6 ways real-time data will change the campus experience

The University of Notre Dame takes campus experience very seriously. In recent years, they’ve revamped their student center to feature a three-story rock climbing wall, an elevated indoor track around the perimeter, a stage for campus performances, and a full size coffee bar that would make most Starbucks locations look like food trucks. And that is just 1 of the 170 buildings on campus.

The school is a modern beauty. And notably impressive for a university that just passed 177-years-old.

Paul Turner, Director of Learning Platforms at Notre Dame, shows Ari Kepnes, Director of Market Research at Density, around Notre Dame’s campus.

Notre Dame stays nimble because they constantly seek feedback from students and faculty members about everything from physical space to new tech. Often when we discuss new technology in academia, we talk about AI, VR, 3D printers, and robotics. Notre Dame is certainly no exception. Students there have access to multimedia labs and cutting-edge learning platforms.

However, seemingly simple problems can become lost in the electric sea of innovation. For example, the same students building virtual worlds in the new media lab still have to guess as to whether or not the library is too busy to go study there. A student’s progress in a design space could be halted by a long dinner line at the dining hall. Before they installed Density, there was no practical solution to cross-campus occupancy analytics.

Hearing how Notre Dame is using Density data to improve student life has us considering 5 ways real-time data will change the campus experience.

1. Campus dining

The students we spoke to at Notre Dame all expressed irritation with waiting in long lines at the dining hall. “It’s so annoying” is a phrase we heard over and over. Since college campuses are generally pretty large areas of land, walking across them can take some time, especially in inclement weather at schools like Notre Dame. A student walking from the library on one side of campus to the dining hall on the other may have already spent 15 minutes en route. Adding a 20-minute line at a stir fry bar or for pizza can, well, eat into their motivation to navigate the campus. Instead, students may opt to skip meals in favor of a Cliff Bar or vending machine item. If universities can provide real-time occupancy analytics to students via campus mobile applications, students can better predict the busyness of the dining hall and avoid those unnecessary and demotivating trips to a crowded cafeteria.

Installation of Density at Notre Dame campus

2. Libraries & study areas

Another pain point that Notre Dame students expressed is how frustrating it is to go to the library when all the desks and chairs are already taken. Failing to find a spot to study on a college campus should be a thing of the past.

With Density’s real-time occupancy data, students can know ahead of time which floors are more crowded, so they can avoid the hassle of wandering around looking for a place to study. Danielle Galvao, a computer science major at Notre Dame, told us about how her friends will often “leave their stuff” in one building and go look for an open space at the library, then claim that open space somehow, only to walk back to retrieve their stuff and turn around again. This is a terribly inefficient way to navigate space and can act as a huge waste of time for students who simply want to study.

3. Physical security & tailgating

Campus security is paramount. Knowing that the people who enter a campus building are people who are actually supposed to be there is a huge undertaking. Students use their school ID cards to scan into dining halls, libraries, and dormitories. However, other than a security guard meticulously watching each entry, it’s hard to stop additional students or other people from “hopping a turnstile” or sneaking in passed the entry undetected.

Real-time occupancy analytics (specifically from Density’s DPU) can stop this unwanted activity altogether. When paired with ID scanners, Density can detect people who haven’t properly badged in and trigger an appropriate security measure; it can set off an alarm, alert a nearby guard, take a picture on a security camera, lock a secondary door, or any other option installed by the campus security director. Using this process, college campuses could reassure students and faculty members that they are safe where they study.

4. Games & events

The benefits of real-time occupancy data are many at college concerts. From an attendee perspective, knowing which snack bars, beer lines, and bathrooms are open can dramatically cut down on time spent not watching the game or show. You shouldn’t have to miss a big play or your favorite song just to wait in a line for a snack. Attending a big event on campus could be a much better experience if you could check occupancy data on your phone prior to leaving your seat.

5. Facilities management

Speaking of big events, concerts and games are a huge undertaking for facilities managers. Real-time occupancy analytics could drastically change the efficiency of their work. If an FM can apply Density’s predictive occupancy analytics to their sporting events and concerts, they can budget better. They can prevent food waste. They can track the exact sections of the stadium in which certain foods are selling better than others, which might lead them to redraw the vendor map entirely. Food trucks and parlor games could be strategically placed in locations most likely to drive traffic and revenue. During a game, those facilities managers could keep an eye on which bathrooms or trash cans have been most heavily used, giving them the opportunity to clean them more immediately and provide a more enjoyable experience for attendees. Real-time data improves both the management and attendee experience while simultaneously saving money and time.

6. Space planning

Space planning is critical for all college campuses. Although I have focused on our Notre Dame case-study, Density also partners with New York University’s workplace team to help them justify real estate expenses. NYU happens to be one of the largest real estate owners in New York City. With such a large portfolio and limited land in which to expand, NYU has to be incredibly diligent with their real estate investments. Do they need another library building? How is the current student lounge being used? Density allows them to measure foot traffic in real-time (and historically) and then mathematically confirm that they’re spending wisely.

For all the reasons listed above, being able to accurately measure real-time occupancy will completely revamp the college campus experience. This data matters to managers, board members, teachers, and, most importantly, students. With hundreds of millions invested on campuses every year, schools should know how their buildings are used.

Watch the video recap of our time at Notre Dame: