As the University of Melbourne (UoM) sought to get ahead of the smart campus trend, marrying data from myriad internet of things (IoT) devices with its student, staff and asset management systems proved a monumental task.

In amongst the mix are 700 applications and IoT devices used to measure everything from temperature, energy use, room capacity and to aid in wayfinding.

As the university has 50,000 students enrolled across seven campuses - one of which is split by the construction of a new train station - wayfinding and appropriate use of formal and informal learning spaces are of growing concern.

Solution architect at UoM Ganesh Krishnan told the Boomi World Tour in Sydney on Tuesday that they turned to Dell Boomi’s Master Data Hub integration platform-as-a-service to create a centralised data hub to synchronise its IT environment.

Krishnan said the university needed an integrated data platform to ensure the quality and interoperability of data from a range of disparate devices and cloud platforms, with different faculties at the school often employing solutions that would pull them into separate silos from their peers.

Connecting that data with information from the financial and employee system, student management systems, and the online learning management systems is enabling more thoughtful and productive use of campus space.

One case study that coupled student management data, timetabling and asset management systems with IoT foot traffic sensors found a 350-capacity lecture theatre sometimes hosted classes that only had 80 students show up.

As well as providing strong indicators that timetabling and room allocation can be vastly improved, Krishnan said the same technique can be applied to all campus spaces to ensure the university is making the most of its real estate.

An extension of this would mean that clubs and student groups can look at which open spaces on campus are appropriate to hold an event, and classrooms could be set up as quiet rooms for study in between classes, taking pressure off resources in libraries or computer labs.

Krishnan said the case study also highlighted how better data integration can point out which courses are promising candidates for online delivery by providing stronger links between attendance data and information from online learning management systems.

All of this turns into not just more efficient resource use, but a more engaging environment that offers more value to students.

“We wanted to provide students with rich campus-based learning opportunities and it also highlights that we need to take advantage of the various technologies that are being deployed across our campus to provide greater learning outcomes for the students and also open up new research avenues,” Krishnan said.

“It’s more around how do we generate greater insights from data we collect from the various physical connected things that are being deployed around the university, and how do we deliver across various areas?”