Toronto Smart Campus Urban Data Platform

TMU brought IoT systems data together to gain insights & create an urban data platform for its smart campus initiative


About Toronto Metropolitan University

Located in the Garden District of downtown Toronto, Ontario, Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU) has approximately 50,000 students and staff on campus.

The University has eight faculties: the Faculty of Arts, the Faculty of Community Services, the Faculty of Engineering and Architectural Science, the Faculty of Law, the Faculty of Science, the Ted Rogers School of Management, the Creative School, and the Yeates School of Graduate Studies.

Challenge: Creating a Smart Campus

Like most university campuses, Toronto Metropolitan University (previously Ryerson University) generates millions of data points per day from HVAC systems, sensors, energy and water meters, Wi-Fi nodes, and IoT devices. In fact, the university has outfitted a number of buildings on campus with IoT sensors, generating 500,000 data records per day—adding up to 150 million records per year.

Initially, a test system streamed data from SCADA systems to hard drives, which was slow and vulnerable to outages. The disparate IoT systems across buildings were also never designed to speak to a third-party integrator. Another challenge was the varied nature of building data, with different kinds of data from different kinds of systems and formats.

University researchers wanted to bring all the data together to gain new insights and therefore started investigating how analytics could be integrated. In addition, Toronto Metropolitan University wanted to use its campus as a smaller model for a smart city.

Solution: Developing an Urban Data Platform

Toronto Metropolitan University chose to partner with FuseForward in developing a smart data platform as well as its smart city project. FuseForward’s consulting skills, combined with its extensive AWS expertise, made the company a perfect smart city consulting partner for the university, which has since become a member of the FuseForward Intelligent Systems Alliance, a network of academic and industry partners exploring advanced analytics. FuseForward also helped Toronto Metropolitan University receive a grant from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), a federal funding agency for university-based research.

Incorporating Amazon Web Services (AWS) Data Services, FuseForward created a smart urban data platform for collecting data from smart buildings, smart transportation, and smart infrastructure applications. Starting with structuring, normalizing, and streaming the university’s data into a secure cloud environment, FuseForward immediately helped improve scalability, streaming data retention, compute capacity, and time-to-access for researchers and, ultimately, building managers.

The platform relies on the Amazon OpenSearch Service and MySQL databases to run queries and analyze data from air quality monitors, energy meters, and temperature sensors. Live data is analyzed with Amazon Kinesis Data Streams and AWS Lambda, a serverless compute service. Amazon Kinesis Data Firehose processes the data and stores it in Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) buckets. University researchers use AWS Glue to prepare and process data and visualization dashboards running on Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2).

Together, FuseForward and the university also designed a digital twin of the Daphne Cockwell Health Sciences Complex. The digital twin serves as a 3D visual representation of structured data from the building, providing a real-time picture of equipment and spaces in the building while simulating scenarios such as the impact of shutting down utilities.

Results: Real-Time Big Data Visibility

Since implementing the urban data platform, FuseForward and Toronto Metropolitan University have increased the data retention rate from around 10 percent to more than 100 percent. Instead of having the data sitting on a server in each building, it’s all on AWS, which means it can scale to take on larger amounts of data going forward. The platform currently ingests and stores up to 8.4 million records per day.

The data coming from the digital twin is allowing the university to stop being reactive, enabling proactive decisions through data visualizations that help predict building behavior and run the buildings more efficiently. Machine learning is helping to identify energy usage patterns and detect anomalies.

In addition, the university’s department of civil engineering is using the digital twin campus to focus on 3D modeling and geospatial data analytics. The team is looking at thermal data analytics to try to monitor the energy efficiency of different buildings on campus, using data modeling to assess the quality of insulation and see if there are any leaks, for example.

Toronto Metropolitan University has found that the smart data platform is providing visibility into things that couldn’t be seen before. The team wrote an algorithm that uncovered a mislabeled CO2 sensor, which was labeled as a temperature sensor. Building automation systems usually can’t tell when sensors aren’t working, so that was something that was only discovered through the data science in the data platform.

Eventually, the university will use the digital twin as a small-scale model of a smart city. The team anticipates integrating building data with infrastructure data like water, foot traffic, and electricity. FuseForward also aims to take the experience gained from this project and other consulting and data analytics projects, as well as from the AWS Partner Smart Cities pilot program, to work closely with city governments to develop smart city solutions for them.

About FuseForward

FuseForward accelerates digital transformation for critical infrastructure providers such as cities, utilities, and transportation providers through consulting and technology expertise. With expertise across cloud, intelligent systems, advanced analytics, cybersecurity, and much more, FuseForward serves customers around the world from offices in Canada, Europe, and South Africa.