What is a smart campus?

There is no single way to define a smart campus, nor is there a right way to create and organize a suite of technologies and experiences that help connect students and faculty.

Research firm Deloitte offers a general definition, noting that the term “is used to describe organizations that use next-generation technologies seamlessly woven within a well-designed infrastructure.” These campuses are designed to facilitate three goals: improving the student experience, increasing operational efficiency, and enhancing education.

One institution that is currently transforming itself into a smart campus is the University of Kentucky. According to Heath Price, associate chief information officer at the university, “Our inspiration was that we’d spent 20 years with technology being a major component and driver of things we do on campus. We wanted to bring together big tables of people with subject matter expertise and create a campus that wasn’t just Technology for technology’s sake.”

Read more: How a smart campus can reinvent the student experience.

How do smart universities work?

Smart campuses allow students and staff to get things done more efficiently and enjoy new experiences using technology. This could include solutions such as cloud-based student access portals for class schedules and resources, digital signage that helps students navigate campus buildings, integrated tools that help professors better communicate with students or help research teams reduce time between data analysis and results.

In the case of the UK, for example, Price says: “Our first initiative tended to be a partnership with Apple, which gave us the opportunity to put technology in the hands of every student. Kentucky is a mix of rural and urban, and we draw from those two regions. We had Groups of students who came with very primitive technology. This was a way to equip them.”

The price suggests that the UK is also inclined towards esports. In contrast to the highly competitive programs favored by many other schools, he notes, “Our approach is different. We’ve taken the path that we want to support esports by supporting the broader gaming community. We lean toward the fun side of what it is and the more casual nature of gaming.” .

explore: Collegiate esports programs offer academic pathways.

What technology helps create a smart campus?

When it comes to building a smart campus, three elements are important:


As mentioned above, Wi-Fi is high on students’ priority list, and a reliable connection—whether wired or wireless—is critical to helping staff create and deliver compelling hybrid content. As a result, network infrastructure that supports new networking standards such as Wi-Fi 6 and 5G is essential for smart campuses.


The right apps make a huge difference to student and staff experiences. From streamlined web portals that allow students to quickly access and make changes to their schedules to cloud-based educational resources that help staff design connected lessons, apps are essential.


The smarter the campus, the higher the security risk. why? As intelligent environments grow, so does the number of endpoints and the risk of compromise. Solutions such as multi-factor authentication, endpoint detection and response, and identity and access management play a role in protecting smart campuses.

Smart campuses, sustainable benefits of higher education

Building a smart campus isn’t just about spending on new technology to keep up with the neighbors. Instead, it is about finding solutions that deliver sustainable success for students.

“We have an initiative that started in 2022 called UK Investments,” says Price. “It focuses the early education of our students on the importance of time, value, money, and saving for their future. We have a partner on iGrad, which provides online resources, and we work with Fidelity on the investment side. In 2023, we gave students access to this app.”

When it comes to the biggest benefits of smart universities, Price makes it clear that people are the priority. “It’s all about connecting people and the feeling people get when they’re a part of something,” he says. “It’s about helping different people connect, and a smart campus is one way to help make that happen.”

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