With individuals spending significant amount of time in commercial buildings, indoor air quality (IAQ) will have a great deal of impact on the health and productivity of users of these buildings.
Contrary to popular assumptions, according to the Environmental Protection Agency of the United States IAQ is poorer than what is obtained outdoors. It is therefore safe to infer that indoor air quality in many commercial buildings can pose a significant hazard to the health and safety of occupants.
Breathing polluted air has been incriminated in causing or exacerbating life threatening diseases such as lung cancer, asthma, bronchitis, and heart related diseases. In fact, it is reported that polluted air is now the fourth-leading source of fatal health risk.
Additionally, not only is air pollution a health risk, it has great economic implications. Illness to workers will hamper productivity as well as increase welfare and medical cost.
It therefore became apparent that something needs to be done to tackle these detrimental effects caused by poor indoor air quality in commercial buildings. One increasingly popular method is implementing smart technologies and Internet of Things (IoT) in the detection, monitoring and control of indoor air quality.
To achieve the desired results, smart devices are integrated with the concept of IoT to deliver real time results. And this is the focus of this post- to highlight how indoor air quality will benefit from smart tech and IoT.
Making smart choices with Smart Technology and Internet of Things
Smart technology involves devices and applications that have the capacity to detect things using sensors; provide and make meaningful sense of data as well as having the ability to automatically conform their characteristics to fit their environment and purpose. That’s not all, this kind of technology can learn. This means they utilize past experiences to predict, modify, and improve performance.
Physical devices with sensors, databases, and wireless connectivity are the hallmark of a typical smart technology. This technology is increasingly being used in commercial buildings to perform roles that include making energy utilization more efficient, secure, and for improving indoor air quality (IAQ).
With Internet of Things (IoT), it is possible to connect appliances together over a network. This allows “communication” between these devices. This ability to collect and transmit real-time data on air constituents, temperature, humidity, pressure etc. that can be used to make inferences makes the application of IoT in boosting the quality of air in an inbuilt environment feasible.
The data collected is used to make informed, unbiased, and accurate decisions regarding the detection, monitoring, control and elimination of pollutants. As well as the maintenance and performance of HVAC systems plus other factors that have direct bearing on the quality of air.
For example, smart devices like air monitors can sense and accurately inform building occupants of an increase in the level of an air pollutant such as ground-level ozone. This information can then be used to implement appropriate decisions that will ensure the health and safety of the occupants of the building.
As awareness on indoor pollution in commercial built environments increases, together with the desire by governments and regulators to keep citizens safe, the use of smart technology and IoT to improve indoor air is inevitable.
Boosting Indoor Air Quality: Smart tech and Internet of Things to the rescue
The points below are important steps through which the quality of air within a commercial building can be improved using smart tech and IoT.
Air quality monitoring and threat detection
Monitors with special sensors can measure the concentration of gases and pollutants in indoor air. The data generated can then be analyzed and interpreted. Some of the gases and air pollutants measured include sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC), ground-level ozone, particles from the combustion of fossil fuels etc.
These monitors will continuously monitor the level of air constituents and should the level of a pollutant exceed the desired threshold, they promptly communicate the development through the wireless connection. This can be in the form of an alarm or mobile notification/ warning.
With accurate monitoring and early detection of harmful levels, engineers, building managers and occupants can make informed decisions to investigate, sanitize the air or temporarily evacuate the premises thus ensuring the air within the property is safe and tolerable for occupants.
Earlier we understood that smart technology and IoT can be used to monitor the quality of air. Taking it a step further, smart devices like air UV purifiers, cleaners, and ventilators can be integrated with the monitoring system so that the whole process is automated. Once a pollutant of significant threat is identified, the air can then be purified.
Depending on the pollutant in question air can be purified: UV purifiers attached to the air conditioner can kill microbes (bacteria, viruses, mold, mildew etc.), air cleaners utilize filters to trap pollutants, while ventilators can eliminate and replace the bad air with fresh healthy air.
Servicing and maintenance
Commercial buildings depend on HVAC systems to keep the indoor environment comfortable. Unfortunately, these systems can also be liable in causing poor indoor air if they are underperforming or faulty.
By using sensor enabled smart tech and IoT, the performance of HVAC systems can be gauged and relevant performance based data acquired. This will inform decisions such as servicing, repair, or replacements as need be. By so doing, the performances of these appliances are optimized and unexpected down-time is avoided which in turn ensures continuous maintenance of good IAQ.
Adjusting behavior patterns of occupants
Sometimes indoor air pollution is caused by the activities of occupants of buildings. By accurately identifying the pollutant using smart technology and IoT, the source can worked out. And if the source is related to human activities or habits, concrete steps can be taken to modify the behavior of guilty individuals in an attempt to put a stop to indoor air pollution.
The IoT and smart technology provides another possibility of remotely working, sensing, or using certain types of services. The implication is that people do not necessary need to congregate in one location. Less people can have direct consequence in improving the quality of air in a typical enclosed environment like commercial buildings.
Maintaining the desired air quality indoors in a commercial building goes beyond smart devices and their sensors. It requires integration which is what IoT brings to the table. However, that’s not sufficient; optimization can only be fully achieved when the entire process of monitoring and treatment of indoor air is automated so they can run intelligently and seamlessly.
To achieve this, smart tech and IoT enabled automation tools such as virtual assistants and software applications can be used. Their role is to activate specific functions based on certain feedbacks. For example, these applications will instruct air purifiers to switch on once the air monitors detect a rise in VOC.
The response is prompt, irrespective of the time of the day or even when humans are busy, absent, or fail to notice detrimental changes. This improves the efficiency and performance of the entire network of smart devices thus positively impacting IAQ.
The Internet of Things and smart technology can effectively collect, communicate, and act on information regarding indoor air quality of commercial buildings. In addition to this, their ability to make available real-time and accurate data to decision-makers that allows for efficient and cost-efficient solutions is priceless. The result is improved indoor air quality which translates into better health, overall wellbeing, comfort, improved productivity and performance of occupants in commercial buildings.