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Building Intelligence – Home operating system for

smart monitoring and control

Kalle Määttä, Jari Rehu, Hannu Tanner, Klaus Känsälä

VTT, Technical Research Centre of Finland
Oulu, Finland
kalle.maatta@vtt.fi, jari.rehu@vtt.fi, hannu.tanner@vtt.fi, klaus.kansala@vtt.fi

Abstract—People spend most of their time indoors. This is various actors involved, it is possible to create new service
why indoor air quality is one of the key factors affecting our concepts and even novel business models around Internet of
health, activeness and quality of life. Buildings we are living in buildings.
should give us comfortable and healthy conditions. Buildings
equipped with HVAC–systems often operate using default
settings with no automation installed causing problems in indoor II. MAKING BUILDINGS SMART – HOME OPERATING SYSTEM
air quality and building structures. In this paper one possible
solution to overcome these problems is described. A solution A. Internet of buildings–Smart home embedded IoT systems
proposed relies on novel wireless indoor monitoring system and Extensive measuring of the indoor parameters is a key
controlling concepts of devices developed at VTT. Furthermore, factor for a successful controlling of the living conditions.
similar concept of controlling devices is utilized in energy Retrofitting old homes with novel wireless technologies
management. enables measuring of the living conditions and further enables
parametrizing home device control systems to operate in an
Keywords—indoor air quality; wireless monitoring; HVAC intelligent manner so that the good condition of the building is
control, Internet of buildings, energy efficiency maintained and residents’ living comfort and health is
sustained. By extensive in-house monitoring and control of
I. PREFACE devices individual equipment can function as a whole
The quality of indoor air is fundamental for securing high controllable system. For instance measuring the temperature,
level of comfort to the occupants of the building. Air quality moisture, air pressure, air quality and presence of people brings
must be suitable for performing the activities for which the capability to automate the control of the heating, ventilation
building has been intended. Buildings with different purposes and air conditioning system (HVAC–system) and lighting to
may pose different requirements to in indoor air quality. Air adapt to the home inhabitation. VTT has equipped a three
quality is influenced by many factors: occupant population, bedroom apartment as a test environment for conceptual testing
lighting, ventilation, heating, and moisture prevention. All of the home operating system. Next paragraph describes our
affect the way occupants perceive air quality [1]. To ensure that test setup in our apartment.
required air quality is sustained all these factors must be
monitored and adjusted with appropriate systems. While it is B. Test appartment instrumentation
possible to include sophisticated systems to control air quality The Bluetooth Low Energy (BTLE) based WSN is installed
in new construction production, for older buildings the in the apartment consists of ten 2,4GHz BTLE–nodes
solutions are limited and often costly. However, by using a measuring temperature, humidity and air pressure. In figure 1
Wireless Sensor Network (WSN) it is possible to retrofit below is presented the developed VTT’s TinyNode platform
affordable air control systems to a building with minimum which consists of the BTLE–radio module, microcontroller,
effort. flash memory and integrated temperature, accelerometer,
Equipment with limited functionalities can be transformed humidity and air pressure sensors.
into smart devices with retrofitted WSN-based measurement
and control systems. The comfort of occupants can be further
improved by raising the level of automation with elements such
as presence detection. Furthermore, the information generated
by the system can be used for condition based maintenance
(CBM), optimizing the lifecycle usage and energy efficiency of
the building. Energy efficiency as well as lowering the peaks in
energy demand is essential in balancing the demand and supply
of energy in urban areas, which in turn contributes to more
sustainable construction [2]. By combining data from other
information systems as well as knowledge and expertise of Fig. 1. VTT TinyNode with itemperature, humidity and air pressure sensors.

978-1-5090-4767-3/17/$31.00 ©2017 IEEE


The apartment installation of the WSN is presented in the only a short period of time during broadcasting and wide
figure 2 as a whole. All rooms, balcony and ventilation spacing of the three advertisement channels prevents
machine (including intake, exhaust, supply and return piping) interference from other 2.4GHz devices. The receiver gateway
are equipped with the battery operated Temperature-Humidity- unit in this installation is a credit card size Linux based CPU
Pressure–node (THP–node) presented in figure 1. In addition with BTLE interface in which the data is sent throughout Wide
the carbon dioxide levels (CO2) and in-out pressure difference Area Network (WAN) interface into the backend or local
is measured in the living room by additional sensors integrated servers. Also a smartphone based application can be used for
into the VTT TinyNode. diagnostic purposes. For example the signal strength can be
verified in the installation phase with a smartphone.

D. IoT in buildings and intelligent controlling

The wireless measurement systems and appliances such as
boilers, fridges, freezers, HVAC–systems, lighting systems and
occupancy detection systems have to be interconnected in an
intelligent manner to be controllable as a system. This type of
concept can be utilized not only for providing healthy and
comfortable living environment but also for optimizing the
usage of the appliances and for building maintenance and
energy management purposes. Adding the monitoring and
cloud-based data into the control loop of the devices new
features can be implemented without changing the machine
hardware or software itself. Internet of Things (IoT) based
architecture framework and interfaces can be utilized to
efficiently unify heterogeneous systems in a gateway and cloud
level. The concept of cloud based monitoring and controlling
of the in-house appliances offers also possibilities to provide
Fig. 2. WSN installed in VTT’s test apparment. new type of service concepts for different stakeholders.
A screen shot of a web based sensor table including E. Energy management with smart control of devices
measurement values from different sensors at the research flat
is presented in figure 3 below. Each sensor node is updated at Once the sensor data is available the next phase is to use it
once per minute frequency. It can be seen from the figure 3 that for control purposes. The primary use will be active control of
humidity, CO2- and pressure difference measures are at the living environment to make it more comfortable for the
adequate levels and all sensors are online. user. This will include lighting, AC, heating and so on. It is
also possible to use the control of devices to save energy or
even manage the consumption according to the demands set by
the power grid operator.
The amount of controllable resources is not very big in one
apartment but if there are few hundred thousand apartments
available their large number makes this concept powerful [3,4].
The main issue is that the control takes place when necessary
and it does not disturb the user. To ensure this the propagation
of controllable resources must follow “bottom up” concept [5].
In most cases top down control is used. When doing this there
is a risk that the control is causing uncomfortable occasions
when disconnecting or turning down devices on wrong
moment. The bottom up approach tries to avoid incidents: the
Fig. 3. IoT frontend of WSN measurements from VTT’s research flat. resources available for active control will be sent up to the
aggregator level. This is beneficial for two reasons: first only
those resources that are really available are presented. So there
C. WSN with bluetooth low energy broadcasting will be fewer gaps between the estimated and available power.
The BTLE–sensors utilizes the property of Bluetooth The other benefit is privacy. Since no data about actual devices
message advertising where BTLE–peripheral device broadcasts will be send the privacy of the users will not be violated. The
the sensor data in certain constructed packets so that the procedure can be described in the form of discussion between
devices around can listen and receive the broadcasted apartment and aggregator.
messages. By advertising the sensor data there is no need for
establishing connection between the peripheral device and the Apartment: “My consumption is now 1000 watts but I can
receiver unit. This improves battery lifetime and reactiveness consume 500 watts more during the nest 30 minutes and also I
because making a connection is much slower than advertising can reduce my consumption 400 watts during the nest 30
the message. Energy efficiency is better because the radio is on minutes.” The aggregator can derive the following states based
on this information:

Utilizing in-house WSN and cloud based architecture more

advanced adaptive controlling concepts can be implemented to
State 1: 1000 W / 30 minutes control the ventilation machine. VTT has tested ventilation
State 2: 1500 W / 30 minutes machine controlling concepts at the research apartment
instrumented by comprehensive WSN and appropriate
State 3: 600 W / 30 minutes interfaces to IoT backend systems. The moisture, air pressure
This will leave the aggregator three possible scenarios from and CO2-consteration is measured and further sent to the
which to select. If the number of apartments is 1000 the server. At the server level controlling algorithm produces
controllable reserve will be from 0.6 MW up to 1.5 MW. Since tuning parameters or recommendations for 1) tuning the level
the aggregator can control every apartment individually the of ventilation 2) balancing between supply and return air flows
control becomes almost linear and very smooth. In this and 3) heating of the supply air.
scenario the time frame is 30 minutes but it can be varied easily For instance if the moisture level in the shower room
to match different demands. increases the ventilation machine automatically balances the in-
Sophisticated controlling algorithms have to be house relative humidity level (RH %) pre-set by the in cloud
implemented to intelligently control the devices so that the controller (at summer time 40–70 RH % and at winter time 15–
energy saving as well as the living comfort aspect is fulfilled. 45 RH %). Also the carbon dioxide level is controlled by
Next paragraph describes architecture for controlling machines tuning the basic ventilation so that the CO2–level should not
and devices so that the overall system is flexible for both exceed the 550 ppm level. The control signal to increase the air
energy management and living comfort purposes. flow is calculated by a PID–controller run at the backend or
local servers.
III. SMART CONTROLLING CONCEPT OF NON-SMART DEVICES Among the ventilation level control the level of the supply
and return air flow can be tuned separately to control the
A. Cloud based architecture existing pressure difference. The pressure difference is
Basic non-intelligent devices capable to be connected to measured and then used as an input for the pressure difference
cloud or in-house serves can be controlled in an intelligent controller. In ventilated buildings the pressure difference is
manner by utilizing WSN information, cloud-based recommended to be slightly negative being in between -1 to -5
information such as energy price data, weather condition and Pa. In the test apartment the ventilation machine tries to keep
forecast data and for example local warning signals of the balance in changing pressure difference conditions by
upcoming environmental threat. Combining these types of data controlling the supply and return air flows. For example
by means of dedicated algorithms at the server level turning on the extractor hood or a central vacuum cleaner the
controllable device can be tuned by the aggregated information inside pressure drops affecting a low pressure inside the
sophisticatedly to enhance living comfort, building lifetime and building. The server algorithm compensates the pressure
energy efficiency. An example of a cloud based control is difference by controlling supply and return fan speeds.
presented in the next paragraph. Simultaneously the basic ventilation is maintained. The
primary goal is to maintain the pre-set ventilation balance and
B. Indoor air quality and living comfort control thus this overrides the control of the basic ventilation level
A ventilation machines are commonly tuned during the
installation phase having settings based on persistent This similar approach can be used to automate balancing of
circumstances. However living conditions vary and thus also air flows when using fire places and extra heaters with
the ventilation machine should adapt to these changes. In the chimneys which require excess pressure difference when
figure 4 a cloud based concept of a ventilation machine control operated. Moreover automated ventilation shut down
is presented. procedures can be done in e.g. in hazmat emergency situations
alarmed by the backend servers. Also predictive ventilation
control of the heating and cooling functionalities is feasible to
implement so that the controlling concept takes into account
the weather forecasts and energy price.


In future buildings, districts and cities will participate in
energy management operations. This is why the described
decentralized IoT based solutions and mechanism play a key
role in future energy management systems.
Next phases in the research is to modify and utilize the
cloud based concept more widely for the energy management
purposes but also for tuning and making smart new
controllable devices. For instance, heating and cooling of the
building and electricity intensive devices such as freezers,
Fig. 4. Cloud based concept of sofisticated device control.
fridges and boilers are sub-systems which will be taken into the

controlling concept to intensify the benefits gained for energy

management and living comfort. VTT’s micro scale energy
production site with wind and solar power and battery storage
will be more extensively utilized in future research concerning
smart control of devices and energy management. The
demand/response control of individual buildings may be
carried out by an aggregator who connects the grid operator
and the users and offers suitable “chunks” of controllable
resources to different markets and optimizes the economic

This paper describes a novel solution to the indoor air
quality optimization problem. This solution is using the most
advanced building IoT technology combined with gateway and
cloud level computing. The IoT solutions are not only used for
controlling but also for building facility monitoring and
maintenance. This solution has been tested and verified inside
VTT’s test environment and with some customers. VTT is
actively doing research work on innovations and solutions in
building domain to improve the system and user experience
together with domestic and international partners. Further, the
described internet of buildings architecture is utilized in energy
management purposes. The presented bottom up aggregation
approach is currently being adapted to shopping malls.

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Hukkalainen, Mari; Ahvenniemi, Hannele; Rämä, Pirkko; Pinto-Seppä,
”Research roadmap report smart city vision”, Isabel CIB Publication:
407, CIB General Secretariat, 2016. 60p.
[3] Yiannis Tofis, Klaus Känsälä et al. “Adaptive frequency control for real
autonomous islanded grid”, the 2014 IEEE PES General Meeting.
[4] Klaus Känsälä “Building-specific energy production, new concepts in
local energy distrubution network”,SB13 Conference 2013 Oulu,
[5] Klaus Känsälä, “Virtual grid -How to balance energy production and
consumption with the help of intelligent buildings? International
Conference on Environment & Electrical Engineering 2016 Firenze
ISBN: 9781509023196: IEEE publications