– How Edge-enabled Buildings Keep Occupants Safe Chris Penrose, COO, FogHorn & Ken Sinclair
About Chris Penrose:
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
- 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
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
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:
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.
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.