By Leo Valiquette

Buildings are becoming intelligent.

This is hardly news to organizations working in the automated buildings industry. Building automation systems (BAS) that control key systems via a distributed computer network have been around for some time.

But how can these systems evolve? Where can new technologies take us to reach new levels of automation, energy efficiency and occupant comfort?

One emerging industry that holds the answer is printable and organic electronics (POE).

But what is POE?

POE combines new materials with cost-effective, large area production processes. Conventional printing processes, such as screen-printing, offset lithography and inkjet, are used to deposit conductive inks onto a variety of flexible substrates, such as plastics, papers and fabrics.

The result is a whole new world of electronics that are low cost and consume little power. They can be disposable, biodegradable and even stretchable – attributes that defy the limitations of traditional rigid components.

POE is a key enabler of the Internet of Things, as more and more of the everyday objects in our lives become networked. The low-power, low-cost components necessary to bring intelligence to everyday objects can be created in high volume with POE.

POE-enabled products are already around us. These include the biosensors in the disposable glucose test strips used by diabetes patients, the embedded antennas in mobile devices, and the touch displays on the consumer appliances and devices we use every day.

More than 70 Canadian public and private sector organizations are already heavily vested in the growth of this emerging global industry.

How POE can make intelligent buildings smarter

The typical BAS today is used to control heating, ventilation, air-conditioning, security and fire systems. POE can extend these capabilities in various ways.

For example, inexpensive printed sensors put on walls and ceilings, or even printed into wall and ceiling panels, can provide data on heating and airflow. Without any wiring, this can allow for “smart” rebalancing of heating or cooling system operation.

Switches can be replaced with smart touch pads that are printed. People can be authenticated through wearable intelligent bands that automatically scan as they walk through the door, so no more lost access cards. Existing room sensors, such as those that turn lights on or off when people come and go, can be replaced with PE alternatives.

PE can also enable brand new applications. One example is photovoltaic components that can be printed directly on window glass, to allow a building to generate its own electricity.

Transparent displays have already been developed using organic light emitting diodes (OLEDs). Various organizations are developing ways to print OLEDs, which would be far more economical than current production methods. This would allow for glass walls to become multimedia platforms for conference and meeting rooms.

And the technology already exists to create a whole new generation of inventory management systems that can track goods tagged with intelligent labeling as they leave or enter the premises.

How you can help define the future of the intelligent building

Recently, CABA signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Canadian Printable Electronics Industry Association (CPEIA). The intent is for the two organizations to collaborate on a number of initiatives to educate CABA’s membership on the potential for POE to revolutionize the automated building industry, and pursue development efforts between Members of both associations to bring new POE-enabled products and applications to market.

One of the first initiatives is to create white paper working groups that will collaborate to identify and explore where and how POE can be used in the automated building industry today to replace existing technologies, and what new products and applications can be developed for tomorrow.

This requires the participation and input of stakeholders on all sides of the equation – the architects, engineers and contractors who design and construct, the building owners/managers who operate, and the technology innovators who create PE components for various applications.

To learn more about this opportunity, please contact Greg Walker, Research Director at CABA (walker@caba.org), or Peter Kallai, Executive Director of the CPEIA (pkallai@cpeia-acei.ca).

What is the CPEIA?

With the support of the National Research Council of Canada, and a number of key Canadian industry players, the CPEIA launched last fall. It serves as the united voice for the POE sector in Canada and implements critical development strategies to facilitate growth through networking, stimulate R&D and investment, build a strong POE supply chain and drive the broad adoption of POE by end customers in a range of Canadian industries. In a few short months, it has already grown to more than 40 members.

To learn more about the CPEIA, please visit www.cpeia-acei.ca

You can also learn more about the POE opportunity for Canada, and forge key business connections, at Canada’s premier industry event, the Canadian Printable Electronics Symposium (CPES2015), taking place in Montreal April 21-22. To learn more and to register, please visit www.cpeia-acei.ca/symposium