The University of Cambridge has begun adopting wireless connectivity across departments as it hopes to create seamless digital experiences for students and researchers.
As one of the UK's top five universities, Cambridge spotted the need to join up its 180 different faculties, colleges and departments with wireless connectivity.
To achieve this, it has been working in partnership with global networking firm Aruba, although this relationship originally began a decade ago when the university was only a customer of Aruba's hotspot service for individual departments.
Years later, Aruba now provides the university with a tier-one service that includes wireless connectivity throughout.
"It's become more strategic in our organisation overall, it's giving data back to the organisation to help them make better decisions," Jon Holgate, head of infrastructure at the University of Cambridge told Computerworld UK at Aruba Atmosphere this week on the Croation coast.
"We've migrated from just a technology deployment of wireless or a seamless end-to-end wireless solution, to really thinking about how we can start extracting datasets that are useful to inform the way the university collaborates."
Holgate told us of how the partnership with Aruba was displayed in 2014. During this time, the Tour de France passed through Cambridge and Aruba worked with the university to provide public Wi-Fi across the local city centre.
The university has also been able to use Aruba's network when providing connectivity between medical researchers, hospitals and Cambridge's county council.
"We've been working with the county council about supporting the 5G test bed, so we support a lot of test networks, whether it be a LoRaWan or whatever it might be," he added. "So the university is aware that it has a strategic responsibility within the city to support things that aren't just within the university itself.
"It's about enabling that sense of openness and collaboration where people can grow within the city, and then internationally."
As a large research and academic hub, the University of Cambridge requires close collaboration with other organisations, businesses and institutions, and this means handling the data in a secure and open manner.
"One of the challenges for the organisation at the moment is getting available data to start making good business decisions," Holgate said. "And really, one of the key drivers at the moment is to try to extract useful data analytics and data sets whether that be out of the network or through high performance."
Holgate explains how the use of wireless connectivity will enable transparency among partners, while providing the ability to consume data in different locations.
"These are strategic engagements that we're doing with these organisations, we're having to work closely with them and I think there's a lot to be done around going back to data analysis," he added.
Where Aruba comes in
"We're generating enormous amounts of data, which is going to tell us an enormous amount about our estate, its capacity, carbon footprint, efficiency, how people are moving around, planning, architectural design, security and more," Holgate said.
"I think we're going to start leveraging that, and I'm expecting Aruba to play a role in that."
The university hopes to expand its experiences to a level where the network will not just be available based on connectivity, but also provide access to a range of academic tools for students and research departments.
According to Holgate, Aruba's network provides the openness to spread across multiple departments at once.
"So hugely, it's leveraging a single asset to meet all of those. The wireless is an example of where it is providing end-user computing, but it's supporting tests as well," he explained.
"It's the same wireless network, the same technology, it's all Aruba. You can still onboard there and access Facebook, emails or whatever it will be but it's also a research tool at the same time.
"So, it's about all of our deployments, and we're keeping it consistent, portable and efficient but enabling it for research as well."