Future smart buildings will adapt and learn

This entry was posted on Tuesday, November 29th, 2016.

Tom Carroll of JLL property services recently penned an article for the UK-based publication Computing that explores the future of intelligent buildings. As Carroll explains, advanced sensors and the ubiquitous adoption of mobile devices, combined with the rapidly burgeoning IoT, will transform the services a building is capable of offering.


“[This will] optimize energy provision, temperature control, digital wayfinding (using sensors to find deskspace and map surroundings) and, ultimately, deliver a better overall user experience,” wrote Carrol. “[Moreover], the next generation of building management systems (BMS) will function like the building’s operating system, taking in data and making decisions on how to optimize the building’s design and performance.”

In addition, smart building systems will generate, analyze and interpret vast streams of information. This will allow next-gen smart buildings to marry usage data with information about individual staff movements and work habits to help facilitate collaboration between employees.

“By 2030, we predict that the tactical and operational management of workplaces will largely be undertaken by algorithms analyzing millions of data sets,” he stated. “Buildings will be able to link location data with information from corporate databases and social media to engineer interactions between staff members. Offices will soon become part of the management team of any business – for example, notifying one employee working on a project that another specialist is nearby and suggesting a meeting.”

It should be noted that a recent white paper authored by U.S. furniture giant Haworth expressed similar sentiments, as it described how sophisticated sensors deployed in the workplace of the future can help contribute to employee well-being and increased productivity. These smart sensors will be tasked with constantly monitoring environmental conditions as well as the way employee spaces are used. This will enable workspaces to “shape-shift” for maximum efficiency, automatically altering temperature and lighting levels.

“This is an amazing shift in design thinking,” Haworth’s research program manager Mike Bahr elaborated in a statement quoted by Dezeen Magazine. “[We] believe new technologies can make work better by helping people be their best and soon we’ll see employees drawn to the office in their search for increased wellbeing, engagement, and effectiveness. Why? Because their workspace responds to how they work best.”

To be sure, Haworth envisions a workplace of the future where sensor information detailing light intensity and spectrum, sound amplitude and direction, air quality, odor and occupant location and activity are all integrated – feeding critical data to automatic and responsive environmental systems.

“Occupancy sensors that monitor how employees are using a space are already available and give designers the information to create more effective interior layouts. In [the] future they could generate data for a computer system that adapts a space automatically,” Dezeen Magazine explained. “For example, a meeting room might work better as a less formal area without a central boardroom-style table one day, and a video-conference space the next. New advances in sensors that monitor environmental factors like the intensity of light, sound and air quality are also turning these into key tools for better workspaces.”

As we’ve previously discussed on Rambus Press, this is precisely why lensless smart sensors (LSS) are designed to “understand” the movement, presence and patterns of smart office occupants. Indeed, the presence of an individual, the number of occupants and relevant activity are all passively detected with LSS technology.

So, how do Rambus lensless smart sensors work? Well, LSS offers a novel approach to sensing by combining ultra-small diffractive gratings with standard image sensors. Simply put, light passing through the diffractive grating is intelligently spread onto the image sensor below to form an unrecognizable, yet information-rich blob containing the relevant data from a specific scene. This information is combined with application-specific algorithms that can either visually reconstruct a scene, or extract pertinent data, such as the number and location of occupants.

The resulting data is then analyzed – automatically triggering specific systems and functions within a smart building, such as security, heating, cooling and lighting. This smart approach increases the comfort and safety level of the occupants while significantly reducing energy costs. By rethinking the way digital systems ‘see,’ LSS creates an intelligent infrastructure capable of adapting to the ever-changing needs of the individual in the workplace of the future.

With optics approximately the size of a human hair and a power envelope so low that certain applications could run on energy harvested from their environment, Rambus LSS technology offers the potential to positively disrupt the future of smart buildings and cities, as well as wearables, medical equipment, transportation and manufacturing.

Interested in learning more about Rambus lensless smart sensors? You can check out our LSS product page here and our article archive here.