A truly smart sensor – innovation in progress

This is an exciting time of changes.

Commercial buildings and residential homes are undergoing a significant transformation and becoming smarter than ever before.

But what does “smart” mean? In a nutshell, it refers to automated processes that reduce operational expenses, save energy, optimize space allocation, increase safety and security, improve occupants’ comfort, and in some cases generate business intelligence.

In order to achieve these benefits, some necessary information must be collected. Physical data, such as temperature, lighting level and humidity, are provided by simple sensors that convert analog measurements into digital values and transmit them to the control station. It is much more challenging – and important – to gather actionable information about occupants in the building. Data about occupants’ presence, location, number and movements is essential for optimizing the performance of building subsystems and processes such as lighting, HVAC, safety, security and facility management.

Current sensors such as motion detectors fall short of providing this data reliably, and they can’t provide the required granularity of information. In commercial buildings, IP cameras combined with video analytics provide the most powerful sensing capability for tracking occupants. Unfortunately they also have significant drawbacks – they are expensive, require a large communications bandwidth for streaming video, and most importantly, they are perceived as privacy invasive.

A new computer vision solution, pioneered by PointGrab Ltd., has been designed to overcome the challenges of providing occupancy information accurately, reliably, affordably and without violating privacy. PointGrab has achieved this by utilizing an IoT smart sensor that performs all analytics on board and outputs only the processed data – a kind of a “picture-less camera” if you will. Drawing on the most advanced computer vision expertise, the sensor employs machine learning and tracking algorithms that are streamlined to run effectively on low power processors.

Mounted on a ceiling or incorporated into lighting fixtures, this smart sensor can support a wide range of applications and use cases. To name a few:

• Lighting. Incorporating the sensor into lighting fixtures yields a variety of unique insights on energy management and lighting usage in a space. Data provided by the sensor can help determine how to optimally light a space while taking advantage of natural light, thereby saving energy.

• Space Utilization. Space utilization data is a valuable component of the IoT in commercial buildings because it can help facility managers to better optimize the facility’s layout based on current and future needs. The smart sensors track occupants’ locations and movements, providing valuable insight into how and to what extent spaces are being used.

• HVAC. By counting the number of occupants in a given space, demand controlled ventilation can be optimized to save energy and comply with industry standards and regulations.

• Safety and Security. The ability to detect falling accidents and assist in emergency building evacuations are examples of the safety capabilities enabled by the smart sensor. Access control can be enhanced by detecting events such as tailgating, and security can be further improved by detecting loitering in pre-defined zones.

Driven by the convergence of innovative technologies harnessed together in a brand new way, smart sensors are taking a leading role in making intelligent buildings a reality. ABB is the first company that identified the power of this innovative solution and is currently exploring ways to incorporate it into its products.

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About the author

Itamar Roth

Itamar Roth Chief Business Officer PointGrab. Mr. Roth brings over 15 years of start-up experience in business development, marketing and product management with an in-depth focus on embedded systems and imaging solutions. Prior to PointGrab, Mr. Roth led the marketing and product management of the enterprise division at Anobit (acquired by Apple) and management of professional services both at TransChip (acquired by Samsung) and at the Samsung Israel R&D center. Other previous roles include R&D positions at Atrica (acquired by Nokia Siemens Networks) and TeraCross. Mr. Roth holds an MBA from the Recanati Executive MBA Program at Tel-Aviv University and a B.Sc. (Summa cum Laude) in Communication Systems Engineering from Ben Gurion University.
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