Covid’s Silver Lining: Creating Buildings That See, Hear, Smell And Think

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COVID’s silver lining is the acceleration of adoption of five key technologies: Cloud computing, 5G, IoT, Edge computing and Artificial Intelligence (AI). How do these technologies change the property, construction, agriculture, textile, and healthcare industries within an industry - and even transform countries?


There are many things about our world, which have been worse during the COVID pandemic. But there have been some good things. We’ve learned how working on a network can be better. Disney learned you could create a new movie, Raya: The Last Dragon without everyone being in the same room.

“COVID’s silver lining is the acceleration of adoption of five key technologies” said Dr Timothy Chou, the first President of Oracle’s cloud computing business who also launched the first class on cloud computing at Stanford University.

In his keynote address, Dr Chou said Big Five technologies: Cloud computing, 5G, IoT, Edge computing and Artificial Intelligence (AI) – are the true game-changers.

“How do these Big Five technologies change the property, construction, agriculture, textile, and healthcare industries within an industry and even transform countries?” Dr Chou asked during his keynote address, Covid’s Silver Lining for the Autonomous21 virtual summit.

Lendlease Podium COVID Silver Lining

Creating Buildings that See, Hear, Smell and Think

In the property and construction world, Dr Chou said a ‘precision building’ would offer in-built networking from day one (is a de facto standard like water, sewage and power).

“In a lot of modern structures that are built today, the quality of the Internet throughout the building isn’t uniform. If it’s next to the router, it’s good, but if you move two rooms in a concrete building, then it goes dead,” Dr Chou said.

So why not just build a building with in-built networking, and then forget about adopting piecemeal options like mesh routers or waiting for the availability of 5G, he asked.

Once a network is in place it’s simple to implement a multitude of cameras - like the work already underway at the Melbourne Quarter - which is using a mix of cloud computing, AI, camera technologies and IoT connection technologies to deliver greater smarts and insights.

Lendlease Podium COVID Silver Lining
Melbourne Quarter, East Tower

“With cameras, you can implement access control, facially recognise people in elevators, or ensure people only go to the third floor or other areas. You can also detect fires using cameras to see where the smoke is going.

“You can also improve all aspects of retail dynamics: You can see whether people look happy - or not - while shopping. You can count the number of people passing billboards to determine ad retention; and you can control parking, or securely manage package pickup.

“The ideas are endless - and the technologies are all available. AI technology, camera technology, connection technologies - they are all able to do this and create buildings that see.”

Connecting People, Things

Indeed, we’re entering a new phase of connection and development, Dr Chou revealed. IoT, in particular, is one of the Big Five technologies to watch. “It’s clear that the next big thing is not just going to connect people, but it’s also connecting things,” Dr Chou said.

“Today, there are over 600 billion things in the world - from tractors, ultrasounds, gene sequencers, compressors, automobiles, etc. That’s literally 100 times the population of humans, and so the way in which we’re going to connect to these increasingly smart things is going to be very different from what we’ve seen before by connecting to humans.

“Most of the technology we’ve developed up until now has been for the Internet of People. But people are not things. And things are not people, so why would the development of the Internet of People work for the Internet of Things?”

But times are changing - and technology advancement is on a new and exciting path. “We’re just beginning to see new technologies evolving to connect, collect data, learn from each other, and do things completely different than we’ve ever seen before.”

At the same time, the movement of computing not just in the centre, but also in the edge (edge computing) is yet another game changer - and promises major milestones.

“Edge computing is going to dramatically change how we think about computing going into the future.” So too will AI, he said, which is essentially a component of neural network technology, which simulates the function of a human brain.

“AI was developed a long time ago, but it didn’t have the compute horsepower to implement this,” Dr Chou said, explaining today access to more datasets means greater advancements.

“Neural network technology depends on several things: I have a lot of compute power. I have access to large datasets (the more data I have, the more accurate I can make it). Acquiring more and more data improves the accuracy of the AI engines.”

Certainly, Dr Chou said the rollout of these and other technologies proves it’s an exciting time to be alive – and to witness the birth of precision machines. “We stand with the opportunity to use technology to create a more equitable, a healthier, and righter planet.

“There are some people working on going to Mars, but for the rest of us who’re going to be here, we’re going to have to operate with a greater degree of precision in the future world.

“The Big Five technologies do stand ready to fundamentally change the world. And I encourage you to be a part of that, to encourage your children to be a part of that, and to create a better world for all of us.” While there are not a lot of great things about the COVID pandemic, perhaps the silver lining is an acceleration of technology to deliver a better world.

For a complete run-down on the five hot technologies reshaping the planet, watch Dr Timothy Chou’s Autonomous21 keynote address: Covid’s Silver Lining


Dr. Chou started a moon-shot project to connect all 1,000,000 healthcare machines in all 500 children’s hospitals around the world to enable the development of AI for Kids. Artificial Intelligence holds the key to advancing wellness and revolutionising healthcare for the children of the world.
The initiative includes a new edge cloud service developed by BevelCloud, which leverages 5G to enable edge servers connected to healthcare Things/machines to communicate inside the hospital. Data from the edge servers can be transferred to centre cloud computers for development of AI algorithms or using federated learning techniques AI algorithms can be continuous trained – at the edge.
If you’d like to learn more check out this podcast or learn about six applications at the Invent21 conference.

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