Smart technology is changing our perception of student accommodation.

Claire Small's picture
Authored by Claire Small
Posted Tuesday, December 18, 2018 - 6:34pm

The recently completed student apartment complex that has revitalized a run-down theatre on Bartholomew Street is just one example of how much times have changed for Exeter University students when it comes to living conditions. Those of us who remember going to university in the latter decades of the 20th century, when cold, mould and leaky roofs were par for the course, will probably think students have never had it so good.

However, the differences between today’s student digs and those made famous by TV shows like The Young Ones go beyond better glazing and sanitation, important though these things are. The march of technology has made its presence felt in Exeter’s student quarters as much as it has in every other aspect of life.

Entertainment for all

The days of students sitting in a living room and deciding, through democratic means or otherwise, on the TV viewing choice are behind us. Whether that is a good or bad thing is open for debate, but in this age of Netflix, UK TV Play, Amazon Prime and so on, there are liable to be as many different TV shows on in the house as there are students in residence. With one central hub, on demand TV shared throughout the rooms is an efficient and cost-effective choice that an increasing number of private landlords are offering.

Managing hot water

Another memory that 40-somethings will almost certainly have is how hot water for a shower was seen as a rare and precious commodity in the student homes of the 1980s and 90s. Today, with modern combi boilers and electric showers, that is less of a problem – unless, of course, you are the one paying the bills.

Some landlords are using a somewhat controversial strategy to save on costs in this respect. A smart shower system has a solenoid valve working to limit the amount of hot water. It essentially acts as an internal switch and will cut the supply after a pre-set period of time.

No escape with smart metering

One of the reasons landlords are tempted with the smart shower system is that in a communal bathroom, it is all too easy to blame someone else for using all the hot water. The same applies to leaving the lights blazing and the central heating on non-stop. When it comes to individual rooms, however, smart metering is leaving those students who are less than energy-efficient with nowhere to hide. The system splits the house into as many parts as required, and provides a breakdown of consumption.

However, it can do more than just report. Each student can have the lights, heating and so on set to his or her own specification. Even better, the smart tech can communicate directly with the resident’s mobile phone – so if someone decides to stay for a couple of extra study hours or to go and take advantage of student discounts at one of Exeter’s bars or clubs, there is no risk of wasting energy heating empty rooms.