Back to College: Back to the Future

IoT for College

I may as well arrive in a stainless steel DeLorean. Kenyon College does not fit in this era. Concert halls fill up for Jazz ensembles; literature is the buzz of the town. But while Kenyon’s culture leans towards tastefully vintage, its campus could not feel more futuristic. Kenyon College is a 1,600 student, 1,200 acre, liberal arts college located in the middle-of-nowhere-Gambier, Ohio. Kenyon’s rigorous academics instill intellectually thirsty cultures within its student body. We like to read; we like to be challenged, if we didn’t, we probably wouldn’t like –or stay at– Kenyon.

Still, while a lot of us enjoy the timeless gifts of Weber, Fitzgerald, and Nietzsche, none of us would ever want to live like them. Whale blubber lit housing, and daily deliveries of milk are not the amenities we seek. We are college students. Technology is useful, and important to us. We use Wi-Fi for our ever present Twitter feeds, Facebook walls, Snap Chat stories, and perhaps, even sometimes, our educational-needs. Wireless printing saves us from showing up late to hand in that final, uber-important paper. Identification cards magnetically unlock our dorms for easy entrance, as well as safety. Those same cards grant us access to an expansive library consortium, a convenient college banking service, as well as a cloud server for our wireless printers. I can walk outside with one card, buy a sandwich from a deli, purchase a textbook for a class, borrow an academic journal located 50 miles away, and print anything my heart desires. Yes, that is right, Kenyon embraces the Internet of Things (IoT). Our smartphones talk to our servers; our servers talk to our dorm-locks, our dorm-locks talk to our ID cards; etc. I never fear lack of WI-FI when I walk around our 1,200-acre campus. I don’t need to; it’s there. So how does this benefit me, the Kenyonian?

Here’s how in 10 easy, hypothetical steps:

Step 1:
It’s a lazy day.

Step 2:
I just finished up a 15-page paper on Symbolic Interactionism in bed, and I don’t particularly want to move.

Step 3:
But I’m hungry, and Peirce Hall, our cafeteria, is far away.

Step 4:
I don’t want to walk to Peirce, especially if the food options are slacking.

Step 5:
Me (speaking to my phone) “What is Peirce Hall’s Facebook status?”

Step 6:
Siri (In a monotone voice) “Peirce Hall’s Facebook status: Meat Loaf, Quinoa Pizza, Black Bean Burritos, Cincinnati Chili”

Step 7:
Me “Text Brea, I’m getting pizza, want some?”

Step 8:
Siri “Message Brea, I’m getting pizza, want some? Is that correct?”

Step 9:
Me “Correct. Call Papa John’s Pizza”

Step 10:
Siri “Calling, Papa Johns Pizza”

But the IoT is so much more than lazy-pizza shortcuts. The hypothetical paper I wrote? I can send it to a cloud server, and use my ID card to print it from any Xerox machine on campus. The research I did on symbolic interactionism? From the middle of nowhere rural Ohio, my computer was able to access nearly any-and-all respectable sociological journals. No travel necessary.

Kenyon is not the only school embracing the IoT.  Around the world, college campuses are evolving into IoT hotspots. Local to IPS, SUNY Stony Brook is implementing a system of “ibeacons” into its campus. These ibeacons, which integrate smartphone notifications with geographic data collection, will not only help freshman navigate a newly confusing and large campus, but will also act as accurate attendance collection devices, persuading and influencing students to be at the right place, at the right time. Additionally, these ibeacons will enable campus vendors to intelligently offer students specific deals on potentially valuable goods and services.

Moving on from Stony Brook, Dhairya Dand, a researcher at MIT has developed an intelligent ice-cube device, capable of measuring a person’s “beverage consumption” over the course of an evening. Dand’s device also acts as an emergency contact service; in the occurrence of overconsumption of alcohol, the smart ice cube will automatically message friends for assistance. These things, the beacons, the ice cubes, fit into college life, but more significantly, they influence it. With a little help from these things, the IoT, college students can live healthy, responsible lives, and can devote more energy towards education.

I know I am lucky to be a Kenyon student. A lot of people, unfortunately, have neither the finances nor the time to attend a college/university; however, the IoT acts to pressure these socioeconomic boundaries. People may now take online classes, for credit, flexibly from anywhere. Online journals and databases encourage swift, free exchange of information. The very identity of a college student is evolving. No longer must people leave home, quit day jobs, attend jazz ensembles, or love literature to be college students. A time warp backwards may influence my college experience, but I know that the future of college certainly is bright. Well, perhaps I shouldn’t speak on the future…

Back to College

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