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BSRIA: data privacy a key challenge for HVAC wearables innovation

Building services body highlights need for overarching standards to support data sharing between devices and appliances

Ensuring the privacy of personal data shared by wearable technologies with HVAC appliances will be a key challenge in developing more personalised smart heating and ventilation solutions, according to a recently published whitepaper by BSRIA.

Wearables such as smart watches, clothing and jewellery are seen by the industry body as emerging technologies that could significantly impact how building services can be monitored and managed in the future.

The conclusions are detailed in new findings called, ‘Trends towards wearables and wellbeing in buildings – a threat or opportunity for the HVAC industry?’

BSRIA’s paper said that wearables had the potential to disrupt the existing heating technology market, serving as an example of the broader importance of data and analytics to new building services.

“As well as helping the wearer to interact more effectively with his or her environment, wearables open a range of new opportunities for building systems, along with some important challenges,” said the whitepaper.

Addressing the best methods to build user support to share personal data from devices with building systems and establishing how these details may then be used will be a key factor in encouraging take up by the HVAC industry, BSRIA added.

This focus will include securing confidential information sent to appliances so that the data cannot be misused or obtained without permission.

BSRIA said it was also vital for manufacturers and other stakeholders to determine how a building system should and should not be able to make use of personal information.

“Providing a ‘personalised’ environment requires an HVAC system that can direct heat, cooling and ventilation in a very granular way and also respond quickly to changes. Failing this, the system might fall back on the majority preference of those in an area of the building,” said the paper.

BSRIA added that the challenges identified in its wearables whitepaper required an overarching set of standards to support effective interaction between different systems and devices.

Krystyna Dawson, business manager for BSRIA’s World Market Intelligence Division, said that traditional innovation in the design of HVAC management systems had largely focused on energy efficiency. She argued this has led to developments that reduce costs and system downtime.

However, Ms Dawson argued that comfort was also becoming an increasingly important factor in building management systems.

“Wearables have the potential to help with all of these objectives. By tracking the wearer’s movements they can help ensure that heating and cooling is directed to where it is needed and take account of variable factors like body heat,” she said.

“They also provide the potential to help provide a personalised environment suited to the individual wearer. If the wearer’s personal preferences are known then the local environment can be adjusted to the ‘optimal’ temperature, humidity etc. A smart watch can even potentially signal that the wearer is tired and in need of more ventilation.”

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