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Smart fleet: How the Cox Collaboratory is helping ASU become a smarter, more eco-friendly campus


Bobby Gray Presenting at Empower 2021
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June 23, 2021

One of Arizona State University's sustainability goals is to achieve climate positivity by eliminating its carbon footprint and saving more greenhouse gas emissions than it’s generating. 

At Empower 2021, the university’s fourth annual IT community retreat, members from the Cox Connected Environments Collaboratory and ASU shared how they’re working together to make the university’s campuses smarter by developing a smart fleet solution to help reduce vehicle inventory and eventually have an all-electric vehicle fleet. The results will provide a more cost-effective and eco-friendly solution. 

Exploring the problem

Last year, the university was successful in achieving climate positivity with its electricity output, but vehicle emissions continue to be a problem, explained Alex Kohnen, assistant vice president, Facilities Management and Operations at ASU. The university owns and operates about 800 vehicles, with many of those being low-speed, electric golf carts. Two years ago, ASU President Michael Crow shared that he wanted to eliminate all gasoline vehicles and convert to electric ones, Kohnen said. The request would move the needle in achieving climate positivity on campus but required a creative solution.

ASU has 17 colleges, and within each college there are a number of departments with each managing their fleet of vehicles. And with electric vehicles costing upwards of $19,000 more than a gas-powered vehicle, coupled with the lack of charging stations, the challenge was costly.

“We’re talking about a $50 million problem that we’re looking at, with really no resources that have been identified to support this,” Kohnen said. And so, the question became, “What can IoT (Internet of Things) do to enable us to be successful?”

Collaborating to develop a smart solution

Talking to the Cox Collaboratory allowed ASU’s Facilities Management and Operations Department to pick up momentum on solving the emission problem, “not just in a cost-effective way, but a really environmentally friendly way,” Kohnen explained.

Smart Fleet Proposal

Together, they’re developing a solution using Cox’s ACES Fleet of the Future model, which focuses on a strategy that promotes vehicles being Autonomous and Aerial, Connected, Electric and Shared (ACES).

“At Cox, we believe that transportation will change more during this decade than in the last 50 years combined,” said Jake Huber, director of the Cox Collaboratory. “So, our opportunity is to define, shape and support the emerging mobility ecosystem with technology and services that will enable a better transportation future.”

Using a three-phase approach, the Cox Collaboratory will help ASU connect and track vehicles, then build and develop a sharing platform and continue to explore and develop the fleet of the future to go all-electric. 

Creating smart solutions for a smart campus

None of this would be possible without the smart technology infrastructure that ASU’s University Technology Office and Cox have been working on for more than a year. They’ve developed advanced and diversified networks for powering technology — think smart parking, internet-enabled buses and more — by testing next-gen wireless networks like 5G Cellular and LoRa (Long Range networks) to make the university an even smarter campus.

“By digitizing the analog world in which we live, ASU will unlock the potential of the promise of smart campus, city and region,” said Bobby Gray, director of digital transformation at ASU’s University Technology Office.

Watch their Empower 2021 presentation about developing these solutions, followed by a SOAR Analysis of the smart fleet solution. 

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