Sensors play a critical role in building operations, from safety and security to optimizing building system performance. Building energy management systems, lighting controls, and heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems are slowly incorporating more sensors as their prices fall and their values rise. Navigant Research’s report Advanced Sensors in Smart Buildings delves into the future of the market for sensors that have built-in processors, networking capability, and the capability to sense more than one phenomenon at a time. Yet, as design elements in rooms and ceilings, most sensors, like the traditional thermostat, are unappealing appendages with little aesthetic value. The good news is that the ugly boxes and knobs are shrinking and may disappear from view altogether.
Redwood Systems (acquired last year by networking company Commscope) recently released its third-generation light and motion sensor. Redwood’s approach is to capture fine-grain occupancy and light levels to deliver lighting precisely to those in offices who need it, when they want it, even with shifting levels of sunlight. Its lighting solution and accompanying open application programming interface (API) were deployed at the San Francisco headquarters of the software management firm GitHub, then promptly customized to enable the employees to tailor light levels as they see fit. Redwood’s sensor looks like a small lump on the ceiling and can even be embedded in LED lighting systems themselves.
Sense of Control
The next generation of sensors may not look like anything. New materials and manufacturing techniques will hide sensors from view, either embedding them in equipment or as objects to paste on surfaces as needed. Imagine living in a house with smooth walls and ceilings. No light switches or thermostats in view, other than as decorative objects. Norwegian company Thinfilm has developed a printable temperature sensor that can function as both a temperature sensor and display for a myriad of applications. Funded by PARC, Xerox’s research arm, Thinfilm has focused its efforts on thin labels for consumer products (like produce) that have tight temperature and lifetime tolerances. Thinfilm has also developed advanced ID cards for people that can display names and access levels to different locations. With data storage and near-field communications capability, Thinfilm’s products have the potential to leap from smart temperature labels to flat room temperature sensors with built-in displays and network communication.
The French company ISORG is also developing a technology using printed sensors. Its flat light sensors are designed not for occupancy or light level applications, but for applications where light level variances can be used to control equipment, like consumer devices. And it just received $8.7 million in financing, bringing new attention to the printed sensor space. This technology may jump into equipment themselves, like HVAC fans and pumps, where minuscule sensors can enable more granular control and system optimization.
Tags: Building Systems, Energy Efficient Buildings, Smart Buildings Program, Wireless Sensors
| No Comments »