooked, maintenance entropy can lead not only to negative or disruptive resident experiences, but inflated repair costs down the line. As StudentHousingBusiness.com puts it:
Another way IoT-powered devices can be leveraged to improve resident satisfaction pertains to proactive maintenance. […] With many students having an inconsistent schedule, it’s common for maintenance malfunctions to go unnoticed. It can sometimes be weeks before a tenant even realizes there is an issue — which is especially inconvenient if that realization comes at 10 o’clock at night when the maintenance manager has gone home for the day.
IoT devices, when integrated with a robust reporting software, can be used to monitor equipment performance and real-time conditions within individual residences. [This gives property managers] unprecedented visibility into metrics like equipment run-time, thermostat set point, temperature and humidity levels, which empowers them to detect maintenance issues immediately […] This not only helps prevent the need for costly repairs, but alleviates the need for a tenant to be home to report any issues.
So just as student housing managers can tap into smart HVAC systems to monitor, measure, track, and optimize energy costs, predictive maintenance allows those very same managers to leverage sensor data to identify wasteful or inefficient consumption trends. In fact, predictive maintenance can even alert student housing staff to issues before they escalate into much more costly issues.
For example, in the case that an HVAC energy management system isn’t performing within specified parameters, a smart energy management system will alert maintenance staff to those inefficiencies so that the malfunction can be addressed while residents are not in their room. As a result, the problem gets resolved before students even recognize an issue, and similarly, the property managers avoid incurring exorbitant repair costs.
Indeed, student housing operators can also use the very same sensor data to create maintenance schedules based on real-time usage data. In other words, instead of an ad hoc guestimated maintenance schedule, property managers can reduce costs while student residents enjoy a much more comfortable experience.
Students of the Future
To some degree, we are all students of life. In the case of student residences, though, we’re students of cost management — and IoT and smart energy management are at the forefront of our business education.
The technologies not only have the potential to improve the quality of student life on campus, from the classroom to the dorm room, but also streamline student housing operations to an unprecedented degree. The results are lower carbon footprints, more cost-savings, and better cost management (i.e. preventative maintenance). Indeed, smart tech such as IoT-enabled infrastructure (and the machine learning and AI algorithms that manage it) are completely reinventing student housing for both residences and facility managers alike.