How Healthy Are We Indoors?

As Delos™ and IBM join forces, IBM Cloud and cognitive technologies will help researchers to understand how indoor environments affect health
Dec 19, 2016 8:05 AM ET

With the average American now spending more than 90 percent of each day indoors, environmental factors such as lighting, noise, air quality and temperature in our homes, offices, gyms, stores and healthcare facilities play a vital role in our overall wellness.

But which of these factors are most critical, and exactly what effects do they have on our health and behavior?

To perform expert research on the topic, Delos™, in collaboration with Mayo Clinic, launched the Well Living Lab™ in the fall of 2015, the world’s first human-centered research lab designed to study the interaction between human health and well-being and the indoor environment. Located adjacent to the campus of Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., the Well Living Lab brings together the best and brightest minds in building science and medicine. Using modules designed to simulate highly realistic living and working environments, the Lab hosts studies that delve in to the real-world impact of indoor environments, generating evidence-based insight for creating healthier spaces.

As part of a multi-year collaboration with IBM, Delos will leverage Watson and data analytics through IBM Bluemix, IBM’s cloud platform, in order to draw closer connections between human health and the indoor environments in which we live and work. Watson’s work will draw from the terabytes of research data being generated from the Well Living Lab, as well as its Delos Labs and Delos Applied Research units.

“We want to ensure that Well Living Lab researchers have access to the latest and greatest analytical and cognitive computing capabilities,” says Peter Scialla, COO of Delos. “We’ll be gathering an incredible amount of data — from wearable and biometric sensors as well as participant surveys and feedback — and we’re excited about using Bluemix to gain insights into this extremely rich clinical data.”

Working with an IBM Bluemix Garage team to map out the technology environment, Delos recently launched an initial test experiment. The results could have far-reaching consequences, for the efficiency and well-being of office-based workforces.

“Our first experiment is in an office setting,” says Dana Pillai, executive director of the Well Living Lab. “We’re looking into the effects of thermal comfort, acoustics and lighting on workplace satisfaction and possibly productivity. It’s a study we’re using to check our instrumentation and determine requirements for our research.”

Abiding by Mayo Clinic research guidelines, the Lab intends to share findings in leading industry publications and help bring research-based solutions to market.

“We are very excited to have alliance members represented by corporations around the world,” says Scialla. “We want our partners to be at the forefront of carrying new healthy building innovations into the marketplace.”