Connectivity is the next challenge for architects

Noah Waldman
New York City 40°42'52" N, 74°00'26” W

Just as it wouldn't make sense today to design a building without planning for electric light, it won't make sense tomorrow not to plan for connectivity.

As anyone who's tried to set up a new internet connection in an older building knows, some buildings don't work with wifi. Because of the heavy use of metals like iron and copper in the skeletons and plumbing of some older buildings, they act like faraday cages, trapping signals in their walls and impeding efforts to set up a wireless network. While people have retrofitted buildings so that even structures as old as the Colosseum are decked out with things like electric light, new buildings should be built with modern and future needs for connectivity and wireless permeability in mind.

For as fast as it will be, 5G comes with limitations that architects will have to plan around if they want their buildings to be compatible. 5G signals don't have the range nor the strength of previous standards, requiring room for more nodes, and open spaces for their line-of-sight signals to travel through.

Many new spaces would likely want to use 5G for indoor mapping and tracking, as the new standard would allow for simultaneous use by several more devices than current 3G or 4G setups. Useful for residential, commercial, and industrial purposes, real-time tracking helps people – and the space - know the exact location of people or within an accurate indoor map.

Home, smart home

The technology powering indoor mapping and tracking represents the next step in smart homes. For starters, tracking signals work independently from internet ones, potentially allowing connected devices to retain smart features when disconnected from the internet, so long as they're connected to each-other. Accurate mapping would allow you to create geo-fencing within your own home. Program your oven to automatically turn off when you step out of the kitchen, or lights to turn on or off when you enter or leave a room.

Improved ingress, easier egress

Public-private spaces from office buildings to hotels would also benefit from the abilities enabled by indoor mapping and tracking. Building security and management could program schemes that would allow people to only enter floors, doors, and rooms they have authorization for rather than going off an honor system or fiddling with IDs. Airports and other transportation hubs could give travelers detailed maps including gate and shopping locations, as well as a real-time ETA so you would never be too early or late for lift-off again. While the spaces required for 5G may affect built-in techniques for wayfinding, access to maps should help keep people from getting lost while navigating open environments.

Stock within sight

Indoor location technologies would allow factories to track parts though the entirety of production and get alerts should conveyor belts stop moving for whatever reason; and shops would be able to track stock on maps in addition or instead of having information in some sort of spreadsheet. Furthermore, gathering a history of this type of data could help planners find small ways to improve in-office routing along any particular processes.

Indoor location technologies

Just as accurate and updated outdoor maps allow for more optimized routing, indoor maps would give business owners and planners the info they need for increased efficiency.

Businesses of all kinds would be able to easily track employees to find out where the most popular spots of an open office plan, or how to rearrange group locations to increase cross-team cohesion and productivity. 

But for all these possibilities to come to fruition, architects and planners have to design buildings with these functions in mind from the beginning. Just as no architect worth their salt would build a theater without accounting for acoustics, or a high-rise residence with only a guestimate for how many elevators they should put in, architects of all stripes need to consider material choice and layouts that would let their buildings be smarter. And we offer powerful indoor positioning solutions so businesses can hit the ground running with all the location data they need within their new smart buildings.

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