BSRIA has launched its White Paper on ‘Trends towards wearables and wellbeing in buildings – a threat or opportunity for the HVAC industry?’.
Wearables include everything from smart watches, which can record and transmit a huge range of different types of information about the wearer and his or her health to smart glasses, smart jewellery and even smart clothing. As well as helping the wearer to interact more effectively with his or her environment, wearables open a range of new opportunities for building systems, along with some important challenges.
Krystyna Dawson, business manager of BSRIA’s World Market Intelligence Division, commented: “Traditionally, HVAC management systems have focussed strongly on ensuring energy efficiency, which also reduces costs, while keeping system failures and down-time to a minimum. Increasingly, the comfort of the building’s occupants is recognised as an important goal in itself and as one that contributes to employee productivity and hence to the bottom line.
“Wearables have the potential to help with all of these objectives. By tracking the wearer’s movements they can help ensure that heating and cooling is directed to where it is needed and take account of variable factors like body heat.
They also provide the potential to help provide a personalised environment suited to the individual wearer. If the wearer’s personal preferences are known then the local environment can be adjusted to the ‘optimal’ temperature, humidity etc. A smart watch can even potentially signal that the wearer is tired and in need of more ventilation.
“This of course raises huge questions. The first is one of privacy and, more specifically, whether it is reasonable to expect wearers to share information about their personal state with a building system, with subsidiary questions about how else the information might be used and how it will be secured against misuse.
“The second big question is how far a building system is capable of exploiting this new wealth of information. Providing a ‘personalised’ environment requires an HVAC system that can direct heat, cooling and ventilation in a very granular way and also respond quickly to changes. Failing this, the system might fall back on the majority preference of those in an area of the building.”