IoT solution limits spread of viruses in buildings

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Turnkey Internet of Things (IoT) solutions combined with mathematical models promises to reduce the spread of viruses like the one that causes COVID-19. A simulation was conducted at a major university hospital centre in Paris, France, to demonstrate how building managers can efficiently control air quality in their facilities.

The eight-month pilot project in 2021 brought together nearly 200 students and 20 staff volunteers with badges featuring Bluetooth connectivity who circulated during classes, labs and shifts at the Kremlin-Bicêtre AP-HP (Assistance Publique-Hôpitaux de Paris) Medical School. In addition to continuously monitoring air quality, the solution monitored the movements and location of the building’s occupants using mathematical models developed by two scientists from Paris-Saclay University. These models simulated the spread of the coronavirus in the student population based on contact tracing.

“It was possible to investigate the importance of contacts between individuals in the transmission process and, more generally, to estimate the role of people’s actions, such as gathering in poorly ventilated rooms, the duration and type of communication – short casual conversation or longer collaboration – between individuals in the overall spread of the pandemic,” said Bertrand Maury, who together with colleague Sylvain Faure, developed the algorithms. “This evaluation clearly showed that the IoT solution can help building managers limit the spread of viruses like the one causing Covid-19.”

Contact tracing in buildings was combined with air quality monitoring to:

  • Monitor CO2 levels in the premises in relation to occupancy rates and periods and make ventilation adjustments;
  • Identify malfunctioning ventilation or schedule necessary maintenance of ventilation equipment; and
  • Calculate the air renewal rate in the rooms, an important indicator monitored by building managers in their daily operations.

According to the researchers, the contact tracing was inspired by an algorithm developed by the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) and the University Paris-Saclay that defines epidemiological models to follow virus transmission. It also makes a first assessment of the influence of CO2 concentration as an indicator of poor air quality that can accelerate viral transmission.

The Kremlin-Bicêtre AP-HP pilot project was validated by the clinical research unit of the Paris-Saclay Faculty of Medicine. The protection of private data and participant identities also fully complied with current privacy laws.

The system used a technology jointly developed by Kerlink (AKLK – FR0013156007), a specialist in IoT solutions, Microshare, a provider of IoT data management solutions, and Enless Wireless, a manufacturer of self-powered smart sensors for energy efficiency and comfort applications in buildings.

The system uses an all-in-one anchor that combines Wi-Fi, BLE and LoRaWAN to collect contact tracking data from Bluetooth badges and an internal gateway transmits the data to Microshare’s application, which ensures end-to-end security, privacy and reliability for delivering the information where it is needed. Enless Wireless provides air quality data transmitters with built-in CO2 sensors and high performance batteries.

Post-pandemic smart buildings

The re-opening of office buildings after the worst phase of the pandemic is increasing the demand for smart technologies to ensure safe environments from a breathing air quality perspective. The search for solutions to address issues with proper ventilation, sanitisation, temperature measurement, entrance control and space management to ensure appropriate distance is expected to heat up the smart building systems market.

But that’s not all. IoT systems and sensors can manage many other aspects of buildings using a single infrastructure and without manual intervention. Intelligent building management systems can help with maintenance and repair tasks, lighting control, and reducing energy consumption, for example, helping to lower overall administrative costs. Given this scenario of demands, the global smart buildings market size is expected to reach US$131.5 billion by 2027, with a compound annual growth rate of 10.6%, according to ReporterLink.

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