Will the smart buildings be aware of what is going on with the occupants, should it? For example, should it know what they are doing, what their preferences are?
Contextual and Situational awareness are key technical pillars of a smart building. Situational awareness is more about the perception and understanding of environmental elements, both internal and external to the building. While it is not phrased as “situational awareness”, most of the smart building solutions today include aspects of situational awareness, they are mostly targeted solutions within silos like lighting, HVAC, security etc. While there is a long way to go, the existing solutions have made progress towards “situational awareness”. However, the emphasis on engaging the building occupants (beyond facility professionals) or occupancy monitoring system / activity details has been minimal to nonexistent.
Context awareness is the state of the user (occupants of a building), like, where they are, what they are doing, and what they are interacting with etc. Given that the objective of a smart building includes occupant comfort, efficient operation, resource optimization (energy, water) etc., then engaging the occupants becomes critical and an effective strategy. It allows the building system to react in a more meaningful manner, in-situ, and maximize its chances of effectively achieving its objectives.
Let’s take a simple and well-established example of how lighting works. There are occupancy sensors that detects movement and switches the light ON, the system times out after a few minutes and switches the lights OFF. This action remains the same in all situations, be it an occupant walking past that area, or actively working in that space. Let’s see how context awareness helps. If the sensor understands the activity of the occupant, it can adjust the timeout accordingly. So, when the user is just passing by the timeout can be low or can be set based on the type of activity. More interestingly the system can optimize the amount of lighting based on activity. It can go even further if it understands the occupants’ lighting preference and adjusts accordingly. This can expand to other building automation systems as well.
Buildings interacting with the users, providing them feedback, creating awareness about resource wastage etc. will be the future. Much like our cars today it is not far-fetched to think about users more technologically tied to their surroundings within a building. Occupancy monitoring system that can track real time occupancy and detect user activity will play a key role in realizing the above future.
This context aware system should be holistic- should accommodate sensors and data from diverse systems and have the potential to convert an existing system into a smart one as well. The system has the potential to benefit the property owners, property managers and the occupants in different ways. It can benefit the property owner by providing possible savings in various resources (lighting, consumables and staff) as well as provide technologies to have a pulse on the building occupants’ satisfaction levels. It can equally benefit the property manager by enabling the efficient resource utilization while improving quality of service. The system should also allow for inspection and validation of the service provided.
Zan Compute provides such a system- a holistic solution with an intelligent AI platform and smart sensors. Please visit Zan Compute to learn more.