NUS and Johnson Controls embark on S$5 million research to co-create people-centric smart building systems

First research project under this collaboration to simplify building data integration for a healthier, more sustainable built environment

The National University of Singapore (NUS) and Johnson Controls, the global leader for smart, healthy and sustainable buildings, will embark on a joint collaboration on smart buildings research. Johnson Controls will commit about S$5 million into this research programme, and teams from both organisations will work together to address industry-wide challenges.

“As Singapore advances its whole-of-nation movement on sustainable development, NUS is ready to seize the plethora of opportunities through our digital innovation activities and strategic collaborations with industry to drive the future of urban solutions. This collaboration between NUS and Johnson Controls will combine the University’s expertise in the science of cities and sustainability with Johnson Controls’ industry knowledge to co-create people-centric smart building systems to bring about impactful and radical changes to the lives of people in Singapore and the world,” said Professor Chen Tsuhan, NUS Deputy President (Research & Technology).

The NUS School of Design and Environment (SDE) will kick off with the first research project in April 2021, which will be led by Assistant Professor Clayton Miller from its Department of Building. The research will use machine learning to accelerate the conversion of Internet of Things (IoT) data into the BRICK Schema, a standardising model for data labels in buildings. This open-source schema describes smart buildings and their subsystems in a format that enables software to more easily and quickly connect into a larger number of buildings. With the establishment of a consistent schema across buildings, the industry is better able to understand metadata usage across all building types, to improve overall wellness for its users.

“Our research collaboration with Johnson Controls will contribute to the built environment sector’s need for rapid digitalisation and enhanced collaboration across the entire industry value chain. The status quo is that each building speaks its own language when it comes to IoT. With this research, Asst Prof Miller’s team seeks to create a type of ‘translation engine’ to convert these individual languages into the BRICK schema. This is a critical piece of enabling technology for Singapore to develop future-ready solutions for sustainable cities in line with Singapore Green Plan 2030,” said Professor Lam Khee Poh, NUS SDE Dean.

As it is a labour-intensive process to convert existing meta-data schemas into the BRICK framework, the team intends to set up a machine learning competition to crowdsource solutions to find the most accurate approach to converting each building’s existing labeling methods into the BRICK schema.

The research will leverage the Johnson Controls OpenBlue Innovation Center housed at SDE, which was launched in September 2020 as a testbed for a new breed of customisable, contact-free applications built on the Johnson ControIs unifying OpenBlue digital technology suite. It will focus primarily on the four SDE buildings, with the possibility to expand the scope to include other buildings across the NUS campus.

“NUS is an important partner in our journey to transform the urban built environment, especially with the focus of ‘build back better’ in the recovery from the long pandemic. Tapping on the talents from both sides to research on artificial intelligence, sustainability as well as smart experience and wellness, we can innovate and scale from this NUS living laboratory. Singapore’s larger regulatory environment is also conducive for adoption of technologies to ensure our built environment is healthier and more sustainable,” said Mr Alvin Ng, Vice President, Digital Solutions, Asia Pacific, Johnson Controls.

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