Boston – Drones will be the shepherds of the robots on a clean campus in the near future. That was just one of the messages about the future of facility management in higher education that emerged from the first annual Planon Higher Education Symposium, held in September 2017 at the Harvard Club of Boston.
The event brought together university and college personnel from the United States and Europe, along with other experts in higher education and technology, to share ideas about how technical innovation is transforming higher education.
The symposium’s interactive workshops generated a plethora of intriguing scenarios about the smart campus of the future. Participants were asked to focus on a common facility management business process of their choosing, and to design a speculative scenario in which emerging technologies could remove friction points from the process.
One of the groups focused on litter and trash removal – the concept of a constantly “clean campus” – and envisioned the use of robots to roam the campus doing the actual pickup, while drones scouted locations where service was needed and guided the robots to these areas. Other workgroups created similar scenarios around equipment maintenance and financial processing, enlisting technologies such as BIM, artificial intelligence, machine learning and 3-D printing to speed up work and eliminate sticking points in workflow. The exercise assumed a 5-year window for implementation.
The daylong event, sponsored by Planon Corporation also included presentations from two European universities – Lancaster University in the United Kingdom and Wageningen University in the Netherlands – about their advanced facility management processes, and the importance of communities in promoting the distinctive requirements of the academic world in managing facilities and real estate. Other sessions focused on specific technological and management needs in the world of higher education.
“We are a relatively recent entrant in the North American market, so this symposium gave us an opportunity to share with clients and friends in the United States and Canada the many lessons we have learned in our 30 years of meeting client needs worldwide, said Fred Guelen, North American CEO and global CFO of Planon.”