IoT, intelligent devices, and big data. The technology is already here – but are sensors in meeting rooms and tracking of behavior just for fun or unnecessary surveillance? And how can we defend more technology and use of energy when we must take care of the planet at the same time? On the other hand, can intelligent interior be valuable to its users and maybe save us resources?
These big, difficult yet interesting questions make out the underlying basis for the first sofa talk at Trends & Traditions 2019 ‘Value-based technology – why do interior solutions have to be intelligent?’
At the stage, we have the host of the talk, Peter Landau, Business Developer at Bloxhub, Henrik Mathiassen, Design & Digital Director and Co-founding Partner at Design-People, and Eric Van Bael, CEO at Spacewell.
Peter Landau sets the scene by asking: “We recognize it from our smartphones and wearables but how can a sofa or other types of interior function as interface?’
’With Internet of Things, everything becomes a device – like antennas storing data. As for instance price and size on batteries become smaller, it is suddenly profitable to equip buildings, furniture, and even clothes with sensors that can track everything – e.g. whether a room or a piece of furniture is occupied. Or whether the heat, humidity, or carbon level reach a critical level,” Eric Van Bael explained.
But what do you need to take into consideration if the sensor technology for instance must be integrated in the design of a new sofa?
”First of all, you need to understand who should use the sofa – what will the daily use be like? Do you want to track the use, so you can rent it out on an hourly basis? Often, we are so focused on technology itself that we forget the ask ourselves ‘why’?” Henrik Matthiessen said.
Use office buildings better
The experience with sensors and value-based technology primarily comes from the office sector. So, what are the latest tendencies there?
”The focus is on occupancy rate. In the western world, half of all office buildings on average are unutilized on any given time. 40 percent of the world’s energy use comes from buildings, so we are dealing with a tremendous waste of resources – both financially and climate-wise. That’s the reason why we cannot talk about green buildings, as long as they are so ineffective,” Eric Van Bael says and continues:
”Therefore, companies are very concerned about how to create attractive co-working spaces where divisions can work more closely and effectively together – and how they can shot down entire offices if they are not used. Sensors and tracking can provide information about this. In the future, we can also create workspaces that track who is using the desk and thereby automatically adjust the height, level of light, and background music to the individual person.”
Are we going too far?
Eric Van Bael provided yet another interesting and concrete example of sensors and tracking that evokes the ethical dilemma: “how far are we actually willing to go?”
“In a large international bank in New York, where stock brokers constantly need to keep track of the market, we have developed a sensor solution that enables employees to always know which toilets are available so they don’t waste time standing in line.”
From offices to the care sector
How can the value-based technology be used in other industries – e.g. within the care sector – without overstepping the individual’s limits.
“Within the elder care sector, where time and in many cases worthiness is scarce for the elders, sensors can make elder care more efficient to allow for more time for love and care – e.g. with sensors in diapers so the staff can keep one step ahead in terms of changing the diaper or bathing the elders,” Henrik Mathiassen said.
Eric Van Bael continued this thought and talked about the newest radar and sensor technology:
“In the elder home of the future, radars can also be installed in rooms to track how the elders are doing – e.g. their heart rate – and call for help if anything goes wrong. Such radars can replace the process of the elder having to press an alarm – an act that an elderly is not able to do if they have fallen down.”
What is the trade-off for the environment?
Finally, the panel finished off by discussing another ethical dilemma that the rapid technological development also gives rise to: how does even more technology and energy expenditure fit into an increased focus on climate and sustainability?
Henrik Mathiassen said:
“It is always a balance but if you e.g. build sensors into furniture, you can use it to track it and get it back and perhaps upcycle it for the environment’s sake.”
Peter Landau summarized and called for a future debate:
“Consider how huge of an environmental potential there is in installing sensors in buildings. We bring more technology into this world but if half of all office rooms are empty with the heat on, then technology can lead to massive energy expenditure savings.”