Any building can be made smart – now faster and easier than ever
A lot has been said about the concept of smart buildings and what fantastic opportunities they could yield. It’s not only about architects designing intelligent structures right from the blueprint stage, the concept could be simpler and closer to reality than you think. Using Bosch’s own technologies together with those developed by our partners, we can now make any existing building smart by retrofitting it with sensors and connecting those sensors through state-of-the-art networks and software. The idea is to start small and implement extra use cases as you go. And that’s precisely what we did at the Bosch Singapore campus: we installed IoT sensors and cameras (to be used as sensors) inside the decade-old building and integrated them with the Bosch Connected Building software. This gave our existing premises a voice to interact with its inhabitants.
Bosch’s approach to smart buildings – an open IoT ecosystem and a common data lake
“No one can do IoT alone” is the motto Bosch has always followed. Indeed, for any technology to develop successfully, an ecosystem must be able to freely evolve around it, with various companies contributing their expertise – be it in hardware, software, or domain-specific services. Bosch pursues an open IoT ecosystem approach and advocates partnerships and cooperation for the benefit of the entire industry and, ultimately, customers. We help to drive open industry standards and provide our smart building solutions with open APIs. This enables their easy integration with third-party solutions, existing Building Information Models (BIMs), and Building Management Systems (BMSs).
The Bosch IoT Suite and Connected Building software can put together data from a building’s siloed legacy systems, sensors, and cameras and create a common data lake, where data is analyzed and then presented in a graphical dashboard. This dashboard offers a clear picture of how your entire building is functioning. The data lake also makes building data readily available for the development of new applications and services that can improve the efficiency of building subsystems and the comfort of its occupants. You can select providers that you deem are best suited for certain application areas and grant them access to the data lake through open APIs.
What building parameters does a SenseAgent sensor track?
- Air quality: temperature, humidity, CO2 and TVOC concentrations
- Ambient light level
- Ambient noise level
- Position via Bluetooth beacons
- Occupancy via Passive Infrared
- Air pressure
Smart buildings powered by technological partnerships
For the Singapore connected campus project, Bosch teamed up with Australian company Levaux, who provide SenseAgent sensors. SenseAgent is a custom, multifunctional IoT sensor designed specifically for smart buildings. It can control lights directly while tracking major building parameters related to occupancy, movement, ambient light and noise, and air quality. This combined functionality eliminates the need for the installation of multiple sensors. SenseAgent sensors operate autonomously without the need for constant cloud connectivity, using weekly operational schedules and programs instead. They sample data acquired per second, share it peer-to-peer over the mesh network, and process it locally to control lights using logic-based decision making. Together with the Bosch Connected Building software, this enabled us to realize a variety of practical IoT use cases.
Use cases implemented at the Bosch Singapore campus
How long does it take to connect a building with sensors?
It’s a plug and play deal. Sensors are installed between a ceiling power outlet and a light fixture. They communicate using a wireless mesh network, so there is no need for expensive communication cabling and network infrastructure. The installation is fast and straightforward – we completed it over a weekend in the Bosch building. We then spent a few days adjusting sensor algorithms, e.g. fine-tuning the lighting level according to preferences of the occupants for a particular office area.
Daylight harvesting and light scheduling
With the ambient light tracking and light control functionality, we have optimized how the Bosch Singapore campus uses electric lights, ensuring better comfort and ultimately, saving energy.
- From 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., the lights in open space areas of the office are switched on in daylight harvesting mode. This means they autonomously dim or brighten depending on the amount of daylight entering the building.
- From 7 p.m. onwards, the lights are scheduled to switch to presence detection mode, triggered by motion and sound. This way, we save electricity in unoccupied areas of the office.
- Lights in meeting and conference rooms remain in presence detection mode.
- On weekends, the lights across the whole office automatically switch to presence detection mode to minimize energy consumption.
Air quality monitoring
It is a recognized fact that improving indoor air quality can significantly boost productivity. At the Bosch Singapore campus, we can now track all vital air quality parameters. A system operator can view the air quality status across the floor plan on the Connected Building dashboard. Push notifications are sent if the indices in a certain office area exceed a healthy range, allowing the operator to adjust HVAC systems to increase fresh air intake or optimize temperatures. The demand-driven HVAC usage also helps reduce energy consumption.
With Bluetooth beacons attached to key pieces of equipment, we are now able to easily pinpoint their location on the campus. Thanks to their long battery life of up to five years, the beacons require little maintenance. They also come in many forms and sizes, making it easy to affix them to any object, from a laptop to a power tool. A special telemetry beacon with a temperature tracker is used in temperature-sensitive environments. For example, when attached to a device, it can signal if the device overheats. Push notifications to system operators could be set up if certain assets leave a designated zone. The asset tracking functionality can come in handy not just for offices like ours but for any shared public spaces – hospitals, workshops, schools, hotels, and co-working locations.
Our flagship solution Lift Manager – developed in Singapore by Bosch and lift domain expert TÜV SÜD – monitors the status of passenger and cargo lifts on our campus. It can pull data from any lift regardless of brand or model onto a single dashboard that tracks physical condition, utilization, and ride comfort parameters, and sends alerts if anomalies are detected. Predictive analytics applied to the collected data enables the system to forecast a breakdown and to recommend a specific maintenance activity required to prevent it. Our maintenance technicians don’t have to spend their time trying to identify the cause of a malfunction anymore – they receive this information in advance and can work proactively.
BoschAssist: Have a chat with your building
The BoschAssist chatbot provides a simple user interface for all building occupants. It allows them to interact with their smart building in the most familiar way – by texting it. They can text BoschAssist to check how long the line in the canteen is, what’s on today’s menu, whether treadmills in the gym are occupied, and so on. It can also be used to report issues like broken equipment to the facility management team.Watch this video to see how it works
Is my building space utilized efficiently? Could some rarely used rooms be repurposed? With today’s high property costs, it is important to have definite answers to these questions. The Connected Building dashboard allows us to view people flow in real time directly on the floor plan. Detailed occupancy reports and usage trends make it easy to identify either poorly used or frequently overcrowded areas in order to improve space management. Realtime presence detection in restricted zones can enhance security while live notifications of occupancy status can prove to be of great value for shared spaces.
Occupancy tracking on the Bosch Singapore campus is realized in two ways – with SenseAgent sensors for tracking of office spaces and with Bosch cameras for the canteen and gym. People and object counting capabilities of Bosch CCTV cameras enable more precise data collection, and the occupants of the Bosch Singapore building can use the BoschAssist chatbot to remotely check on how busy the canteen and gym are.
Carpark monitoring and illegal parking alerts
This and the following use cases are also based on Bosch CCTV cameras. Used as IoT sensors, they enable many smart building scenarios thanks to their object recognition and edge analytics capabilities.
The area outside our main lobby is a no-parking zone, so we installed a camera and trained it to detect cars that are parked for too long. With license plate recognition, the car’s number is captured, and a message is sent via the BoschAssist chatbot to a security staff member. A guard can then ask the driver to move the car to the car park. Apart from getting a guard involved, an automated message could also be broadcasted via a public address system to notify the driver.
Our car park occupancy is also monitored in real time and all information, including historical reports, is available through the Connected Building dashboard.
As buildings get taller, getting everyone safely evacuated in case of an emergency becomes more challenging. For example, if a fire breaks out on the 20th floor of a 40-storey building, the Bosch fire alarm systems integrated with the public address system can disseminate targeted announcements to the affected floor and those directly above and below to evacuate, while a different announcement can be made to occupants on the remaining floors in order to avoid a stampede. At the same time, relevant access control doors can be opened to allow a smooth evacuation of the building. Bosch cameras monitor crowd formations and can help facility managers guide people out through alternative exits if one of them gets too congested. We used the Bosch smart evacuation system during our last fire drill on the campus and it made a noticeable difference – the process went considerably smoother and faster.
Trolley detection in the passenger lift lobby
This small but curious use case utilizes machine learning capabilities of Bosch cameras. It is based on the ability of cameras to learn how to spot objects of interest once they have been trained using images of positives and negatives. In commercial buildings, staff moving goods with cargo trolleys are normally required to use a service lift. We have trained our cameras to spot cargo trolleys in the passenger lift lobby. Once such a violation has been detected, the public address system plays an automated message about the appropriate lift to be used. This capability can be applied to many other areas, depending on your specific needs.
Bosch Singapore campus
The implementation of the smart building concept on the Bosch Singapore campus is a work in progress, and many other interesting use cases and functionalities are yet to come. We plan on integrating the Bosch Connected Building with our BMS and HVAC systems, which would open up new and exciting opportunities. Imagine being able to take your personalized microclimate with you wherever you happen to sit in the building, or imagine the light in the meeting room changing color if the noise level is too high – the possibilities are endless! This innovative concept will lead us to a future where buildings become truly intelligent – automatically adjusting to the ever-changing needs of their inhabitants, making life more comfortable, sustainable, and productive. And as a result, you will not only be able to achieve more in less time, but also spend some quality time outside in the sun!