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Smart apartments? The future is here already

12 December 2018 | 10 minute read
mobilephone reb

The future of apartment buildings will have exit signs and emergency lights that can communicate with your phone, if a new technology being implemented in Sydney’s north-west takes off.

The new platform, known as EMIoT, works through installing special emergency lights or exit signs that connect to each other wirelessly.

Dr Wen Hu of UNSW’s School of Computer Science and Engineering said that these lights then make up their own network.

“All you need is to install the emergency lights, and they all automatically connect to each other, and that creates the network,” Dr Hu said.

These lights can then connect to ventilation and pumping systems, security cameras, sensors, doors to common areas and halls, which can be controlled and monitored remotely via talking to a smartphone.

“The emergency lights can then be networked with other devices via various wireless technologies, including Bluetooth, which allows them to be controlled locally with a smartphone or via the internet from anywhere in the world,” Dr Hu said.

Sensors as a service

The technology is already being put into use in 14 buildings in Castle Hill by WBS Technology through the “as a service” model, where the sensors will be implemented and the network established for a monthly fee, as opposed to a one-time price.

Luke Gibbeson of WBS Technology described the technology as “creating a smart building ecosystem”.


“There’s 14 buildings in this apartment complex, and we’ve installed a networked emergency lighting solution throughout them without any cabling and with no supporting network infrastructure,” Mr Gibbeson said.

“Our communications gateway looks like a standard exit sign, which relays other emergency lights communication to the cloud and acts like a normal exit sign — so it’s a plug and play system... [and] you can install in a new building or retrofit into an older one.”

He added that as more sensors are installed, they can be added to the network and managed remotely.

The technology is not just for controlling and monitoring various devices; for example, the lights in the underground car park, hallways and common areas dim when no movement is being sensed and brighten when there is movement.

When a light does fail, a record of which specific light and the length of time it has remained inoperative for is also recorded.

The potential for the network can be expanded, such as tracking energy usage and the status of heating and cooling assets, identifying any leaks in water systems and faults in hot water systems, and even being able to give residents trapped in an underground car park without phone reception the ability to communicate with building managers via an app.

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