NUS, Johnson Controls pave way for S$5-million R&D on smart buildings

The National University of Singapore (NUS) and Johnson Controls have teamed up for a joint effort  on smart buildings research, for which Johnson Controls will commit about S$5 million.

“This collaboration between NUS and Johnson Controls will combine the university’s expertise in the science of cities and sustainability with Johnson Controls’ industry knowledge to co-create people-centric smart building systems to bring about impactful and radical changes to the lives of people in Singapore and the world,” said Chen Tsuhan, NUS deputy president in charge of research and technology.

The NUS School of Design and Environment (SDE) will kick off with the first research project next month, April, which will be led by Assistant Professor Clayton Miller from its Department of Building. 

The research will use machine learning to accelerate the conversion of Internet of Things (IoT) data into the open-source BRICK Schema, a standardising model for data labels in buildings. 

“Our research collaboration with Johnson Controls will contribute to the built environment sector’s need for rapid digitalisation and enhanced collaboration across the entire industry value chain,” said Lam Khee Poh, dean of SDE.

Lam said the BRICK schema is a critical piece of enabling technology for Singapore to develop future-ready solutions for sustainable cities in line with Singapore Green Plan 2030.

As it is a labour-intensive process to convert existing meta-data schemas into the BRICK framework, the team intends to set up a machine learning competition to crowdsource solutions to find the most accurate approach to converting each building’s existing labeling methods into the BRICK schema.

The research will leverage the Johnson Controls OpenBlue Innovation Center housed at SDE, which was launched in September 2020 as a testbed for new breed of customisable, contact-free applications built on the Johnson ControIs unifying OpenBlue digital technology suite. 

This will focus primarily on the four SDE buildings, with the possibility to expand the scope to include other buildings across the NUS campus.

“NUS is an important partner in our journey to transform the urban built environment, especially with the focus of ‘build back better’ in the recovery from the long pandemic,” said Alvin Ng, VP of digital solutions in Asia Pacific and Johnson Controls.

“Tapping on the talents from both sides to research on artificial intelligence, sustainability as well as smart experience and wellness, we can innovate and scale from this NUS living laboratory,” said Ng.

He said Singapore’s larger regulatory environment is also conducive for adoption of technologies to ensure our built environment is healthier and more sustainable.