Sustainability is a hot topic unlikely to go away. As a practice it takes many forms. It can refer to the diversion of waste, improved efficiency in resource uses, and ultimately is about maintaining constant and managed levels of whatever it refers to, and most especially natural resources with the intent of maintaining our global environment. These are big topics that we read about and hear about in the news, so how can we bring them down to McMaster campus level?
At the recent IT Forum, I mentioned in my opening remarks that the IT Trash to Treasure pilot, which focuses on IT waste diversion, was a great success. In no small part, the success was because of the amazing partnership between McMaster students and staff. According to Kate Whelan, our Senior Manager, Academic Sustainability Programs, our efforts resulted in more than 100 computers being collected, sanitized, refurbished, licensed and then donated to at-risk youth within the community. An excellent example of collaboration, innovation and creativity. This pilot is being extended so we can keep learning about the best way to gather and divert IT waste – in other words, you are all part of a living lab experiment! Please do continue to support this project. You can request free pick-up, or search for McMaster Facility Services and Waste on the web to learn more. Please share this with your colleagues.
In addition to tangible waste diversion projects, we are also exploring ways that our campus facilities can focus on reducing energy use by tracking information from our wireless access points as part of the Cisco Smart Building Occupancy Proof of Concept. This project has been running for almost a year, gathering occupancy data that could be utilized to better evaluate the heating and cooling needs of campus buildings. The intent of the project to date has been to evaluate the data in order to evaluate the feasibility of this approach to gathering data and its potential for operational use. This is a ‘smart’ facilities style initiative and just one of many that we hope McMaster can develop over the next few years. Other universities are also exploring these initiatives, too.
Data is at the root of most ‘Smart’ or ‘Intelligent’ city projects. In the McMaster IT Strategic Plan we refer to these as ‘digital spaces’ initiatives. You have likely heard the phrase “Data is the new oil” which refers to the value of data as a commodity or resource that can be utilized to make money. It can also help us to make ‘Smart’ decisions that can improve the way our facilities function on campus. And it is presumed that by building smarter cities and campuses, we can also improve the life of those who live and work there.
In a similar light, and in partnership with our partners in Facilities, we are about to launch an initiative that will explore the design and building systems for the new Degroote School of Business building in order for us to begin outlining a ‘Smart Campus’ strategy which could include standards for systems and technology for all new or renovated buildings. This is a long game, so we aren’t yet sure how it will pan out, however it is an important first step.
The City of Hamilton is also on a Smart City journey. They recently hired a Chief Digital Officer, Cyrus Tehrani, to accelerate their approach. I met Cyrus last fall when he was still working with St. Joseph’s as their Director of Digital Solutions – and he is a Mac grad! We are discussing ways we can work with the City of Hamilton to create an ecosystem that will benefit the campus and the city and we are in the early stages of planning an on campus event this spring where we can highlight various projects that are taking place throughout the municipality and campus related to this theme. Stay tuned for more information on that idea.
You may have recently read that Hamilton was named one of the seven Top Intelligent Communities of the Year (ICF ). McMaster contributed to the application that made that possible and it signals the importance of our broad municipal partnerships. This means that the ICF committee will be coming to Hamilton for a closer look at what we are doing, which in turn may spur more sustainable and ‘smart’ activities in this area. There are already a number of McMaster research projects that have affiliations with the City – most notably through the CityLab innovation hub. I anticipate that as we explore new innovations in network technology and continue to think about how we can leverage energy efficiency and improved building standards, we will see more opportunities for integrative approaches like this.
That’s how I see IT this week – have a great start to the month of March!