How a COVID-19 Free Smart Building Can Transform Sustainably Beyond the Pandemic

Image credit: iStockphoto/Diversity Studio

With COVID-19, the primary focus of smart building innovations and transformations has been infection containment and social distancing. It has made empty spaces necessary with the inclusion of alternate seats and expanded waiting lines. Work hours have also become more staggered, requiring heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems to run for longer hours.

This article will talk about how we can utilize these innovations and technology to go beyond infection containment and make this transformation sustainable. Investment in these technologies can be leveraged to create new services, experiences, and add value — limited only by our imagination. For example, employee and visitor productivity apps can enhance every conceivable function: from entry and exit to Wayfinding, communications, and more. The diagram below shows how we can enhance the visitor experience in a COVID-19-free smart building of the future.

Infographics by Vinod Bijlani, courtesy of

James Visits a Business Partner

James’ visit begins when he downloads the visitor mobile app provided by his business partner. He requests a visit using the app and provides his facial information, national identification, and car number plate information.

The security agency, the company’s business partner, reviews this information and approves his request. The request goes to the business partner host, who checks his availability and approves James’ request.

Having completed the necessary security checks, James experiences a seamless entry on the day of his visit. He drives to the car park at his business partner’s office. He is allowed to enter as his number plate is recognized by the video analytics solution implemented at the parking entrance. He then enters the office through touchless access control, which identifies him via his facial information. The system also checks whether he has a fever and is wearing a mask. Once he is cleared to enter the office, the host is notified that James has arrived.

These first four steps of James’ visit were implemented for infection containment. They can be used to completely automate the visitor entry process and save around one hour of combined productive time for the visitor and host. James walks to the elevator, and the visitor app communicates to the smart elevator the floor where his meeting is held. He reaches the floor without touching any buttons. He then uses the Wayfinder feature in the app to locate the meeting room.

The meeting lights have been brightened, and the air-con temperature has been set to a comfortable level before James and his host enter the meeting room. Inside the room, data from video-based solutions is fused with information from occupancy sensors to ensure social distancing and occupancy compliance with regulations.

The meeting concludes, and the participants leave the meeting room. Automatically, the lights are dimmed and the aircon shut off by the smart building system.

After the meeting, James plans to continue working at the business partner’s office. He uses the visitor app to request a mobile seat. The system checks for availability based on social distancing norms and assigns a seat for him for the requested duration. He uses the Wayfinder app to walk to the assigned mobile seat. He finishes his work and decides to leave the office. He passes through the contactless exit where his facial data is captured, and the temperature is logged. The host is notified that his guest has left the building.

Once again, technologies such as Wayfinder, mobile seating, automatic lights, and air conditioning controls deployed for social distancing detection can be used to ensure a seamless visitor experience. It would also improve visitor productivity and enhance the employee experience in a smart building, making for a sustainable transformation.

Transforming With a Staged Approach

A digital transformation of such a scale would best be implemented in organized stages and according to priority. I have summarized the five stages of Smart Building implementation in the diagram below, from managing touch-less entry to social distancing, energy conservation, occupancy management, and experience redefinition.

Diagram by Vinod Bijlani

The valuable lessons gleaned from the current pandemic can serve to prepare and protect us from future ones. Should another pandemic or natural disaster occur in the next five, 10, or 15 years, smart and resilient buildings and cities will ensure that we are ready to defend ourselves with utmost sophistication and order. It will significantly minimize the impact on our economy and daily life compared to the current chain of detrimental effects we see rippling through 2020 and beyond.

Vinod Bijlani, a thought leader in data science, AI and IoT, authored this article. The original article is here.

Vinod Bijlani leads the AI and IoT Practice for HPE. He is primarily a technologist who is passionate about creating, finding machine learning and AI solutions which will move humanity and the environment forward. He has contributed to the design and implementation of smart city projects and has established intelligent public transportation and traffic ecosystems in India, Singapore, and the U.S. He has over 22 years of experience in creating solutions and is a distinguished inventor with 25 patents in AI and ML technologies. He envisions a radically safer, healthier, and more sustainable planet with the democratization of AI, Industry 5.0, and 5G technologies.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of CDOTrends. Image credit: iStockphoto/Diversity Studio