Launching in Q4, the lab will pioneer technology that blends building, spatial and behavioral data with analytics and machine learning.

Johnson Controls, a firm specializing in technologies and solutions for the buildings industry, has engaged the partnership of Singapore’s Economic Development Board (EDB) to set up a S$50m innovation lab to pioneer a new branch of digital technology.

Scheduled to open by the end of September, the lab is expected to have more than 100 employees within four years. The investment is part of Johnson Controls’ commitment to spearhead the creation and adoption of disruptive solutions for the built-environment industry as well as to accelerate digital transformation.

The lab will take on a multi-pronged strategy that covers research, collaboration, commercialization and implementation. The expected slew of customizable, autonomous or voice-activated solutions will meet the expectant growth for contactless applications, following societal adoption of safety and social-distancing measures as the post-pandemic norm.

Four-pronged approach

The lab is founded on a four-pronged approach to innovation that includes:

  1. Forming partnerships with key local research organizations to leverage Johnson Controls’ deep domain expertise in building technologies (such as heating ventilation, air-condition, lights, and security) to accelerate innovation in software engineering and product development. Key areas include edge devices, Internet of Things (IoT) and AI.

  2. Working with property developers and building owners to create “cognitive buildings” or thinking buildings that can understand, or even predict, occupants’ preferred ambient settings and recognize space usage patterns. Such innovation will improve energy usage, increase the commercial attractiveness of the property, and enhance its environmental, social and governance (ESG) metrics.

    This is done through collaboratively developing solutions that apply advanced algorithms to a mash of data sets collected from Johnson Controls’ open platform of building solutions, consumer wearables, networked devices, location data and Johnson Controls’ concept of  the Digital Twins for the built environment.
  3. Building an ecosystem comprising lifestyle, fitness and smart furniture datapoints. The data can be used for designing business and personal spaces. For example, a workplace with flexible furniture can be configured into “pods” for private videoconferencing or extended to become “conversation lounges” for small group collaboration.

    Building occupants can also benefit from timed artificial lighting that mimics the changing natural lighting throughout the day.

  4. Engaging with professional bodies to deliver the new applications that impact the sustainability and resilience of local properties, as well as setting the standards for delivery of professional services in this field.

Property owners, facilities managers, business users and building occupants are among the target groups expected to benefit from the innovations.

Said Tan Kong Hwee, EDB’s Executive Vice President: “Johnson Controls’ decision to set up its innovation lab in Singapore underscores Singapore’s attractiveness as a location for companies to develop and commercialize new digital solutions for the global market. We welcome (their) approach of partnering with the vibrant ecosystem in Singapore even as (they) plan to build a substantial development team in Singapore. We look forward to the impactful solutions that Johnson Controls will create, and the exciting job opportunities for Singaporeans in areas such as software engineering, data science and cybersecurity.”

Johnson Controls’ Vice President of Digital Solutions (Asia Pacific) Alvin Ng said: “Urban living needs a reboot in the wake of a global pandemic. We see a renewed urgency to strengthen the resilience of our community and an opportunity to enhance sustainability. This innovation lab has a unique focus on the intersection of technology, people and space, creating new value for organizations and end users.”

“As a pure-play intelligent buildings solutions provider, our depth of assets, resources, domain knowledge give us insights on the way forward for the built environment. This new innovation facility in Singapore will play a role in reshaping how we approach intelligent built environment technologies, and to attract like-minded talents who are eager to make a difference in Singapore and beyond,” said Visal Leng, Johnson Controls’ Vice President and President of Building Solutions (Asia Pacific).