Watch Your Step, Smart Floors are Coming to Industrial Facilities

How would you react if your floor told you that you’ve gained weight?

Smart homes and smart facilities are already brimming with IoT sensors, generally embedded in equipment or monitoring conditions from a vantage point such as the ceiling. But now, thanks to intelligent tiles, even floors can be smart.

It’s very likely you’ve already experienced a smart floor of some kind. Maybe your kids have played the dance arcade game Dance Dance Revolution, or perhaps you’ve walked across a smart floor at a shoe store so the salesperson can conduct a gait analysis. Heated floors, popular in cool-climate homes, are not considered “smart” if they’re controlled manually or by a timer but would be considered smart if they can sense changes in temperature and autonomously begin heating floorboards or bathroom tiles in response.

It’s important to note that covering anything more than a small area with smart flooring is currently prohibitively expensive. A company called Pavegen, for example, asks over $1,600 per square meter for its power-generating smart floors. As with any emerging technology, however, prices are likely to drop as competition increases.

How Do Smart Floors Work?

Smart floors are designed and built according to their application but are typically made up of multiple “intelligent tiles” with a very thin layer of sensors installed into the textiles. Using protocols ranging from radio signals to a high-speed communication network, the sensors send data to a central data repository that can collate and interpret the signals from the entire smart floor and make a decision to take action – such as turning on underfloor heating – accordingly.

How Can Smart Floors Be Used in an Industrial Setting?

Some of the potential applications of smart floors on the manufacturing floor include:

  • Health and safety: Using gait analysis, smart floors can track employee fatigue and recognize when somebody trips or an accident occurs.
  • Comfort: Smart floors can become a key part of your facility’s temperature control system by heating up or cooling down in response to the temperature. Floors could even change color to adapt to the time of day and staff’s circadian cycles.
  • Generating power: Smart floors can be used to produce a small amount of energy every time they are walked upon, which could potentially lower power bills. This feature could also be used to provide lighting in emergency situations.
  • Cleaning abilities: Floors can clean the air by absorbing fine dust and also self-clean to reduce facility cleaning needs.
  • Track steps: Smart floors could help building owners understand high-traffic areas in their facilities, while steps could be tracked as part of a workplace health initiative and even gamified to encourage workers to move around more.
  • Monitor weight: By monitoring the weight of equipment or manufactured products, smart floors could potentially make industrial scales obsolete.
  • Security: Smart floors could replace the security touchpad by recognizing if a person walking across it is allowed or prohibited in a certain area.

Three key concerns around smart floors are their cost (the money saved on power bills, for example, pales in comparison to the cost of installing the power generating smart tiles); wear and tear from being walked upon; and potential damage from liquid spills.

With the rest of your facility becoming increasingly rich in sensor devices, there’s little reason that your floor should be an exception. Smart floors will definitely be an interesting trend to keep an eye on.

From: Thomas Insights