10/10/2013 09:26 am ET Updated Jan 23, 2014

Knowing Everything -- When You Need To Know It

Imagine a future where learning happens spontaneously within and beyond the walls of educational institutions -- where you have immediate, contextualized access to what you need to know to improve every aspect of your life. Imagine learning institutions that work effectively and efficiently to maximize personal learning time and access for all in a secure, sustainable, and nurturing environment. In the future, massive connectivity will enable learning to be connected, integrated, flexible, and meaningful for all, everywhere, anytime.

Today, the Internet connects people to many things. In the future, it will connect them to processes and data as well. This is the Internet of Everything (IoE) and it has the potential to make education more relevant, engaging, and motivating. Recognizing this potential to transform the way we learn and the billion dollar education economy, Cisco Consulting Services (CCS) and the Cisco Europe/Middle East/Africa region education team have examined the potential and value of the IoE in education across four fundamental pillars: PEOPLE, PROCESS, DATA and THINGS.


Research has shown that access to real-time information and engagement with experts truly impacts learning. One example is the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, where human biology is taught to secondary schools though video conferencing-based laparoscopic surgery. One surgeon talks about the features and functions of the heart and the procedure while another performs the surgery. At the same time, students can ask questions. The result is increased motivation, with more learners aspiring to become nurses, doctors, or medical technicians.

The IoE will help people find each other faster -- whether they are within an educational institution, an expert outside of it, or an enthusiast with deep knowledge and experience. As each individual becomes a "node" on the network, people will be able to connect to the work of leading experts and to peers who have similar passions and interests. In this way, people will share ideas, discuss and research the latest developments in their area of study, and develop increasingly connected communities of practice.


With the correct process, connections become relevant and value is added because the right information is delivered to the right person, at the right time, in an appropriate way.

The "Internet of School Things" is one of the first projects to explore this approach. Announced in August 2013, the U.K. secondary school project teaches learners about using connected everyday devices to bring other subjects to life by collecting data related to transportation, energy, weather, and health. Learners are taught to use existing devices or build their own products and sensors, bring them online, and monitor variables of their choosing.

Connected processes can also improve the efficiency of an educational institution to preserve scarce resources for direct student impact. Council Rock School District (CRSD), the ninth-largest in Pennsylvania, used a state-of-the-art networking infrastructure to integrate heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems to monitor, control, and report energy use of network devices and facilities equipment. The process enables the IT department to power-off devices and computers remotely at a given time, wake up devices for maintenance work, or turn off devices during holiday and vacation periods. The district has cut power consumption by more than 40 percent since the program's inception, a savings of $8.8 million in 2012.

Rather than just report raw data, connected things will send higher-level information back to machines, computers, and people for further evaluation and quicker decision-making.

For example, Future City Glasgow is a project that uses data collected by people who walk or cycle through the city to encourage "active travel." The raw data is combined, analyzed, and made available to all by phone so anyone can find the most direct, flattest and off road route to their destination by bike or foot based on the most current conditions. The Glasgow project will be integrated with school curriculums, allowing learners to develop the skills and knowledge for producing and using data, as well as learn how to solve local issues with emerging technologies.

A more direct example of using IoE data for learning is through access to massive research data sets. Learners can monitor programs on oceanography or climate change, or watch animals in real time in their natural habitat through webcams and then collect data on their movements through sensors attached to the animals' bodies. The authenticity of such data has a huge impact on learners' interests.

Things become part of the IoE when they have sensors or other ways to capture data and become context-aware, providing more experiential information to help people and machines make relevant and valuable decisions.

Sensors within school environments provide important feedback on movement and activity that may be used to increase safety and efficiency or scheduling and resource allocation. The implementation of Cisco surveillance technology in schools in Oakland, Calif., has reduced concern about personal safety at school and improved attendance. Special cameras and sensors are configured remotely to increase the accuracy and timeliness of emergency responses. By connecting these devices to school networks, school administrators now have excellent coverage of all entrances, exits, public areas, parking lots, and bus stops.

Connection = Transformation

The Internet of Everything is built on the connections between these four dimensions: people, processes, data, and things. Each amplifies the capabilities of the other, and it is in their intersection that the true power of IoE is realized. As director of the Cisco Consulting Services (CCS) Education Practice, I have worked with K-12 education systems and higher education institutions in Australia, Jordan, India, Israel, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and the United States. I see how transformation is happening in both formal learning and skills development. At the end of October, we will release a white paper that begins to explore the potential of IoE in education called Education and the Internet of Everything: How Ubiquitous Connectedness Can Help Transform Pedagogy. We invite you to share your ideas about how the connection of People, Process, Data and Things will change the way we learn. Share your story at #IoE or add a comment.

How is your organization using the Internet of Everything to improve the world? Share your story and join the #IoE conversation with @CiscoCSR on Twitter.