Making Sense of Sensors: Combining Ethnography with Data Mining to Understand and Improve Smart Buildings
Ajda Pretnar (Faculty of Computer and Information Science)
Paper short abstract:
The paper presents an analysis of a smart university building and shows how the built-in sensors can be used for understanding and influencing people's behaviour. The study is part of the EU MOBISTYLE project, whose main goal is to support sustainable and healthy lifestyle in buildings.
Paper long abstract:
In 2014, the University of Ljubljana opened a new €81M complex. It was the University's largest infrastructural investment in its entire history. The building, located in a swampy suburbia of Ljubljana, is equipped with state-of-the-art automation systems and sensors measuring large amounts of data mostly related to the building's energy performance and thermal comfort.
In this paper, we present an analysis of the building and demonstrate how smart solutions influence people's lives, both positively and negatively. Our ethnographic study, which started in 2016, has been supplemented with quantitative approaches, from questionnaires for employees and students to data mining sensor signals. The study is part of the EU Horizon 2020 MOBISTYLE project, which aims to raise awareness and motivate behavioural change by providing personalised IT services on energy use, air quality, health, and wellbeing. The international project enabled us to carry out a comparison of the Ljubljana case to other similar buildings in the Netherlands, Denmark, Poland, and Italy.
First, the comparison has shown that the social and infrastructural particularities of cases should be taken into account when adapting the general IT solution to different buildings and people living and working in them. Second, the study shows that a smart building does not necessarily guarantee wellbeing and satisfaction. On the contrary, smart solutions have often proven to be a source of discontent, especially when they appropriate agency from people and try to 'interpret' what people want and need. In such cases, people often find innovative solutions for outsmarting the building and taking back control.
Anthropology and emerging technologies [FAN panel]