Today’s Lesson Plan: The Evolution from Pinocchio to Wireless Technology in K-12 Schools

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Disney's Pinocchio
Disney’s Pinocchio

Who would have thought that a puppet, magically brought to life, would offer sound advice for upgrading primary/K-12 schools? Well, Pinocchio did just that when he sang about going string-less. Or, should I say, going wireless…?!?! Sounds a bit tongue-in-cheek, I agree. However, the similarities are uncanny – take a moment to watch … and enjoy a good chuckle.

The reality is, when combined with networking and an intelligent Building Management System (BMS), the result makes integrated room controllers even more cost effective than when they’re working alone. The powerful combination of controllers, wireless technology and a BMS (for which there is, sadly, no snappy song) can be implemented in an incremental approach suitable for annual budgets.

Break the Strings!

SE8000_RCFirst, get rid of the strings that hold you down. An application-specific room controller can incorporate temperature, lighting and even ventilation control with occupancy and other sensors. Think of it as a 21st century version of a traditional thermostat, that is smart enough to know when students and faculty are present or not. It then takes the appropriate action, such as turning the temperature down on a snow day.

Wireless technology makes retrofitting an existing building much easier and less costly because not having to run wire saves an abundance of installation time and costs. Now, this wireless should be a standard industrial protocol, such as ZigBee or EnOcean. That ensures it has the right bandwidth, range, security, and power consumption. When used with BACnet or LonWorks, it’s possible to easily mix wired and wireless systems.

Piece the Puzzle

Networking is only part of the solution. The other part is integrating to a BMS. It provides computerized and complete management of room environmental control. Facilities managers can then optimize performance, reduce energy waste and save money.

AnEducationd, let’s not forget – all of this significantly improves student performance, attendance and experience inside the classroom (which trickles right on up to the teachers and faculty!). As a matter of fact, as noted in my last blog, green schools have reduced absenteeism by 15% and increased student test scores by 5%. That’s no small feat – and when you critically think about it, it’s quite intriguing.

A BMS does so much more than just adjust temperature. It can gather data from sensors and controllers from one or more buildings. It can provide alerts, alarms, real-time visualization, and aggregate reporting. It can also include control capability. For example, it can allow remote temperature adjustments or other settings in a room or zone, with this carried out via the web or a software interface.

Embrace the Extras

Let’s take it one step further. A truly intelligent BMS enables energy management in a holistic way. It can, for instance, pre-heat or pre-cool a room or rooms to an occupied set point. Say a classroom now empty will soon be full due to a scheduled evening conference. The building management system can put the room at a comfortable temperature before everyone arrives, keeping complaints at a minimum.

Also, the information a BMS collects is invaluable as it reduces risk and cost. Trends may signal that equipment needs repair before it breaks down, allowing repair to be proactively scheduled and not a reactive emergency. Armed with the data from a BMS, technicians can troubleshoot a problem before going on-site, making them more efficient.

This proactive approach can make school facility management more effective, with a greater capability for managers to better budget time and resources. It also makes it easier to mitigate hazards that impact security and safety.

It Is Affordable & Attainable

That’s great, but you’re probably saying by now, “show me the money!” or tell me how to fund this. After all the stringent budget restrictions in most schools are no secret – and no joke. Well, in mostPiggy Bank cases, this new technology is installed as an upgrade to an existing facility. So, the answer is to divide and conquer. Start by identifying schools or buildings with the most need and installing the solution there first. Then, as appropriate, expand and add networking and a BMS. The various steps could take months or even years – overlapping at times. But the ROI is nearly immediate and this staggered approach is not only sensible, it’s practical. Consider adding a BMS, for instance, as soon as the first building is upgraded. They help further planning and action, maximizing the payoff.

Remember when I said that going wireless saves installation time? A wireless integrated room controller can be installed by a single electrician in less than an hour. So, no downtime for your school and no interruption to your students very important learning experience.

Study Time

I encourage you to also research other ways to manage the cost. For example, tap all possible revenue sources, including incentives from local, state and federal governments. Don’t neglect privately-funded rebates and low interest loans either. These benefits are here for you – take advantage of them!

Most important is to make sure your vendor has the expertise and the resources to handle your project. That means having a full range of capabilities, with scalable solutions that follow standards. Of course, they should also should have ample experience in the education segment and understand your pain points, drivers and priorities.

Do all that, and you’ll could be singing your own snappy song – without having to resort to magic to make your dream come true. When you do, will you share it with me?

Dig a bit deeper – download these free white papers, authored by real experts in wireless technology, building automation and the education segment:

So, what are your thoughts on employing wireless technology in your school? Let’s talk about it – spark up a discussion below!

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