Smart building has ‘environment bubbles’ to follow people around

26 Jun 2017

Image: Gansstock/Shutterstock

How smart can a building get? Well, when heating and lighting follows inhabitants throughout their wanders, ‘pretty smart’ is the answer.

The Agnelli Foundation is dedicated to economic, scientific, social and cultural studies in Italy, with its latest ‘research’ of particular interest.

Taking smart lighting to a whole new level, the foundation claims its Turin headquarters is the first building in the world “that interacts with people”.

Future Human


Siemens has provided an indoor positioning system, with sensors all over the building tracking CO2 levels, temperatures, meeting room attendance and more in between.

Real time “geo-localisation of people moving inside the complex” means the building’s AI can manage lighting, heating, space allocation and air conditioning as and when people move about.

“Intelligent devices generate huge amounts of data every day, every hour and every second,” said Federico Golla, president and CEO of Siemens Italia.

“With the right digital tools, it is possible to leverage the data and interact with the environment as never before. The concept of Carlo Ratti Associati for Agnelli Foundation is an ideal [project] for us.”

The Agnelli Foundation. Image: Beppe Giardino

The Agnelli Foundation. Image: Beppe Giardino

The sensors within the facility number in the hundreds, with a smartphone-synced “three-axis indoor positioning system” acting as a human tracker.

Once building occupants set their preferred temperature via the app, a “thermal bubble” follows them throughout the building, as the fan coil units, situated in the false ceilings, are activated by human presence.

According to Carlo Ratti, when an occupant leaves a given space, the room returns naturally to “standby mode” and saves energy – just like a computer does.

“By synchronising energy usage and human occupancy within buildings, we can create a more sustainable and responsive architecture – theoretically slashing energy consumption by up to 40pc,” said the agency.

The Agnelli Foundation. Image: Beppe Giardino

The Agnelli Foundation. Image: Beppe Giardino

Modern office spaces, and particularly data centres, are at the core of the latest age of innovative architecture.

For example, a swathe of data centres was profiled on last year, including former bomb shelters, underwater hubs and even a converted former chapel.

Elsewhere, the Netherlands-based Edge is widely regarded as one of the smartest office blocks in the world. Everything from parking spaces to rotational office spots are managed by an app, in real time.

The Agnelli Foundation, so, is merely continuing a theme.

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic