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broader mobile app strategy, but they all build on each other.” ASU is not alone in trying to apply IoT to student success. A University of Arizona professor is using data collected when students swipe their ID cards on campus to see if it reveals patterns about student routines that could be used to predict their likelihood of returning to campus after their
freshman year.
A news story on the UA website noted that Sudha Ram, a
professor of management information systems, gathered and analyzed data on freshman student ID card usage over a three-year period. She then used that data to create large networks mapping which students interacted with one another and how often.
“Considered together with demographic information and other predictive measures of freshman retention, an analysis of students’ social interactions and routines was able to accurately predict 85 to 90 percent of the freshmen who would not return for a second year at the UA,” the story noted, “with those having less-established routines and fewer social interactions most at-risk for leaving.”
Impact on Staff
Regardless of whether the goal is impacting student life or just building or parking lot efficiency, deployment of IoT sys- tems requires building new relationships and new gover- nance structures. Chuck Benson, assistant director for IT in
Facilities Services at the University of Washington, said universities hoping to expand their usage of IoT systems must come to grips with the cultural differences between operational technology (OT) and IT departments. Facilities managers come up through trades such as electrical or plumbing. Culturally they are very different than central IT employees, yet all of a sudden they are coming together on projects, Benson said. “Facilities management groups are getting large, complex IT systems thrown in their laps, and they don’t have experience with them,” he said.
The IoT energy management effort at UW has required a team effort by a conservation manager, a mechanical engi- neer, an IT exec, an electrical engineer, a vendor and a subcontractor, who meet every two weeks to address meter management and data flow. “We have gotten to be a pretty good team,” Benson said, “but three years ago that wasn’t the case. We had lots of issues. But we all acknowledged we come from different places and kept hammering it out.”
Hamilton said one lesson Stanford has learned in this area is that it is important to have people who understand both OT and IT. “For a while things were falling in that gap,” he said. Finding people who knew both the OT sys- tems and IT systems well was a major accomplishment for Stanford, starting about two years ago, he added. “That is a big problem, and unless most universities address that,
projects are going to stall out.”
Benson co-chairs UW’s IoT risk mitigation task force to
develop some governance and oversight of these systems. “They span so many organizations that ownership is not clear or nonexistent,” he said. “With the task force, we try to bring groups together and tell stories from their perspective and we find that people do find common issues.” For exam- ple, the person who runs campus networks and the person who handles energy management for the university see the same kinds of issues but from different perspectives. “You start to develop common language around it,” he said, “and then you can get to risk mitigation.”
ASU’s Richardson admitted that getting diverse campus groups to come together on smart campus projects has been a challenge, but he said it is definitely getting better. “My advice is to start small and mutually come to an under- standing of what is possible and prove what is possible with limited risk, and then iterate on that.”
People may look for traditional payback or return on invest- ment from these projects, and it is often not that simple, Richardson said. “It involves a complex set of relationships. Organizational silos can get in the way. When we talk about governance, it is a massive undertaking, but really exciting. It will take very wide involvement to make it work.”
David Raths is a freelance writer based in Philadelphia.

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