What is a Smart Space?

These physical spaces are transforming the future

A woman using an interactive touchscreen.

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Smart spaces are not some sort of virtual reality, but rather physical environments decked out with technology. They are implemented with monitors and sensors that enable humans and integrated technological systems to interact.

These environments could improve personal and professional productivity; increase energy efficiency; simplify complex processes, and potentially make daily life easier and less stressful.

Types of Smart Spaces

Smart homes, sometimes known as connected homes, are an example of smart spaces, with technology that improves safety, convenience, entertainment, and productivity. These smart homes have become commonplace.

Other smart spaces run the gamut of different types of environments. Offices and communal workspaces; apartment communities, hotels, and other types of lodging properties; malls, grocery stores, and shopping centers; hospitals and other healthcare providers; public places such as libraries and schools; and transportation portals such as airports and train stations could all be designed as varied types of smart spaces.

As technology becomes more advanced and more widely used, technologies will allow these environments to connect in unique and evolving ways. This seamless integration could promote a safer, cleaner, healthier environment on a much larger scale.

No Cookie Cutters

Smart spaces can and will vary from one location to the next. Employees of an organization, patrons of a retailer or service, and residents of a community will all look for different benefits in a smart space.

Determining the goals and mission for a location is essential to designers who want to create a user-friendly space that make the best use of technology to meet the needs of people who utilize those features.

Examples of Smart Spaces

A nurse using augmented reality with an elderly patient.
 Getty Images

Just as smart homes are created to meet the needs of the families living in them, smart spaces will be largely unique. However, there are certain solutions that might be more commonly used in various environments. Following are some examples of smart space technologies used now and potentially in the future.

  • Hospitals that have trackers for computer carts and other resources to quickly find them when needed; interactive surfaces in an array of sizes, such as conference room walls; connectivity that allows staff to immediately order prescriptions, transfer medical records, and remotely check in on patients.
  • Apartment buildings with smart home systems; amenities, such as deliveries and home cleaning ordered via apps; IoT connectivity including WiFi, appliances, HVAC, sensors, and a system management dashboard.
  • Airports with facial recognition to provide security and quicker check-ins; artificial intelligence that produces metrics to better move travelers through crowded areas; self-service kiosks for check-ins and self-service bag drops; integrated messaging service allowing passengers to check on their flights throughout the airport.
  • Grocery stores with interactive shelf labels that help employees place orders more quickly; shoppers can scan with an app and get digital coupons, nutrition information, and other details regarding products; apps that notify shoppers of special offers in the current aisle or reminds them of items on their digital shopping lists.