It seems as though everything has the potential to be “smart” these days, from your TV to your phone to your fridge. On a more personal level, heart-rate and fitness trackers are increasingly commonplace and helping people to improve their general health and fitness. Big data and the Internet of Things (IoT) are seeing a connected approach like never before, and we have an enormous amount of both functionality and information at our fingertips. Patterns of behaviour can be observed and leveraged for commercial and other purposes.
As unlikely as it sounds, flooring also has the potential to be “smart”. From the capability to turn on underfloor heating on command, to the ability to harvest energy from the footsteps of walkers or interpret consumer behaviour from tracking their route in a store or shopping centre, there have been some pretty big strides in smart technology when it comes to flooring.
Not everything to do with smart flooring has a direct commercial aspect, however. For example, flooring that can detect a fall and automatically trigger an alarm to call for help has an obvious application in hospitals, care homes and housing for the elderly. This type of flooring can also track movement and alert carers to areas of unusual activity, helping to identify or prevent an incident. That type of movement tracking can have applications in a gym or fitness centre, too, where it can track performance data and assist with personal improvement.
There are clear benefits to the insights that can be gained when it comes to understanding footfall at an event or within a retail space – as well as helping to optimise sales, it can directly aid with floor and staff planning. It helps provide the kind of data that, for example, clicks on a website can currently offer.
Kinetic floor tiles flex when you step on them – which might sound daunting or even dangerous but is much the same as walking on AstroTurf, for example. Each flex generates a small amount of electricity that can be used straight away or stored in a battery for later use.
Monitoring movement at train stations, particularly at rush hour, can help with planning and eliminating bottlenecks to keep people moving. There are also security applications – if there’s movement in a closed store or business, for example, then an alarm can be triggered to alert the owner or summon the police.
Smart flooring might sound like the future, but it’s here, now. When you go shopping, or to the train station, or the gym, you might already be providing valuable data to the business, or generating electricity. Next time you replace your household carpet or vinyl floor might be the time you choose to have a smart floor, with all its useful sensors and capabilities. If it detects a footfall when you’re at work and the house is empty it can tell you via your smartphone and you can call for help, if needed. And if you’re unlucky enough to suffer a fall, it might just save your life.
Here at Donnelly Watson we’ve worked on many commercial and domestic flooring projects. We welcome the advent of smart flooring and are very much looking forward to what the future brings. You can be sure we’ll be keeping up to date with developments and will continue to share the benefits of next-generation flooring with our clients.