The global powerhouse design firm UNStudio recently announced that it is launching a tech startup/spin-off called UNSense that will focus on using sensor-based technologies for the built environment.
According to their PR announcement:
With UNSense, our aim is to improve physical, mental and social health through tech interventions within the built environment. Operating as an independent sister company of UNStudio, UNSense will explore new sensor-based technologies across three levels: the city, the building, and indoor environments. This new company presents the opportunity to finally integrate sensorial adaptive design into architectural output. Through tech innovation, environments can adapt to truly support the needs of individuals, and populations at large.
UNStudio principal Ben van Berkel details further in an introductory blog post the thinking behind the UNSense launch. To paraphrase:
With UNSense, I want to do something different. We focus on new ways of integrating technology into the built environment as part of a human-centric vision, with particular focus on health and wellbeing. At UNSense, when we design solutions, we take the human experience as both the starting point and the end result. […] Through sensorial and sensor-based technologies we can affect or stimulate the senses by relieving stress, creating a sense of safety, providing information, improving lighting or ventilation… the possibilities are endless. Automatically activated sensor-based systems can also bring about conditions where we ‘un-sense’: where we no longer need to react consciously in order to effect change in our immediate environments.
Gee…that sounds like what I’ve been researching and writing about for about 20 years now. I wonder if they can convert their leading-edge architectural project knowledge (plus the A-grade brand recognition of UNStudio) and somehow find a viable business model. With the buzz around IOT for commercial building projects now several years into the hype cycle, there are countless major companies chasing this space – lighting companies, building management system providers, major tech companies, etc. I’m guessing their best bet is to start with an aggressive IP strategy – patent all the great ideas that probably bounce around their design practice. Then leverage the IP portfolio into tech development/partnerships.