The 10th IRT Industrial Forum was held in Portorož on 4 and 5 June 2018 under the patronage of the President of the Republic of Slovenia, Borut Pahor. IRI UL and Slovenian company INAP were among the finalists for TARAS Award, given for the most successful collaboration between the business enterprise sector and the scientific-research sphere in the field of innovation, development and technology. This is also part of IRI UL’s mission, which the institute is achieving through different activities, international projects, student projects, and energy efficiency network. TARAS Award is presented by the organiser of IRT Industrial Forum and publisher of IRT3000 magazine.
At the IRT Industrial Forum, IRI UL and INAP presented the INAP ACS wireless sensor, which measures temperature, humidity, carbon dioxide, organic compounds, noise and illumination in individual rooms. The results of the measurements are then stored in INAP’s cloud system. The built-in intelligent model uses colour and audio signals to draw attention to air quality in the room. It informs users about the state of their indoor environment and warns them if the individual variables reach or exceed harmful values. The sensor works according to the principles of “calm technology”, which means that it does not burden people with too much data or with constant and disturbing warnings or alarms, minimising the required interaction of people with technology.
The development of hardware and software was carried out by INAP, while IRI UL incorporated in the development of the device the acquired knowledge about people-friendly technologies and approaches for providing information on indoor environment developed in the MOBISTYLE project (EU program Horizon 2020). They also relied on people-oriented development approaches tested within the EU Erasmus + project PEOPLE, which uses social sciences and humanities approaches to involve people, their needs and expectations, in the development process of technological solutions.
So far, the energy management priorities have focused on energy consumption, but the quality of the indoor environment is gaining importance. INAP has a wide base of technical and performance know-how and competences, but has limited research facilities as a small company. For the development of technological solutions, it is crucial to combine interdisciplinary approaches and findings: from understanding the individual parameters of comfort and their integration into more demanding technological solutions to learning about how we can influence people’s behaviour and influence their daily habits.
If we provide people with relevant information on their living environment in an appropriate way, they can be more motivated to change their behavior – which contributes to more efficient energy use and a healthier living environment. In order to achieve this, IRI UL combines anthropological knowledge with a thorough technical understanding of the solutions in development processes and projects. They approached the development of the sensor and carried out research and analyses of people’s behaviour in buildings that combined qualitative methods and techniques (ethnography, participant observation, focus groups, interviews) with quantitative methods (questionnaires, analysis of behavioural patterns based on sensor data).
By integrating qualitative and quantitative approaches, the assumption that “buildings consume approximately 40 percent of final energy” was turned into a new principle: energy is used by people. The development of the INAP sensor was based on this idea. People were put in the centre and the development team tried to shift from an expert mindset to a people-oriented and environmentally responsible mindset in developing solutions that promote a healthier and more energy-efficient way of life.