Universities are notoriously difficult to navigate for staff and students alike, a problem which Deakin University saw as an opportunity to build a smart campus to take friction out of a raft of day-to-day activities.
The Scout app is the front end of Deakin’s smart campus, whose predominant wayfinding function is powered by geolocation and movement sensors on a smartphone while leveraging the university’s partnership with Cisco to add location data from network traffic.
Scout is built on Deakin’s VM solution, with high performance and scale in mind, using NodeJS to cluster and scale nodes backed with MongoDB for fast writes and streaming of data.
The solution is run on-premises across six separate servers which were deployed to manage contained services, however, Scout’s modular and API-first design allows the university to be technology agnostic about its use and paving the way for a possible shift to the cloud in the future.
Scout users can search for a room or service within the app, which provides step-by-step directions (including accessible routes) from their location to destination; both between outdoors and inside buildings where GPS is obstructed and other apps struggle to accurately tell which floor level a user is on.
“I feel like Scout is a game changer because it is bringing together enormously rich information about the people on campus as well as just presenting other tools that are part of your electronic experience,” group manager, digital solutions and products, Sally Casey said.
“As we further develop Scout, it can use neural networks to process these images together with sensors, wifi, and geolocation to perfectly locate your starting point which is essential for telling you which way to go,” Casey said.
Executive director of digital experience and products, Lisa Corker, added that Scout can also help find other things like events, or people, “on an opt-in basis, of course,” to ease anxieties new students in particular might have and focus instead on more meaningful activities than getting around.
Using Cisco’s CMX location event field, push notifications can also be sent to a user who’s opted in when they pass through certain locations, alerting them to special offers at a cafe or upcoming events based on their subscription preferences.
Meanwhile, live room occupancy monitoring shows students where they can find a place to study and lets the university know how it can best invest in space upgrades or maintenance.
Over 15,000 signed onto the service in its first week, helping them navigate to 17,000 rooms split between 350 buildings on four campuses.
Data from Scout also helps with infrastructure planning and resource allocation. “It gives us information in relation to space utilisation and helps us with building planning, security and the design of new services,” chief digital officer William Confalonieri said.
And it could potentially drive savings in capital investment in new facilities. “The real estate part of our business is huge. That is the reality for any university,” Confalonieri said.
This project was finalist in the IoT category of the iTnews Benchmark Awards 2020.