Thanks for joining me on my thinking-out-loud journey to better understand new approaches evolving in our industry in the area of Human-Centric Building Automation. These new approaches involve a process that starts with the people you're designing for and ends with solutions tailor-made to suit their needs.
New and evolving human-centric technologies are driving a shift from measuring the usual empirical variables to actually sensing people and their bio and social feedback. Our core variables -- temperature, humidity, draft/airspeed, light levels, etc. -- still rule the control equation, but now deep personal information is accessible. Through wearable, through smartphones, through social media, we are at last able to quantify such things as health, feeling, opinion, desire, and satisfaction, and factor them all into the control equation.
It is early days for wearables and volunteered feedback, but the human-centric process is now optimizing our control systems for improved satisfaction and comfort. It is even creating a new variable to include in our equations: the comfort of knowing you are connected. (This is an excellent example of the transformation I was talking about my last column, "People Powered Transformation.")
This white paper from BSRIA, Trends Towards Wearables and Wellbeing, is a great way to start the conversation. (Special thanks to Henry Lawson and Krystyna Dawson for all their efforts.)
Wearables provide the potential to help create a personalised environment suited to the individual wearer. If the wearer’s personal preferences are known, then the local environment can be adjusted to the ‘optimal’ temperature, humidity, etc. A smartwatch can even potentially signal that the wearer is tired and in need of more ventilation. But wearables also have some far-reaching implications. From the paper:
More controversially, some wearables can provide a wealth of information about the physical activities and the physical state of the wearer, including heart rates, amount of exercise, amount of sleep, state of tiredness or alertness, and consumption, for example, of alcohol or of illicit substances. This raises the immediate question as to how far it is legal or ethical to collect and make use of such information at all, and what caveats and restrictions might need to be applied. Wearables can also be of value to individuals fulfilling particular roles, for example, wearables can help manage and monitor access that maintenance technicians are given to particular areas of a facility in order to carry out repairs and other activities… More contentiously, staff performing risky or sensitive tasks could potentially be checked for alertness or for levels of alcohol or other substances… With wearables potentially providing building managers, and potentially building occupiers, with a plethora of additional information, people are likely to pay more attention to HVAC. If the system is seen to be more responsive and to improve comfort or energy usage, then the effect is likely to be positive.
Did you catch the potential shift? It started with a smartwatch and ended with raising the profile of our industry. Interesting.
Can this shift to Human-Centric wearables rapidly evolving outside of our industries be that powerful? Yes, I believe it can. This shift in sensing to humanize our built environments will come from outside of our normal building automation domain. It will walk through the door in the ears of young millennials and centennials as powerful wearables like Google’s Pixel Buds, which allow users to communicate with a smart assistant and can instantly translate a conversation from 40 different languages.
Think of all of the possibilities if more than seven billion people were networked into a massive wireless sensor system
This technology could fundamentally change how we communicate across the global community. And it all starts with that phone in your pocket. Perhaps you’ve never thought about your phone as a wearable, but it is; it knows your location, who you are, and a myriad of other details about you and your human-centric desires. Some of us even have a problem taking it off our bodies at night!
Other evolutions such as the inclusion of a Zigbee smart-home hub inside the Amazon Echo Plus means that it just got a lot easier for consumers to build out their own virtual fenced space. Moreover, the acceptance of personal assistance in the home will rapidly increase the expectation of it in our workspace.
Fun stuff, but where might this all lead?
The Moodmetric ring (http://www.moodmetric.com/science/) is a non-obtrusive device that allows long-term EDA (electrodermal activity) measurement with a large group of individuals. The Moodmetric measurement can be viewed real-time on a smartphone screen, or optionally on the desktop. The ring stores data up to 270 hours for examining the data later on. Totally mobile with instant visual feedback, the ring gives a unique tool for scientists and research institutes. Stress and other cognitive loads can now be viewed against data like productivity, health data, and environmental information.
Can you imagine a world where every human acts as an autonomous, intelligent sensor system and voluntarily opts in for free? Welcome to the world of “chipping.” https://www.iotforall.com/chipping-embed-sensors-skin/
Think of all of the possibilities if more than seven billion people were networked into a massive wireless sensor system that could detect all sorts of internal and external environmental conditions – temperature, humidity, light, radiation, air quality, acceleration, position – the list is endless. It would be one of the most powerful IoT systems the world has ever known. Throw in a little AI/machine learning magic and its predictive capabilities will be amazing, creating a further bridge across the physical and digital divide. The Internet will no longer simply be a sea of faceless humming servers and web pages. It will come alive in the truest sense of the word.
AI will play a key role in this shift to human-centric building Automation. This article, AI Is the Brain, IoT Is the Body, gives some insight into how our human-centric wishes will be augmented with Artificial Intelligence:
Artificial intelligence promises a brave new world of computers that can plan, strategize, evaluate options, calculate probabilities, and make smart decisions. But to actually do anything, AI needs the Internet of Things (IoT). You might say that IoT is the body that gives AI’s brain the ability to act. IoT also provides the data AI needs in order to make smart decisions. Just as our eyes, ears, nose, and skin sense the world around us and send that information to the brain to process, billions of sensors and cameras in the Internet of Things gather vast amounts of environmental and operational data to be sorted, analyzed and turned into actionable insights by AI. In return, some of these insights and decisions can then be acted upon by IoT and end devices such as robots, drones, and industrial machines.
Wearables are not the only solution. A company aptly named Comfy empowers people to control their own thermal comfort from an easy-to-use app on their phone or desktop. Meanwhile, local facility managers and the headquarter-based real estate services team glean valuable occupant data from the Comfy Insights dashboard. The result? A streamlined comfort control system that employees love to use, and actionable data to help facilities teams better optimize their buildings. From the company’s recent blog post Why We Love People-Centered Workplaces (and You Should Too):
Ideas like "workplace as a service" and "the on-demand office" are taking hold. More broadly, forward-thinking employers around the world are talking about how to create a people-centered workplace—a workplace that operates efficiently because it delivers what people want, where and when they want it… A people-centered workplace optimizes the space and operations based on what people actually want… Today's workers are savvy. They know when they're just being fed another useless perk. Leading companies like Cisco, WeWork, and Infosys are embracing digital workplace solutions that actually address real needs. Granting people greater choice, control, and flexibility over their physical environment is directly correlated with improved job performance and workplace satisfaction.
A people-centered workplace adapts continuously. As individuals' working needs change, a people-centered workplace shifts to accommodate those needs. Advances in building automation systems and machine learning are taking a lot of the manual work out of this fine-tuning. The result: we're all one step closer to helping people bring their best selves to work and giving time back to facilities teams.
It is a brave new world! Thanks for sharing my thoughts on human-centric building automation, and please feel free to share yours with me at [email protected] com