February 2021


Innovations in Comfort, Efficiency, and Safety Solutions.

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EMAIL INTERVIEWHow Edge-enabled Buildings Keep Occupants Safe  Chris Penrose, COO, FogHorn & Ken Sinclair


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 About Chris Penrose: Chris Penrose is the COO of FogHorn. In his role, he leads FogHorn’s strategic planning and go-to-market efforts across business development, technical sales, strategic partnerships, third-party distribution, marketing, advertising and public relations globally. Chris and his team create and deliver solutions all over the world to help customers across industry verticals achieve their desired business outcomes. Chris is also known for championing the use of technology to advance human progress. His drive is to connect everything and use data to create insights and action to create a more sustainable society. Prior to joining FogHorn, Chris served as President of AT&T’s IoT Solutions organization, building AT&T's IoT business from a startup into one of the most successful IoT operations in the world. With over 3 decades of experience at AT&T and its predecessor companies, Chris built domain expertise in IoT, wireless, 5G, edge computing, next gen networking and consulting, as well as vertical expertise across connected car, manufacturing, healthcare, retail, public safety, fleet, smart cities, robotics and drones.

Sinclair  - How has COVID-19 impacted the modern building experience?

Penrose - COVID-19 has highlighted new opportunities for smart buildings to relieve health and safety-related concerns of occupants. Prior to the pandemic, key smart building technology focused heavily on energy management, predictive maintenance and other areas of building efficiency. Now, as employees gradually return to work, building managers are tasked with providing an environment that protects occupants from contagious illnesses, like COVID-19 and even the flu.
OSHA issued $3.8M in penalties in COVID-19 citations in the last year. COVID-19 called attention to the lack of thorough workplace health monitoring. What’s more, the increasing expectations regarding health and safety monitoring will have a long term effect on the innovative technologies employers leverage to provide a safer work environment. Smart building technology used in more industrial sectors, are also being equipped with the capabilities to protect occupants from other physical safety threats, such as hazardous spills, falling debris, etc. The modern building experience has shifted to prioritize health and safety monitoring to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19, as well as create a safer work environment -- reducing hefty costs associated with penalties, as well as direct worker’s compensation, which totaled almost $1 billion per week pre-COVID.
Sinclair - What industries were most impacted by COVID?

Penrose - While nearly all industries across the globe have been impacted by COVID-19 in one way or another, the education industry particularly has felt the impacts of the pandemic like no other. In response to social-distancing and quarantining mandates, schools and universities throughout the nation adopted distance-learning formats that opened up a plethora of new challenges for the industry. For instance, 80% of college and university presidents cited maintaining student engagement via distance-learning as a top challenge of 2020. Additionally, a Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA) report found that elementary math students in Fall of 2020 were testing at least 10% lower than previous students in Fall of 2019 due to distance learning.
Sinclair -  What are the main challenges that building managers, like those in education, are currently experiencing while attempting to return to increased in-person operations?

Penrose - With new COVID-19 cases and virus variants continuing to rise in the U.S., the stakes are higher than ever before for campus and building safety. Consequently, facilities such as schools are faced with the challenge of implementing an effective and efficient COVID-19 symptom monitoring system that actually helps mitigate the spread of the disease, ensuring a safe transition back to full-time, in-person learning without putting the health and safety of students and staff at risk. In the past, campuses have been unable to prioritize actively monitoring for health and safety practice adherence due to the lack of time and cost it requires. Pre-COVID, such laissez-faire monitoring practices have been inadequate in preventing outbreaks during flu season within schools. Now, schools must continue to up-level their campus health and safety monitoring to reach these heightened stakes and prevent the spread of dangerous, life-threatening illnesses, such as COVID-19.
Sinclair - How is Edge Computing and real-time analytics a viable solution to health and safety challenges?

Penrose - Modern problems require modern solutions. To address these pressing challenges, some building managers are adopting video and audio analytics to provide actionable insights about active health and safety threats to their respective facilities. In the case of schools, as the number of students and staff returning to campus increases, so will the amount of health and safety monitoring data needing to be processed. These issues aren't unique to educational hubs -- facilities such as multi-tenant living, offices, etc. are also experiencing similar challenges. To avoid the hefty costs and delayed insights associated with sending these mass amounts of data back to the cloud for processing, as well as potential security risks, building managers are pairing AI-enabled edge computing -- or edge AI -- with real-time analytics to process data as close to the source as possible. This results in increased accuracy and faster production of valuable insights, without having to down sample data. From there, edge AI can be combined with live audio and video streams from thermal and RGB cameras to detect:
       Elevated body temperatures
       Social distancing adherence
       Repetitive or irregular coughing
       Proper PPE usage (e.g. masks and other facial coverings)
Another key feature that edge AI offers are immediate notifications and alerts about health and safety protocol violations. For instance, if a high body temperature (i.e. potential fever) is detected by an office building management system, live updates will be sent to dashboards at entry points so health and safety supervisors are aware and can continue to actively monitor for potential threats. In addition to the first notification, a second alert can be generated and sent via email or text, notifying staff of the situation and providing a recommended course of action.
Sinclair - What role can edge AI play within a smart building, beyond infectious disease monitoring?

Penrose - Edge AI’s capabilities also span to address building management challenges in many more industries:
       Energy: By combining the power of edge AI with real-time, streaming analytics and legacy building management system (BMS) capabilities, building managers will be able to process data from a multitude of sensors and external sources and automatically enforce the optimal heating and cooling profile and lighting for each zone, room, building or entire campus. This enables building managers to capitalize on the most efficient energy use, reduce operational costs, and do their part in achieving 2050 zero-energy goals while ensuring occupancy comfort. By augmenting legacy BMSs, edge AI also allows building managers to avoid expensive rip and replace projects by installing edge-enabled IoT tools to sit on top of and enhance existing systems and provide intelligent data processing capabilities. This allows building managers to run real-time adjustments to schedule variations, as well as prime HVAC systems based on changing conditions, including building occupancy, weather, and energy demands.
       Maintenance: Organizations can leverage edge AI-enabled real-time analytics within its smart BMS for predictive and prescriptive maintenance to identify potential risks based on equipment condition and notify smart building managers when specific equipment, such as an elevator, is in need of maintenance. Utilizing this information, building managers can proactively schedule and conduct maintenance services, reducing unplanned downtime and improving overall efficiencies. This also enables building managers to provide unprecedented levels of proactive service for building occupants, creating a safer and more comfortable working or living experience.



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