To solve its classroom scheduling problems, Netherlands-based Drenthe College turned to IoT powered by Winvision, a Microsoft CityNext partner.
According to the school, staff were facing the same problems many schools go through. With 11,000 students, finding free classrooms and meeting spaces and establishing a working schedule for when these would be occupied proved difficult.
In dealing with this problem, the school has constructed several new buildings over the past 10 years. Supposedly, staff also took to manually counting the number of students and staff in a classroom at any given time to predict usage.
But despite these efforts, new space was still not being used effectively. Estimates of classroom usage during afternoons found that, in some buildings, up to 35 percent of the rooms stood empty, but some students and staff were still spending at least 15 minutes looking for an available room.
A smarter solution
In a bid to tackle the problem, Drenthe partnered with Dutch IoT company Winvision, a partner of Microsoft CityNext, which focuses on smart city projects.
Replacing Drenthe’s outdated scheduling system, Winvision targeted underutilized spaces by installing over 500 Bluetooth-enabled sensors throughout the college. These sensors track movement and sound to determine whether or not a room is being used. They also gather data such as temperature, humidity, and CO2 levels, to provide a comprehensive view of the environment in that room.
That data gets fed into Microsoft’s Azure IoT hub, which connects to the school’s scheduling system and uses Azure Stream Analytics to provide real-time updates about each room.
Students can also now access the scheduling system via a mobile application, allowing them to see if a room is free, what the temperature is like in there and book it online. And with Azure Machine Learning, the system is able to better predict room availability for the week ahead.
Immediate and unexpected benefits
The mobile application means the search for rooms no longer takes up valuable time, meaning that students and staff aren’t wandering the halls in their search. Overall room usage has jumped to 85 percent from 65 percent in September 2016, when the technology was deployed.
However, in addition to solving the college’s immediate scheduling problems, Drenthe claims it has saved $163,897 a year in energy costs, due to the environmental data collected. It has also used the system to track the location of school laptops and even predict drop-out risk for students.
The project has been so successful, Winvision claims, that it has since helped to install over 3,000 additional sensors at colleges around the Netherlands.