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Humanistic Digital Inclusion

April 26, 2018
Look, Listen, Feel and Think before Reacting.

I have been a building automation junkie/zealot/freak for over five decades, always trying to trowel the newest technologies onto those darn pesky people who live and work in our buildings. As an industry, we have always left the touchy/feelie part of our buildings to the behavioral scientists and psychologists. Our rapid digital transformation of everything has exposed (made transparent) the location, presence, even the mood and feeling of the occupants (those pesky people!) who are our reason for building and automating in the first place.

In addition to the old measured variables of temperature, humidity, IAQ, light, sound, video, etc. we now have the ability to dynamically capture peoples' anticipations and communicate their touchy/feelie input back to our systems to better fulfill our ultimate purpose: making our occupants/clienst happy. We need to find ways to use digital transformation transparency to "Look, Listen, Feel and Think before Reacting.”

A year ago I wrote about The Make Me Happy Button - Claiming our Piece of the Productivity Puzzle, where I wrote:

We are all circling the productivity puzzle and its lucrative paybacks as we all explore how our new "IoT" presences will provide more than energy and operating savings for our clients and allow us to morph to providers of occupant happiness.

Now is the time for us as an industry to stake claims for our pieces of the puzzle — that is, satisfaction, wellness, productivity — in our buildings.

My thinking as I started to write this editorial rapidly evolved to this: No one person or group can completely solve the productivity puzzle. It is a mosaic of comfort satisfaction and wellness control, and it includes temperature, humidity, IAQ, draft, lighting level, lighting color, fenestration control, wellness, social media communication, digital mindfulness, psychology with successful client interaction.

In the old days (before, the early 1990s), we often joked about the "Make Me Happy Button," an important mythical DDC input from the field to let us know that our clients were not happy. This, of course, was long before smartphones and social media. In those days, we had no method of communicating the happiness of our occupant/client. But, as best said and sung by Dylan, "the times they are a changin’."

Maybe…. [given the potential of voice interface] we will just speak, no button to push, just say the "Make Me Happy Command."

If we can achieve all that then we would have the start of an anticipatory building. To create future anticipatory buildings we need to dynamically locate and initiate a digital dialog that gathers information about the anticipations of the users in our spaces. From there we move beyond anticipating to meeting the physical, and even emotional needs of occupants.

I am very pleased moderating a panel discussion at the Nordic Smart Building Conference Helsinki, "Empathic, Healing & Anticipatory Buildings" – mainly because I get to ask very smart people how they see this happening.

In reviewing and reading material that has been published on the topic it became clear to me that the rapid advance of applied technology has led to rapid changes in people's work habits and attendance patterns; an environment with a lot of complications and many moving pieces.

Some of the work done by the digital minister of Taiwan (@audreyt) suggests we need to redefine some of our core words in our human-machine relationship.

Let's all work on the human interface of IoT keeping these words of wisdom from Audrey in mind:

The humanizing of our buildings is probably our greatest task in the near future.

This LinkedIn profile of one of my fellow speakers may help us understand some of the changes we need to make:

Ken Dooley Technology Director at Granlund, Granlund Aalto University Helsinki Area, Finland

I am passionate about creating user-centric and environmentally sustainable buildings and cities, and I have a strong interest in understanding the balance between technological and behavioral approaches when implementing this kind of change.

Tech solutions are important as they will more than likely cause the biggest changes. However, a behavioral approach is often much lower cost, equally impactful and lasts much longer than the technological solution.

At Granlund, my role involves working on research projects, internal development, lean experiments and business model development for our future products and services. The focus will be on the built environment and mostly in the areas of end-user solutions, energy, circular economy, IoT, big data and AI.

I am looking forward meeting another Ken and learning what might be part of a behavioral approach. The Scandinavian countries have been pioneers in cell phone invention and innovation, particularly in how they humanize their technology, so I look forward to their insight on how some of the next bridges between people and technology will be built.

How we sense and what we sense are a large part of the puzzle. We need to involve the people in these anticipatory buildings in turning these comfort systems into extensions of themselves, and it needs to happen in a transparent, intuitive way. This article, Sensing Solutions for the Flexible Workspace by David Rottelman, Global VP of Sales, PointGrab, starts to help set the scene:

With the increase of workforce mobility and the growing trend of de-centralized and team-based work, companies realize that the traditional workplace needs to evolve to support these changes. The dynamic nature of contemporary work often requires ad hoc collaborative teams that need greater workspace flexibility. Furthermore, about 40% to 50% of current office space is underutilized, leading to a substantial waste of operational expenditures. Companies are therefore looking for a flexible workplace where the office space is optimized, and employees are given greater flexibility to choose where, when and how they work…

An emerging sensing solution, based on image sensors, provides highly accurate and detailed information about occupants’ whereabouts at a lower cost while protecting privacy. Using ceiling mounted image-based sensors with edge-analytics processing capability, these sensors deliver unprecedented data on occupants’ presence, location, count, and movement. As edge analytics devices, all processing is performed at the sensor level and images for analytics are processed, not stored or transmitted, ensuring occupants’ privacy is protected. Having sufficient on-sensor processing power and connectivity, they can support remote upgrades. Finally, these sensors’ underlying computer vision capability allows for object detection beyond occupant location (e.g., desks, computers, doors, chairs, and the like), making room for substantial future growth and support for additional important use cases.

We need to find methods of significantly reducing the fences and barriers between people and their built environment. Virtual visibility ( ), transparency (, and the digital twin are key concepts in creating that all-so-important interface between occupant and building.

Some of the thinking that is surrounding smart cities needs to be part of our Anticipating Buildings. Concepts such as Digital Inclusion and Collaboration, discussed in this article by Bas Boorsma, writing for the European IoT Council. Key passage:

By seeing smaller and larger communities collaborate, procure, set innovation agendas, sharing know-how, creating economies of scale, and aggregating demand, digital inclusion can be addressed effectively, with smaller communities benefiting from the same digital innovations large cities can typically already enjoy. As we collectively enter the next chapter of digital evolution, we must leave no person behind.

New developments in emotional intelligent machines as outlined in this episode from digital mindfulness shows us that machines are rapidly approaching the ability to enter to assist us in helping our buildings feel and heal. From the introduction:

Change Sciences Founder and author Pamela Pavliscak talks with Lawrence about the evolution of emotionally intelligent machines and their potential to radically impact society for the better. Emotionally intelligent machines are closely linked to the application of artificial intelligence to understanding human emotions, and in the show, Pamela talks extensively about the co-evolution of machines with society. This is a fascinating episode and one you won’t want to miss.

Because this task is complex and never been done does not mean that we should not attempt to start the transition of teaching buildings how to anticipate, feel, and heal.

The key will be in the interface, in finding the correct balance of Humanistic Digital Inclusion for people and their buildings.

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