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Smart seats on the smart sampus

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6 September 2016 | Jeremy Singer

Jeremy Singer from the University of Glasgow’s School of Computer Science reports on his experience organising the University’s first smart campus hackathon.

Over the next 10 years, the University of Glasgow will expand its footprint by over 25%, taking over the site of the old Western Infirmary hospital to create a new teaching and social quarter at the heart of its Hillhead campus. This programme of work will be even larger than the creation of the original campus way back in 1870 when the university relocated from the Glasgow’s High Street to the leafy west end.

This expansion provides us with a massive opportunity to create a truly ‘smart’ campus around the concept of the ‘Internet of Things’.

Not only could this bring significant benefits to students and staff on campus (think buildings that are automatically cooled or heated to a comfortable temperature depending on the numbers of people in them, or rooms and labs that prepare themselves for an incoming class by switching on lights and projector systems), it also provides a huge ‘playground’ for us Computer Scientists to use these IoT networks to support teaching and research in application areas such city systems, energy management and transport policy.

But what could this smart campus look like, and what sort oGlasgow Uni Smart Campusf apps would students and staff use in this university of the future?

These were the questions we put last month to a team of students, staff, and researchers from the Universities of Dundee, Edinburgh and Glasgow who attended our first Glasgow Smart Campus Hackathon.

Over two days, fuelled by some big ideas (plus a fair amount of pizza and Red Bull; surely two essential ingredients for a successful hackathon?), the teams collected data from a variety of sensor systems, including Arduinos, Raspberry Pi environmental data and LoRa CO2 sensors. They then used this information to scope out some amazing app ideas, from Smart Chairs (no more searching the library to find a seat at exam time; simply use the app to be directed to a free space), to apps that let your family or flatmates know where you are on campus, to those that would allow researchers to identify and book the nearest available meeting room.

The event was made possible with the support of IBM, with app development done on its BlueMix and Watson IoT platforms, while mentoring, equipment (and of course pizza) were donated from a number of other organisations including Stream Technologies, CENSIS and the Construction Scotland Innovation Centre.

IBM donated a selection of ARM IoT development boards to the hackers to allow them to take their ideas further. We’ll be watching with interest to see how these ideas develop and I can’t wait to see what the students of today will create for the students of tomorrow at our next event.

[If you’re interested in taking part in the next Smart Campus Hackathon, please contact Jeremy for an informal chat]