Colleges and universities must continuously innovate to differentiate themselves and attract and retain students year after year. Before the pandemic, colleges and universities across the country had already invested in a wide variety of new solutions to enhance students’ overall educational and social experience on campus. These investments included improving campus safety, transportation, and emergency systems, designing more connected classrooms with smart technology, constructing green and high-design buildings, delivering elevated dining experiences, and much more. Some colleges had even forayed into the realm of robotics, trialing snack delivery robots on campus.
Over the past nearly 2 years, the COVID-19 pandemic forced many colleges and universities to rapidly shift the focus on innovation towards supporting remote coursework that would enable students to continue learning despite lockdowns, quarantines, and rapidly evolving state and federal guidelines. Once just a tiny fraction of a college’s total course offerings, online and hybrid learning modes became commonplace overnight. This required rapidly deploying new technologies, scaling existing online learning infrastructure to meet the sudden spike in demand, and training teachers and students to teach and learn in a new way.
In fall 2021, colleges and universities prepared--hopefully--for a return to normal. However, despite the widespread availability of vaccines, COVID infections continue to rise and new variants have emerged, signaling that the pandemic remains far from truly over. Against this backdrop, innovation continues to be a key priority for colleges and universities. The next wave of campus innovation will focus on improving college campuses' health and safety.
Demonstrating your institution's innovation and commitment to health and safety will help students, teachers, and staff feel safer coming on campus every day. It will also give parents confidence in sending their children to school, encourage alumni to return to on-campus donation events and provide support for these initiatives, attract prospective students to visit, and later bring their tuition dollars.
Here, robotics will emerge as a key player, no longer confined to engineering labs and science fiction. The following are five ways robots help campuses differentiate themselves, meet expectations for health and safety, rebuild confidence in on-campus experiences, and consistently enhance sustainability.
1. Robots Enable Physical Distancing
Even as vaccination rates increase across the country, the need for physical distancing remains. Physical distancing best practices are still essential for minimizing the spread of COVID, the flu, and other viruses by minimizing contact with those that are feeling unwell. Service and delivery robots make it easier for maintenance and service staff to maintain social distance and protect their health and safety. For example, service robots can deliver food to students that are ill without direct contact between students and staff; meanwhile, cleaning robots like robotic vacuum cleaners enable contactless cleaning while covering more square footage and kicking up less dust.
2. Data Provides Visibility and Drives Operational Efficiency
Robots offer a powerful tool that manual services cannot: near-to-real time data about their surroundings. This data can be integrated into an operations dashboard used to help prevent overcrowding (e.g., in laundry rooms), monitor supply and demand of stocked facilities items, and to see the cleanliness of a space. For example, Whiz, the commercial cleaning robot from SoftBank Robotics, provides measurable proof and visibility into what, when, and how each space is cleaned in real-time. Robots like Whiz also give you access to historical data and analytics to help your maintenance teams find operational efficiencies and improve service quality.
3. Robots Enhance Sustainability
The data available from robots also drives sustainability, helping service and maintenance teams optimize workflows, complete their work more efficiently, and reduce energy consumption. For example, robots can work in the dark, allowing your team to maintain higher levels of cleanliness by cleaning at all hours of the day while reducing the amount of time vast spaces have their lights on.
4. Robots Improve Indoor Air Quality for Better Cognitive Function
Cleaning robots like Whiz also help improve indoor air quality to support better cognitive function. Vacuuming your carpets daily with a vacuum with HEPA filtration will lift 99.9% of debris and allergens to keep those contaminants from being kicked into the air. A cleaning robot like Whiz from SoftBank Robotics can automate this process for you, making it easier to maintain pristine carpets and clean air throughout the campus--from the lounge to the library.
5. Robots Are Your Mascot for Innovation
Robots are highly visual, impossible to miss as they work and engage with people throughout the day. They evoke human’s natural curiosity. When you deploy robots on your campus, they instantly become your mascot for innovation: visible, marketable, and a concrete representation of all the behind-the-scenes you’ve made for health and safety already. For example, students and faculty appreciate seeing Whiz at work, knowing it is there to help keep them safe and healthy--a visual reminder of your commitment to their wellbeing.
Contact SoftBank Robotics today to learn how a cleaning robot like Whiz can bring your campus’s health and safety to the next level.