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App To Help Lost First Year Uni Students Find Their Way

Whatever happened to asking for directions?
Uni students can find their way from bedroom to classroom.
Uni students can find their way from bedroom to classroom.

In a few short weeks, thousands of new university students will be wandering the corridors of higher education institutions all over Australia with furrowed brows, trying to find where the their new classes are meant to be held.

While alumni probably would have looked for a physical map on a board or even asked for directions (gasp!), the new students at Deakin University will have access to an app to map out their journey -- from their bedroom to the classroom.

The digital map specialists HERE ran a survey of 1000 Aussies to find where they always get lost. It turns out that two thirds of 18-24-year-olds nominated their school or university as the most confusing venue to navigate. Last year, HERE created the app Campus Compass, along with app developers MetroView, to take care of navigation anxieties for Deakin's staff, students and contractors.

Most unis already have an app for that, however Campus Compass takes the experience to a new level. The app will give directions via roads and public transport networks to the campus, and then once you are there, it will tell you where you are how to get to your specific room. It includes detail information like where to find lifts, accessible ramps and, importantly, the loos.

No more excuses for being late to a lecture.
No more excuses for being late to a lecture.

It took two months for the app creators to physically walk through the buildings to map out the interior spaces.

"This is a very manual process, it's not like like using a car down the road to create a map," Brent Stafford, Director of HERE in the Asia Pacific told The Huffington Post Australia.

"We can leverage their CAD files from the architecture and engineering of the university, then we have to walk on the ground to find out how to build virtual network of university."

The app knows where you are inside the building because it's synched up to Deakin's wifi network. It's one of the ways IOT (Internet Of Things) is coming into play in building design and service delivery. Hooking up objects around the uni to the wifi network could potentially tell the campus maintenance managers, for instance, where the toilets need to be cleaned or a data projector repaired.

While millennials are happy to whip out their smartphones at any opportunity, will the incumbent students be losing some valuable face-to-face social skills? Not necessarily, says Stafford.

"You can share location between similar people and actually facilitate interaction between similar people."

The app gives precise directions within the university.
The app gives precise directions within the university.

Stafford says there could be potential for food outlets to tell users in real time about specials or for student groups to send an alert for their meetings. Knowing the movements of people throughout the uni could make services run more smoothly and enhance social engagement.

But if there is an app that tracks your whereabouts inside and outside campus, could there be a risk to privacy?

"It's a fascinating area and our maps are used by Facebook and Twitter to check in, it's used by Dominoes' pizza app and the Samsung smart watch.

"We have to be very cognisant that we allow people to opt in to these services."

Campus Compass has been popular for Deakin staff and students, with around 13,000 downloads since it began rolling out last year. Stafford says it is part of the University's strategy to attract and retain students and to make their lives a bit easier.

"Unis and the way they number buildings and room is confusing and it is very hard to get around.

"I could have had this when I went to uni."

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