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Smart Watch: A Bridge between Architecture and Occupant


Maria Lorena Lehman


Founder — Sensing Architecture ® Academy

Image Credit: © koya979 | Fotolia

As new innovations like the Apple iWatch emerge — one can’t help but explore what possibilities lie ahead as they make their way into the market. Of course, there will be a multitude of new applications that make good use of the hardware that smart watches like the iWatch use to help them interface with their human wearers.

But what happens to all of that information that get collected? Does it simply exist to feedback to the user, or their social networks? Surely, the information collected by smart watches can be sent to a range of professionals that know how to interpret the data — like a doctor that can make sense of the information collected daily on a wearer’s health.

But what else can be done with smart watch data?

Smart Watch Triggers Environmental Preferences

As technology gets more personalized because it is, in fact, worn by a user — data can be transmitted within their surrounding environment. In other words, the smart watch can act as a bridge between user and architecture. Here are some uses:

  • Feeling hot? Smart watch sensors can tell when you are perspiring and can send a trigger to adjust room temperature. Or, the smart watch can suggest “want a nice cold glass of water?”.
  • Feeling sleepy? Smart watch sensors can understand when you have fallen asleep, and thus, can trigger lights to be turned off and temperature to be slightly lowered. Essentially, it can align your activity with your desired environmental settings for that given activity.
  • Feeling stressed? Smart watch sensors can understand when you are feeling stressed and can guide you through a meditation with environmental lighting and sounds to accompany your zen moment.

Smart Watch Augments Environmental Experience

The smart watch better connects you with yourself, your friends and yes, your environment. But what can happen when the environment speaks to you through your watch? What would it say? And how could this help you?

As a designer of the environment, you should be thinking about how your designed spaces will impact occupants that wear such smart sensory devices. For example, if within a museum the smart watch can augment what your occupant learns at each exhibit according to their learning style, their age, their current understanding of the subject or whatever other personalization would provide them with a rich museum experience.

You see, your architecture is gaining more ways in which it can “speak” to its occupants. Yes, aspects like light, materiality, acoustics and olfaction are still of prime importance — but so too, are architecture’s growing abilities to communicate real-time data through to its occupants. And data can take on many forms. The smart watch can send a vibration to its wearer, it can make a sound for them to hear, it can display an image and it can link these together as in a composition. Now, just imagine if these became linked to your architecture.

What if your occupant where looking up at an awe-inspiring view from within your architecture, and simultaneously the smart watch “touched” its wearer at just the right time? Would this enhance the experience? Would it detract from the experience? Or would this allow architecture to become more intimate, more personalized and more meaningful?

Synchronizing User Interface with Architecture

As you design your architecture, keep in mind that technology is growing in its ability to link to it, and this can be a good thing if you know how to strategically design for this. Think about what your architecture would say and do if it could “touch” its occupants. Understand that wearable technologies can work together with your designed environments — revealing new ways to communicate in real-world space, where user interface fuses with architecture.

New types of architectural “alignments” are becoming possible as smart wearable technologies continue to emerge. As an architect, it is up to you to find these unique, inspiring, beautiful, functional and meaningful new “alignments” between your environment and your occupants. Reach them through not only what they see, hear, touch, taste and smell — but speak to them through technology in new ways: not to distract, but to encourage, renew, provide safety, or increase happiness.


what members are saying...
Maria: I came across your website through a reference in today's Architect Weekly ezine and am delighted I did. I'll bookmark your site and check back often. I read the first article and then the second and thirty minutes later realized how much time had passed. I've been practicing for thirty years and have always missed the stimulation of academia. I find each of your brief dissertations sort of like a day in design studio. Thanks for the inspiration.

Ron Ward
AI Group Design
I am excited to see you touch a vein of values in architecture, I have been chasing myself for years. Your depth of involvement in these very deep subjects is really beautiful and passionately dealt with and well written. Sound, color and value, shape, texture, scale, smell.... all definitive measures of the spaces we should be alert to. [...] I will savor the rest of your investigation of sensuality in architecture. I'm Glad I found you.

Dennis McLaughlin
McLaughlin Architect
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Maria Lorena Lehman is a visionary author, designer, and educator from the United States. Maria holds a Bachelor of Architecture with Honors from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and a Master in Design with Distinction from Harvard University Graduate School of Design.

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