Smart networks for a feel-good office
An office that provides us with everything we need, that interacts with us and our visitors and simply makes work more fun. Thanks to IoT and AI this has become reality at our Mannheim office. In a 2-day coding camp, we worked on prototypes that bring our vision of a smart, green office to life. From intelligent herb gardens to digital door plates or ambient lighting – the results are impressive!
As green as it getsWho has the time to think about healthy eating during a stressful day at work? We are no longer used to seeing plants grow and harvesting them. But is there a way to bring nature and the culture of self-sufficiency back into city life? Our motto wouldn’t be “hello, technology” if we weren’t able to come up with an agriculture 4.0 solution. We have developed a smart, completely self-sustaining office garden that spices up our lunch with fresh herbs. The only thing our Mannheim colleagues need to do is pick a plant once it signals via dashboard that it is ready for harvesting.
AS FRESH AS A DAISY THANKS TO THE POWER OF SENSORS
Do the plants have enough water? Do they need more light? What’s the temperature? Is there enough humidity? In order to monitor and control these data, we have equipped hydroponics with different sensors. A Raspberry Pi collects the sensors’ data and sends them to the Google Cloud platform via MQTT, a machine-to-machine communication protocol. The system analyzes the data and regulates itself. If the plant’s vital signs are not okay, the system will start the irrigation system, for example.
WATCHING HERBS GROW
If you want to know whether your herb garden is doing well, you can access a web dashboard which was implemented using Angular5. Be it for an entire plot or an individual plant—it not only provides our team members with information on the plants’ health and ripeness, it also helps them understand the system’s decisions so that they can learn what conditions the herbs need to thrive: How much water does basil need? What temperatures are ideal for parsley? How much light makes cress grow best?
How does your garden grow?
The system analyzes camera pictures that show the herb garden from above. Based on the plants’ colors and sizes, it produces generative graphics, i. e. graphics created by an algorithm, that visualize the health and ripeness of the plants: Large leaves and a high proportion of green in the picture are a sign of healthy plants. Small leaves, yellow or even brown parts indicate a lack of nutrients. In order to make it easier to distinguish the individual types of herbs, the visualizations use the characteristic shapes of the leaves: For parsley we use somewhat angular, rough-edged shapes while Basil is displayed with oval, opposing leaves.
DON’T REAP WHAT SOMEONE ELSE SOWSVia the dashboard, our team members can “book” plants for their lunch break. Our augmented-reality app helps to nip fights over the best salad topping in the bud. When someone holds their tablet or smartphone above the plot, a 3D image of the respective owner appears next to the plant. The Unity app uses the image tracking feature of the augmented reality framework vuforia to create a grid of the environment and allocate the plots. The team members’ 3D faces are produced using the depth sensor of the iPhone XS.
Our smart herb garden is not the only result of the 2-day coding camp. Two further IoT projects improve communications in the workplace.
DIGITAL SIGN POSTS IN THE OFFICE
You all know the situation: You quickly need a meeting room but when you get there, its door is closed and you don’t know whether it’s okay to enter or whether the room is occupied. Our IoT door plates give a quick overview of the room allocation. They are mounted right beside the room and access calendar data to show what room has been booked and for how long. The face recognition feature manages access to confidential data and privileges. Spontaneous meetings can be booked right at the door plate via a chat bot.
A COLORFUL WELCOME
We want our staff and visitors alike to feel good in our smart office. A bright and colorful welcome awaits them in our kitchen, the centerpiece of our new office. In keeping with the motto “Bring color to our office”, the ambient lighting technology brightens our kitchen with our client’s corporate colors.
Just like the digital door plate, the ambient lighting is based on an ESP32 micro controller and is controlled via Libery Note JS and a Raspberry Pi. The lighting is based on the same server component as the door plate and is controlled via a Raspberry Pi. Our AI bot retrieves the necessary information from our Exchange server and from the visitor’s web page.
We look forward to bringing even more ideas to life, making our Mannheim office even smarter and greener.
Stefan Hintz, Dr. Peter Klein, Daniel Kurz, Henrik Rieß, Katrin Schäfers, Martina Uhlig