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How Sensors and Tags Will Transform the Built Environment in the Future


Essentially, sensors serve the purpose of detecting events or changes and reporting this information to another electronic device. The average mobile phone contains over a dozen sensors. They also turn lights on as you enter a room, announce arrival in a store and help with reverse parking.

Sensors are the main determinant of efficiency. They count and report and their deployment into the built environment via shopping centres, industrial structures and infrastructure is only just beginning.

Radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags – an Australian invention – are mostly used in proximity or vicinity applications. Examples of proximity applications can be found in room keys, entry tags and many retail goods. Examples of vicinity applications are tracking devices for parcels. RFID tags are most commonly used in logistics and supply chain monitoring, inventory management, access control, library management, real time locations and authentication.


Sensors of the Future

Smart buildings have started to crop up across the globe particularly in Europe where select offices have thousands of sensors installed in them that monitor lighting, occupancy and temperature. More and more devices and mobile apps have also been created that further connect people to their environment, whether they are at work or at home. With the ever-changing advancements in technology, it won’t be long before sensors evolve to serve building occupants of the future.

In the future, sensors will be able to:

  • detect pathogens, chemical leaks and corrosion
  • alert us to disasters before they occur
  • track continual movements – pathways will be better understood and lead to better design
  • tell us when physical things deteriorate such as roads, buildings, pipes and cables – this will facilitate preventative repair, cause less disruption and lower costs

Sensors and tags can notify us about our built environment – warning us of problems before they occur and tell us about usage, thus allowing us to become more efficient in our space use. They will also drive down the cost of storing, retrieving and transporting goods.

The above is written by Tony Crabb, Cushman & Wakefield’s National Director of Research, and originally appeared on Cushman & Wakefield Australia’s Futurology series.

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