Higher education is entering a new era of data-driven insights, which promise to elevate both learner experience and institutional performance. The HE colleges and universities capable of collecting and leveraging data in a timely manner will not only boost student outcomes but also run their back-office operations in a significantly more effective and cost-efficient way – says Alex Pearce, Chief Technologist for Education at Softcat.  

Integration Platform as a Service (IPaaS) and middleware solutions are the key to making sense of institutions’ complex mix of new and legacy systems, enabling them to create a powerful single-view of their data. With the help of IPaaS, colleges and universities are able to leverage exciting new technologies and use cases already revolutionising sectors such as finance, healthcare and retail. Here are the top five data-driven trends that HE institutions will be able to tap into with the help of IPaaS. 

Personalised learning experiences 

With IPaaS unlocking access to granular student data, institutions will be able to tailor their offering to the individual, guiding them towards success. They will also be able to build and leverage a unified data dashboard showing student and faculty key metrics, such as attendance levels, grades, resource usage etc. Artificial intelligence and machine learning can then be used to generate predictive analytics insights, nudging students towards beneficial behaviors.   

Smart buildings and campuses 

IPaaS can play a key role collating building data and creating a real-estate dashboard ensuring buildings are used as effectively and cost-efficiently as possible. These insights can ensure heating, energy use and occupancy levels are optimised – something that’s particularly important during the energy crisis, when energy prices are spiraling.  

Real-estate data can also be used alongside machine learning to foresee building issues and trigger predictive maintenance, fixing problems before they impact building availability. 

Next-generation remote learning 

The pandemic vividly highlighted the value of remote learning for HE institutions. And now, with society largely reopened, online teaching and meeting platforms continue to help to overcome physical distances. Thanks to IPaaS institutions can continue to extend their reach, connecting with students, speakers and networks locally, nationally, and internationally, making UK HE easily accessible globally. 

Student welfare 

Mental health is an increasingly important facet of HE, with institutions falling short at risk of putting their students at risk and suffering reputational damage as a result. IPaaS is the data link which can enable machine learning to spot worrying patterns in student behaviour and flag it to faculty in real time. 

Talent spotting  

IPaaS solutions can be used to create a holistic summary of student performance. When teamed with predictive analytics this approach can help faculty identify – in an objective manner – which students are best suited to further study. By surfacing granular data around student performance and behaviour, institutions are more likely to identify the candidates most likely to succeed.  


With competition between HE institutions for budget and talent at an all-time high it has never been more important for schools, colleges and universities to find new, personalised ways to engage with students, streamline their operations and respond rapidly to new challenges and opportunities.  

Leading institutions now realise that fragmented technology is one of the biggest barriers to achieving their strategic goals. As a result, they are increasingly looking to best-in-class IPaaS data integration and automation platforms to help them leverage data from their legacy systems so they can evolve. Institutions that fail to harness the power of IPaaS face being left behind. 

For more information please download the following whitepaper: How higher-education institutions can reap the data dividend thanks to IPaaS

Cloud Management, Data Center Design, Data Integration, Data Management, Education Industry

The cyber-attacks on Optus and Medibank recently have brought into focus the devastating impact breaches can have on the reputation of any organisation.

The Optus attack, which was the largest and most high profile in Australian history, has left almost 10 million customers understandably livid that their personal information was stolen.

It is believed that the Medibank attack began when an individual with high-level access to the health insurer’s systems had their credentials stolen by a hacker, who then put them up for sale. Optus had an application programming interface (API) online that did not need authorisation or authentication to access customer data.

The reputational impact of both cyber-attacks will be felt for some time to come. They are a warning shot to Australian businesses that simply can’t be ignored.

Many CISOs will now be taking a closer look at their internal cyber education programs, among other things, to give staff the best chance of not falling victim to cyber-attacks that can severely damage their organisations.

Sarah Sloan, head of government affairs and public policy at Palo Alto Networks, and Matt Warren, director of RMIT’s Cyber Security and Innovation Research Centre joined CIO Australia’s Byron Connolly for a discussion recently on how Australian organisations can improve their cyber education programs. The panel discussion was held during the launch of Palo Alto CyberFit Nation program.

The cyber challenges that businesses face are widely known, a lot of them focused around human and organisational issues. The human aspect of cyber security awareness is such as a complex issue that hackers are looking to exploit from scam attacks to the spreading of malware such as ransomware, says RMIT’s Warren.

“We live in the new cyber normal that organisations are facing as they become greater targets for cyber-attacks. One of the key reasons for this challenge is that organisations cannot manage their increasingly complex systems and it is taking time for them to accept cyber security as a business risk rather than a technical one,” says Warren.

Palo Alto Networks’ Sloan says organisations across Australia are becoming more aware of cyber risks and the importance of educating staff, their customers and even students on how to mitigate these risks.

“Many companies are incorporating cyber security as part of their workplace curriculum and regularly test the effectiveness of that training, for example, via phishing email testing,” she says.

While doing this, organisations should ensure their cyber education programs also incentivise good behaviour, says Sloan.

“This could include rewarding individuals who identify all the phishing attempts and report them to the organisation’s security operations team. These simple measures can go a long way to creating a security culture and environment where people feel comfortable to come forward if and when they may click on that link,” she says.

When creating training programs, enterprises may also want to look beyond the ‘click’ to identify why an individual has taken certain actions and adjust their responses/training for those people accordingly, says Sloan.

“For example, did they click on the link because the content of the email has elicited a particular response or because they have been pressured by a sense of urgency?” she asks.

Governments across the world have behavioural policy areas – such as Australia’s Behavioural Economics Team within the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet – to research why individuals do or do not take certain actions or respond to certain messages, says Sloan.

“Some of this thinking could be applied to the cyber security training and education space to help tailor messaging to particular individuals and ensure better security outcomes,” she says.

But Sloan points out that it’s important to remember that we are all human, we all make mistakes and it only takes one click.

“So if your organisation’s corporate cyber strategy is that all users will behave in a certain way or comply with certain policies, you really don’t have a corporate cyber strategy.

“Every organisation must look at preventative measures, ensure they can respond to threats in real-time and leverage automation, as well as understand their cyber security posture through the eyes of the adversary,” says Sloan.

Filling the gaps in cyber training

Cyber safety and cyber security awareness is something that should be taught from school level, says RMIT’s Warren.

He says the Office of the eSafety Commissioner does great work at schools raising awareness around cyber safety and maybe cyber security could be combined with that messaging.

Palo Alto Networks’ Sloan adds that the industry is certainly heading in the right direction with several programs helping to raise awareness of cyber issues while providing students with tools to protect themselves.

But more needs to be done to embed cyber security and technology across the school and university curriculums, she says.

“In the digital era, it’s important that all of our graduates – our lawyers, accountants, doctors and economists – understand cyber security risks, mitigations and how they are relevant to their professions.

“Raising awareness across faculties and disciplines will not only lead to better security outcomes, it may also lead to an interest in further study in cyber. This may help us with our cyber security skills shortage,” says Sloan.

However, there is a ‘pipeline problem’ at the school level, says RMIT’s Warren. If an undergraduate student starts studying cyber security in 2023, they will complete their degree in 2026, he says.

“The issue is that not all universities offer cyber security and it means that alternative courses such as micro-credentials, and other alternative pipelines need to be developed.”

Creating a cyber aware board

From a policy and legislative point of view, Australia has some great foundations to support and enhance cyber security awareness at the board level, says Palo Alto Networks’ Sloan.

There is a range of directors’ responsibilities when it comes to duty of care and diligence around cyber security, as captured in the Corporations Act. The Australian Government has also elevated cyber security risk to the board through a series of reforms to the Security of Critical Infrastructure Act 2018.

These reforms aim to enhance Australia’s national resilience by introducing varying security obligations across 11 regulated critical infrastructure sectors, says Sloan.

“One of the relevant obligations for directors under this Act is that regulated critical infrastructure assets may be required to report to the government annually as part of their risk management programs, which must address cyber security risks.

“This new obligation is expected to elevate cyber security to boards across Australia,” says Sloan.

From a guidance and education point of view, the Australian Securities and Investment Commission has issued statements on cyber guidance, emphasising the importance of active engagement by the board in managing cyber risk. The Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC) has also released guidance on questions that board members can ask about cyber security risk management.

RMIT’s Warren adds CEOs need to be aware of what cyber security is and why it should be viewed as a business risk.

“It is coming to the stage that lack of awareness is no longer an issue. CEOs and their boards also have to understand the complexity of the systems that their organisations are operating, and the risks associated with that complexity,” he says.


What you need to know about IoT in enterprise and education  

In an era of data driven insights and automation, few technologies have the power to supercharge and empower decision makers like that of the Internet of Things (IoT).  

As the adoption of IoT devices is expected to reach 24.1 billion by 2030, forward-thinking organisations and higher education institutions are realising that IoT technologies are providing access to insights and making things possible now that were too expensive or difficult just a few years ago.  

Sustainability and smart energy management are emerging as important IoT use cases, offering organisations real-time power usage monitoring and predictive analytics to reduce energy spending.  

In the future, IoT will play a critical role in enabling organisations to fulfil their ESG goals and demonstrate compliance to movements such as B Corp and the Climate Pledge

The potential use cases for enterprise users  

Futhermore, the potential use cases for IoT goes well beyond the confines of sustainability. For instance, organisations can even go as far as monitoring the air quality of spaces, to support the health and wellbeing of building occupants. 

Decision makers and facility managers also have the ability to monitor environmental factors like CO2 levels, which are known to impair cognitive function.  

IoT devices also can be used more broadly to help leverage maximum value from assets, by optimising room occupancy and utilisation, or tracking the location and usage of high value assets.  

Together these tools can help reduce carbon emissions, optimise processes and asset maintenance, and enable organisations to better comply with sustainability regulations and meet long-term green and operational goals.  

It is these widespread use cases that are contributing to the growth of the IoT market as a whole, which analysts predict will increase from a value of $384.70 billion in 2021, with some estimates putting the expected  value as high as  $2,465.26 billion by 2029. But it’s not just the commercial sector that can reap the rewards of IoT.  

How IoT can help education providers  

While IoT adoption in the education industry is in its infancy, these distributed devices have the potential to provide detailed operational insights and automation capabilities the same way they already do in commercial environments.  

Once again, the most potent use case of IoT devices is in supporting sustainability initiatives, enabling institutions to cut energy costs, optimise resource usage for water and gas, and meet their green goals.  

It also enables them to enhance their operations through enhancing the occupancy of classrooms, and monitoring learning environments for comfort, health and safety concerns, influencing factors like light, VOC, CO2, and sound, to ensure that students are in an ideal position to learn.  

Green Custard’s role in the IoT market  

One of the providers paving the way for the ongoing IoT revolution is Green Custard, a UK-based cloud native professional services company providing bespoke IoT solutions to organisations across the commercial, educational, and public sectors.  

Green Custard is also an Amazon Web Services (AWS) Advanced Tier partner, and one of a small number who specialise solely in IoT deployment and management.  

Leveraging AWS, Green Custard help to deliver products and services across IoT, edge, embedded, infrastructure, data analytics, mobile, and web applications with the necessary best practices, to help decision makers bring their green visions to life.  

For more information click here to find out how Green Custard can help your organisation. 

Education Industry

With a focus on safety and the opportunity to greatly enhance operations and the quality of research and learning, educational institutions could see significant gains by implementing computer vision with real-time federated analytics.

Computer vision is revolutionizing many industries but it’s still making inroads into education. That’s not surprising, given the historically tight budgets for many educational institutions. As the technology advances and becomes more mainstream in the commercial world, colleges and universities are likely to be the first adopters in the education realm.

With a camera infrastructure already in place on most education campuses, along with adequate district, campus and departmental networks, departments already have the infrastructure needed for computer vision.

What’s needed are scalable hyperconverged infrastructures (HCIs) that combine compute, networking, storage and software, enabling institutions to capture and analyze video, audio and other data at the edge to get real-time insights. A significant benefit to this approachof computer vision–powered analytics is that data can be ingested once, analyzed and then used in many different ways. To remove the risk in adopting this technology, an all-in-one computer vision system is preconfigured, right-sized and validated to work with an institution’s applications.

Let’s look at computer vision’s impact on education-related outcomes across five key areas: safety and security, the educational experience, operational efficiencies, sustainability and enhancing revenue.

Increasing the safety and security of students, staff, facilities and campuses

Safety and security are key requirements in all education institutions. One of the most common uses of computer vision today is to monitor premises, which includes the perimeter and interior of buildings. That data can be used to streamline biometric access control systems or automate incident control to protect occupants and deny entry to unauthorized persons. AI and machine learning analysis of video streams, still photos and audio feeds can assist security personnel with real-time situational awareness for things like finding missing persons and identifying those who should not be in a particular location, as well as providing predictive occupancy to help ensure that spaces remain under capacity limits to meet fire codes and social distancing measures.

Equally important is the safety of individuals from contaminants. Cameras along with air-quality sensors can feed data into a computer vision system to detect changes in the environment from hazardous materials or airborne chemicals. Any space can be monitored for air quality and ventilation to protect personal health and wellbeing.

Computer vision can also help individuals move about safely between buildings on campus and enhance real-time situational awareness for emergency personnel. For example, consider a student leaving the library at night. The student uses an app to notify campus security that they are heading to their dorm room. As cameras detect the student in motion, lights turn on to illuminate the path to the resident hall with security staff monitoring progress. A computer vision system can also integrate into a local city system to enable faster response times by law enforcement and first responders.

Realizing greater operational efficiencies through real-time actionable intelligence improves campus experience

Enhancing educational experience often also delivers operational efficiencies—streamlining a service benefits the business and the people who consume that service.

On a higher education campus, getting people to their destination with minimal effort can be accomplished through services like augmented-reality–based wayfinding, where digital signage and/or apps guide people to parking spots, buildings, offices and classrooms. Classroom and auditoriums can be configured for hoteling, which detects when an instructor walks into the room and automatically adjusts lighting, air temperature and the height of the podium per the instructor’s preferences.

Queue management is also made more efficient by computer vision. Computer vision insights are used to predict busy times at the bookstore, for example, by combining visual data with historical sales data. Potential wait times in the checkout line (or places like the registration office) can be alleviated through dynamic staffing, in which employees are pre-scheduled or shifted in real time to meet demand. In the future, students will be able to purchase books and supplies using touchless or frictionless technology, grabbing what they need and checking out automatically as they leave the store. 

Higher education campuses are like mini cities, many with their own power generation plants and water heating and cooling systems. A campus can operate like a smart city, using computer vision to control power consumption and water usage, as well as per-building heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC). Based on historical usage patterns, outdoor smart lighting can be configured to automatically power off or use downlighting during daylight hours and light up the same areas after dark.

Data analytics derived through computer vision is also being used to help prevent students from dropping out of school. A major K-12 school district in the United States uses real-time federated analytics to combine visual factors with data from social media posts, academic reporting and other sources to classify types of at-risk students. Educators and counselors then use these insights, along with their personal observations, to offer student counseling and other resources to help students on their academic journeys.

How schools can reduce environmental impacts through sustainability measures via computer vision

Schools at all levels tend to be environmental stewards, looking to build a healthy future for their students, personnel and surrounding communities. For many administrators, running an eco-friendly school system and reducing their overall carbon footprint is a priority likely to extend well into the future.

So how does computer vision help?

Occupancy data generated by cameras can be used by building energy management systems to automatically adjust HVAC conditions in real time to ensure proper conditions for occupied spaces while conserving resources in spaces that are unused.

Data from cameras monitoring parking lots is integrated into digital signage systems and wayfinding to help to direct traffic to available parking spaces more efficiently, reducing emissions. The same principle applies to shuttles moving people to and from events at university stadiums, which will become even more fine-tuned as the use of autonomous driving vehicles with regulated speed and acceleration become the norm.

Generating revenue through computer vision in higher education

Colleges and universities, and even some private K-12 schools, compete to attract a certain caliber of students. While an institution with computer vision in place appeals to parents due to increased safety and security, recruiters can use computer vision for enhanced virtual tours and as a general draw that makes the campus a destination for students.

For example, research universities using computer vision’s real-time federated analytics offer students the opportunity to learn about and use the same tools as commercial industries, such as big pharma and healthcare, gaining valuable experience while pursuing a degree. Departments may be able to acquire funding, such as research & development grants, for computer vision through public entities and private corporations.

In the United States, college sports and entertainment events are a significant source of revenue. Using computer vision to increase the safety of stadiums and the people who use them, and make the fan experience easier and more enjoyable, can increase ticket and concession sales, boosting the revenue of those venues.

Having the capability to generate data insights at the right speed and velocity to make time-sensitive decisions can only improve overall safety. It also enriches the experience of the educational community, increases operational efficiencies, improves sustainability and enhances revenue generation. Consider where you can begin incorporating computer vision into your school to improve outcomes for your students, educators, staff and institution.

Learn more about how computer vision is positively impacting other industries.

The Future Is Computer Vision – Real-Time Situational Awareness, Better Quality and Faster InsightsComputer Vision Is Transforming the Transportation Industry, Making It Safer, More Efficient and Improving the Bottom LineHow Computer Vision is revolutionizing the Manufacturing Supply ChainHow the Sports and Entertainment Industry Is Reinventing the Fan Experience and Enhancing Revenues with Computer VisionHow the Retail Industry Can Improve the Customer Experience, Increase Safety and Maximize Margins Through Computer Vision and Artificial Intelligence


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IT Leadership

The digital transformation of the education sector is accelerating at pace. You don’t need to look far to find powerful examples of how data is helping to enrich both student and educator outcomes. Gardens, Libraries and Museums of The University of Oxford digitised its collections and reduced storage costs by 50-60% and avoided a management cost increase of 13% with the cloud.

Anjanesh Babu of the University of Oxford worked with CirrusHQ to deliver the service. He said: “Cirrus HQ have been an engaging, proactive and learning partner for us. Every one of their team – from the account manager, to solution architects to accounts have a clear sense of dedication, purpose and focus putting the customer first. They are willing to learn and adapt from customer inputs which puts them solidly ahead in the partnership space. CirrusHQ are considered an extension of our internal team with shared expertise as well as knowledge.”

At the core of this transformation lies the need to leverage data and associated apps and services in a way that is agile, cost effective, secure and scalable. Migrating data, apps and services to a market-leading cloud provider, such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), delivers all of this and more. And working with a trusted AWS partner such as CirrusHQ can help education providers unlock the full potential of these benefits.

Bursting cloud-migration myths

Institutions are often concerned about losing control of their data, but cloud migration actually empowers data access and agility. Ultimately cloud migration, using a solution such as AWS, enables educators to focus more time, money and effort on delivering first-class outcomes rather than being distracted by the very real demands of running hardware and software.

Cloud services have evolved rapidly in recent years and many of the perceived barriers to migration no longer exist.

There are a couple of myths when it comes to the cloud. Firstly, that the cloud is too expensive. There is a cost of migration, but cloud providers such as AWS have reduced the total cost of ownership significantly. Cloud services generally now cost less than owning and managing a physical data centre.

The second myth is that the cloud isn’t secure. Market leaders, such as AWS, subject themselves to some of the strictest security controls and audits in the industry. The biggest risks instead now lie with apps and services which have been poorly designed by organisations themselves.

Six benefits of cloud migration in education

Cloud use cases can be found right across the education sector. For example, a step-change in innovation, performance and student provision can be achieved in administration and assessment processing, teaching practices, remote learning and continual professional development. Andre Zelenka, from Birkbeck, University of London said: “AWS Technology is vast and CirrusHQ have engaged with us to understand our requirements, propose a sensible way forward, and help us to execute that. All without recourse to AWS tech speak, smoothing the path for our projects.”

The wider benefits of cloud migration also include: 

Cost reduction – Education companies can, on average, save just under a third (31%) of data management costs.Digital transformation – Cloud isn’t just a great way to store data, it is transformational. For example, it enables public sector organisations to innovate and adopt an entrepreneurial ‘fail fast’ mentality, accelerating time to market.Agility, staff productivity and staff retention – AWS migration is shown to trigger a 66% boost in administrator productivity.Security and resilience – According to IDC, IT systems downtime costs the global economy up to $2.5 billion annually. With AWS, however, companies operate on one secure, robust platform, enabling superior governance.Avoiding vendor lock-in – Market-leading cloud services such as AWS do all the heavy lifting, making it easy for customers using end-of-life products to migrate their databases and servers to the cloud and modernise in a streamlined way. Organisations are urged, however, to take action before vendor lock-in becomes an urgent problem.Scalability at speed – Cloud services such as AWS enable education sector organisations to futureproof their IT ecosystems, scale at their own pace, with no limits, adding resources at the right time and expanding their cloud environment to meet changing needs and goals.

Finding the right partner

Organisations in the education sector looking to move to the cloud will need help throughout the migration process. The ideal partner will have AWS partner certifications, a high customer satisfaction score and case studies demonstrating that they follow best practice.

Proven industry experience in this fast-moving area is also essential. CirrusHQ, for example, has an AWS migration track record going back 15 years, and answers an average of 4,000 customer support requests every month.

It is also worth working with a migration partner with a good geographic spread, so you can be confident of support whenever and wherever you need it. CirrusHQ has capability to deliver in both the UK and EMEA.

To find out more about how CirrusHQ can help click here.

Education Industry

The shift to e-learning has changed education for good. Students and educators now expect anytime, anywhere access to their learning environments and are increasingly demanding access to modern, cloud-based technologies that enable them to work flexibly, cut down their workloads, and reach their full academic potential.

This means that institutions need to take a holistic approach to education technology (EdTech), including platforms used for teaching and learning, to not only meet these demands but to address ever-present challenges such as student success, retention, accessibility, and educational integrity.

However, for many embarking on this digital transformation journey and looking to more fully embrace EdTech, it can be daunting. Not only are IT leaders often faced with issues related to cost, infrastructure and security, but some solutions can make it challenging for schools to deliver inclusive, consistent educational experiences to all of their students. 

For example, some solutions may require an upheaval of existing tools and infrastructure, placing a strain on already-busy IT teams. Technology leaders are also looking to ensure the security of their schools’ digital ecosystem and that educators and students receive sufficient training in order to use these tools in the classroom.

Other EdTech solutions offer a one-size-fits-all approach to education, making it difficult for some students to keep up with online learning and for educators to adapt to pupils’ different needs. Similarly, while some solutions enable teachers and students to work and learn remotely, they struggle to adapt to hybrid teaching models.

Anthology’s learning management system (LMS), Blackboard Learn, takes a different approach. Designed to make the lives of educators and learners easier, Blackboard Learn creates experiences that are informed and personalised to support learning, teaching, and leading more effectively.

With students and teachers alike demanding more flexibility, Blackboard Learn can be used to replace or to supplement traditional face-to-face classes, enabling institutions to recognise the full benefits of a hybrid environment while ensuring nobody is left behind. For example, by providing personalised learning experiences, students are empowered to learn on-the-go and in ways that best meet their individual needs, ensuring educators can deliver inclusive, consistent experiences for learners of all abilities.

It also allows students to gain independence and become more autonomous. By providing real-time, data-driven insights, learners can keep track of their own progress, identify next steps, and get the support they need when they need it. These insights also enable educators to identify disengaged or struggling learners sooner to help promote more positive outcomes for students, while Blackboard’s customisable feedback ensures all students are on track for assessment success.

Anthology’s LMS can make life easier for IT leaders, too. The SaaS application code was built with security and privacy in mind and is LMS agnostic, ensuring seamless integration into the learning management system and existing workflows. What’s more, by using Amazon Web Services (AWS) Cloud, institutions benefit from continuous deliverability of smaller updates – which require zero downtime.

This also means that Anthology has the agility to develop capabilities and features quickly, such as its built-in accessibility and plagiarism tools. Because these features are out-of-the-box, institutions can save money while benefitting from a streamlined, scalable EdTech stack that can continue to evolve as they do.

With Blackboard Learn by Anthology, educators can rest assured they have the foundation of an EdTech ecosystem that equips all students and teachers with the flexibility to create more personalised learning experiences that support student success, while improving efficiency and setting their institution up for what’s to come in higher education.

For more insights into understanding student expectations, click here to read Anthology’s whitepaper.

Artificial Intelligence, Education and Training Software