Integrated technology

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Aarts and Marzano (2003) have named the key elements of ambient intelligence:
  • Embedded – Many networked devices are integrated into the environment
  • Context aware –  These devices can recognize you and your situational
  • Personalized – They can be tailored towards your needs
  • Adaptive – They can change in response to you
  • Anticipatory – They can anticipate your desires without conscious meditation

Smart Textiles

To be useful in an ambience design context an intelligent textile has to have an embedded information technology system which enables twoway interaction between the system and an individual user, and interaction in unison among a user group connected to the system. Personal carrying devices such as mobile phones and MP3 players, and RFID tags attached to items, clothing and environments, can also be used as atmosphere adjusting technology, and integrated with textiles.

Philips and Orange collaboration – Relaxing game

”The game is based on the concept that the more you relax, the more you will achieve in the game. To play the game, simply slide it between any two fingers and relax. You see yourself on screen as a friendly dragon; the more you relax the more your dragon will float and eventually fly. The meshlike textile material contains sensors but is soft to the touch.”


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A four dimensional model of experience according to Pine and Gillmore (1998).

ULife South Korea

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The ULife South Korea plans to spend $25 billion on New Songdo, the world’s largest “ubiquitous city,” with computers linking home life and life on its streets. Construction, 40 miles from Seoul, is to be done in 2014.

Gesture Control Systems

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Gesture control systems are one of the many systems being developed to control interfaces. Their success depends on the input of information which is sometimes uncontrollable as there are variants in how users interact. The trick for over coming this is to encourage a meta-data language to which we will all eventually become used to and therefore use in a similar way. Gesture controlled interfaces are significant to architecture in that it allows a user the ability to directly control objects  from a distance and that they are able to control their environment from where they are standing – the system can be place around a user.


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Photosynth, developed by Microsoft Live Labs, allows for the creation of realistic 3d images using data from the internet, taken photos and sourced photos from the internet to inform a college in a more spatial way of viewing, allowing user to be able to visualise environments in a way that is more akin to real-life.

New Spatial Thinking

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New spatial thinking projects are very useful in understanding how new relationships are being developed between information in interfaces and users controlling or interacting with these interfaces.
Real-time customization is being applied to an increasing number of new UI projects and creates a unique experience as it allows users to dynamically manipulate the organization
of information without needing to refresh a specific page (giving a user an uninterrupted experience).
Picture shows the ability to move modules on Facebook – giving the user freedom of control

Intelligent Social User-Interfaces

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ISUIs encompass interfaces that create a perceptive computer environment rather than one that relies solely on active and comprehensive user input. ISUIs can be grouped into five categories:

  • Visual recognition (e.g. face, 3D gesture, and location) and output
  • Sound recognition (e.g. speech, melody) and output
  • Scent recognition and output
  • Tactile recognition and output
  • Other sensor technologies

Here, technologies like Easy Access are emerging. Easy Access recognizes a hook line from somebody humming, automatically compares it with a song database and plays the song on the room’s stereo equipment.

Philips and Hussein Chalayan – Clothes that show the emotion of the wearer

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Philips Design has developed dynamic garments as part of the ongoing SKIN exploration research into the area known as ‘emotional sensing‘.

Clive van Heerden, Senior Director of design-led innovation at Philips Design says:

“the SKIN probe has a much wider context than just garments. As our media becomes progressively more virtual, an opportunity is emerging for us to completely rethink our interaction with products and content. A garment can be a highly complex interactive electronic or biochemical device. We are experimenting with devices that are more responsive to subtle triggers like sensuality, affection and sensation.”

Social Interfacing

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As a concept of Social Interface Theory: Long (1989, 2001) definition was:

‘.. a social interface is a critical point of intersection between different lifeworlds, social fields or levels of social organization, where social discontinuities based upon discrepancies in values, interests, knowledges and power, are most likely to be located.’

The basic thesis of Social Interface Design is how a computer interface can be more akin to human gestures and facilitate correct responses from users during human-to-computer interaction. Software that can provide such humanizing cues often does it by creating interface with human-like quality; such as giving recognizable gender to a software.


An example of this has been conceived by designer John Villarreal, the “e-mote” is a remote electronic user interface to control any number of electronics with minimum fuss. The e-mote connects to your mobile phone using Bluetooth, while internal bio-sensor displays lighting to physical state such as heartbeat, blood pressure and body temperature. The lighting on the device indicates high stress level, and this e-motion level can be posted to your social network.

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Making Energy Consumption Visible – Loop.pH

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For this installation wallpaper was used as a dynamic and expressive surface providing unobtrusive information about domestic energy consumption. The surface visualises and reflects the daily usage of electrical power through growing patterns that are in constant flux.

Intelligent Ambience and Building Atomisation Systems

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There are two distinct methods of controlling the environmental mediums of a built environment. Preset atomisation was introduced almost 20 years ago, and although advances in technology have made Building Automated Systems more efficient, the principles remain the same. However in recent years, intelligent systems have been introduced that with the use of sensors and real time monitoring system, can allow environments to be appropriate altered without the need for administration. However, often a combination of the two systems can work in synchrony, allowing for a smart environment that can be controlled by the occupant if so wished.

  • Atomisation

Preset automation designates an emerging practice of increased automation of appliances and features, facilitated through a centralized network. Building Automation can control lighting, doors and windows, Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning, and security, surveillance systems and more ethereal qualities such as sound and smell. Building atomisation are all means that are used to integrate the electrical controlled equipment in the built environment, with the purpose to increase the level of comfort, security and energy management in that environment.

An automated control system controls the environmental mediums through a centralised network, a certain number of parameters of presets exist within the system allowing personal preferences to be set via a variety of touch points. These touch points communicated, via telephone line, wireless transmission or the internet, to provide control and monitoring via a Smart Phone or Web browser. These touch points allow users the ability to remotely toggle power to individual rooms, therefore control the ambience in that space.

In general, a Demotic System integrates and connects all electrical devices in a building with each other. Therefore in the programming of options, the fact that all the electronically controlled devices are controlled through one system means that there can be programs that control all of the environmental media at one time. By limiting the amount of options available to users, it makes the system simple to use to all involved.

  • Intelligent Ambience

Environments enriched with sensors, actuators and processing units have been increasingly integrated into the fabric of modern buildings. Often in office buildings, sensors are used to detect activity in the building, allowing for the adaption of environmental medium to required levels.

One typical example is to turn the lights in a space on for a half hour since the last motion was sensed. In being smart, these systems also have to demonstrate themselves to be sensible. Being sensible demands a system that is emphatic to its occupants. It must have the capability to react to the users moods and adapt to the prevailing situation by understanding its user and adapting accordingly.

In combination, building atomisation and ambient intelligence can be sensible whilst not over powering – the user/or administrator still have the authority. There are many different parameters as an input to resolute an ambient output. Smart systems enable programming of these parameters to create truly intelligent and responsive environments. Below are the possible input parameters that the computer can draw real-time data from in order to resolute a programmed outcome.

Sensed Data:

  • Chronological time – Chronological time is a specific time of day as pre-set timers use.
  • Astronomical time – Astronomical times includes sunrise, sunset, a specific day of the week or days in a month or year
  • Room Temperature – Based on activity sensed and in door and outdoor temperature readings
  • Room occupancy and Motion Detection – Room occupancy might be determined with motion detectors or RFID tags, and is part of security and energy conservation programs.
  • Presence of daylight – Artificial lighting energy use can be reduced by automatically dimming and/or switching electric lights in response to the level of day lighting
  • Program logic – Preset activity profiles, acitivitation specified levels of lighting, heating, purification, music and smell levels.
  • Alarms – Alarm conditions can include doors opening and motion detected in a protected area which could deactivate lighting and computer systems if activated.
  • Biological and Psychological Data – Via sensing bodily data, environments can respond to ensure a harmonised environment.

Philips Dynamic Lighting

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The Dynamic Lighting concept by Philips is an advanced lighting system that brings the dynamics of daylight into the working environment. Mirroring the diurnal rhythms found in nature, Dynamic Lighting recreates a stimulating natural ambience customizable to the individuals own preferences. This system can bring the dynamic character of light, with its seamless changes in rightness and warmth to the built environments. Allowing the body to be in better synch with its natural cycles.  Phillips have combined the concepts of ambient intelligence with atomisation to provide a more natural environment that the user still has ultimate control over.

Dynamic lighting is especially useful in the work environments where people spend the majority of their day inside the built environment. They experience a fair amount of their daily cycle within the same building and often within a similar location. Dynamic light can provide sceneries that improve people’s general sense of well being by reacting to their needs and specific situation at different times of the day. For example, in the morning the lighting is preset to activate cool fresh light that raises the energy levels first thing in the morning, at lunch time this lighting warms to create a more relaxing feeling for a wind down over lunch time. After lunch we usually feel sleepy and again the light would adapt to a cooler, fresher light to help invigorate and combat the post lunch dip. Warm white light (3000K) facilitates relaxation and improves peoples well being. While daylight white light (5600k) stimulates and activates the human bodies. Phillips has pioneered this new type of integral design. The implementation is also easy, again working from the premise of two types of automated systems; the dynamic lighting group have created two scenarios:

  • Personal Light – allows the user to control the lighting individually with a remote control
  • Dynamic Ambience – Dynamic ambience changes the light for an entire space automatically according to a programmed time based rhythm.

Philips Home Lab

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Philips has long been researching the benefits of ambient technologies. They have created a research labatory that mimics a real home and provides Phillips with user centred evaluation of the success of its new products, including smart home technologies. Phillips is only too aware that no matter how advanced its technology and how exciting the scenarios in which it is used, people will not accept it if they do not trust it. Trust comes from familiarity, which gives designers a clue to constructing design realities not too far removed from the function of its ‘trusted’ products.

Phillips Home Lab has two observation rooms which in combination with 34 cameras, distributed over the house and controlled by the Home Lab control system, provide the right infrastructure for doing observations of the user behaviours when interacting with Philips products or integrated technologies.

Integrated Environmental Language

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Our goal as designers is to promote specific behaviours through the interaction with our proposed idea.  Therefore our brief as a designer should be to consider what physical and environmental parameters will promote these behaviours.

Behaviour is affected by the perception of our environment which in turn is a product of the balance between the environmental medium of the space. Each environmental media has an impact upon the sensorial qualities that it evokes within the occupant. Each design discipline (e.g.: acoustic, lighting, materials) has an impact upon the next. For example: acoustics are affected by the materiality chosen, which in turn are integral to how the light reflects within the environment.

Systems and Technologies

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Ambient Intelligent systems are explicitly spatial, they arise out of concerns for the movements and actions of people in space and they suggest a model of spatial design and architecture that employs interaction systems to create different modes of communication in an environment.

A variety of technologies can be used to enable ambient intelligent environments. The technologies used are directly dependant on the type of activity to be undertaken and therefore equipment required and intelligence needed. Technological capabilities are progressing at rapid speed. In accordance with Moores Law, data density on integrated circuits is continuing to double every eighteen months. Storage, capacity, CPU, speed, memory, wireless transfer speed and battery energy are all showing similar rates of change. More functionality is becoming possible at lower cost, with easier configuration and more wide spread possibilities. The environments that are created today have an essential requirement to provide a platform for possible change; otherwise what is created today will not be appropriate for use in five year’s time.

A typical example of this interaction could be a bio sensor network monitoring physiological parameters – heart rate blood pressure or sugar levels. Some of the sensors may be body worn others may be integrated into the surroundings connected through a network. An example of this is in health monitoring applications in which alarms or drug doses may be adapted using information from the ambient sensors, both at network level and on a one to one basis.

The benefits of ambient intelligence are in their ability to adapt an environment to counteract uncomfortable architectural parameters or to a personalised preference of comfort in order to create a space of cognitive balance. Lighting can adjusts its intensity level and colour profile to your level of stress or your activity needs, kitchens are able to adapt its configurations to cognitive needs during cooking, offering recipe guidance and real-time monitoring. Desks in offices are smart in predicating needs for computing and building systems adapt air quality for comfort and lighting levels for productivity.

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