Smart spaces are facilities or public areas outfitted with sensors to collect data that can be used to generate insights about its environmental conditions, the services it provides, and how occupants interact with their environment. These smart spaces insights can be captured in real-time and from historical data, and then used in improving safety, operations, or the experiences of the people using the space.
Take room temperature, for example, smartly a thermostat can adjust conditions to presets, yet a smarter room may determine based on motion sensors and time of day that no one is using the room and then extinguish any lights and adjust temperatures, saving on electrical costs.
A more comprehensive definition of smart spaces should encompass more than the technology that enables them. A smart space, or smart environment, is a paradigm about a person's interaction with her environment. For instance, smart technology is blurring the lines between public space and personal space. Smart digital billboards allow outdoor advertisers to target personal advertisements at pedestrians as they walk by (automated systems update ads based on the real-time stream of data from nearby cell phones), collecting statistics about onlookers, and in the process personalizing what was once a largely anonymous public space.
Smart space paradigms are also shared across regions, such as extending over cities, when enabled by technologies like IoT and 5G wireless that are now capable of monitoring municipal operations using real-time data to bring a level of service to citizens with uncharacteristic efficiency.
Bridging our conceptual understanding of smart space and the physical technology that brings it to life, there is a widely accepted framework that divides smart spaces into three different environments interacting as one: a virtual computing environment, the physical environment, and the human environment.
Virtual Computing Environment — The virtual computing environment layer allows smart device access to the internet, or private network services, that allow them to connect to other parts of the distributed systems that powers the smart space environment.
Physical Environment — The physical environment layer is the most varied layer of smart spaces, and includes embedded sensors, microprocessors, tracking tags, and the other physical aspects of the smart space.
Human-Environment — Devices that accompany people fill this layer, like smartphones, wearable smart devices, and internal smart devices like pacemakers. This means humans can make up smart space environments through cell towers, cell networks, and smartphones to create a virtual, physical, and human smart environment that can be thought of as a wide area smart space, think route-planning apps.
Using this multi-layered approach to smart space environments (virtual, physical, and human layers), we can categorize smart enabling technologies according to their function.
Virtual Environment Layer Technology in Smart Spaces
Connectivity and control technologies enable the virtual aspect of smart space environments. Think everything wireless, 4/5G cellular, BlueTooth, LiFi, ZigBee, etc. Once connected, AI and automation software, operating locally or in the cloud, can work through the remaining physical and human layer devices, collecting and processing data to create the 'smart' effect that brings smart spaces to life. Common virtual layer technologies include:
Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning
Cloud computing / Distributed systems
Physical Environment Layer Technology in Smart Spaces
Data capture is an integral aspect of smart spaces and is needed to feed information to the smart algorithms to make intelligent decisions about changing conditions. Primarily, sensor devices provide the means to fill the data pipeline within the location. But, in the example of smart factories, global data may be factored into local decisions. Technologies deployed in the physical layer include:
Motion and proximity sensors
Climate sensors (temperature, humidity, pressure)
Accelerometers and gyroscopic sensors
Optical and thermal sensors
Gas and level sensors
Human-Environment Layer Technology in Smart Spaces
Human smart devices, like smartphones, are ideal interfaces between humans and smart spaces. But new technology is opening opportunities for developers to build for a different class of smart consumers. The following lists common human smart devices, and possible future interfaces that could change how we think about smart spaces, especially in the medical sector.
Smartphones, tablets, watches
Closed-loop insulin delivery systems, aka Open Artificial Pancreas System
With these technologies and an evolving sense of interactive spaces, we're a long way from fully responsive environments—imagine Star Trek's holodeck—but today engineers are already piecing together what could be its precursors.
In general, smart spaces technologies aim to improve efficiency, safety, and security, and they have done so remarkably well as can be seen by the deep integration these devices are making into our everyday lives.
Smart space technology improves efficiency in any area that is measurable. A priority addressed by smart technology normally aims at reducing overall operational costs of facilities by minimizing wastage in utilities and resources. Since sensors are easily installed at electrical or water meters, these are low-hanging fruit for smart monitoring.
Smart spaces increase safety and risk mitigation in areas prone to dangers or accidents. Smart technologies can replace human workers doing high-risk tasks, like the introduction of smart robots in industrial applications. These robots have shown increased productivity by eliminating the human component of many menial and repetitive tasks, like moving palettes of inventory.
User experience is enhanced by smart spaces with earlier smart technology applications already overcoming many of the 'clerical' tasks, like monitoring lighting, of our routine lives. Improving an occupant's experience within a space is now a business motivator for adopting smart space technologies. Smart office technologies that can link remote workers, smart conference rooms, scheduling systems, with sensors covering all aspects of the building are making those buildings more collaborative, informative, and efficient. Some vendors promote a large central wall display (installed in a commons area) that acts as a rallying point for business operations, displaying real-time information, say for a hospital which can show which doctors are in, which operations are scheduled, or which rooms are occupied.
These are just a few main benefits of smart spaces. However, smart space applications are only limited by our imagination, and because smart applications and technology are always evolving these environments will continue to undergo paradigm changes and provide novel benefits not yet introduced.
Since any space can be made smarter by installing sensors and processors and connecting them with intelligent software, many smart spaces have become smarter, and new applications are continually adopted. Places near us have become smarter, and so have places we may rarely have on our minds but benefit us in the background regardless.
Smart Homes — In order to make our living environments even more comfortable and efficient, smart homes enable smart spaces to connect many household devices and house systems. Many appliances are now smart, like smart refrigerators or smart ovens, but now home automation can attend to home systems that control lighting, air conditioning, entertainment, even security. It even has a name—domotics.
Smart Buildings —Smart buildings apply many features found in smart homes just at scale. Smart buildings implement smart spaces to interconnected automated building systems that monitor lighting, air conditioning, heating, security and access, parking structures, water meters, power meters, fire systems, boilers or chiller plants, elevators, and more depending on the building. An office building may be made smarter for the purposes of keeping units occupied and costs down, whereas a hospital, with stocks of pharmaceuticals and equipment, may deploy a smart RFID technology to track, secure, and replenish its inventory as needed.
Smart Factory — Smart factories are not a new thing, since many manufacturing industries were the petri dish that 'smart' technology was grown on. Now, the connected smart factory has taken on a smart space paradigm shift towards a digital supply network where many factories and suppliers are interconnected, and smaller units can make decisions based on system-wide data. Considering the extent of globalized supply chains, an automated supply chain results in an agile and efficient operation with less downtime and adaptability to new demands.
Smart Cities —Smart cities are urban areas outfitted with smart space technology for a governance purpose. Smart cities have the potential to impact tens of thousands of people with greater efficiencies. Smart initiatives are already enhancing citizen's lives. Some cities made use of smart spaces by digitizing public documents to be made available online, in order to improve their constituents' digital inclusion. Many cities also have light pole initiatives that mount and hide antennas that bring digital access to their people.
Smart spaces need to gather, transmit, store, manage, and analyze environment sensor data, to send alerts and report insights to the managers of these spaces. Hitachi Vantara provides end-to-end solutions that abstract the smart space data processes, solutions that include consulting services, and the following products:
With over 100 years of experience in operational technology and over 60 years in information technology, Hitachi Vantara has unique expertise across industries as diverse as government and industrial machinery and systems, to manufacturing consumer products, IT infrastructure, and operating rail systems around the world. With this expertise, Hitachi Vantara "drinks its own champagne", deploying innovations and technologies in our own factories and operations, while offering our expertise and products to our customers. Hitachi Vantara Smart Spaces leverages Hitachi Vantara's strength in digital technology and innovation, along with our expertise across industries to help our customers reach their desired outcomes, whether that's enhancing customer experience, maximizing worker health and safety, improving public safety, optimizing manufacturing processes, and efficiency, or better operating a transit system. We're here to help, with the expertise and technology needed to help make your space a smart space.
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