IoT for Education – Better Student and Staff Outcomes

5 minutes

The “Internet of Things” (IoT) is an often used but confusing technical phrase that leaves most scratching our heads. We use the “internet” daily, and we also use “things”, but what is IoT and more importantly how does it benefit our staff, students and everyone else related to our educational organizations?

Often displayed in fanciful charts, overly technical diagrams and articles, in its simplest form, IoT is defined as the technology that shifts from a reactive-to-predictive maintenance posture by enabling connectivity between assets, systems, vehicles, facilities and operations teams – all with the goal of optimizing performance, providing real-time analytics for quick decision making and reducing downtime. If you like an even simpler description: IoT enables our assets and facilities to tell us humans when they need maintenance.

The maintenance operations spectrum has a wide range from excessive cost/disruptive reactive to low-cost/optimized preventive. For example, an HVAC related asset needs filter replacements. You have a few choices:

  • Wait till the filter is completely clogged, let the unit crash and deal with not only replacing the filters, but also fixing the related damage likely to occur. This is called “run to fail” and NEVER a good idea!
  • Periodically check the filter by a manual preventive maintenance inspection and replace the filter if warranted. 100% better than run-to-fail, but even still there are better methods.
  • Have your asset electronically and automatically tell you when the filter hits 75% clogged and send a tech or contractor to replace. This is “Condition Based Monitoring” and an optimal predictive strategy.

IoT can utilize sensors that harness the temperature, vibration, pressure, tank levels and many other metrics that can be an indicator of maintenance issues. This data can be analyzed 24/7/365 and significantly reduce budget-killing maintenance issues when they are minor vs. major.

How Does it Work?

Again, our assets generate tons of data – we just need to harness that data and determine if the asset is running within proper tolerance.

New IoT Solution for Asset Essentials

Although IoT can seem confusing, it is simple:

The challenge historically has been getting at the data. Technologies have existed for decades that can get IoT-like data and varies by asset/system type.

  • SCADA and BAS (Building Automation Systems) often interact with our assets. SCADA and BAS have been around for decades and are proprietary in their mission and sometimes hard to tap into the data for maintenance-related operations. In many cases, it is easier and less expensive to use a sensor to augment SCADA/BAS vs. trying to tap into those systems.
  • Some modern assets may have “intelligence” that can deliver data and there are now a wide variety of “sensors” that can easily be retrofit on any type of asset to capture data.
  • Retrofit sensors are becoming increasingly popular and can easily be deployed on any asset. There are sensors to monitor many asset/system/facility conditions and warrant maintenance.

In all cases, the data is possible to end up in Smart Assets and ultimately generate work orders inside Asset Essentials.

Real-Life Examples

Let’s look at a few examples on how asset/facility conditions can indicate when maintenance is needed.

Leak Detection

Water and other liquids can be disruptive, damaging and even unhealthy if making its way where it should not be. Various types of sensors – including catch-basins, rope-style sensors (pictured below), humidity and others can monitor water/fluid presence and create a work order if warranted.

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Refrigeration Monitoring

What does it cost your institution if you lose a commercial fridge or freezer? Contents and repairs can be very expensive and the downtime disruptive. Easily attach a sensor to monitor temperature fluctuations and send a tech if out of tolerance.