Finally, here it is: Ubi@Physicum, the pilot premises of the Ubikampus project. A thousand square metres of open-plan office space and meeting facilities on the top floor of the Kumpula Campus Library. At first glance, the space appears to be a run-of-the-mill office. The walls are shining white. The workstations stand in neat rows. Here and there, there are clusters of sofas and armchairs. On the side, there are small meeting rooms.
First impressions, however, are deceptive, as the premises contain a lot of smart technology and ubiquitous computing.
Those entering the premises can start by checking the large map display to see whether and where workspace is available. In future, even the location of logged-in individuals can be checked by looking at the display.
Tablets for booking a space with a single swipe are installed next to meeting room doors. The lights automatically switch on and off. There are sensors all around the premises measuring, among other things, temperature and the carbon dioxide concentration in the air.
“However, what has been the crux of the project is the principle of openness. Ubi@Physicum has the first entirely open network used at the University of Helsinki, in addition to which the facility includes an open data channel available to anyone for publishing messages on topics of their choosing. The source code used in the programming is also as open as possible,” says Petri Savolainen, coordinator of the Ubikampus project.
An open network makes it possible, for example, for students and researchers to automatically connect the smart devices they bring along to the network.
“This is a benefit when working on assignments, for example. Should students be developing an application for adjusting smart lighting, a smart bulb brought with them will connect to the network without logging in,” Savolainen explains.
In terms of information security, an open network is not equivalent to a secure one. In fact, Savolainen recommends relying on the secure Eduroam network for daily use. The open network of Ubikampus is practical for carrying out research and completing assignments.
A living research laboratory
In addition to serving as a functional workspace, the pilot premises are intended to work as a living laboratory.
“You can also conduct research here. You can focus on smart technologies and their functionality, as well as the working environment or working methods. This space provides a complete infrastructure for acquiring and publishing many kinds of data. It’s easy to install various sensors and equipment in the facility”, says Professor Sasu Tarkoma from the Department of Computer Science.
The premises are not intended to be a playground for computer science alone. Tarkoma welcomes scholars of all fields to carry out research here.
At the moment, the Institute for Atmospheric and Earth System Research INAR is conducting research on indoor air at Ubi@ Physicum. The fields of education and sociology, for example, should be able to find opportunities on the premises as well.
Ideas for the use of the University as a whole
The aim is to introduce technology and practices tested at Kumpula’s Ubi@Physicum to other campuses. In the future, other premises similar to Ubi@Physicum may be built around the University facilities, transforming the entire University into a single expansive Ubikampus.
“Nothing is stopping other Finnish and international universities from adopting ideas and practices based on our experience. We are happy to share what we have done and how we have done it. The construction process for the premises has also been documented,” Tarkoma points out.
Both Savolainen and Tarkoma believe that the project is globally unique. As far as is known, projects of a precisely similar nature have not been carried out anywhere else.
The pair emphasises that Ubikampus is not finished; rather, the work is only just beginning. The facilities and technologies are to be continuously developed, while users have the opportunity to give feedback and development ideas via Ubikampus chat.