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The Pandemic Creates Host of New Products and Services for Intelligent Buildings: Part 3

Neil Strother
Jun 25, 2020

Smart Buildings

In this third installment of a blog series focusing on various pandemic-related effects on buildings, attention shifts to the residential sector. To recap, the first and second parts of this series considered lighting solutions and other products being introduced to aid commercial facilities managers’ efforts to better manage risks. The emphasis here shifts to pandemic-driven solutions for the home.

Vendors Take Notice of the World Working From Home

The major change for many has been working from home. Besides needing to set up or upgrade home offices, the shift has caused millions to consider modifications in several other areas of home life during the new normal, with vendors and other market stakeholders taking note as well:

  • Air quality: Though residential HVAC and air filtering systems are not designed to prevent a virus like COVID-19 from spreading (a scenario thought unlikely by experts), residents and apartment managers are paying more attention to air quality, HVAC systems, and filters. “We’re looking at cleaner air initiatives in general,” says Andrew Hardy, senior executive head of operations for JEMB Realty, which has implemented such health measures at its Herald Towers residential project in New York City. “We will look at our current maintenance schedules, and upgrade as necessary.”

- The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers issued guidance statements on the matter, as did the Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers.

- Few air quality devices have been introduced as preventive measures against the COVID-19 virus. But at least one startup is hoping to capture market share with its EvaPure, a small portable air sanitizer that the company claims can purify the air around you.

  • Touchless products: Hands-free products have gained more interest among consumers, even though most products are not new. simplehuman, for example, has experienced an uptick in demand for its sensor-activated soap pumps and trash cans. Likewise, interest in voice-activated products like Delta’s faucets with VoiceIQ technology seem more viable and valuable, beyond the convenience factor, as a way of limiting the spread of dangerous germs (not just the coronavirus).
  • Telemedicine, telehealth: Accessing medical specialists via digital tools is a much more conceivable and achievable concept as people are in lockdown. Zoom and other web conferencing apps can be thanked for popularizing this idea. Routine checkups and exams done from home are much more viable options than they were a few months ago, although most people lack the tools to do these. Nonetheless, there is growing momentum for telemedicine to flourish. For instance, a startup called TytoCare offers consumers a kit for at-home exams that a doctor or healthcare provider conducts remotely. This type of product could be the beginning of a larger trend as people outfit their homes with telemedicine in mind, especially as people age. In this vein, US representatives introduced a bill that would make Medicare reimbursement a permanent fixture for certain types of telemedicine services, lending legislative and financial support to the concept.

In the long run, perhaps not all of these concepts for the residential sectorwill survive as fears subside and a new level of risk tolerance evolves. Having to keep distance from others over many months and knowing smarter home products and services can help reduce the spread of germs have triggered a change in people’s minds. And those ideas are expected to linger, providing market stakeholders with new opportunities.