Innovator in the Spotlight

Ayda Golahmadi EngD trainee Smart Cities and Buildings

Improving indoor air quality in schools in the Netherlands

My research is focused on improving indoor air quality (IAQ) in schools in the Netherlands as part of the ECOS-IAQ project.

From Unlikely to Unstoppable: Embracing Diversity in the Building Industry

“I never saw myself working at Kropman,” Shalika Walker confesses. “And honestly, I might not have hired Shalika,” Joep van der Velden admits, seated beside her. “But how the OpenCall of Eindhoven Engine changed things. We’ve now created a new position within Kropman specifically to bring Shalika on board,” says Joep with a big smile.

We are at one of the offices of Kropman. This company designs, builds, maintains, and manages building installations, including climate control. “Kropman, rooted in construction, is traditionally less dynamic compared to sectors like semiconductors or the medical industry. So, working here was not on my radar,” Shalika shares.

Kropman’s Workspace: More Than Meets the Eye

“Welcome to our living lab,” Joep announces as he leads me into a spacious, open-plan office. At first glance, it looks ordinary, with dark gray carpets, white adjustable desks, and black office chairs. Joep notices my lukewarm reaction and gives a knowing sigh, directing my attention upward. “The real innovation is actually hidden above us in the ceiling.” I follow his gaze to a beige suspended ceiling, and he points out a translucent cap. “Those are sensors. They allow us to monitor and adapt the office environment, responding to the current scenario or the presence of workers.”

At Kropman, the pride lies in being system integrators. We source pumps from one company, sensors from another, and piping and operating systems from yet another. Our goal is to seamlessly blend these components, providing our customers with a unified operating system that manages lighting, climate control, and solar panels, among other things. This integration is meticulously crafted to enhance the experience for our clients’ employees, focusing on maximal efficiency and environmental sustainability, using as little energy as possible.

Embracing Open Collaboration for Innovation

Creating an integrated system might seem straightforward, but it’s a challenging endeavor. We’re in a field dominated by heavyweights like Siemens, Honeywell, and Signify, each offering products with proprietary systems and unique data outputs, typically closed to external systems. To navigate this, we developed our software to manage and optimize the diverse systems a client might have. However, the need for a testing ground became apparent. Clients often hesitate to open their buildings for experimental setups; hence, we transformed our Breda office into a living lab.

True partnership proved elusive until we found a more receptive community in the Brainport region.

Joep van der Velden
Director of Building Automation | Kropman

We strongly believe in an open environment for research and development. Our efforts to collaborate with universities and companies across and beyond Europe, however have been met with limited success. True partnership proved elusive until we found a more receptive community in the Brainport region. This shares a work and research philosophy similar to our own company’s, plus communication is direct and efficient, enabling us to quickly and easily connect with each other. This welcoming atmosphere was pivotal when Wim Zeiler, a former colleague now with  Eindhoven University of Technology and still an advisor at Kropman, introduced us to the Eindhoven Engine OpenCall. Recognizing its potential to foster meaningful partnerships, we eagerly seized this opportunity.

Eindhoven Engine’s OpenCall: A Catalyst for Collaboration

“Working with Eindhoven Engine offers a unique experience,” Shalika explains. “We share a location with a variety of companies and students, all engaged in their own projects. This diversity is beneficial. It’s not just about casual connections, like chatting at the coffee machine; we also attend sessions to share and discuss project progress.

For instance, while working on a data prediction project, I overheard a researcher at Eindhoven Engine’s Festival of Disruption event discussing data usage in cancer research. It didn’t click immediately, but later, the idea struck me at home: we could collaborate and enhance our respective research.

These interactions open up new perspectives and inspire innovative thinking. “This collaborative atmosphere was the reason Kropman signed up for three projects in a row. One project focused on detecting and diagnosing faults in building climate systems. The second project involved personalized thermal comfort systems, allowing employees to adjust their workspace climate via a smartphone app. The third was an assessment of CO2 sensors in the market, evaluating their accuracy for reliable CO2 readings in schools.

Although these projects are completed within Eindhoven Engine, we continue to build on the research and improve the products developed.” “And that’s why we brought Shalika on board,” says Joep.

Human-data interaction to enhance office well-being

Hi, my name is Hans Brombacher and I am a fourth year Industrial Design Ph.D. candidate. My work focuses on the topic of human-data interaction to enhance office well-being and is part of the POWEr FITTing project of Eindhoven Engine.

 

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Three case studies

In the landscape of workplace technology, sensing systems play a crucial role in gathering data for understanding building performance and employee activities. However, a common challenge arises: individuals often feel disconnected from these systems, being treated merely as passive recipients of data. Three case studies propose practical solutions to address this issue.

Case 1. SensorBadge

Case 1 introduces SensorBadge, an ego-centric sensor platform allowing employees to actively participate in data collection and analysis. This approach emphasizes the importance of seamlessly integrating sensor technology into daily routines while ensuring individuals have control over their data. The study underscores the need for clear and understandable data representations to facilitate informed decision-making.

Case 3. Click-IO

Case 3 presents Click-IO, a tangible tool designed for real-time feedback on workplace well-being. By merging individual experiences with environmental data, Click-IO offers a nuanced understanding of office dynamics. Its privacy-sensitive design ensures that employees feel comfortable sharing feedback, while its mobility allows for in-the-moment data collection.

Case 2. SensorBricks

In case 2, SensorBricks emerges as a toolkit aimed at improving data literacy among users. Through interactive workshops, participants engage with sensor data in a collaborative setting, fostering discussions and shared insights. The toolkit’s user-friendly interface lowers the barrier for individuals to interact with data, promoting a deeper understanding of their surroundings.

Human-centered design

These case studies demonstrate the importance of human-centered design in workplace sensing technologies. By prioritizing user engagement, control, and understanding, these approaches pave the way for more meaningful insights and improved well-being in the modern workplace.

Integration of findings

Within our final study, which will start soon, we will integrate the findings of these studies into a unified artifact, prioritizing human-centric design principles. This aims to enhance data literacy, facilitate real-time feedback on well-being, and ensure employee control over data. Implementing such an ecosystem in diverse workplace settings could provide valuable insights into its effectiveness and ethical implications, ultimately fostering a more fulfilling and productive work environment.

Festival of Disruption filled with energy and enthusiasm

The Festival of Disruption’s second edition thrived with energy and enthusiasm. Kicking off the day, architect and urban designer Floris Alkemade offered a compelling perspective on how to embrace transformative changes.

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Engaging workshops

Following this inspiring start, attendees were presented with seven engaging workshops, each delving into methods to expedite innovation, including ‘Design doing’, ‘Accelerating transitions via disruption’ and ‘1+1=3.’ Moreover, they had the chance to stay up to date on the latest developments in Eindhoven Engine’s OpenCall projects and the Emergence Lab initiative focusing on low literacy. As the day drew to a close, the atmosphere was charged with excitement during the wrap-up quiz, concluding a day, filled with learning, inspiration, and networking.

Did you miss out on the festival or do you want to relive the day? Get an impression of it here!

Eindhoven Engine News – November 2023

In this edition of Eindhoven Engine News: Flashback Festival of Disruption 2023, Innovator in the spotlight Petros Zimianitis & more!

What else is happening at Eindhoven Engine?

Our socials

Towards automated personal comfort systems for heating, cooling and ventilation

Hello, my name is Petros Zimianitis (31 years old). I come from Greece and I was an EngD trainee in the Smart Buildings and Cities program at Eindhoven University of Technology. I studied Physics as my bachelor’s and did my master’s in Computational Physics in Greece.

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Driven by my curiosity and my eagerness to come up with innovative solutions to interesting technical challenges, I started my Engineering Doctorate traineeship in 2021, to contribute to the world of the built environment.

Are we using energy efficiently?

In the Netherlands, buildings are responsible for a great proportion of the total energy consumption. It is estimated that there can be significant energy savings by improving building installations and conditioning systems. Another important issue is the reported dissatisfaction of occupants in non-residential buildings regarding their perceived comfort and air quality. This is not a very efficient way of using energy, especially now that the world is moving to more sustainable energy generation. There are also a lot of research findings regarding the differences in perceived comfort across individuals.

Individualizing comfort in offices

My project, ‘Towards automated personal comfort systems for heating, cooling and ventilation’, is part of the Brains4Buildings consortium. It aims to take the step from research towards design and, thus to develop and test a prototype personalized comfort system (PCS), controlled by a machine learning model, as a module for building management systems for office buildings. The control inputs for the system come from both objective measurements of the environmental conditions around the occupant as well as the occupants’ perceived thermal comfort and perceived air quality.

System development

The prototype PCS was developed in a real office environment, in the living lab of Kropman in Breda. Prior to now, there was been a lot of research performed in controlled experiment rooms (climate chambers) at universities and other institutes. The benefit of developing such a system in a real office environment is that the system and the interaction that the occupants have with it can be tested in real-world conditions.

Performance

During the tests, the system showed promising performance. The machine learning models were able to predict the perfect settings for the volunteers the majority of the time. It was also reported that the volunteers that were using the PCS were felt comfortable throughout the day, whereas other people that worked in the same building in normal offices were experienced some kind of discomfort throughout the day.

What does this mean?

By individualizing comfort systems, there are huge gains that can be made in energy use. PCSs are using significantly less energy for the same task than central conditioning systems. A combination of these systems can prove to be much more energy efficient than the systems currently in use, thus, enabling buildings to easily integrate sustainable on-site energy generation solutions. All this is possible, while still providing increased levels of comfort to the occupants, which also extends to higher productivity and overall improvement of the occupants’ well-being!

By individualizing comfort systems, there are huge gains that can be made in energy use. PCSs are using significantly less energy for the same task than central conditioning systems

Petros Zimianitis
Engineer at Kropman

Interns join Smart Heat Shed and Low Literacy projects

Since September, two interns have been actively engaged at Eindhoven Engine . Jamy has taken on responsibilities within the Smart Heat Shed project, while Nivar is currently working on an assignment for the Low Literacy project.

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Jamy de Lange, a third-year Business Innovation student at Avans, is focused on the creation of an innovative concept that extends the application of the Smart Heat Shed, positioning it as the leading and most attractive alternative for future heat supply.

Nivar Gijsbers, also a third-year student at Avans, is exploring how healthcare technology can empower low-literate individuals with health awareness and accessing professional help.

Brainport becoming Mainport

The growth of our region is expected to be sustained for the next one or two decades at least. The statement of our government – that the status of Brainport is to be upgraded to a Mainport of the Netherlands – is compliant with this strong growth. Because this also leads to severe pressure on housing, living, talent and infrastructure, plans are being made to address the challenges.

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The recent first financial commitment for infrastructure (roads, transport, etc.) is proof of this. On the issue of talent, all educational institutes are making plans to grow (double) the number of students; see, for example, the recent plans announced by TU/e. In addition, the growth will also affect the innovation power of our region and it will enforce the role of valorization and the interplay between knowledge institutes, industry and society.

Growth of activities at Eindhoven Engine

We also foresee a potential growth for the activities of Eindhoven Engine as an accelerator for innovation. For this reason, we are already working on plans for the next phase of Eindhoven Engine to continue as a public/private partnership. We also started activities for scale-ups in our region in the form of funding scans by ScaleUpNation. We are working on a plan for industrial and societal residents to join our community starting next year. Finally, the growth of our region might also bring more tension regarding diversity within the region. This is why we will further strengthen the Emergence Lab for low literacy over the coming year. With all of these activities, we hope that we can further strengthen our role as Innovation Accelerator for the years to come.

Photo: Angelique Swinkels