A bounty of technological innovations in the 21st century have led to the theorization and implementation of so-called “Smart Cities,” urban environments driven by data, and designed for efficiency. Although most smart technology focuses on infrastructure, a new tech startup named UNSense has been launched with adopts a human-centric approach, focusing on health and wellbeing.
Founded by Ben van Berkel, Principal Architect of Dutch firm UNStudio, and based in an Amsterdam innovation hub, UNSense aims to use technical interventions in the urban realm to improve people’s physical, mental and social health. As an independent, sister company of UNStudio, UNSense will specialize in sensor-driven technology for user-focused architecture – a “software” approach offering a counterpoint to the “hardware” of UNStudio.
We are living in the age of the iPhone, yet the architecture and construction industries are still in the Walkman phase. With UNSense, I want to fully integrate innovative technologies into the built environment and improve the way people live, work and get from A to B. It is not the hardware or the software itself that interests me, but how it can be applied within architecture and urban design to improve our daily lives.
– Ben van Berkel, Founder and Principal Architect, UNSense
UNSense will explore sensor-based technologies across three levels: the city, the building, and indoor environments. Designed with human health at its core, these technologies can be used to relieve stress, create a feeling of safety, and optimize the surrounding environment for human comfort through lighting and ventilation.
Addressing the lack of resources in traditional architecture firms to develop new technologies, UNSense will operate independently of UNStudio, collaborating with data analysts, algorithmists, neuroscientists, and other specialized fields not available in general practice. Though independent from UNStudio, the founders of UNSense recognize its potential to “enable our studio to expand its architectural potential by incorporating technological innovation into our designs.”
UNSense solutions are already moving from the laboratory to the city. “CitySense,” a sensory infrastructure which collects data in order to implement positive personal experiences for people as they live and work, is currently running trials in Amsterdam and other Dutch cities. Meanwhile, “Solar Brick,” a solar PV module with potential use on rooftops and entire façades, has the potential to transform the entire urban fabric of our cities into actual power plants.
News via: UNSense