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The Anti-Disciplinary Nature of Building IoT

April 8, 2016
Enlighted Inc.

Disciplinarity is a concept that comes from academia. Traditionally, post-secondary institutions tended to have a limited number of “disciplines” under which all study and scholarship took. These were represented, broadly, by what we call faculties within a university or college.

The Faculty of Arts, for example, would represent certain disciplines like sociology and anthropology and literature, while the Faculty of Science would represent other disciplines like engineering, math, physics, biology, and computer science.

These disciplines held long traditions in the history of Western thought, many of them stemming back to antiquity and the time of the Greek and Roman Empires. For many centuries they served Western civilization well acting as innovation containers for everything from the European Renaissances to the global industrial revolutions.

Still, in recent decades many scholars have come to challenge the idea that there should be a limited number of fixed disciplines around which all intellectual thought and progressive action are organized. Disciplines, it was argued, tend to become self-referencing over time, closed to new or counterintuitive ideas — ultimately holding back the open exchange of ideas in society.

Out of this thinking was born the move towards both interdisciplinary studies, wherein people from multiple disciplinary backgrounds would work together on common problems, and transdisciplinary studies, where people from different disciplinary backgrounds attempt to create new models, frameworks, or mindsets beyond the sum of their collective disciplines.

Taking this idea even further, the MIT Media Lab in Cambridge, Massachusetts coined the term “anti-disciplinary” thinking, and made it part of the recruitment and admissions processes for one of the world’s leading innovation laboratories.

Joi Ito, Director of the Media Lab, describes a disciplinary stance as one of “hyper-specialization where people in different areas have a very difficult time collaborating-or even communicating-with people in different fields.” He describes an anti-disciplinary stance as one that seeks to overcome the cognitive and emotional silos that prevent people from seeing outside of their own area of speciality.

IoT for buildings is increasingly anti-disciplinary because it is a whole-systems technology whose full potential can only be realized by collaboration between different building stakeholders. In fact, building IoT is increasingly important for every stakeholder at every stage of a building’s lifecycle and is strengthening the rationale for integrated design on building projects.

During the construction phase — whether it’s a new build or a retrofit — architects need to consider IoT when designing the physical and technological structure and capabilities of the building, including how the technology will impact and be used by stakeholders further down the line. Similarly, interior designers, engineers and lighting designers need to be involved in technology decisions that will impact their own sphere of work and influence. What data-driven building projects, powered by IoT, make possible are collaborative design and construction processes that consider every stage of the project, and the entire lifecycle of the building.

From these technology-driven collaborations will come some of the most seamless, end to end quality experiences of space and place that the world has seen. And while it’s hard to imagine exactly what these building projects will look like now, the data being gathered by IoT in buildings, and the insight and collaborations it will generate, are sure to create tremendous new value in the building sector.

Anti-disciplinary approaches are set to change the building sector. IoT, and the data it generates, is the watering hole where many of these new approaches will be discovered by diverse stakeholders exploring new building data, together.

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