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Technology leaders are predicting a future where everything is connected, commerce happens digitally, and automation is in all spheres of our lives.

This is a future of autonomous cars and electric airplanes, of self-learning AI buildings in carbon-neutral neighborhoods. This future will be driven by people demanding cleaner air and carbon-free energy, and enabled by technology that unlocks competitively–priced, renewable electricity and sustainable, on-demand mobility. Universities and colleges will need to reflect these changes, both to attract the best and brightest faculty and students, and to ensure that their campus contributes positively to the community.

How can universities and colleges upgrade their current systems to take part in this future? Most campuses reflect larger cities: they contain both historic and modern buildings, have an internet and electricity grid that meets today’s needs with little margin, and aspire to increase their usage of renewably-sourced electricity. This means that campuses can benefit from the same smart technologies that are making cities cleaner and more efficient. Digital technology has fundamentally changed how we learn and access information. As we move to the virtual in many parts of our lives, education remains necessary to train systems thinkers for digitally-oriented jobs that don’t even exist yet. However, digitalization will not change the fact that employers will want engineers with real-world experience, and future entrepreneurs will deliver a couple of projects before building their own start-up. Universities and colleges can create these opportunities with a smart campus where students actively engage with and manage systems.

This technology future is not that far off, and campuses can start creating a high-functioning digital system today. Users are increasingly demanding that technology be interoperable with new components from any manufacturer, and can be incrementally scaled up over time, which means that universities and colleges face less risk of their investments becoming “stranded assets.” Instead, cities and campuses are seeing benefits from being a “first mover” in adopting new technologies.

In the “Campus of the Future”, Siemens proposes using technology as an innovative attractor to boost a campus’ reputation and to better prepare its graduates. This report examines what is possible, today and into the future, for campus energy, buildings, and transport. It is firmly grounded in the realities of limited budgets, and highlights where revenue could be created, or costs saved. The result is a roadmap illustrating how a university or college dean could lead their campus towards a connected, efficient and sustainable future.

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Critical to the success of universities and higher education facilities will be their ability to adapt to the changing trends in where, how and when we all learn. It is important that university leaders consider the physical future of their campuses in light of changing educational trends. The following considers how some of the global educational trends may impact physical campuses.

Digital learning is reshaping the role of the campus as universities offer more distance and part-time programs. Campuses will need to cater to part-time students who may take the odd class across the week or be there full-time for a limited number of weeks per year. This means managing space to have a flexible supply of housing and study spaces. Campus information and communications infrastructure will need to seamlessly connect students to educational materials, each other and the professor, even when some or all of them are off-site. Campus wayfinding and internal communications apps are likely to become ever more necessary to connect people when they are physically present.

Remote learning requires best available communication bandwidth to ideally transmit live video streams to a large amount of receivers. To achieve the best results, universities must use the best available communication technology to let the physical distance between teachers and students appear as small as possible.

Student demographics are becoming more diverse, including a rising demand for life-long learning. Changing student demographics may mean less demand for on-campus residential space, but more on-campus meeting and or shared spaces. Digital occupancy and space allocation apps will become all the more important, requiring sensors in individual rooms and areas where walls can be moved. In addition, accessibility to and across the campus will be important and transport will need to cater to a wider range of ages and physical abilities.

There is an increasingly commercial relationship between universities and students, with students expecting quality experiences and spaces in return for their tuition payment, as well as a return on their investment in the degree.

Universities are leveraging data to improve all aspects of the educational experience and physical campus, including recruitment and admissions, facility operations, student experiences, and sustainability. Benefiting from data-driven decision-making, campuses need to install the required sensor, monitors, or reporting procedures to collect the data, and implement software solutions that can clean and analyze data to extract trends and recommendations.

Digitalization and automation is expected to continue to disrupt many employment areas. There may be more of a need for campuses to reflect this change and move away from lecture halls to more project space with a wider variety of equipment and technologies, especially as automation is expected to disrupt even more sectors. Universities must ensure that programs teaching high demand skills have adequate resources and give students the opportunity to gain hands-on, on-campus experience with emerging technologies like distributed energy systems and renewable power generation.

Critical energy projects usually require substantial amounts of start-up money. However, schools and institutions of higher education can fund new energy management and microgrid projects in a number of new and innovative ways including Energy Performance Contracts, Power Purchase Agreements, Internal and Public Sector Financing, and Green Banks and Funding.

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The digital aspect of learning is changing fast, programs and outreach to students is changing, but in many ways the physical university or college campus has not yet had the same deep structural change. Following are some technology trends in the areas of energy, buildings, security and mobility, which will be impacting campuses.

Renewable Energy

Universities are significant energy consumers, very often their campuses have buildings and land that make good locations for hosting clean energy projects.

High Performance Building Automation System

Building automation and controls, which are responsible for control of indoor environmental quality, are not being used to their full potential. High performing systems result in excellent energy performance and highly motivated and productive students and staff.

Centralized and integrated building function

Desigo CC from Siemens enables all building systems to communicate, integrating the management of multiple disciplines, from heating, ventilation and air conditioning to lighting and shading, power, fire safety and security.

Building Data Analytics

Building data analytics software, like Navigator from Siemens, enables campus managers to improve their equipment efficiency to reduce energy costs while maintaining user comfort.

Digital workplace experience

Smart Apps offer the ability to connect, control, and communicate with the environment. Their features help users adjust lighting, find and book available rooms and desks, and share feedback.


Biometric access control for campuses, buildings and rooms via fingerprint, iris-scan, face recognition, voice recognition or palm vein biometrics is becoming increasingly important as a safety factor.


Drones, already widely used in the security industry, can be applied for security guard tours as they are capable of patrolling more rapidly and extensively than human guards, as well as being unimpeded by physical barriers on the ground.

Connected autonomous E-vehicles

Connected autonomous e-vehicles will revolutionize campuses’ transport, replacing circulating bus systems with flexible systems that help students and staff to reach any destination at any time.

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Imagine a campus where renewable electricity feeds into a virtual power plant, which balances energy supply and demand and fuels electric, e-hailed vehicles traveling between automatically climate-optimized and predictively-maintained buildings. These benefits are actually possible today.

Following are some of today’s energy, buildings, security and mobility technologies that are creating the Campus of the Future right now.


Solar Photovoltaic Panels

The established technology of solar photovoltaic panels create renewable and carbon free electricity on-site. Excess electricity can be fed back into the conventional grid.


Microgrids are small power grids that can supply subscribers with electricity largely independent of the conventional power grid. They can decouple from the grid if necessary and go into island operation in case of grid failures or blackouts.

District Heating and Cooling Systems

District heating or cooling is an efficient method of delivering either heat or cooling for indoor spaces to a number of buildings on a campus. A central energy generation plant generates steam or chilled water and transports it via a pipeline network to buildings, where heat exchangers pass the energy to individual buildings.

Demand Response

Demand Response (DR) programs, enabled by smart meters, provides an opportunity for campuses to reduce or shift their electricity usage during peak periods in response to financial incentives. Some universities may have labs or particular buildings where this technology could be applied.

Virtual Power Plants

A virtual power plant is an association of decentralized electricity producing units coordinated via a common control system allowing the flexible aggregation of power from the connected assets.

On-site Energy Storage

On-site energy storage, via batteries or thermal storing, allows excess electricity or heat within a system to be stored within the same system without requiring any alignment with the electricity grid.


Building Information Modeling

BIM is a construction-based planning and control method supported by digital technologies. It simplifies planning, construction and operation; reduces the risk of errors; makes costs transparent; increases the speed of processes and strengthens the cooperation.

Building Management Systems

A BMS allows for the integration and exchange of information about HVAC, energy management, fire safety, access control, or video surveillance systems, allowing for enhanced functionality, process transparency and security in buildings.

Grid-Interactive Buildings

Grid-interactive buildings are able to communicate directly with the power grid, enabling them to feed electricity into the grid, thereby turning the building into a power plant.

Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning

HVAC is used in buildings to maintain internal air quality, and regulate internal temperatures and internal humidity. It is mostly controlled by a building management system to maximize occupant comfort and minimize energy consumption.

Ground Source Heat

Ground Source Heat pumps use electricity to raise the temperature of the heat taken up from the ground to a level that can be used for space heating via underfloor heating systems or radiators.

Air-source Heat Pumps

Air-source heat pumps use the external air as a primary heat source to provide heat and hot water for buildings. They run on electricity, but extract heat that is constantly replenished naturally.

Performance Monitoring

Solutions, like the Siemens analytics tool Navigator, create full transparency around the operation of campuses. It is a software that analyzes long-term building consumption and reports on building processes.

Digital Asset Management

Digital asset management uses active or passive RFID, Bluetooth or Wifi technology to track location of assets. A software is used to monitor and record location of thousands of devices.

Security, Fire and Life Safety

Security Management

Security management systems integrate fire safety, access control, intrusion detection and video surveillance allowing for information exchange between systems.

Video Surveillance

Intelligent video analytics solutions like Siemens Site IQ can help automate video analysis recognizing objects like vehicles or persons entering policy zones or crossing virtual fences allowing surveillance to focus on potentially important events.

Access Control Systems

Access control compares ID information received by a card reader, a keypad or a camera with centrally stored personal data, and depending on matching results grants access to a room or resource.

Intrusion Detection Systems

Intrusion detection systems in buildings typically include sensors on all external doors and accessible windows, together with movement detectors to cover critical areas.

Fire and Life Safety

Technology available today can use lights and variable sign postings to guide people to safe exits. Fire systems can be adapted to whatever may be in the building, which is particularly important in the case of libraries and laboratories.

Mass Notification Systems

A mass notification system like Desigo Mass Notification improve safety and security of single buildings or a whole campus by providing alerts and real-time instruction to students, employees and the public during a crisis.


Electric Vehicles

Electric fleet and personal vehicles will require a local charging infrastructure and, for full benefits, access to low-carbon electricity; charging infrastructure does not have to be expensive.

On-Demand, Digital Campus Transit

Digitalization of mobility is creating changes across the sector. Existing campus transit can be optimized with digital technology while smart phone apps help students hail shuttles or reserve ebikes.

Electric Bike Sharing

eBike sharing provides access to a low-carbon, cost-effective way to move around campus, without students having to purchase, maintain and park their own eBikes.

Monitored Walking Routes

Monitored, safe walking routes let students know which routes are well lit, most frequently used, monitored by camera or police patrol, or have frequent emergency signal stations; they can be paired with a mobile app.

Disabled Transport Technologies

Mobility for disabled students and staff can be improved with on-demand shuttles, and with wayfinding apps for the visually impaired.

Campus Space and Asset Management

Data Platforms

A data platform retrieves data from multiple sources and mines the data to create new information. For example, it allows for predictive maintenance on specific items which can directly lower repair costs and improve overall equipment effectiveness.

Indoor positioning

Indoor positioning systems allow for wayfinding and online tracking of people and assets inside of buildings. The same functions which are known from outdoor GPS systems are now also available indoors.

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On the Campus of the Future, today’s digital technologies will have scaled up and become fully integrated. Investments today lay the groundwork for future innovations and benefits, like grid-interactive buildings that synergize with automation software and artificial intelligence to optimize energy efficiency. Following are some of technologies you’ll encounter in the Campus of the Future. To learn more about these technologies, download the full “Campus of the Future” report.


Energy Profiling

All staff and students will access real-time statistics about their personal energy usage. This will raise awareness about resource management and enable personal decisions to reduce consumption, decreasing the campus’ overall carbon footprint.

Low-Carbon Heat

Heat will be decarbonized using a mix of renewable electricity, thermal storage, ground-source heat, and efficient management of building climates.


Future-Proof Buildings

Buildings will consider the requirements of the present as well as the technical demands of the future, accommodating technologies which don’t exist at the time of construction. Universities will have to be flexible to cope with fast changing educational models and student demographics, using buildings to support that dynamism.

Grid-Interactive Buildings

Grid-interactive buildings will consume, generate, and store energy, reduce their own energy consumption, and communicate with the power grid, reacting to price signals from the utility.

Performance Monitoring and Data as a Service

In addition to monitoring consumption data, Performance Monitoring will analyze performance of building heating, ventilation and air-conditioning processes in real-time and also autonomously optimize comfort and energy efficiency.

Smart Environmental Controls

Location-based services will allow building users to define their own individual comfort profiles that travel with them to any location in the building as their personal comfort bubble. Services are adjusted before the student or staff even steps out of the elevator.

Flexible, Customized Workstations

Building management systems will use digital appointment calendars to arrange users’ workstations in line with their preferences before they arrive and save energy when a user is not present.

Interactive Building Communications

Building systems will use cameras and microphones for user communication via voice commands and gestures or run through a smartphone app that utilizes cameras and microphones.

Security, Fire and Life Safety


On campuses, drone deliveries could free up road space by transporting goods through the air and enhance campus security with aerial surveillance.

Security Ground Robots

Security ground robots can be autonomous driving cars with cameras for surveillance purposes or robots that deactivate explosive devices.

Smart Glasses

Smart glasses have a display, audio output, camera, microphone, GPS, internet access, Bluetooth connectivity. They can also download and run apps and can be used by security personnel to quickly identify individuals.


Wearables like cameras and smart watches transmit health conditions and video footage of a security guard to a Command & Control center to increase personal security and to create video evidence of emergencies and incidents.

Biometric Verification

At site perimeters or building entrances, biometric systems increase security check speed and prevent queues using fingerprint or facial recognition identify individuals quickly and reliably.

AI Security Cameras

CCTV cameras enabled with AI can use real-time information to stop crime from actually happening, or to zero in on the perpetrator before they are able to escape.


Autonomous Vehicles

Autonomous vehicles will provide on-demand transport around campus, and simplify logistics and deliveries with precisely-timed, convenient trips.

Campus Space and Asset Management

Digital Monitoring and Management

Rooms can be remotely monitored to ensure safety and avoid conflict or under-use, while all campus assets and equipment can be digitally tracked to prevent loss or theft. All the data generated by these systems will allow for in-depth analysis of use patterns.

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The smart systems described here unlock new opportunities to grow and leverage the sharing economy on campuses. Universities are already at the forefront of blurring the boundaries between workspace and homes, but a smart campus can take this a step further.

The top 10 long-term goals for the built environment provide huge benefits to campus users. Among the possibilities are:

  1. Digital twins for all new buildings
  3. Net zero energy for all new buildings
  5. Comprehensive smart building technology
  7. Highest performance automated control systems, from HVAC to door security
  9. Multi-functional and future-proof design to ease flexibility
  11. Technical cooperation and interaction between entire building blocks
  13. Intensified integration of private buildings with public utilities and transportation
  15. Improved relationships between buildings and their environment
  17. Healthier work-live-learn spaces
  19. Optimized work productivity
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Campus of the Future

Global Center of Competence
Cities - Urban Development

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