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Internet of things

19 of April '21

The article appeared in A&B 3'2021

With the help of computers and their internet connection, the data we create has become the new currency. More than ninety percent of the world's existing data has been created in the past two years, a number that is growing exponentially. The devices we use every day are increasingly connected via apps to our cell phone, previously a refrigerator informing us of its contents was a futuristic vision - today it's a feature of a new generation of devices, even allowing us to shop.

We, including our space, are being monitored and assisted by automation more and more every day. On the one hand, the tremendous development of technology may raise privacy concerns, on the other hand, it represents a huge opportunity for the development of even newer technologies. In the field of architecture, we can expect a revolution concerning not forms, design or methods of fabrication, but a new kind of intelligent buildings that monitor the behavior of users, understand and react accordingly, improving their comfort and reducing the negative impact on the environment.

Internet of Things

Increasingly in the field of architecture, we hear the term "Internet of Things" or its acronym IoT (Internet of Things). The term refers to devices that communicate with each other and perform tasks automatically. There are many bold claims that this is the next step in the IT revolution, which is moving toward ubiquitous computers - ones that will accompany us in our daily lives, the use of which will be so natural that we won't even notice them. There used to be several users per computer - now there are more and more computers per user.

komputery ubieralne

Wearable computers, which are devices on the smallest scale involving a single user armed with sensors, collect data about how we function and perform small tasks, primarily informing us of events

Some computers are stationary or permanently integrated into the built environment, while others are mobile orwearable(Wearable technology). In addition to devices like a laptop or phone, we have computers embedded in watches, glasses or clothing. Looking at the devices on display at major consumer electronics trade shows, one wonders if the concept of ubiquitous computing is a vision of the future or if it is already happening now.


To understand the concept of the Internet of Things, one must realize that in order to interact with each other, devices must be able to communicate. Thus, they need to be connected to a common network where communication is to take place. Such connections can be based on a classic wired network or a wireless network. While the creation of a wired network involves a certain amount of work and we cannot apply it to mobile devices, we can create a wireless network in any facility or space without much interference.

A significant impetus in the development of IoT is the development of dedicated protocols for wireless communication, the common feature of which is low power consumption, making it possible to create battery-powered devices with an operating time of up to two years. The disadvantage of such solutions is the relatively small range of communication, which is compensated by the operation of distributed Mesh networks. The devices, instead of communicating directly with the control panel, transmit the signal among themselves to the control panel. Thus, they create independent communication routes on the model of a city street network, and the failure of one device does not interfere with the operation of others.

The operation scheme of the devices is based on mutual communication and activation of its units when conditions are met. If the wind speed sensor reaches the speed we set, the skylight in the house will be closed, minimizing the risk of failure due to wind. There are now many commercial solutions that offer smart devices. However, they are locked into a certain functional group, for example, heating, lighting, weather stations, sports bands, meters, audio/video, whose operation is isolated from external systems. Thus, the use of a wind sensor from a weather station from company X is usually impossible to use in a system from company Y, which supplies actuators for roof windows.

Integration (observation, control and automation)

Examples of action/reaction can be multiplied, but the most interesting is the integration of all "ecosystems" into one, which will enable the creation of actions based on data from multiple sensors from different functional groups. A simple example would be an action to open blinds based on a condition determined by the time of day, light level and user sleep. This integration is done through appropriate software and servers. Importantly, we integrate not only local devices, also publicly available information from the Internet, such as measurements of noise in cities or traffic on roads. The aforementioned systems have three functions - observation, control and automation.

Smart Home

Smart Home, the next level of scale devices about a building that collect information about how its users function,
enabling the automation of its components

It is worth noting that observation is not only reading the current state of devices from different "ecosystems", it is also collecting the history of the state of sensors and actuators in the form of numbers and time. The presentation of this data in the form of graphs allows for analysis, making it possible to understand the occurrence of phenomena.

Smart City

Another scale at which IoT can shape our lives and environment is the city. The term "Smart City" is now extremely popular, and the world's capitals, for promotional purposes, have been very quick to declare themselves cities of the future, implementing single concepts based on the flow of data on the functioning of their structure in real time. It will be very difficult to say definitively at what point a city can be considered "smart," but we can certainly say that it is still ahead of us. It is worth mentioning a few concepts that are already likely to change the way a city functions in the near future.

It is estimated that about eight million tons of drinking water are wasted annually in the United States due to failures and outdated and leaking water pipes. A solution to this problem could be to arm the city's water supply network and indoor infrastructure with an integrated sensor system. Continuous monitoring and a notification system can pinpoint areas requiring priority upgrades or warn of potential failures, counteracting unwanted consequences. Another solution, much simpler to implement, is to equip household waste containers with a monitoring system. Imagine that the garbage truck plans its route accordingly, based on the data collected from the network of containers depending on how full they are, and stops only at those points that need emptying. This will reduce incineration, save time and reduce traffic congestion.

Smart City

Smart City, distributed devices at the scale of the city allowing it to collect information about its operation and respond automatically

Unfortunately, we cannot expect a revolution in transportation, passenger cars are an integral part of the functioning of each city. Vehicles powered by internal combustion engines are being replaced by hybrid or electric drives, which reduces the negative impact of cars on the environment, but in the long run, they do not affect private transportation. By using the IoT connected city network and residents' devices, it is possible to stimulate traffic in the city by integrating with the road infrastructure.

Smart parking spaces are another solution already in operation in facilities such as shopping malls and airports. It is estimated that up to thirty percent of traffic in cities is caused by drivers looking for places to park. An automated system that will allow drivers to be guided directly to vacant parking spaces, organizing and automating their management, can contribute to reducing car traffic, while users themselves will save time and reduce stress.

Collected data from sensors and actuators at different levels of scale (buildings, neighborhoods, cities and states) will create a sizable database of information that can be used for artificial intelligence machine learning to produce a truly intelligent system for efficient city management and development planning.

We are witnessing a change in the perception of cities, buildings and technology. In the near future, all of these elements will tie together into a common intelligent system, communicating and responding to changes in real time. Newly designed neighborhoods are already equipped with sensors that allow users to further expand their personal Internet of Things. In the near future, an architect designing a space for a defined group of users will have the ability to gain insight into their existing way of functioning and habits, allowing them to understand and design tailor-made solutions.

illustrations: authors' archives

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Interior trends 2023
Interior trends 2023