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Building Better Building Bots Mindfully

In our future, all our inputs and outputs will evolve to either be bots, or be commanded by bots. 

Why are we talking about Building Bots and not Building Controls? Because the Building Automation industry is rapidly becoming the voice, eyes, arms, and legs that is sensing, listening, seeing, and carrying out the commands of AI-driven, self-learning bots. Lower the temperature, open the window shade, change the color of the light -- make me happy! In our future, all our inputs and outputs will evolve to either be bots, or be commanded by bots.  And by bot (short for "robot") we mean an automated program.

These bots will be the interface to our valuable cargo, the “housed humans" of our buildings. Bots cannot be rude or attention hijacking. Instead they are our ambassadors, and they need to be diplomatic, mindful and empathic while providing worthwhile digital experiences.
 
We are all struggling to understand better how to make all of this happen, but as quickly as we grasp the concepts of digital mindfulness and its overall impact we need to use that understanding for Building Better Bots Mindfully.

In our last issue, the Building Whisperers, I define the whisperers as people who have empathy for what's going on in the building, who can bring about the humanistic relationship between people and buildings. And to develop that relationship, the technology has to be pushed to the background.

The business case for mindfulness is to eliminate attention hijacking experiences from the employee.

I think we originally looked to the cell phone as the universal device that would be the human-building interface. But now voice bots are meeting concerns about personal security while reducing the “friction” that comes of using several apps. The voice as an interface leaped out because it doesn't require us to touch any device. This solves the problem that anytime we touch a physical device or look at a physical screen our attention is hijacked. Any kind of interaction we can have that does not command complete attention and can be multitasked is essential. And voice interface is just such a thing; we're used to talking to people as we continue on with our lives. Video coupled with AI has similar freedom from attention hijacking. As we build better bots, we need to make mindfulness part of them all.

This is likely a difficult read if you have not been following our Building EmotionBuilding Whisperers and Building Edge-Bots That Will Learn Emotion series of articles, all part of our never-ending digital transformation story.

The business case for mindfulness is to eliminate attention hijacking experiences from the employee. This will improve attention flow, increasing their ability to focus on their purpose as they are relieved of mundane interactions and instead rewarded with worthwhile digital interactions. Hear more in this Control Talk Video interview with Lawrence Ampofo PH.D. Lawrence is the founder of Digital Mindfulness, a global community of companies and professionals uncovering the value of creating time-well-spent digital experiences. He is at the forefront of a group of companies and thought leaders that are raising awareness of the potential of humane technologies. He has presented his work on social media intelligence at Oxford University, NATO, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, as well as global marketing conferences and private events. He has given keynote speeches on behaviour design, time well-spent experiences and digital wellness at such places as Google, Spredfast Smart Social, and The Guardian. From the interview:

Soft skills are critical for a function in a well-functioning society the air B&B; example is really useful because they were focused initially on having the whole experience be as seamless as possible for the guests and for the host but what they found was that by measures of time well spent from both the guest and the host, there was greater friction so when the host and the guests were kind of moved to ask more questions or to interact with each other more on the journey then the relationship was strengthened and both parties ended up having a much better experience, so the trust factor was increased all of these things which lead to the strengthening of the platform as a whole. 

I added this:

There's another concern that robots and BOTS will take over from us but this is so far from the truth, the arena that is developing is the "bridge between" and that's where we all have to get involved. That's why we're having these kinds of discussions because this is not a bridge that building automation folks have crossed, but need to because we know how these technologies work we know how we can make them invisible, but how do we make them mindful, empathetic, humanistic? 

And this in response to Lawrence's further comments: 

The point you just made that I completely missed is the virtual reality building. I love that, and it's not so hard for us to imagine it as we're sitting here in Atlanta, London, England, and the West Coast of Canada talking mindfully in this interview. We have created a virtual building on our screens, and in our minds, such will be our future.

In the interview we also talk about attempts and methods for measuring mindfulness. The success of the bot at reducing friction while creating time-well-spent digital experiences will be rated by the number of times the bot is used, much the way we now rate the success of Apps.
  
Bots can provide immediate feedback of their success or failure. This will be crucial as we seek acceptance for our newly created bot babies. We will need to hone our User Experience (UX) skills quickly while educating users about the improved well-spent experience. This will be a new arena for us all selling the advantages of our bots while simultaneously understanding that one bot does not fit all.

Please join our discussion with Lawrence and others at the session Building Emotion at AHRExpo.com Atlanta. (We have added more sessions, and more times for each one of them).

This sneak preview of an article appearing next month by Toby Ruckert, Founder and CEO, UIB on the AutomatedBuildings.com website states, We've Got It Backwards: The Future Needs to Be More Human (and Less Machine):

We have succeeded beyond our wildest dreams (we’ve created machines that can now learn on their own), and we have failed beyond our worst nightmares (we’ve created “black box” Artificial Intelligence (AI) which we don’t — and can’t — understand).

It’s time for us to rethink the future we’re so effectively creating. I’m concerned by this trend, where we focus our mental energy into machines, rather than having them understand us more.

Smart devices and AI are increasingly taking a critical role in our lives. It’s up to us to decide whether we want a future to be more human or more machine. What makes us humans are our languages, and the cultures and thinking patterns that come with them.

Therefore, it is my wish that for this and future generations, we not just teach ourselves to code or understand machines, but rather focus on teaching ourselves how to think, and our machines to learn and understand our culture better.

This article, AI in Building Management: Here Come the Smart Buildings, by Karen Whitt on the Knowledge Leader website suggests similar concerns:

Recently, I’ve started to think more about artificial intelligence (AI) as new developments catch my eye. For example, Facebook recently confirmed reports that bots in their AI projects have consistently drifted away from English as they talk to each other, instead, creating their own unique languages on the fly. They aren’t rewarded for sticking to human language, so they gravitate towards the most efficient means of communication, which is usually a symbolic expression to describe complex concepts.

Some random shared thoughts from Sjoerd Postema, the Business Development Manager at ROND - Production House from what I refer to as the “Helsinki Head Shake” – the Nordics’ Top Real Estate Tech Event held this June:

To opt in or opt out? That is the question...

Do you opt in when entering a building and get all the services and what happens when you opt out? If the building is empathic when I opt in how will the building behave, will the building become apathetic and indifferent? This same question applies when I enter a smart city, will I still be able to have the same UX or will I lose out? Will I have to read and agree to terms and agreements for every space I enter?

Our phones can be seen as our Tech PA that could render me visible or completely invisible. My tech PA holds my tech passport and communicates with the edge bots so they know my preferences and I don't have to worry about how my data is used. Similar to an RFID blocking wallet my cards can only be read once I pull them out to pay. 

The idea of physical objects having emotions is a bit deceiving and might be misunderstood by the general public. When talking about the emotional intelligence of a building we can think about different levels(emotional scale) 0 = the building is apathetic, 10 = the building has a full understanding of our needs and functions as a host to serve and accommodate us in everything we might need. Can the Turing test be used to score the buildings emotional intelligence?

Anyway these are just some random thoughts, not sure where i'm heading with this...

Editor note, "The Turing test, developed by Alan Turing in 1950, is a test of a machine's ability to exhibit intelligent behavior equivalent to, or indistinguishable from, that of a human."

I have pulled some key quotes from Ken Perske writing on the Knowledge Leader website to help you speed read some of the concepts we’re working with: 

Global Workplace Trends: 5 Shifts Companies Must Make in the Next 5 Years

Make employee experience a core part of business strategy

Drive engagement and productivity by creating true ownership of the employee experience and bringing the service-oriented hospitality mindset into the workplace. On average, happy employees have 31% higher productivity, 37% higher sales performance and a level of creativity three times higher than their unhappy counterparts. Research also shows the direct impact that engagement and productivity can have on the bottom line: Public companies with engaged workforces report higher earnings per share.

Build the “Internet of Workplace”

Shift your strategy on digital integration in the workplace from nice-to-have amenities to core functionalities that make the workplace reactive and proactive, and that get ahead of the automation impact.

Create a workplace that makes people healthier

Ensure that employees are healthier when they leave the workplace than when they arrive by “leading” employees to wellness, making technology a wellness-enabler and taking designing for wellness to the next level.

Ingrain the co-working mentality in real estate strategy

Change the way you think about space needs to focus more on the categories of “core” and “flexible.” Doing so can help you realize the true impact of flexibility on your bottom line and business strategy.
 
Enable the agile organization

Align your work environment with the agile organization model, and you will be better placed to adapt to the changing needs of your clients and the marketplace — and stay one step ahead.

Expanding on the “Internet of Workplace” idea is Janjaap Boogaard, again writing on Knowledge Leader:

Build the “Internet of Workplace”

From the way we consume media to the way we order food, every aspect of our lives is becoming customizable — a factor that is particularly important to the millennial and Generation Z cohorts. This is one area where it’s imperative to remember that by 2022, Gen Z will be your entry-level employees and millennials will make up a significant portion of your managers and key decision-makers — and their expectations for the workplace will hold even more important than today.

But the workplace is drastically lagging in terms of opportunities for customization, and this must change. People should be able to design their workdays not only in terms of where and when they work but also in terms of the temperature, lighting, arrangement and overall look and feel of their environments. The “workstation” is already highly mobile, but this will continue to evolve, which means that many areas throughout the office must become adaptable to different employee preferences.

Beyond reactively adjusting to preferences, the work environment will increasingly be able to recognize people, anticipate their needs and adapt proactively. Imagine a chair that automatically rises to your preferred seat height. A lighting scheme that prevents the headaches you’re prone to. A program that suggests the best place to work based on your current location and the locations of colleagues you need to collaborate with.

This post from Businesswire.com about a new search engine for security and surveillance video speaks to our developing mindful eyes and their ability to recall what they saw:

Ella uses both algorithmic and deep learning tools to give any surveillance or security camera the ability to recognize objects, colors, people, vehicles, animals and more. Ella was designed with the technology backbone of Camio, a startup founded by ex-Googlers who realized there could be a way to apply search to streaming video feeds. Ella makes every nanosecond of video searchable instantly, letting users type in queries like “white truck” to find every relevant clip instead of searching through hours of footage. Ella quite simply creates a Google for video.

We need to stand on the shoulders of those giants who understand the critical balance of bots and bodies to create a new, humanistic, friction-reduced future that will increase the level of mindfulness in all we do. We need to use our new-found understanding to Build Better Bots Mindfully.

My next column will be "Open Software, Open Hardware, and Open Mind." 

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