By Megan Bozman

This week Intel Israel has laid the cornerstone for its new Petah Tikva campus, featuring a variety of IoT smart building technology. 2,500 development personnel currently working in 13 buildings will work in the new, nine-story structure, which will be built on a 366,000 square foot plot near Intel’s current Petah Tikva campus.

Intel claims this will be the world’s smartest building which will serve as a living demonstration of the various IoT technologies the company develops. As a ‘learning building,’ the new campus will constantly become more efficient, improving energy and water consumption, as well as the general building operation.

The new Intel Israel Petah Tikva campus will be the world’s smartest building, a living demonstration of the various IoT technologies the company develops. Is it a smart building or micromanaging nightmare?

Smart Building or Micromanaging Nightmare?

CNBC refers to the new structure as a “micromanaging monster,” and the Verge states it is, “a bureaucrat’s dream and a regular human’s nightmare.”

Is a building that micromanages inhabitants likely to be effective? Do technological nags really drive long-term changes in behavior? In considering answers to these complex questions, the Fitbit comes to mind. The product was launched in 2009 and as of March 2015, more than 20.8 million devices have been sold. Are people really moving more, thanks to buzzing reminders to reach their daily step goals?

Wearables like the Fitbit are a part of the Internet of Things. But do they really drive sustainable changes in behavior?
Wearables like the Fitbit are a part of the Internet of Things. But do they really drive sustainable changes in behavior?

I admit I’m skeptical. I also happen to be a fitness instructor, and have been teaching classes in a variety of fitness centers since 1998. I mostly see Fitbits used by people who are already dedicated to a lifestyle of fitness. It’s fun, but merely provides positive feedback for existing activity, rather than driving changes in behavior.

However, those are my personal observations. I realize that the plural of anecdote is not data.

The Plural of Anecdote Is Not Data

According to one study published just last week by the Journal of the American Medical Association, “the addition of a wearable technology device to a standard behavioral intervention resulted in less weight loss over 24 months. Devices that monitor and provide feedback on physical activity may not offer an advantage over standard behavioral weight loss approaches.”

Wow, OK, I had not expected that.

Another study by Endeavour Partners revealed that more than half of U.S. consumers who own an activity tracker no longer use it.

Smart Building [Big Brother?] Technology

Is the new Intel Israel Petah Tikva campus actually attempting to nag workers into healthier lifestyles or more efficient behaviors?

The new building will leverage facial recognition technology, so employees won’t need a badge. For employees who opt in, the system will learn their habits in order to customize their working environment.

Personalized employee services include offers to carpool with colleagues living nearby, and, via synching with employee calendars, directions to the available parking closest to their meeting’s location. The app can also offer employees their favorite coffee for pick up from the lobby.

“The building will study each employee’s temperature preferences and, during a meeting, propose the temperature which is most accommodating for all participants.” Although I can’t say I agree that this will end fights over air conditioning.

By monitoring employees’ dining room visits, the system can suggest they eat at another time when the dining room is busy, or when friends are available. Finally, employees who exercise in the gym can receive recommendations for a menu suitable for their fitness regimen.

What is this Smart Building Tech Nagging About?

In reality, the technology will provider reminders and suggestions, but from what I’ve read, I don’t agree with the admonitions that it’s a micromanaging nightmare. First of all, employees must opt-into the app. Not only are they not forced to participate, they aren’t even included by default.

Second of all, the suggestions center on activities people are already engaged in: helping find a parking spot, eating when friends are available. They don’t seem to be driving people to change habits, but rather leveraging technology to add efficiency and ease to everyday habits.

I look forward to reading more about it, and hopefully seeing the video which was embedded in several news stories, but has since been removed from YouTube.

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