When Technology Helps Staff Breathe Easier

Julie Stoffel, Marketing Communications Coordinator of Sensilla (Photo © Sensilla)

Two Luxembourg-based PropTech companies specializing in digital air sensors for buildings explain how their technology helps improve the quality of life and the efficiency of their staff.

Launched in 2013, Airboxlab’s mission was to improve air quality in homes with their Foobot device capable of monitoring air quality and detecting air pollutants..

The demand for their product quickly rose as manufacturers of air purification equipment wished to employ Foobot in their filtration systems. Interestingly, the Esch-based startup has realized 80% of its sales in the United States.

However, when the pandemic hit, Foobot decided to revise their business model.

They abandoned the detection of air pollutants in homes and devoted themselves to energy consumption and CO2 emissions from heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems.

“Our artificial intelligence allows for energy savings of up to 50% in the operation of heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems.”

Jacques Touillon, CEO of Foobot

Deep And Continuous Learning

By measuring, monitoring and then reducing the energy consumption and carbon emissions of office buildings, Foobot wanted to provide better thermal comfort and air quality to occupants and enable employers to thrive with more productive indoor spaces.

“Our solution uses sensors incorporating a new generation of artificial intelligence known as Deep Learning. Mainly used in robotics and automobiles, but still rare in the building industry, the technology allows for advanced scenario simulations,” explains Jacques Touillon, CEO of the 8-person company.

A virtual model of the building is first created from about forty pieces of information (plans, surfaces, volumes, construction materials, etc.), with the heating-ventilation-air conditioning elements also integrated. Everything is then represented in a digital twin, the digital counterpart of the real building.

“We then inject our base of artificial intelligence algorithms into this digital twin, which we train with millions of scenario simulations. In two or three days, the agent will be able to learn the equivalent of a building’s operation over a period of 20 years,” describes Jacques Touillon. “It will then be able to determine the possible optimizations and quantify the achievable energy savings.

The solution also incorporates continuous learning technology, with which the system will continue to learn, to refine the control and measurement of the building, based on previous results.

“Our artificial intelligence allows for energy savings of up to 50% in the operation of heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems,” says the CEO.

In terms of employee well-being in the office, he recalls that “scientific studies have shown that productivity gains were from 11 to 23% depending on air quality.”

However, it is difficult to measure with sensors and AI, the levels of well-being and productivity gains of the staff with sensors and AI. So, for Jacques Touillon, the contribution of companies to the well-being of their employees will be based primarily on better air quality and not on productivity gains: “If there is a gain, it will be primarily in terms of energy costs and carbon emissions,” he concludes.

“Through an analysis of temperature data, but also of employees’ feelings, we can establish a relationship between air quality and well-being at work.”

Julie Stoffel, Marketing Communications Coordinator of Sensilla

Capturing Well-Being

Launched in 2018, and specializing in the detection and measurement of air quality in working environments, Sensilla‘s aims to improve working conditions for a healthier environment that respects its occupants.

Its air sensors measure in real time the temperature, relative humidity and pressure of the air.
They also identify the level of CO2, the number of fine particles, as well as the concentration of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) – pollutants that are very often the cause of respiratory, cardiac and pulmonary diseases.

“We spend more than 90% of our time inside a building, an environment that is up to 10 times more polluted than outside,” says Julie Stoffel, Marketing Communications Coordinator. “And since we breathe up to 25,000 liters of air per day, air quality is a key factor for society as it impacts well-being, health and performance.”

The idea was already born seven years ago, after a research and development project on a micro-sensor technology. The devices are connected to Sensilla’s cloud. The data collected and measured in real time is then visualized on a dashboard accessible via a smartphone, tablet or PC.

The solution was commercialized in January 2021 and targets office real estate players (owners and occupants of office and coworking spaces, building managers…), shopping centers and performance auditors.

Good Air, Low Absenteeism

The Howald-based company, which figures 10 employees, has already extended its technology and expertise to reduce energy consumption and carbon emissions from heating, ventilation and air conditioning equipment. Its ultimate goal is to increase productivity and well-being at work for building occupants.

“In addition to having a strong impact on our health, well-being and productivity, effective monitoring of indoor air quality also helps to reduce the costs associated with energy expenses and thus to reduce the carbon footprint of buildings,” continues Stoffel.

With this in mind, it has also developed a viral risk index, which identifies indoor spaces that are conducive to the spread of viruses.

“Numerous studies, which our in-house pilot projects confirm, show that poor air quality has a strong impact on workplace productivity,” explains Julie Stoffel. “Through an analysis of temperature data, but also of employees’ feelings, we can establish a relationship between air quality and well-being at work,” explains the MarCom manager. Then by calculating the rate of absenteeism – and its cost to the employer – we can deduce an index of employee productivity. So, by providing healthy work environments, employers can improve employee morale and fitness and thus increase productivity, while making gains in energy consumption and carbon emissions.”

This article was first published in Silicon Luxembourg magazine. Get your copy.

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