Office of the Future Starts with Smart Carpeting

By Staff October 1, 2005

In these pages CSE often reports on new technologies debuted at trade shows, including the latest on building automation and controls. It’s not surprising that in this office-themed issue, we’d report on the DEMOFall conference, a show dedicated to emerging technologies. But readers may raise an eyebrow at the subject of this report: carpeting. Yet that’s what San Jose-based Echelon, a manufacturer of controls, exhibited at the show in Huntington Beach, Calif. this past month.

In actuality, it was their “Pyxos” network platform—a series of smart chips that were embedded into the rug. According to Mike Tennefoss, Echelon’s vice president of marketing, the company thought carpeting was an excellent way to introduce the capabilities of this revolutionary product.

Greek for “box,” Pyxos suggests to get inside the box—be it a copy machine, an air-handling unit or a piece of fabric.

“It’s really about creating a ubiquitous network within these machines,” he said.

Besides tons of data, Tennefoss said these networks will also go a long way in maintenance schedules and even provide a vehicle for predicting component failure.

In the case of carpeting, the smart chips can tell facility managers exactly where the high traffic patterns are, so that cleaning crews can concentrate only on those areas.

In other cases, smart carpeting could be used by security personnel to monitor movement.

“You could literally follow a guard and if he went down, for whatever reason, it would sense that and report it,” he said.

In offices, Tennefoss said the chips can easily be embedded within cubicles and ceilings and serve as CO 2 monitors or motion sensors for automatically improving worker comfort levels. In fact, preferences can be programmed to allow the sensors to react to users as they enter or exit their areas.

The technology communicates easily with HVAC or lighting control systems, but Tennefoss emphasized Pyxos is not limited to LON technology, as it is interoperable with any control network, even PLCs. “It’s really a dramatic change for the company,” he said.