Digital transformation within the student accommodation market is being driven both through residents’ demands and from within the market. 

Bruce Girdlestone

Bruce Girdlestone

The digitally native Gen Z student fully expects technology to be seamless and to support their needs transparently.

Since COP26 in 2021, there has also been a greater focus on sustainability and environmentally conscious practices, engaging residents and investors alike on buildings and their operations.

Buildings are responsible for 40% of global energy consumption and 33% of greenhouse gas emissions. Following the current energy crisis, the spotlight has moved on to the need for better efficiency to contribute towards a collective goal for net zero by 2030. There is a greater focus on empowering energy-saving actions towards sustainability, while providing transparency about such progression.

Real-time, data-enabled ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT) technology will be at the heart of future sustainable student accommodation. For residents who are now spending more time than ever in their accommodation, the technology provides optimum conditions for wellbeing, study and transparent traceability of sustainable efforts. Using best-in-class IoT solutions will provide deep insight into building performance and resident behaviour, while providing a range of business benefits to an operator.

The IoT technology consists of physical objects – with sensors and processing ability – that connect and exchange data with other devices and systems over the internet.

IoT devices offer various solutions, such as energy management – a vital tool for energy efficiency that minimises costs in buildings and contributes to increasing asset values. It is not just about energy; IoT technology can provide sophisticated artificial-intelligence-driven CCTV security and air-quality monitoring for the health of residents and valuable insight into space utilisation with footfall and dwell-time analytics.

Recorded data on energy usage can be used to manage building systems and inform and engage residents to incentivise a more environmentally conscious approach. This insight into energy usage and wastewater leaks offers value to the accommodation provider through insightful and actionable information, enabling cost efficiencies and resident satisfaction.

Ethical investment

In addition, environmentally friendly accommodation enabled by new technology offers ethical investment opportunities, greener daily operations, lower costs and an ethical lifestyle for students. The focus of technologies associated with improving the ESG credentials of developments is to maximise the outcomes for all parties through intelligent data.

New technology enables the collection of valuable data, which facilitates the development of innovative approaches for combating high energy costs and emissions, offering transparency and better services and ultimately driving prosperity in our industry.

Technology that blends high-speed, reliable connectivity with sensors and data analytics is essential for the student accommodation sector to meet its environmental targets.

IoT technology offers operators a solution for rising energy costs, meeting investor and resident demands and ensuring authenticity in meeting ESG targets. The number of IoT devices worldwide is forecast to triple from 9.7 billion in 2020 to more than 29 billion in 2030, and they are already bringing tangible benefits in other sectors that can apply to student accommodation.

Implementing IoT technology requires strong and robust managed networks over resilient infrastructure. This infrastructure is the foundation of new technologies and enables operators to future-proof their buildings for when the next innovation arrives.

However, ultimately, it is about the student, and by collaborating across the industry to embed this strong foundation in buildings and overlay advanced technologies such as IoT, there is an opportunity to provide better- value services and experiences for future generations.

Bruce Girdlestone is sales director at utilities, connectivity and communication services provider Glide